The 2011 World Cup has kicked off in style. A spectacular opening ceremony that showcased the rich traditions and cultures of the host nation was followed by a few first round games that saw all the fancied teams including Sri Lanka record comfortable victories.
The fact that teams batting second can record wins and sometimes by scoring over 275 runs is noteworthy. This indicates the placid batting wickets that have been prepared and also that these wickets do not get slower as the game progresses. This augurs well for the World Cup tournament. There is always a fear among many teams that wickets in the subcontinent deteriorate rapidly as the game progresses and batting under lights is extremely difficult. However with Bangladesh piling up 275 plus against India and England chasing 290 plus and winning and South Africa scoring 225 batting under lights, this myth has been dismissed, at least for this World Cup. I hope it stays this way as it will help us to see some very good and competitive games in the days ahead.
|Sri Lankans celebrate the fall of a Canadian wicket under lights in Hambantota. Pic by Sanka Vidanagama
Sri Lanka’s campaign to regain the World Cup got off to an ideal start. The victory over minnows Canada was a foregone conclusion, but the convincing manner in which it was achieved would have pleased the players and the management. The top order comprising Dilshan, Mahela and Kumar made good use of the game to get useful knocks.
Tharanga missed out after being run-out early in the innings. Dilshan played in his own inimitable style and appears to have got a measure of the wicket and the conditions. It is very important that Dilshan occupies the crease for a longer period as it will certainly cause a few worries to the opposition. If he can accumulate his runs at a healthy rate opposing captains are certain to get rattled and come up with new and innovative ways of restricting the scoring. In this manner Sri Lanka can always force the opposing teams to change their set game plans which will sometimes help the host to capitalize on the situations.
As I mentioned last week Kumar and Mahela are in the form of their lives. The duo made batting look so easy. Their timing, placement and shot selection were extraordinary. Their ability to read the game and adjust to the wicket and the conditions were outstanding. Kumar must have been kicking his heels after getting out in that fashion when a century was in sight. It was another classy century from Mahela.The challenge for the pair has just begun. With the big games ahead I am sure both Mahela and Kumar will carry their form into these encounters.
After an imposing start it was left to the middle order to maintain the momentum. It’s always a difficult situation for any batsman to score at 6-7 runs an over consistently during the latter part of the innings. However, more often than not that has been the role that the middle batsman has been entrusted with. It’s not a question of trying to hit every ball out off the park. The batters need to look for a run, a single or two from each delivery and send the loose deliveries to the ropes. In that way you can keep the momentum going by getting that 6-7 runs per over. Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Matthews, and Chamara Kapugedara are all capable of standing up to the challenge and keeping the momentum going. It’ s when the top order fails that the middle order batsmen will need to switch gears and play a more responsible and long innings. They are experienced enough to stand up to such situations and deliver accordingly.
With the Selectors opting to give Malinga a break young, Thisara Perera got an opportunity to share the new ball with the ever reliable Nuwan Kulasekera. Thisara grabbed the opportunity with both hands claiming four wickets in the game. This would give the youngster immense confidence while skipper Sangakkara has also the option of using the youngster as a strike bowler. Spinners Muralitharan and Mendis were both not at their best as most Canadian batsman played the spinners with ease. Maybe the weaker opposition would not have brought out the best of the spinners that day. However knowing Muralitharan I can assure you that the guy will rise up to the Challenge sooner rather than later and weave his magical deliveries to rattle even the best of batters.
The advent of twenty -20 cricket coupled with the 20 overs of power play has made totals above the 250 mark as a target that could be reached with ease. The use of the batting play is something that has to be addressed very carefully. Often teams start to lose their set batsman once they take the batting power play. As a result new batsman are at the crease and teams sometimes end up scoring less in the power play overs when compared to the preceding overs. This aspect needs to be thought of and Captains, Coaches and the Senior players need to access the situations periodically before opting for the batting power play.
Defending Champions Australia who are seeking their fourth straight World Cup romped home easily against Zimbabwe and New Zealand. It appears that the Ashes loss has spurred the team which is now on a roll. As always the Aussies are tough and you can never write them off. It’s when they are down that they come at you harder. Like in the 1996 World Cup final we need to come out confidently and play our game according to our strengths, ignoring who the opposition is going to be. Sangakkara is tough and together with the experience of Mahela and Murali should be able to rally the rest together to grind the Aussies on the home turf and avenge the World Cup defeat in the semis (2003) and final in 2007.