ICL: Indian Cricket League


Sri Lanka provide one of the grandest ironies

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One of the grandest ironies of this ironical tournament is that Sri Lanka will be playing qualifying matches to just find a place in the main draw of the Champions Trophy. A terrible showing in India last year cost them a place in the starting eight.

While that series proved to be only a blip (they edged South Africa en route to the VB Series finals and they cleaned up England in England), the damage had already been done.

What is interesting is that there is no drastic change in the personnel from their previous Indian tour, a disaster from most angles. Yet, they arrive this time far more upbeat. Their batting has started showing shades of the dangerous line-up of the mid-90s, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan are still a dangerous combination and their fielding continues to be better than most.

The closest they came to a Champions Trophy crown was at home in 2002 — when they shared the trophy with India due to a rain-disrupted final — but they could well upset several calculations in this one.

One to watch: There was a time not long ago when, given the amount of talent, Mahela Jayawardene was considered an under-achiever. But, like it’s done to a few others, captaincy changed the man. With Marvan Atapattu injured, Jayawardene took over a team in tatters and lifted them from the morass. As a captain he averages 49.76, as opposed to his career average of 32.33.

The fact that Sri Lanka and Jayawardene have hit a purple patch together is not a coincidence. As a captain, he has won 14 One-day Internationals, and lost only four. The pitches in India will be to his liking — he likes to play on the up, loves to hit inside out, and is fantastic against spinners.

New kid on the block: Last last year — with Romesh Kaluwitharana gone, Marvan Atapattu injured, and Sanath Jayasuriya out of form — Sri Lanka’s opening woes got compounded. But in England, Jayasuriya solved half the problem and Upul Tharanga put his hand up and completed it. It was Tharanga who starred with a century at Lord’s and began Sri Lanka’s rampaging run.

Tharanga is strong through the covers and backward point but is vulnerable against the short ball. Through the Champions Trophy, Tharanga would like to carry forward the transformation that started in England: from a cautious batsman unsure of his place in international cricket to an attacking one who began resembling his more illustrious team-mates. With Jayasuriya by his side, the pair looks good enough to carry Sri Lanka through to the World Cup.

Current form: The key to winning any tournament in the subcontinent remains the team’s batting and a comparison of Sri Lanka’s performance on the tour of India in the 2006 season, and their form thereafter gives an indication of their improvement.

Jayasuriya, their most important one-day batsman over the years, averaged 14.16 in the dismal series in India; since the start of 2006, he’s averaged 79.83. It’s similar for the rest of the top order — corresponding numbers for Jayawardene are 27.66 and 72.40; for Tillakaratne Dilshan they’re 37 and 53; and for Tharanga they’re 17.25 and 62.42.

Source:The News

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This entry was posted on Saturday, October 7th, 2006 and is filed under General.

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