Improvements in T20Is but ODI cricket needs rethink


Sri Lanka have been delivered a warning sign that they need to put their house in order if they were to qualify for this year’s 50 over World Cup, after India completed a cleansweep in Trivandrum and handed them a massive 317 run defeat in the final game.

 That’s the heaviest margin of loss in the history of ODI cricket, erasing Ireland’s 290-run defeat to New Zealand in 2008.

 The bowling looked hopeless as they allowed India to post 390 with Virat Kohli hammering a second hundred in the space of six days.

But the batting remains the biggest worry for lack of intent and fighting spirt and they were in total shambles on Sunday, posting a total of 73. It could have been lot worse if not for the 22-run partnership for the last wicket between Kasun Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara.

Barring Dasun Shanaka and Pathum Nissanka, the rest of the batting was a flop and in three games Sri Lanka had just one hundred and two half-centuries, one of them coming from a debutant.

You could understand if the conditions were like in England where the ball seams or like in Australia where extra bounce gets the better of the batsmen, but on flat pitches, you needed a far better effort than this.

The selectors have been stubborn not to reconsider the discarded seniors but maybe the time has come for them to give it a rethink as lack of experience has been exposed one too many times.

The bowlers ran out of ideas when the pitch was flat, leaked too many runs in the powerplays and simply had no answers during the death overs when the batters were looking to clear the boundary.

Wanindu Hasaranga was the biggest disappointment, having been not able to pick up a wicket in the entire ODI series. While he wasn’t as costly as the quicks, you needed better returns from your leading bowler.

No doubt that there’s definite improvement in T20 cricket as Sri Lanka nearly pulled off a series win. The progress made in T20 cricket is evident by the fact that Dasun Shanaka’s side won the Asia Cup and do not need to play a qualifying round for next year’s T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and USA.

The selectors need to convince Dasun Shanaka that he needs to bowl more of Dhananjaya de Silva’s off-spin as he looked far more threatening than the leg-spin of Wanindu. So, DDS needs to be given a place in the ODI line-up as an all-rounder.

A question that needs to be asked is whether other all-rounders such as Chamika Karunaratne and Dunith Wellalage need to be part of the ODI set up as the team seems to be relying on too many all-rounders instead of pure batsmen or bowlers.

Sri Lanka’s strategy is similar to that of England in 1990s when they depended heavily on too many all-rounders and results were disastrous as they rarely made it to the semi-final stage of global tournaments before their complete overhaul in 2015, which enabled them to go onto win the 2019 World Cup.

England now boast of proper spinners as well apart from quicks and they are one of the favourites for the 2023 World Cup along with India.

Sri Lanka’s woes are not only due to lack of quality. The amount of injuries their players suffered in the last 24 months are way too many and the recovery process looks flawed.

There is no point in making too many changes either. A team will come out of a bad patch and go onto become  a successful one when they have played together over a long period of time and some of the young players who had been identified like Charith Asalanka and Avishka Fernando need to be backed.

Kusal Mendis though is under severe pressure. Since March 2019, in 27 innings he has made just one half-century and that’s really worrying. Questions will be asked whether he needs to be part of the plans for the World Cup or not.

There was a good opportunity for Sri Lanka to try out Sadeera Samarawickrama for the dead rubber instead of Mendis but for some reason the team management refrained from going on that path.

Nuwanindu Fernando looks a good player, having scored a half-century on debut in Calcutta and he gives the option of couple of a overs of off-spin and not a bad idea in persevering with him as he has been solid in domestic cricket and with the development squad.

Touring India is always a challenge. But after the way the team started off the T20 series, you expected them to come up with more positives in the ODI format. Instead they return home with more questions than answers.