SL has advantage over Zimbabwe

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So it's Sri Lanka versus Zimbabwe in the Tri Nation Final today. It may appear to be a one sided contest, and it could surely turn out to be that way. This, only time will tell. However, that can never take away the achievements of the hosts of getting there against all odds.

On paper Zimbabwe was the least prepared side and didn't look like getting into the final overcoming their superior counterparts, both Sri Lanka and the West Indies. However, as the game of cricket, which carries the tag of glorious uncertainties, has lived up to it. Zimbabwe has surprised not just the world but possibly themselves too with this effort.

The hosts are struggling with economic issues, both in the country and in their Cricket Board, where it's believed that a debt running into millions of US dollars remains unpaid to banks in the country. This win and a berth in the final appear to be a small step towards a bigger goal. And that goal is to be a force to reckon with, at least in the limited over formats.

With their participation in the 2019 World Cup hanging by a thread, every win is absolutely important to Zimbabwe in their march towards it. Though the objective and the goal remains worthy from a cricketing perspective, one can't be too confident of the manner they intend to achieve it, as a proper road map hasn't been worked out in that regard. With the domestic tournament of the current year - despite its scheduled beginning being August - not starting, and with no proper cricket outside their international programme, Zimbabwe cricket is bound to struggle on the big stage for the want of good competition.

Their reaching the final in the tri nation tournament has been with such a backdrop, which is absolutely commendable. Their present lack in cricket has more to do with administrative bungling than talent. When one looks around the country, the commodity of talent is available in plenty. What lacks in the country is a system to harness it, and also manage it, due to no proper systems being in place, which again is the cause of the issues involving the administration of the game. Therefore Zimbabwe being tagged the underdogs in the current triangular can't be faulted.

Their opponents Sri Lanka have to be the favourites going into the final. With a balanced unit in good form, they have shown everyone - barring the one black spot they had with the defeat at the hands of the West Indies in the opening game - they are no push overs at all. Their win over the West Indies in their repeat match clearly demonstrated their all-round and professional ability as they snatched victory from virtually an impossible situation. On a man to man basis too Sri Lanka are the better equipped side, and should prove to be a tough opposition despite the local support at Bulawayo.

One thing the Lankans have in their lineup is versatility. And that means to be able to cope with any condition available during the tour. True they struggled against the short ball in the opening game against the West Indies, but what was impressive is the way they responded in the next game, which was to be aggressive. West Indies wilted under pressure to the extent of Sri Lanka scoring 331 runs. I am sure it could have been much more had the three set batsmen not got out to soft shots.

The pitch for the final where Zimbabwe is playing will never be a green top with pace. Instead my gut instinct is it could be a decent surface which can slow down when the game progresses. Zimbabwe's best bet will be to have Sri Lanka on such a track batting second where the spinners of the home side can look to create some pressure. For such a situation to occur there is an uncontrollable factor called the toss that has to be won, and sometimes can be the determining factor.

My effort here is not to write off the home team. Instead what I intend to do is understand the background to the situation. Having said that, one also has to concede the momentum is swinging with Zimbabwe.

With their tie against the West Indies, which was once again very creditable, their win in the final first round game only confirms that they can't be taken lightly. I am confident that the experience available to Sri Lanka both in the players and the coaching staff will be mindful of it and will not be lured into complacency. Either way the final is a big game for both teams.




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