It will be up to the cricketers to deliver!

The series win and a few outstanding performances by key players in the recently concluded ODI series against the West Indies could have been the ideal tonic the Sri Lanka cricketers were looking for just prior to the World Cup.

Even as the West Indies judging by the way they performed in the series would have struggled to beat a good Provincial side in Sri Lanka, the Lankans should be pleased that their International outings before the important big event was a success. Whilst they won the series quite convincingly there was also a good workout for the players with the exception of Chamara Silva.

It was attention-grabbing and also pertinent to note that both skipper Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan doesn’t feel that Sri Lanka is favourites to win the cup. Though the actual fact of the matter is, with a balanced team and playing in the sub continent, the Lankans definitely should be front runners to clinch the plum.

Reading between the lines of that statement, it is clear that it is a way of deflecting the pressure of high hopes. Therefore it is vital that all the fans should guard against the high expectations and should not exert unnecessary pressure on the team! This could lead to the down fall of the team as the players would be exposed to an adverse situation which can only be detrimental in the final analysis. If one was to draw from previous experiences India would be the best example.

Even though India is one of the best teams in the tournament, knowledgeable critics tend to think that the Indians may buckle under the severe expectations from the home fans. Mind you India hasn’t won any big event at home! All their achievements have been away where they don’t get exposed to the glare and the constant pushing of home fans and of course the strong Indian media!

As such Sri Lanka should go in to the world cup minus any pressure with the obvious intent of performing well and above all ensuring that they enjoy their cricket and be able to smile in any situation. This would be the foremost concern of all involved with the squad as an unhappy and a nervous unit could cave in under pressure.

True the first round will not stretch the Sri Lankans too much as at worse they can become the 4th team and still qualify though that is definitely not the plan. Whilst Australia and Pakistan are bound to be tough opponents, The Lankans should be quite confident over coming the rest, though in reality one should never be complacent. Remember the game against Kenya in 2003? Who would have expected that result? But then that is the way cricket is played! You can never take any team for granted.

Dilhara had a good outing against the West Indies

The real pressure time for all teams will be the quarter final stage onwards as it will be do or die and this is where luck can play an important role. The 1996 world cup semi final against India was a classic case in point. India after winning the toss put Sri Lanka in on an unknown pitch and the rest is now history with Sri Lanka coming through and also winning the cup. Many say that the game of cricket has 90% luck. I wonder how true this is though it is known that you make your own luck and not others! Despite the uncontrollable factors such as luck etc the Sri Lankan unit is a well oiled one.

After the games against the West Indies it is clear that the players are raring to go. Just look at the performance of Dilhara, Thisara and Ajantha. Both Dilhara and Thisara bowled as if they had a huge case to prove. The pace and bounce coupled with deadly accuracy made the duo virtually unplayable with the new ball. I am sure Dilhara has silenced a few critics of his who was calling for his head, with his bowling feat. Thisara Perera on the other hand had no such issues. He was always a consistent performer with the ball. His effort at the SSC in the 3rd game merely confirmed the high status he has achieved in his bowling. As for Ajantha Mendis he was most impressive with his four wicket haul. Written off by many for wanting of new type of deliveries and mysteries Mendis simply bamboozled the West Indian batsmen which included the experience Shiv Chanderpaul who is a very fine player of spin. As a strike bowler Mendis will be expected to take wickets and that is precisely what he did in the last ODI. At a time when the West Indies looked to up their tempo Mendis stepped in to make the difference.

In the batting department it was a pity that Chamara Silva wasn’t one of the first choice players. Pity he didn’t get a look in against this West Indian attack as he was bound to make full use of the opportunity, considering the form he is in at the moment. Having matured as a batsman Silva will bring in the much needed enterprise at number six besides his brilliant fielding and more than useful leg spin.
Sri Lanka definitely has a few problems. But thankfully they are the positive types. The bowling unquestionably looks solid with both the pacemen and spinners in good bowling form.

The issue for the Lankans may be the middle order! It was a shame that Samaraweera didn’t play like Samaraweera we all know in the only time he had an opportunity to bat against the West Indies! His approach was different and sadly perished, whilst young Kapugedara once again missed out on another golden opportunity. Other than the said two players the rest of the batting with Dilshan, Tharanga, Sangakkara, Jayawardane and Mathews in supreme form is bound to be a huge bonus come the world cup. Also don’t forget Chamara Silva is waiting in the wings and will be looking to achieve something big when the opening comes. It’s a comfortable and assuring to know that the work and planning have been on target. It will be up to the cricketers to deliver!

Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading cricket promoter and an international cricket commentator

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