I keep staring at this headline in the Pak v SL homepage on cricinfo.
It reads “SL hold the advantage – Dilshan”. When I read it the first time I thought it was rather odd. Peculiar even. He of course said this at the end of the 1st test. Sure Sri Lanka had batted out 2 days to save the game. But to us it seemed to be pushing it , just slightly, to say that SL held some sort of psychological advantage.
On Saturday any remaining advantage, real or imagined, was obliterated and the remains settled with the dust.
Just like that statement Sri Lankas performances have been quite odd. Peculiar. Left of Centre. On paper this is a decent side. Not the best Sri Lanka can put on the field. But competitive enough.
It is true that SL depend on some key players. But so do most other teams. Them failing hurts the team. But the issue here runs much deeper. SL as a team is failing collectively. `And don’t let the 1st test escape fool you. SL should have lost that game. Badly.
Sri Lankas batsmen couldn’t buy a run from the dollar shop. The openers does not inspire any confidence in being able to provide a solid start of any form. This has an immediate knock on affect where Sangakkara and Mahela are under ridiculous amounts of pressure. Knowing that Dilshan behind them also has run his luck into the ground cant be much fun either. If SL are serious about winning then Dilshan has to open. It is his best chance of scoring runs. It might even be only chance to stay in the team. Much of SLs strength lay in the dynamic Dilshan gave opening. Right now there is no vision about way things are being done. I mean are Paranavitana and Thirimanne being looked at as long term openers. I mean really. REALLY ?
Dilshan needs to grow a pair and open. Bin this obsession with batting in the middle. Couples go through bad patches all the time. Rearranging the furniture doesn’t make anything better. I would rather see him go out and try to lead from the front than see him being nailed by a 21 year old with the same ball.
To his credit Sangakkara looks like the only player who’s played an innings like he meant it. In 4 innings Mahela has answered the question so many people ask about why he doesn’t perform overseas. A good length ball outside off early always does him in. It has been his achillies from day1 to his 100 whatever tests he has played. With Mahela, you either get very low scores or big runs. Not much in between. He is now dropping the odd chance too. Cricket is a mental game. And cracks are appearing all over the SL walls.
Some one on cricinfo described Mathews as playing ‘another boy on burning deck’ innings. Honestly, its quite refreshing to see him score runs. But I dont see much point in him being 50 not out when SL are all out. There may even be a case for him to bat above Mahela. Mathews and Sangakkara have been the two inform batsmen in the side. Make the most of it.
The bowlers have been hugely disappointing. Herath is the only bowler with something close to experience. But he hasn’t shown it. While Ajmal looks threatening all the time. Herath has looked blunt. Boring and largely shite – bowling to relatively young Pakistani players. He hasn’t been able wear down anyone. The fast bowlers have looked like a cheap trick until Herath comes on. Out of a possible 40 wickets SL have picked up 17. Pakistan 38. It hasn’t been dominance. It has been gang rape into submission.
As a team this is the worst I have seen SL for a very long time. There is no leadership. Dilshan seems preoccupied with his own issues with the bat. They seem in a daze. Just like winning. Losing is also a habit. And it is hard to break bad ones. Every players self confidence has been drained. I don’t think any of them even believe they can win right now.It’s hard to expect too much from Marsh in his 2nd game.
These players aren’t incapable of good cricket. We certainly don’t have the answers. But if they are looking for a silver bullet for their problems we know of only one. Themselves.