Sri Lanka Cricket’s Last Rites | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka Cricket’s Last Rites

The Sri Lankan cricketers played themselves out of the reckoning of a semi-final berth in the ongoing 2019 Cricket World Cup with a gutless effort in all aspects of the game to sign, seal and deliver a nine-wicket victory to South Africa at the Riverside Stadium in Chester-le-Street in Durham on Saturday. Last rites were duly performed!

When the Sri Lankan cricketing Lions showed better teeth to munch the British Lions by beating them in their own backyard, cricket fans here went bonkers celebrating and lighting fire crackers and having a ball.

Bringing down the pride of English cricket was an event that called for not only celebration but high expectations of doing better against South Africa and motoring to a face saving semi-final berth.

But when SA captain Faf du Plessis won the all important toss and asked Sri Lanka to bat, expectations ran high that the Lankan batsmen would capitalize and put up a formidable score and allow the South African batsmen to sink or swim batting second.

But on a wicket that held no terrors which was visible once the game was in progress, it was simply gutless batting that brought about the Lankan downfall. It was obvious that being asked to bat first brought out the jitters.

The manner in which the Lankan batsmen gifted their wickets playing some ungainly and self destructive strokes, it proved that their victory over the British Lions was a FLASH IN THE PAN and not a planned and executed victory.

After that creditable victory which was great considering that England are red hot favourites to win the World Cup this time round, the Lankans were expected to take the confidence gained from that victory, continue the momentum and chalk up another victory and strengthen their claims for a semi berth.

With the South Africans who came with great expectations of carrying away the World Cup considering they haven’t laid their hands on that trophy since its inception in 1975, already dumped out, the Lankans were expected to rub further salt to their cricketing wounds by pocketing an easy victory.

After the early loss of opener Dimuth Karunaratne to an unplayable delivery from Kagiso Rabada, the Lankan batting, other than for a stand of 67 for the next wicket, collapsed in a heap.

The two batsmen who put up this stand were Kusal Janith Perera and Avishka Fernando. In making the identical score of 30 each they showed that there were no terrors in the wicket and what was required was sensible batting to obtain runs.

Once Perera and Fernando were out, not one of the other front line batsmen put their hands up and attempted to make a big score and take the Lankans to a formidable total and give their bowlers a score to bowl at.

Kusal Mendis 23, Angelo Mathews 11, Dhananjaya de Silva 24, Jeevan Mendis 18, Thisara Perera 21 and Isuru Udana 17 did not show interest in sticking at the wicket and scoring big runs.

What was inexplicable was that they were more interested in playing down dot balls than scoring off each ball which batting is all about in this cowboy game. They lacked the technical know how to turn good balls into bad ones and make runs.

They made the S African bowlers Kagiso Rabada, Morris, Pretorious and Phehukwayo look threatening and larger than life as they bundled our hapless batsmen out.

This style of cricket requires that batsmen make runs off each ball and always ahead of the balls bowled and not vice versa by even playing weird strokes. The batsmen seemed content to concede dot balls than score runs.

The writer has always commented on the playing of the reverse stroke or the switch hit. This a ‘potta’ (blind) stroke and should be avoided at all costs because the chances of getting out off this stroke is greater than scoring runs.

And this was proved the manner in which Dhananjay de Silva threw away his wicket. He was batting well and looked set for a big score, until a sudden rush of blood forced him to play this ‘potta’ stroke.

The way he was beaten and bowled by a straight first ball bowled by part timer Jean Paul Duminy, made him look a laughing stock and did not the South Africans enjoy a laugh. Shame on de Silva.

And still on de Silva and his off spin bowling that some critics think good, is just up and down deliveries to the writer. He puts spin on the ball, but once the ball lands on the wicket it goes straight. There is hardly any spin off the wicket. Batsmen are fooled playing for the spin.

De Silva is nowhere in the class of classy off spinners the country had in the pre-Test era like Abu Fuard, Neil Chanmugam, Cyril Ernest, Vijaya Mahendren and Lalith Kaluperuma.

Sri Lanka huffed and puffed to make 203 which the South Africans made with not having to raise much of a sweat with Du Plessis 96 and Amla 80 taking them to an easy nine wicket victory in 37.2 overs after losing Quinton de Kock for 18. Du Plessis and Amla made a sumptuous meal of the Sri Lankan attack that looked anything but a penetrative or threatening attack with slinger Lasith Malinga failing to deliver like he did against the Englishmen.

On de Silva and supposed to be off spin brings to mind an anecdote related to me by the famous Mahadevan Sathasivam probably in jest. It went like this. Everton Weekes one of the Windies terrible Ws was watching from the SSC pavilion leg spinner Lucien de Zoysa bowling.

Weekes had imagined that De Zoysa was bowling prodigious leg spinners, but when he took strike and watching from the non striker’s he had said that De Zoysa was spinning his body and there was no turn off the wicket and had broken into laughter as he hit De Zoysa all over the ground. It was said probably in jest. De Silva looks that way. Weekes had suffered Cardiac arrest, it was reported but has been cleared by his doctors in the West Indies. Thank God.

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