The much spoken about 2011 World Cup has got off the ground with plenty of pomp and pageantry firstly off the field in Dhaka with the opening ceremony and then on the field too.
India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Australia, England, Pakistan and South Africa have made their intentions clear by winning the respective games, whilst the West Indies and Bangladesh the probable teams vying for the fourth spot in the quarter finals from group B hasn’t had the start they wanted with defeats at the hands of the South Africa and India respectively.
They will be looking to get off the mark as soon as possible to dispel fears amongst their supporters and to ensure that their hopes are kept alive.
Back to the games and the Sri Lankan match against Canada in particular, I believe there were lots of positives for the home team that can be taken from it. First of all despite the run out of Tharanga one got the feeling that the top four looked to be in sublime touch.
Dilshan as usual made a swashbuckling knock whilst skipper Sangakkara and Jayawardane were in a class of their own. The style they set about the hapless Canadian attack clearly confirmed the gulf between the two teams. And when it came to the bowling the Sri Lankan attack minus Lasith Malinga was efficient and effective.
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It was heartening to note the fact that Sangakkara used Thilan Samaraweera for a few overs off spin. Let’s not forget that Samaraweera when he started was an off spinner who steadily developed his batting. His bowling can be a huge factor and with the likes of Dilshan, Chamara Silva and Kapugedara being able to turn their arms over permits good options in bowling and with it the balancing game could be done to perfection!
Besides the cricket another huge plus was the pitch and the ground at Sooriyawewa! Whilst the pitch which was laid out for the Australia-Zimbabwe match was very slow and unattractive for limited over cricket the pitch in India the wicket at Sooriyawewa lent itself to some good stroke play when the Sri Lankans batted.
For a virgin pitch to behave in that manner was an immense accomplishment for the curator of SLC. Moreover having a ground of that magnitude in the deep South too will be a bonus if not for the current generation definitely for the generations to come! In a day and age where revenue of cricket is dependent on television and not on spectators the grounds at Sooriyawewa and Dambulla which are owned by Sri Lanka Cricket are bound to be a terrific boon to them.
Proper infrastructure is a must to develop cricket and cricketers and this stadium which should eventually be converted to a complex must be looked at in that light. In other Test Nations every state/province/island or county will have a venue or two of International standard that has been used by all involved in the game.
It will be a shame if this ground remains only a stadium which waits for the odd international game as the objective of building it will be lost. With many talented cricketers emerging from the outstation, the stadium and the facility should be used as a breeding ground for the talented youth from the area. SLC should also arrange for specialist coaches to visit the facility at least once a month and identify talent in the region and help them to progress at the said venue in an atmosphere the youngsters will be accustomed to. They should do away with the practice of inviting players to Colombo and looking to hone skills there when a facility as good as Colombo could be developed in the outstation. With international standard venues in Dambulla and Pallekelle also in place time should not be wasted in implementing this scheme in those parts of the country too.
Back to the tournament I believe Australia has made a strong statement with their fast bowling and the South Africans too have impressed as a unit in their first outing. However the English should consider themselves extremely lucky, escaping at the hands of the Netherlands who surprised almost everybody with their quality batting. With Kenya a semi finalist in 2003 and Canada another team with potential struggling, the performance of the Dutch in the opening game of the current world cup should be commended. Will they be able to maintain their performance in the rest of the tournament is a phenomenon everybody will wait for?
The early games may not be the ideal indicator of the things to come, though the performance of teams such as Australia, South Africa and Pakistan have been impressive confirming that no team is safe in the world cup and no team can rest with the tag favourites.
Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading
cricket promoter and an
international cricket commentator