An inspirational campaign with piles of positives by our young T 20 team – By Sunil Thenabadu (Sports editor – eLanka)
The national cricket team journeyed back home on Friday night having been away for approximately a calendar month and their showing during the seventh edition of the ICC T-20 World Cup held successfully in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai organised to precision which even the pessimistic fans commended and endorsed the performance by beating the formidable West Indians the reigning champions in the sixth edition with so many famous names. Sri Lanka former champions in year 2014 and twice runners up of course had little impetus behind them when they left the island having been whitewashed by touring South Africa 3-0 at our own backyard. home. It is pertinent to quote that more than half the members in the tour party had played less than a handful of T-20 Internationals and there were doubts and fears whether Sri Lanka would even qualify having been placed in group A alongside Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia.
But to their trust, Dasun Shanaka’s side marched to the second round in Group 1 with a clean sheet having won by heavy margins. In the run up to the Super 12 stage Sri Lanka had won all six games played prior to the. In the Super 12 stage, they beat Bangladesh and West Indies while losing to England,( giving a scare by capturing three wickets early) Australia and South Africa. In the latter game against Proteas was nail biting finish was decided in only the penultimate delivery of the game needing 16 runs to win in the 20th over.Had we won that match we could have made into the semi-finals..
All in all this crusade has been an admirable one. The advent of a number of young players should be the ideal base on which Sri Lanka should be building on.
By the time Sri Lanka played their fifth game against the Windies in the second round, they had the two leading run scorers in the contest in Charith Asalanka and Pathum Nissanka while Wanindu Hasaranga becoming the ICC T20 No 1 ranked bowler after Ajantha Mendis in year 2011 was also the leading wicket taker at that time, Sri Lanka had a player ranked number one. All these three players were participating in their first T 20 ICC episode.
Maheesh Theekshana after being pushed into the deep end of bowling to some of the greats of the game in the power plays came off with flying colours though not capturing wickets restricted the batsmen in scoring freely with his accurate bowling called ” ‘an anam manam’ bowler by commentator Russel Arnold. Dushmantha Chameera with his usual pace was on making breakthroughs every time he was called up to bowl.Many will remember how he bamboozled Dawid Milan clean bowling him. the Worlds No 1 T 20 batsman with a masterly inswinger.
Avishka Fernando on whom there was a lot of expectations was a disappointment along with Kusal Perera, the team’s senior most player having been a member of our winning T 20 team in year 2014.But he never displayed his batting ability.It needs to be mentioned that KJP’s wicket keeping was much below par, if not, Sri Lanka could have pushed some teams even nearer.
KJP’s aids as a senior player was a complete letdown perhaps more of a frustration. To start with he was not firing on all cylinders but certainly one could at least be more proactive on the field helping a young team to rebuild. On the field, when things were derailing, KJP’s contributions were not much. He did not face a single press conference to express views As a substitute, Sri Lanka sent someone like Maheesh Theekshana, who was on his first tour for three press briefings. Was it a nearest case of having been stripped of captaincy?
A post-mortem need to be held about the area of death bowling where it was well noticed was below par giving away useful runs. However, there is hope among the cricketing passionate fraternity of moving forward in the T20 format with the next ICC World Cup T 20 is to be held in Australia next year as the scheduled 7 th edition did not go through owing to the Covid 19 epidemic. It would be prudent for the SLC to form a squad including some senior players as suggested by Dasun Shanaka to perform better in the 8th edition.