Ashantha’s Balanced Reflections on Sri Lanka’s T20 Cricket Squad

Saádi Thawfeeq, in Daily News, 11 March 2020, with this title  No need to panic we are on the right track says chief selector””

Sri Lanka’s 0-2 defeat at the hands of T20I world champs West Indies is not something to get too excited or worried about says chairman of selectors Ashantha de Mel. “I am not saying I am 100 percent satisfied but there is an improvement. We have a lot to go forward but from where we were we have come up. The structure is coming and there are little areas that we have to fine tune, our bowling and all that,” said De Mel reflecting on the ODI and T20I series.

West Indian Andre Russell hit six sixes off 14 balls against Sri Lanka in the second T20I at Pallekele.

Sri Lanka whitewashed West Indies 3-0 in the ODIs and West Indies returned the compliment by sweeping the T20I series 2-0. “West Indies of course are a specialised T20 side they only have players for that kind of cricket. They are quite a strong side but not in Test matches and ODIs,” said De Mel.

“These guys have played over 500 matches if you take all our 11 players they have not played as many. In T20s they are specialists. They are going around the world playing franchise cricket. They are like the Harlem Globetrotters playing basketball, that’s all they do.

“They don’t play so many ODIs or Tests. They are specialists and they know exactly what to do. Our guys if you look at other than Kusal Perera and Angelo Mathews I don’t think they have played even 30 games,” explained De Mel.

Speaking further he said, “In the first game we bowled 47 dot balls but they got 196 runs which means in 70 balls they scored those runs because they hit a lot of fours and sixes. That is one area that we’ve got to look at. Our guys when they hit they get caught on the boundary because they don’t have the power.

“We’ll have to improve our technique that’s the only way we can do it. The West Indies are genetically stronger than us, we can’t get to their levels and their physiques we cannot have. We have to understand our limitations and improve our technique. To hit the ball there are certain techniques that you use those we have to improve. That’s what we are working on now. Work with the coaches and go forward I don’t think that we should panic.

“We have to improve in our bowling and some of the power hitting areas. I have told Sri Lanka Cricket that we need to get someone with specialised training for power hitting. That area we are lacking in.

“Andre Russell when he first played in Galle, he batted no. 9 and was a fast bowler. He realised that if he wants to play franchise cricket he will have to improve his power hitting and he hired a power hitting coach. That’s what we are looking at in the next 2-3 months we will get these things sorted out,” De Mel continued.

“We are improving getting there little by little. We can’t be impatient, results are not going to come overnight it will take a little time. We have 6 months to go and enough matches to play and to make improvements in those areas.

“We are looking at the composition and to get the batting order sorted out. We need a number 3 player either Danushka (Gunathilaka), (Niroshasn) Dickwella or Bhanuka (Rajapaksa) one will have to fit in there. The strategy is for 1, 2 and 3 has to go hard, 4, 5 and 6 to consolidate, 7 and 8 to get you through to the final total the Thisaras, Wanindus and Shanakas who can hit the ball hard. That’s the plan. You need to score 60-65 runs in the first six overs and you have to be competitive. You might lose one or two wickets but you have to go hard.

“Seven to 15 overs is the area that we have to improve. We have to make sure that when we come to 15 overs we should be about 120 not losing more than 3-4 wickets, then you can get to 170 plus.

“What is important is in the West Indies series is we didn’t wilt, we competed. You can see a little bit of fight in the team they are not giving up. The fight is there that is important. These are days where you can win or lose you can’t win every day.

“You saw in the ODIs also we are scoring 300 regularly we are getting there. When you are down in a hole you have to come up slowly you can’t jump out of the hole at once. We have to understand we are playing against the world best sides. West Indies is going to be a threat to everybody in the T20 World Cup they can beat anybody on their day,” concluded De Mel.

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