Michael Roberts, courtesy of islandcricket.lk …. http://www.islandcricket.lk/columns/michael_roberts/473540223/wt20-sri-lankas-many-weaknesses
Sri Lanka’s chances of qualifying for the semi-finals of the World T20 have been deemed dim and slim by myself as well as the gamblers’ tote for a number of reasons. Let me argue my case by an unconventional route by raising a simple question: how many Sri Lankans have been selected by the franchises in the Indian IPL? The answer is: only two, Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera. The exclusion of Pakistanis is political, but all the other principal contenders have more in the IPL line-up, though I believe England and Bangladesh may not be all that well represented.
However, there are several other grounds for my pessimistic reasoning. Let me commence by listing them, without attaching any order of importance to their sequence.
- Sri Lanka has insufficient players with maturity and experience.
- Sri Lanka has too many bunnies in the likely first XI or first XII, namely, Malinga, Herath, Chameera and Lakmal – resulting in Nos. 9, 10 and 11 being usually dead meat … since the days of Malinga’s heroics with the bat seem long gone.
- Sri Lanka does not have an adequate line-up of solid allrounders, because serious question marks hang over the reliability of Siriwardena, Jayasuriya and Shanaka in the bowling department. Can any captain rely on one of them to bowl four overs?
- Sri Lanka’s pace attack is mediocre at best – even with a fit Malinga.
- Sri Lanka’ spin attack now is also mediocre.
The last contention is a devastating one is it not! Even after Murali retired the spin attack in the short-form games was formidable. But now Ajantha Mendis has lost his mojo and his will. Herath seems to have had his bite and spite reduced after the finger injury in early 2015, while his movement round the field has declined with age so that he could add 8-15 runs to the batting side in the course of a match. Sachitra Senanayake too has been less effective and less economical after he was forced to modify his action. Shehan Jayasuriya’s bowling has been less than impressive, even weak. Siriwardena began well in matches in Sri Lanka, but has faded in the Indian subcontinent.
It seems a pity that the selectors and/or the touring parties did not give Vandersay a more extended run in the middle in recent tours. However, this may have been induced by the playing conditions in New Zealand and Bangladesh. Imran Tahir was erratic in performance when he started, but has become a regular bowler and wicket-taker for South Africa. Likewise, Australia see Zampa as an asset (one who ousted Cameron Boyce in the competition for the role of right-arm leg-spinner, while both pushed Doherty into the also rans).
It is, incidentally, about time that some stats-guru compared the returns in economy/rate and strike rate of (a) pace bowlers (b) off spinners and (c) left arm spinners and (d) right arm leg-spinners across all countries – with a breakdown that also separates out the broad location of the matches (England, Middle East, Indian subcontinent, Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand). It would not surprise me if one of the spinning divisions comes up BEST in economy rate or even strike rate for T20s and ODIs in several of these locations. The tentative suggestion here is that Selectors and captains worldwide have not given adequate weight to the spin bowlers. This thought needs testing at both the statistics level and during the death overs.