Can miracles happen? | Sunday Observer

Can miracles happen?

31 March, 2019

With Sri Lanka’s fortunes in the 50-over game taking a nose-dive in recent times it will need a cricketing miracle if the country is to proceed beyond the first round. Leave alone winning the 2019 World Cup.

Given the present trend, the squads to NZ, Aussie and SA for the ‘cowboy games’ will return like wounded soldiers and those concerned will have an enormous healing job to do to wave the magic wand and perform a Miracle. It will require a change in personal attitudes, a seriousness in purpose and a concerted effort at team play.

The selectors who are up against it and who are wracking their brains to come up with a winning formula have named a squad of 84 cricketers to play in a series of 50-over games in an endeavour to pick a squad from among those who excel in this tournament to be played in Dambulla and Pallekele which can be tagged as trials.

At present be it the batsmen, bowlers or fielders are of poor quality which has been proved by the manner in which they have performed abroad and surrendered to the opponents.

In the trials they will look larger than life and score, take wickets and take catches and stake claims.

But when up against formidable international opposition they look like novices playing some sloppy shots, bowling with no purpose and dropping catches, losing matches constantly and making the whole exercise look a joke which keeps the large following of cricket fans fuming and muttering words that are unprintable.

There is a growing consensus that playing of these matches which could be termed trials is an exercise in futility. Not one of the players in the teams that were sent to New Zealand, Australia or South Africa performed to expectations and aspired for selection.

Considering that the selectors did their best, made the necessary permutations and sent the best taking into consideration the conditions, the wickets that they will have to play and the strength of the opposition, the returns were to say the least poor.

The selectors cannot be blamed. The selectors have all been top class cricketers captained by one of the country’s best all rounders Ashantha de Mel and deserve to serve. The selectors can do their job, but what matters is how their pickings do theirs.

Having followed the destinies of the players and the game for over 50 years and commenting and touring with teams, I am bold to say that the cricketers in the scene at present do not seem to be applying themselves as cricketers of an era past did.

Stories are circulating that there are divisions in the team, favouritism, in-fighting and also that there is no harmony in the dressing room. Harmony is very essential for performing well and cohesively.

All these opinions cannot be ignored. The manner in which the players approach their jobs, it is obvious that everything is not tickety-boo between the players individually and the team as a whole.

In my memory never before has a team been found wanting like the present set and not performing as one unit. It is sad when one thinks of the past when teams were outstanding examples and performed beyond expectations which other teams envied.

With only just a couple of months to go for the spectacular day/night one-day rodeo show in England and Wales, the newly elected officials of Sri Lanka Cricket, selectors, coaches and support staff will have to work the oracle and send a squad that will stay together and play together and regain the fortunes and the glory that teams of the past were proud of.

One can’t blame the newly elected SLC officials or any one for the calamities that were the tours of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the limited over games. SLC has not been found wanting. They have provided everything and more for the cricketers and why the cricketers don’t make efforts to repay these goodies by performing is inexplicable.

Not that the players lack talent. On their day they can be better than the best known. It is simply that their approach is all wrong. As for the batsmen, they know what the bowler who they are going to face bowls. And instead of playing accordingly just play what in the good old days were called ‘cow shots’ and gift their wickets.

At this level, the footwork of some of the batsmen is seriously erratic. This is inexplicable because this is one vital aspect that should have been mastered when being a schoolboy cricketer.

True that the one-day is a hit about game, where the batter has to innovate and play strokes that are not in the book. Take the switch hit, the ‘Dil Scoop’. These strokes were not heard of or played before or in the book.

One-day bashers brought with it the evils. It demanded that runs were made and copybook strokes were put to the wilderness. But when playing the ‘cow shots’ one had to do it intelligently and not execute those strokes blindly like most batsmen do today.

When playing the switch hit or the ‘Dil Scoop’, 99 percent chances are that the batsman could lob a catch to the close-in fielders because it is not always that you could hit the ball to the boundary with certainty.

Also the running between the wickets is putrid. The batsmen don’t seem to be aware of each other’s running prowess and run-outs have been more the rule than the exception in vital moments.

From the batsmen we move on to the bowlers and in this style of game it is essential that the bowler attempts to bowl wicket to wicket and not all over the place like our bowlers. Also it is essential that you bowl good line and length and make it hard for the batsmen to make easy runs.

At the moment our bowling cupboard is bare of bowlers who could curb the batsman’s thirst for runs, frustrate him and dismiss him.

The pacemen can be best described as all-over-the-place bowler. Of the spinners one whom we had, Akila Dhananjaya has modified his action and now he is just ordinary as was proved in the matches he played since coming back.

As for the fielding which is very important in this style of game it is badly wanting. The new fielding coach, the former Aussie wicket keeper Steve Rixon is working hard with the players in this aspect, but has not had the expected results with sitters being dropped which benefitted opposing batsmen and let the game slip.

The final squad that will take the challenge to the World Cup will do well to psychologically adapt themselves to prove that underdogs can indeed perform miracles if the Lion in our Flag can be looked unto as an invincible source of inspiration.

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