I left my motel for the Sydney Airport in a taxi driven by a Chinese who was listening to the ABC radio channel dedicated to classical music. Though not a connoisseur of that idiom, there are times that I really enjoy moments of that light soothing stuff that gets right into your system. Talking of [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Radicalised cricket: Finally ‘Chandi’ read the right script


I left my motel for the Sydney Airport in a taxi driven by a Chinese who was listening to the ABC radio channel dedicated to classical music. Though not a connoisseur of that idiom, there are times that I really enjoy moments of that light soothing stuff that gets right into your system.

Talking of classicals, any day I would prefer the great systematic cricket that is played in harmony with the game. Playing in the ‘V’, a classical cover drive especially by an elegant left hander, a deft late-cut that keeps the wicket-keeper bemused as the ball passes by, is always a delight to watch. There is rhythm in it. That is why Neville Cardus cricket’s most elegant chronicler called it the ‘greatest game on earth’.

Yet like global warming, the modern game of cricket is on fire. The classical style of carving the niche in the book of cricket is slowly dying. In its place has come the radicalisation. It is as if Yankee Doodle has got into cricket gear. Now everything is a one o’clock, two o clock…..three o clock Rock. The commentator says, “The bowler comes in and bowls and it is the most audacious looking reverse sweep that I have ever seen and the ball sails over to the fourth row and the man who caught that catch just received a thousand bucks courtesy ………”

Just a minute I just forgot, it was we in Sri Lanka who manufactured that style of play with Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana being given the licence to kill, way back in 1996. They were given the blanket okay to smack the ball if it was within their reach.Now in limited overs cricket everyone smacks the ball if it is within the range. The reverse sweep, switch hit and the made-in-Sri Lanka ‘Dilscoop’ are in everyday cricket. Thanks to those innovations, the game’s scores have ballooned. Once upon a time, a score of 240+ was a winning score. But, the innovations have taken the scores up to 290-315 to feel safe. Yet, do you feel safe anymore? No. Now no side can hide behind a score of 310 – literally.

Now the game of cricket has produced the hurricane wallahs. Now the De Villiers’, Maxwells, McCullums – not hurricanes but Gayles — have taken the game into a new paradigm. ‘If you wanna make sure that your boat don’t rock – hit the ball out of the park and make sure that you get the four with a double O with your bat.’

That was the difference in Sri Lanka’s game against the hosts in Sydney. The rest of the batters also played aggressively in spite of there being some quiet spots, but hurricane Glen Maxwell made the difference. He did not want to know if it was an off spin or a leg spin, or an inner or an outer, he just swung the bat at everything as he has done before. His theory is: “The ball is there to be hit and how I do it is my business”.

The most successful in this tournament have been Australia and New Zealand. Through Maxwell and McCullum, they aim to hit the ball out of the park regularly.
This was Sri Lanka’s problem. The only man in the side who could produce that – Thisara Perera has failed, except for one match-winning knock. This hurt the Lankans quite a lot in the middle.

The Australian total was imposing. A weak heart would have fumbled and stumbled – especially against left arm Mitchell twins – Starc and Johnson. But, the Lankans took up the challenge and batted with momentum. Dilshan’s six fours in one over, Sangakkara’s third consecutive hundred kept the Lankans in the hunt, but, when Jayawardena was run out, the question was asked again. Could the Lankan middle take charge of the baton and finish the course?

For Dinesh Chandimal the stage was set. It was now or never. With his skipper dropping the anchor at the other end, Chandimal fulfilled the Lankan call. He exploded in the middle. His inning was cultured in the middle and rising to the occasion –a role that the Lankans really needed in the middle for quite some time now. Chandimal took the Australian bowling by its scruff, but it was not bludgeoning like the Maxwell inning, but was as fast and effective. Maybe the Australian guardian angel had some sympathy on the locals and cast a spell upon Chandimal’s hamstring; if not it may have been a different story. When tragedy struck, the young Lankan was fully in control of the situation.

Sri Lanka’s chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya summed it up fittingly. He said; “It’s a big one. I think, in Australia, he has been performing really well. If you see his past records, he’s been really good. But also, I feel that he’s getting a lot of confidence. That’s his natural game and I think he should continue playing in that mould. However, it’s a pity that he had to get injured just when he was returning to his normal self.”

In the next game, Kusal Janith Perera in spite of his reputation could not launch as expected even against the weak Scot attack. Besides Mathews, the middle failed in their task to build a massive structure. Yet, the game had only academic interest and Sanga’s incredible batting exhibition.

Now the men and the boys have been separated in this tournament. Those unfit to be there are packing their bags to go home. Shockingly, they include England – one of the ‘Big Three’ along with India and Australia. The Big Three are looking to be a cut above the rest and virtually controlling the game.

As for the Lankans they are crossing the Tasman Sea readying themselves to take on the Proteas in their second round tie which will be a sudden death game in Sydney. As history says, the Sydney wicket is more conducive to the Lankans bowling strength rather than what the South Africans got to offer. However, there is an outside chance that Sri Lanka would meet India in the quarter-final if the New Zealand-Bangladesh game is a reverse outcome and Bangladesh gets two points in that game.

In the test of wits against the Australians, the Lankans proved that they really are fit to be among the best of eight. On an ideal batting track, Australians made runs and so did the Lankans. Yes, the Lankan still do have some question marks which need quick answers, but, so far they have proved why they have been good in ICC tasks.

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