Sanity has prevailed

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Having called for Dasun Shanaka’s resignation as Sri Lanka’s captain early this week, the national selection panel made a u turn 24 hours later asking him to continue till the World Cup. After the Asia Cup final humiliation where Sri Lanka were shout out for 50, the selectors panicked. Dasun was going to be scapegoated but thankfully sanity prevailed.

People have spoken about Dasun’s excellent numbers as captain and him being the uniting force of this team. Off the field, yes he has pushed some right buttons but on field he doesn’t look to be a commanding leader. The wicketkeeper seems to be more in charge of fielding changes than the captain himself. Obviously, Dasun’s numbers with the bat are horrendous! So, there was need for a change at the helm but not this time of the year.

A week from hereon Sri Lanka will be in Guwahati playing warm-up games ahead of the World Cup and so close to the tournament to change the captain would have sent the wrong signals. It was a clear sign that Sri Lanka were panicking. Of course, these are nothing new for us. Every big defeat needs someone to take the blame and the selectors felt it was Dasun’s turn having played ball with him all these whiles.

Remember what happened at the last World Cup when Eoin Morgan turned up for the pre-tournament press briefing. The England captain was asked whether Jofra Archer, the fast bowling sensation with West Indian roots is the surprise package of the tournament. Tongue in cheek Morgan said that Sri Lanka were the surprise package. He added that he had been playing international cricket for a decade and didn’t know half of the Sri Lankan team in the UK for that tournament.

The national cricket team would have faced a similar predicament this time around too with change of captaincy so close to the tournament.

Dasun’s problems are plain. It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to figure those out. If he tightens his defence, half the problem will be sorted and that’s something that he needs to work tirelessly on over the next couple of weeks here at HPC and when the World Cup preparation camp begins in Guwahati.

Bit of street smartness with his decision making will also help the captain. Dasun is a one gear player. There’s only one way he knows to play his cricket which is to give the cricket ball a whack. While that method may pay dividends in T-20 cricket, it could backfire in the ODI format.

Although Dasun is designated to bat at number seven, you see him trying to promote himself to number six. The ideal situation for Dasun is to come out to bat when five overs are left. But when he is out in the middle with 20 overs remaining, the flaws of his game are terribly exposed.

Depending on the situation, if Dunith Wellalage or Wanindu Hasaranga are featuring in the side, it’s not a bad idea for the skipper to send one of them at seven and drop himself down to number eight and wait for the death overs to have a go.

The very fact that the selectors discussed change of captaincy with the sport’s showpiece event on the verge gives you an indication how much they can panic when things go wrong. Not too often you see a captain’s head on the guillotine 72 hours after leading the team into the final.

If at all Dasun had to be removed, they had plenty of time to do so. However, they refrained from doing so for they feared for lack of alternatives and divisions within the team. The other obvious choice is to go back to Angelo Mathews but they want to avoid him like the plague.

If not as captain, Mathews needs to be in the side as a batter for he is able to provide depth and avoid collapses. The current list of batters that you suspect Sri Lanka will be taking to India will struggle to bat out 50 overs as evident by the team’s trip to India early this year.

The presence of Mathews will help the captain to breathe easy as well for it ensures depth with the batting. Hence, he should fight hard to have Mathews in his World Cup squad.

Now that the debate about the captaincy are settled, let’s wait for the squad for the tournament is announced and hopefully all those bowlers who were injured and ineligible for selection will return. It was a commendable effort to reach the Asia Cup finals without all these stalwarts and when they return, Sri Lanka’s bowling will be quite formidable. The problem lies with their batting and it remains to be seen what remedial measures the selectors will take to address the issue.