Need to rethink our ODI strategies


Hiring former ICC boss Haroon Lorgat a few years ago as a  consultant to make recommendations to our cricket structure was seen as a futile exercise by many as it cost the board an arm and a leg. But Lorgat, an experienced administrator made some pertinent remarks at the end of his two-week stint.

The former South African chief selector, the man responsible for picking Hashim Amla when many, including the great Barry Richards, thought it was a left field choice, had some interesting remarks to make about our cricket.

Lorgat knew that days of automatic qualification for full members for key ICC events like World Cups and Champions Trophy were over. He warned us that Sri Lanka should stay away from the elimination range when it comes to future events and one of his remedies was a strong domestic structure with fewer teams. We did not act. By the time we wisened up, the horse had bolted.

In successive years, Sri Lanka have played two qualifying rounds of two major ICC events in UAE and Australia and we are preparing to play another in a couple of weeks time. The immediate goal should be qualifying for the sport’s showpiece event later this year in India.

Michael Bevan perhaps was the greatest ODI batsman ever, bailing out his side a number of times and no matter how desperate the situation was, Australia still fancied their chances as long as the left-hander was out there in the middle.

Angelo Mathews has kind of played Bevan’s role for Sri Lanka on numerous occasions. Look at his numbers. They are fabulous. Yes, there are only three hundreds to show but 40 half-centuries for someone who batted at number five and six is more than adequate. Often, he was like Casabianca standing bravely on the burning deck while the rest around him floundered. Some wisemen thought that the ODI team could do without him. Thankfully, that error has been corrected.

The selectors need to bite the bullet and rectify another error which is to bring Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne to the top of the order for the simple reason that there is a trend that the team is unable to bat 50 overs in recent years. You need to have someone who is capable of batting through the innings while others up the tempo.

Kusal Perera who returned to cricket after shoulder surgery only featured in T20s in New Zealand and he’s set to resume his ODI stint as well and that’s a good sign.

Dushmantha Chameera, who broke down during the T20 World Cup in Australia has also recovered having undergone ankle surgery and when these key players are back, you tend to get the feeling that Sri Lanka should cruise through during the World Cup qualifiers.

While getting your best players on the park is a priority, Sri Lanka also need to examine whether their strategies in ODI cricket have served much purpose.

The team seems to be relying on the outdated method of backing too many all-rounders. England found out two decades ago that this method was a recipe for disaster. Sri Lanka seem to go back on this failed method.

Time and again successful Sri Lankan teams have depended on seven batters, among whom two can bowl. In the current side, Dhananjaya de Silva and Dasun Shanaka help solve this puzzle and it seems that everyone, but Dasun agrees that the captain should bowl more often in limited overs cricket.

The remaining four players have to be genuine bowlers and not bowlers who can bat. If seven batters is not going to get the team a decent total or chase down a target, there’s no point.

Kasun Rajitha has improved leaps and bounds in recent months and should be the back up for Chameera while there are so many options for third seamer in Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka and Pramod Madushan.

There’s a lot of excitement as Matheesha Pathirana has come up with some impressive spells for M.S. Dhoni and at the moment we have too many fast bowling options to chose from. Days of seam bowlers who can bat should be over.

Wanindu Hasaranga is under a bit of fire having not been able to take a wicket in his last five ODIs and the selectors have a tough call to make. The sensible thing to do would be to back him to come good as the team has invested on him so much in recent years.

All in all, a cracking ODI series against Afghanistan is on the cards and it’s a timely move as well as it enables the team to prepare well for the challenge in Zimbabwe. It’s been a while since we played international cricket down south and given the number of players who have broken through to the senior side in recent years from the Hambantota district, the interest for the game will grow even more when you play international cricket there.