Since the World Cup in Australia back in 2015, Sri Lankan cricket fortune have fluctuated a lot, while test side is performing better their limited over team’s misery has continued as they have looked all over the sea in shorter format of the game, an analysis how once a formidable one day outfit has declined into a below average side
1996-2015, have been golden years in the history of Sri Lankan cricket history, during this duration they not only won two world cups(1996 world cup and 2014 T-20 World Cup) reached the finals of 2007, 2011 50-over World Cups apart from being the runner-ups of 2009 and 2012 T-20 World Cups.
This successful tally is enormous, especially if one considers that the side made it to 6 World Cup finals in just 19 years.
Did the West Indians, South Africans, or New Zealanders manage that? And just when the going should’ve gotten strong, along came instances of a spiral decline.
Since the post-2015 World Cup, where players like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan retired, Sri Lanka have seemed a shadow of themselves.
Sri Lanka has played 78 one day internationals winning 23 and losing 49 which is almost double to win percentage. During this duration, Sri Lanka has won only against Ireland, West Indies and the Tri-Series in Zimbabwe. What has been more worry some was Sri Lanka’s inability to win at home. They have lost to Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, England, and Zimbabwe and failed to win against Bangladesh. Last year India whitewashed them 5-0 in limited over series an embarrassment they have never suffered at home.
Sri Lanka’s reputation of performing well at big tournaments have taken a setback. In 2016 ICC World Cup T-20 they were knocked in the super stage while in Champions Trophy 2017 they were out in group stages only. In Asia Cup, they were at their lowest ebb when they lost to Afghanistan. Captains have shuffled, coaches have changed and a number of players have been brought in but what has been consistent have been the losses all the way. The Question is how once formidable one day outfit has turned into a shadow of its greatness?
From 2007 to 2015 when Sri Lankan limited over the side was in pomp it had some of the best names Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan who were among the top run-getters in the world. During this Dilshan averaged 44.56 Sangakkara averaged (47.23) and Jayawardene (33.23) even Angelo Matthews had almost 3800 runs with an average of 40. Batsmen like Tharanga had a decent average of 34 and all of them combined to have a staggering 57 hundred.
Compare this with current crops and it will be easier to understand what had led to the existing state of Sri Lanka’s fifty-over cricket. From April 2015 till 6th January 2019 Sri Lankan batsmen have scored only thirteen hundreds in four years. This includes stats of top eight run-getters during the period. Angelo Matthews (1597 at 48.39) have been brilliant but apart from him, no one averages over 40.
Tharanga (1593 at 37.04) and Dickwella (1505 at 35) are rest among top 3. Players like Kaushal Mendis, Dhananjaya De Silva, have failed to live up the expectations. On the other hand players like Lahiru Thrimanne (38.65) and Dinesh Chandimal(37.02) have overall good averages but have been an inconsistent and less threatening force in limited overs.
Another reason for Sri Lankan apathy in last few years has been the lack of bowlers who could take wickets. During 2007-2015, Sri Lanka have a strong attack with a variety of bowlers. Lasith Malinga, who was a force to reckon with picked 226 wickets at 28.29 in 148 matches during the period.
Similarly, Nuwan Kulasekara (172 wickets at 32.68) and the foxy Ajantha Mendis (148 wickets in 83 matches at 21.17) followed suit.
Of the top-10 wicket-takers during that era, 4 were spinners.
While there is not much of a difference from 2015 onward as there are 3 spinners among top 10 wicket-takers, there’s still some mess to sort out.
Wondering what that is?
The truth is, apart from Akila Dhananjaya (46 wickets in 29 matches at 26.93) who has been banned for throwing, there is not much to boast off as Sandakan and Sachitha Pathirana have claimed nearly every wicket at the cost of 50 runs apiece.
That sounds like a bad deal, does it not Sri Lanka?
The others like Amila Aponso, Dilruwan Perera, Jeffrey Vandersey have not done enough to win the selectors’ confidence.
All these holes have led to the fall of Sri Lanka from top of the limited over rankings, a position they once occupied in the good old days of the nineties.
Having said that what is the solution?
Sri Lanka Cricket needs to bring stability in Cricket administration, selection panel; players should be given longer rope, proper player management and above all a proper domestic structure which could help Sri Lanka unearth new talents which would help her to be among top nations of the world. England, India and New Zealand are three highly improved ODI outfits which might help Sri Lanka to follow their suits and become a force to reckon with again before it becomes too late.