We have relied for too long on Malinga and Kulasekara - coach Ford | Sunday Observer

We have relied for too long on Malinga and Kulasekara - coach Ford

Sri Lanka’s drop in the ICC One-Day International rankings from third in 2015 to sixth in 2017 can be attributed to many factors – the retirements of batting greats like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan that has weakened the top and middle order, the drastic decline in fielding standards that has seen crucial catches being dropped and trickling of runs, and also the absence of one of the game’s best one-day bowlers Lasith Malinga in their line-up that has resulted in Sri Lanka leaking valuable runs at the ‘death’ and in the power play overs and, failing to capture wickets in the middle overs.

Malinga whose career has been hampered by a knee injury is set to return to ODI cricket after a lapse of nearly two years. He has been named in Sri Lanka’s 15-man squad for the ICC Champions Trophy starting in England next month.

The “Slinger” as he is at times called because of his square arm bowling action last played an ODI for his country on November 7, 2015 against West Indies at Pallekele and in his absence Sri Lanka’s fortunes have dipped dramatically in the one-day game especially the ODIs (from 3rd to 6th) and T20I (from 1st to 8th).

The hard truth emerged where Sri Lanka has been erring when the national team’s head coach Graham Ford said: “For a long, long time we relied on the genius of Malinga at the ‘death’, and we also had Nuwan Kulasekara, who was a really good partner.

Those two looked after the ‘death’ on many an occasion. I’ve had the privilege of sitting in the dressing room knowing that even though the opposition might be ahead of the rate, we’ve got these two really good death bowlers to finish off. That was always a comforting feeling.”

But since Malinga’s exit from ODI cricket due to injury Sri Lanka have suffered the brunt of his absence losing 17 of their last 30 ODIs played and winning only just 8 with 4 ending in no-results and one tie.

This performance has resulted in the country slipping from third to sixth position in the current ICC ODI rankings.

“Unfortunately, no young guys really got the experience of doing that job. Suddenly we’ve got some young guys doing that job, and it’s not an easy job. Experience is important in being able to handle the pressure, and of course do a lot of hard work on your skills so that you can handle the pressure easier,” said Ford.

“I think maybe, in a way, because those guys knew they were never going to be asked to do it because we had the two experts doing it, they didn’t have to work very hard on those skills. It’s been a new experience for some of them. They’re getting a heck of a lot better. In modern-day cricket you probably need three or four that can execute those skills at the end,” he said.

In the absence of Malinga, Kulasekara has been bearing the brunt and in the past two years or so Sri Lanka has tried out as many as nine bowlers namely Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Dushmantha Chameera, Shaminda Eranga, Farveez Maharoof, Lahiru Madushanka, Lahiru Kumara, Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera to do the job but with little success.

“In modern day cricket you need 3-4 bowlers who can execute those skills,” said Ford who is banking on Sri Lanka Cricket’s latest recruit to their ever increasing support staff South African cricket legend Allan Donald to provide him with the necessary arsenal.