19th June 2012 (Cricturf): The last time Sri Lanka won a series against Pakistan was back in 2009 when they defeated Pakistan 3-2 in the series held in Sri Lanka. And today, Sri Lanka ending the long drought sealed the victory of the series with a 3-1 margin and claimed to the world that they are back in the game with a super captain, fantastic ground fielding and also with some newly found surprising packages.
The reason why it’s simply not another victory for Sri Lanka is because they have being struggling during the past entire year or so after the World Cup last year in all forms of games as a whole. There were many ups and downs in the Sri Lankan team on and off the field from the captaincy changes, unstable batting positions in the team, administrative issues and what not. Some were keen enough to come and say it’s the end of Sri Lankan cricket and it will take more time than ever for it to come back.
Concentrating on the past 4-5 matches and the T20 series both, the change in the Sri Lankan side certainly is a positive and a much needed one that was wished by all the fans and rest. Thus it is the best moment to highlight the key areas Lankans shined as they won the series short while ago.
Is Mahela one of the best captains Sri Lanka ever produced after his greatness Arjuna Ranatunga? Without a doubt yes and simply can admit as one of clothe or rather THE best Captain in the current cricketing world. The greatness of Mahela is that he keeps on proving it in every other game in terms of bowling changes; rotating and mixing up players especially youngsters to take on chances and the spot on field placement as a visionary who can predict the future.
Balanced and a settled side: Yes, Mahela took some crucial decisions from game to game trying to keep the balance of the side and it paid off in well favouring Sri Lanka. The best example is bringing in Jeewan Mendis replacing Sajeewa Weerakoon today who bowled well and played a real cameo to get Sri Lanka closer to the victory point. It was a slow pitch and Jeewan is a batsman who can bowl and also the RPS surface suits him very well where his leg spin and the googly troubled the batsmen. Traditionally the leg spinners have a tendency in picking up wickets very often though at times they may go for a few runs. There could have been more reasons in Mahela’s head but that sharp decision he made sure was a blessing for Sri Lanka today.
After the first match he demoted himself to the no.5 and promoted Upul Tharanga back to the opening position which was one of the best decisions as the Sri Lankan batting line up is concerned.
Field placement and bowling changes: Mahela can predict the next shot of the batsman? Seems like he can. His level of accuracy in field placements gets better by every game. He thinks through every ball that his bowler bowls and completely an attacking Captain which again suits Sri Lanka at this moment. Mahela is a character that tries to minimise the run flow with spot on field placements and whenever his thinking sees an opportunity of taking a wicket he just takes the maximum out of it. In the 4th ODI, lot of spectators were complaining and the pressure was building as Mahela didn’t keep a mid-wicket to cut those easy singles, but his thinking was clearly a different version where he did let them dragged them the game by giving 4-5 runs knowing that Malinga had 7 overs left.
And today, the way he handled his bowlers after analysing their strengths the performance was quite impressive. Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara who were kept for the last few overs by Mahela gave away only 20 runs and that restricted Pakistan for a 247 which could have gone up to a good 260-270. And well not to forget the wickets of Imran Farhat and Shahid Afridi was two more examples of perfect field set up and bowling change by Mahela.
Last but not the least; a captain is someone who always needs to keep faith in his players. The moment your captain has faith in you, the players and the team get the “one for all and all for one” feeling without anyone forcing them into it. Mahela showed this quality at his every press conference. When asked about Sangakkara and his poor form in the first few games of the series, he clearly stated that he has no doubts or worries about him as he is a world class player who can regain his form at any match at any point where as Sangakkara too proved it in style. In the meantime, Thisara Perera according skipper Mahela was a “Special Package”. The special package ended up getting his first hat-trick leading from front for a Lankan victory. Respect is earned and and Mahela has done just that.
Sri Lankan bowling batting and fielding
Thisara changed the entire 4th ODI while Kumar Sangakkara anchored the innings batting under pressure. The middle order look s so aggressive and s trong especially with calm and attacking Mahela backing it up and the tail - enders of Sri Lanka clearing boundaries during the last 10 overs is a huge advantage. Basically, there was no stand out performer to be exact in every game but there were always 2-4 players in the team who performed beyond good to contribute in the teams win. As an example Chandimal, Mendis and Mathews today. Did anyone have glimpses of M&M in Australia? Sure everyone did.
Pakistan lost most of their games because of poor fielding. Sri Lanka was outstanding in their ground fielding and certainly stopped lot of runs an d pulled off some super catches. The positive aspect from the teams point is the grooming of youngsters like Chandimal, Thirimanne in field taking over the old names like Dilshan and Mahela. In the mean time, Coach Ford has compared Thisara to Lance Klusener and sure it’s great news for Sri Lanka.
To wrap things up, Sri Lanka right now has all those above mentioned positive aspects with fantastic young spirit backed by classy seniors where anyone in the team can play any position when the need arises.Will the team be able to come up and become a strong force in world cricket in the coming months? Lets hope that it shapes up to become a team to watch out for. But the question in everyone’s mind will remain. Will Sri Lankan administrative let this team groom to its greatness or will something again let this go to a down fall? Only Time will Tell.
(C) Cricturf | Yoshitha Kulatunga