There is a kind of hush in this part of the world. Maybe walking into the stadia and seeing the officials in their tuxedos walking about briskly – I, at times, want to know what they are up to, but their very business-like stance keeps me off – give you a hint of an important [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Battle is won; but the war is far from over


There is a kind of hush in this part of the world. Maybe walking into the stadia and seeing the officials in their tuxedos walking about briskly – I, at times, want to know what they are up to, but their very business-like stance keeps me off – give you a hint of an important operation in progress. If not there is no clue that the ICC 2015 Cricket World Cup is in progress in Australia or in New Zealand.

Tillakaratne Dilshan (L) leaves the ground with teammate Kumar Sangakkara (R) after their unbeaten 210 run 2nd wicket partnership in the Pool A 2015 Cricket World Cup match against Bangladesh at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) - AFP

Once again, maybe in the chats over the bar stool the discussion is cricket and wherever the Indian cricketers went the chanting Indians went behind the pied piper. But, billboards and TV chat shows on the event is non-existent. Even the famous Channel 9 has only taken rights to show only the Australian matches on non-paying TV. The others have none. The Courier carries a single column story about India beating South Africa — just to give you a hint.

During the 2011 Cricket World Cup in India and Sri Lanka and the ICC T-20 World Championships in Bangladesh, they were screaming from the airport onwards saying there was a World Cricket tournament on here. On the streets the people looked busy, but, at the same time they were all excited about what was going in the cricket arena and who was going tp win the World Cup.

In New Zealand when I forwarded my credentials at the immigration, the lady at the counter looked bewildered for a moment and the person behind had to remind her that “he has come here for that cricket thing”. May be, along the way as New Zealand keeps winning there will be more hype, on the cricket tournament in progress in their own backyard.

Maybe the Lankans were in deep slumber with the lack of intensity around them, but, the rude shock given to them by the Afghan minnows looks good enough for them to wake up and get about with their real activity. In the preparation for the game against Bangladesh they looked more intense. There was Malinga bowling at the nets practising his toe crushers for longer durations and the fielding sessions were serious.

It seems that the Lankans have come to terms with reality and are also acting accordingly. When asked about the bowling strengths Mathews was honest enough to say, “I mean, these are the guys that we have, to be honest, and we need to get the maximum out of these guys.Unfortunately, we don’t have too many guys who bowl 45-pluses. But with the resources that we have, we’ve got to win games and the last game was a close one, but a win is a win. We’ll take that win. But I think we need to improve our standards to go further in this tournament.” That was before the Bangladesh game, which we won convincingly.

Even against minnows Mahela Jayawardena rated his century against Afghanistan as one the most cherished in his carrier.

Maybe the dicey situation at hand prompted skipper Mathews to be forthright, but when asked whether the Lankans would like to emulate the Indians in the manner of winning in the Southern hemisphere, the Lankan skipper shot out directly:

“As far as we’re concerned, we’ve been to England and beaten them there as well. We play a brand of unique cricket. So we’ve got the capacity and skill to do it.

“It’s just we need to try to execute our plans properly. Yeah, definitely, India have played really well in the past two games and we saw them struggling early on in the season or in the summer. But if you click as a group, I think we can do wonders. It’s just we need to click as a group and try to win games. We do not need to emulate anyone to win matches.”

The beginning of the game against Bangladesh came with the memories of yesterday. There was one moment of near darkness, but with the benevolence of the slip fielder who made a mash of the chance offered, the Lankan gradually strode back into their usual game and then put the pressure back into opposition in the usual professional manner that they are accustomed to.

Now the batting roles have changed definitely. Dilshan has swapped his usual exuberance to the sheet anchor. This has been happening of late. Early and mid-session of the inning, first Thirimanne and then Sangakkara were playing their game around Dilshan’s inning. This even helped Sangakkara to ride into his fastest ODI hundred on Thursday. It was only late in his inning that Dilshan really tore into the Bangladesh attack, with unceasing flurry of boundaries till the end of the inning.

With runs on the board, the Lankan bowling got back to the same stride that won them more than any other team in ODIs last year. Malinga’s work at the nets was bringing results. In the very first over he heard the sweet tingling of the rattling wickets. Then there came the painful toe crusher that nearly brought him another scalp. Evidently the Lankans were back in the business.

Yes, this battle has been won, but the war is from over. If the conquest is to be successful they have to keep fighting with this revived and revitalised self-confidence.

The next battle in Wellington against the roses could be won, as their pride is not picked yet, like the Lankans who roared once again. The Englishmen in spite of the win against Scotland which revolved round one English century have not got back into their stride. But we should not underestimate our opponents and we should sustain the winning mode.

Nevertheless there is an area that the Lankans would have to buckle-up if they are to run along from this point. They should catch in the same manner that the security men caught the streakers back in Christchurch. Also they would have to spruce their running between the wickets in the same manner that the streakers ran on to the playing area.

PS: Can we please sack the fielding coach now?

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