Harry Solomons on Sri Lanka’s Chances in World Cup

Harry Solomons,in http://www.ozlanka.com  early February under titleGot a spare $50? Go place it on the Sri Lankans”

I have just returned from a month’s holiday in the old homeland and was impressed by the enthusiasm for the forthcoming Cricket World Cup – from people at all levels and throughout the media. The contrast here in Australia on my return is stark. I am somewhat staggered by the non-interest, or should I say the lack of importance the Australian cricketing public place on the 2011 Cricket World Cup. In Australia, the time to get interested is when the team is about to play its first match or when the first win or loss is recorded.

In Sri Lanka it is all about the cricket. It is all about the selection of the team, the Selectors, the Board and the venues.  It is all about who is doing the right thing by Sri Lanka cricket and who is “stuffing up” the team, the venues or the Board.Go anywhere on this beautiful island and you are greeted by giant cut-out posters of cricket stars from around the globe. Every round-about in the city, every bill board in the country displays the smiling face of a Murali, a Sangakkara or a Mahela Jayawardene.  This sequence is only broken by the hundreds of massive cut-outs of an excessively white toothed, dark moustached, red scarfed, white suited gentleman, a reminder of who leads this cricket loving nation.

 The only missing cut-out is that of a quiet and modest Australian and honorary Sri Lankan, Coach Trevor Bayliss. I was lucky to bump into my old friend Trevor and he was genuinely happy to see someone from his old hometown. This polite, unassuming Aussie possibly holds the secret to Sri Lanka’s World Cup success.  He has gone about building his team over the past three years without the accolades and fanfare which are reserved for those in Sri Lanka who are his employers   .  .  . you get my drift.

 Trevor Bayliss’ script is simple – he now has a team of players who want to play for the right reasons. This team is devoid of politics, of “ring ins”, beaming with talent, experience and enthusiasm. They want to win for the team, they want to win for the country. Bayliss has a Captain and Vice Captain with whom he gets on well. The Captain is tough, experienced, talented, a task master and very focussed. The Vice Captain is a superb world class player, experienced beyond words, a former Captain and the best friend of the current Captain.

The Team and why they will be hard to beat

Three world class batsmen in Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene & Tillakaratne Dilshan plus a quite experienced and now confident opener, Upul Tharanga.

  • Three experienced middle order batsmen in Chamara Kapugedara, Thilan Samaraweera and Chamara Silva (two of whom should play). These talented cricketers are now ready to stand up and be counted. They have to if they are to ‘prop up’ Sri Lanka’s somewhat suspect middle order.
  • Two extremely good and exciting all rounders in Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera.
  • One can almost add Nuwan Kulasekera, a most improved fast bowler/batsman, into this category.
  • One world champion spinner in Muttiah Muralitharan, playing in his fifth World Cup.
  • Two world class spinners in Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath (one of whom should play)
  • One fast bowler – Lasith Malinga, who would make anyone’s best World ODI team 
  • One very fast bowler (140 kph) – the exciting but somewhat erratic Dilhara Fernando.

Dropped from the squad – the experienced Sanath Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vass.  Unfortunately sad but deservedly so.  They have had their glory days in the sun. Spinner Suraj Randiv, possibly the unluckiest but he is young and will have his day in the future. Try as I might, I look at the Australian squad and I think I would rather be in Trevor Bayliss’ shoes than those of Aussie coach Tim Nielsen. And remember, Sri Lanka is playing at home.  You get my drift.

 Count me in for a spare $100; I think it’s worth it. And the little Aussie coach is quietly confident and excited about Sri Lanka’s chances.

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