Every batting slot is up for grabs – coach Pothas | Sunday Observer

Every batting slot is up for grabs – coach Pothas

Lahiru Thirimanne scored 53 out of the 95 runs scored by Sri Lanka’s top six batters.
Lahiru Thirimanne scored 53 out of the 95 runs scored by Sri Lanka’s top six batters.

DUBAI, Saturday – Interim head coach Nic Pothas said that every position in the Sri Lanka one-day batting order was up for grabs after the team put up another sorry display to lose the first ODI against Pakistan by 83 runs at the Dubai International Stadium here on Friday.

Chasing Pakistan’s score of 292-6, Sri Lanka could manage only 209-8 largely due to two half-centuries from Lahiru Thirimanne and tailender Akila Dananjaya who scored his maiden ODI fifty.

“We are trying to find the right formula. We know how we want to go about putting 50 overs together. We need to give these guys a certain period of time,” said Pothas at the post-match press conference.

“Mendis is a very good player of spin and rotates very well. Thiri and Chandi are the guys who can play those long innings in ODI cricket for you. At the moment we are thinking somewhere on those lines. We are in communication with the selectors. The World Cup is going to come quick. No one has nailed down a spot. Every position is up for grabs,” he said.

“From a batting point of view, the currency of your batting is runs. If you don’t keep making them, the shop is going to close down at some point. We have to ask the batters to take some responsibility. The top six batters managed 96 between them. One batter got 53 and you are not going to get too many,” Pothas pointed out.

“Certain parts were very good. Fielding point of view, we were happy with the improvements we have made. Obviously they ended up getting too many on that wicket. We have to look at that. Some of the plans executed up front were very good. Towards the middle of that innings, we lacked a bit of creativity.”

Sri Lanka’s lower order batting which has come for criticism for not contributing with the bat rose to the occasion here when Dananjaya and Jeffrey Vandersay put to shame the batting of some of the top order batters when they indulged in a record eight wicket stand of 68 which is a ground record.

Thanks to their heroics Sri Lanka were saved the ignominy of being bowled out inside their quota of 50 overs, which was a familiar feature during the series against India which they lost 5-0.

“We have a system within the team where we want the bowlers to get us those small runs. Akila is a champion. He is a fighter and he is a character. It was only a matter of time before he played a knock like that. He is only going to get better. Jeffrey is the same. It is pleasing. I would like to see them bat less to be honest,” said Pothas. Sri Lanka’s loss was their eighth straight in a row and at which point they can plug those losses is what the team management is desperately trying to find a solution to.

“Confidence is a big thing. When you lose two of the legends of your game is a massive thing but on the flip side Pakistan have got very experienced players. They have won the Champions Trophy and they are high flying. They have got a good formula and we are trying to find our formula. We have not been very good in this format for a while now. We have to find answers and find them quick,” said Pothas.

Despite the strong criticism brought against Sarfraz Ahmed for not promoting himself in the batting order, the Pakistan skipper had a point not to do so. “We have a set batting order and the combination suits us. We will not change it unless there is a need to change,” Sarfraz said.

In Sri Lanka’s case it is not so. Take the instance of Kusal Mendis, he has been batting at the no. 3 slot in one-dayers and here he was pushed down to no. 5, in Chandimal’s case he bats regularly at 4 but in his last two matches he has been asked to open the batting and at Dubai he batted at no. 3. These are two glaring examples that the Lankan batting is not a settled line-up and unless that is sorted out and the players told what their permanent batting positions are and their roles identified Sri Lanka will continue to struggle to put up competitive totals or fall terribly short in run chases.

Praising the batting of man of the match Babar Azam who scored a century, Pothas said, “I am very pleased with his attitude. He had a very tough Test series and to come back from that and play like he did showed that he is quite a strong young player.

“It has to be said that we dropped him on 40 and without a referral he was out on 50. In the Test series we had a lot of rub of the green. Here, because we are not winning lots of games, the luck seems to be going against you. Babar played really well and that allowed Shoaib Malik to play his innings. He was allowed to play that way because of the maturity of a very good young batter.”

Sri Lanka and Pakistan meet in the second and third ODIs at Abu Dhabi on October 16 and 18.