Disappointing end to Sri Lanka cricket

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2017-06-18

Champions Trophy challenge as far as Sri Lanka is concerned is over. It's quite obvious that everyone including the cricketers are disappointed at the outcome and no doubt in hindsight Sri Lanka should have at least reached the semi-final. The truth is Sri Lanka lost two games they had a good chance of winning i.e. South Africa and Pakistan. The South Africans were absolutely ordinary in the tournament being thrashed by India and also losing to Pakistan. The Sri Lankan game was the only encounter they had something to show. Pakistan on the other hand kept getting better after the Indian encounter and their effort against Sri Lanka and then against England were superlative.

But what about Sri Lanka? One could describe their efforts as flattering to deceive. If the South African game was ordinary the Indian game was magnificent and then Pakistan was shambolic. In the first place my question is: were the Sri Lankans expected to reach the last four?

Yes to all Sri Lankans the belief was the ability to do the impossible and create a miracle. But in reality the Lankans carried the underdog tag and no expert had mentioned Sri Lanka at all in their predictions which included our own Kumar Sangakkara which is a confirmation of reality. Having said that the Lankans were neither written off either as it was universally known and accepted of what they could produce on a good day just as the Indian game. Chasing a tough looking target against possibly the best balanced attack in the competition is no mean achievement.

But was the Pakistan defeat due to lack of experience to handle situations or simply poor cricket? I still subscribe to the theory that world events demand experience; hence, the value of the likes of Mathews, Chandimal, Malinga and even Kulasekara were considered essential and important. Out of the four mentioned Mathews started off the tournament with an injury, Chandimal suddenly lost touch, Malinga nowhere the force he was and Kulasekara failed to figure in any of the playing elevens. So much for the experience the team carried!

From a comfortable 160/3 and with the dismissal of the skipper, the collapse that set in has to be called amateurish as the Lankans lost four wickets for just seven runs. From a very challenging and a tough 7/162 and with rabbits at numbers ten and eleven, they not only rode the pressure but luck too getting over the line. Skipper Sarfraz was outstanding and so was Amir. Neither of them ever gave the slightest hint of anxiety, pressure or trouble, which was again the ability to soak the situation, which can only be due to the experience of handling such situations.

One has to try to understand the real reason of Thisara's and Seekku's dropped catches. I say this due to Thisara having played in many a T20 game around the world in the presence of large audiences and having handled similar pressure and Seekku is simply a very good fielder. I am not suggesting that Thisara is a poor fielder either as he is one of the safest catchers in the team.

The only real assumption to any person watching on a screen can be, that it was a momentarily lapse in concentration. And that lapse proved to be costly. No team, however, good, can be considered perfect and needs improving all the time and that's what practice is for and coaches are for. What good teams do is to ensure that such lapses are far and few and are covered when it happens.

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