The last (probably) ICC Champions Trophy has come to an end and India are the final victors (probably) of this competition. I was going to review the tournament as a whole, but thought that just looking at Sri Lanka’s tournament would be a better use of a blog post. I will say though that my pre-tournament predictions were a shambles. Predicting a New Zealand – Pakistan final was always a long shot, but for starters I did not expect SL and South Africa to get out of the group stages, and certainly did not expect Pakistan to finish without a win. So focusing on the Sri Lankans who did themselves credit by getting to the semi-finals but disappointingly did not put up so much of a whimper against our usual nemesis, India. So here are my ratings (out of 10) for the players who took part:
Kusal Perera: 4/10
Now, I would not for a second question Kusal Perera’s place in the side following what was a shockingly bad tournament for the 22 year-old. Scores of 0, 6, 4 and 4 in the main tournament was compounded by an inability to get past the third or fourth over. During his brief cameos, comparisons with Sanath were made, but even more so than the chairman of selectors, Kusal Perera’s batting is all or nothing. It harkens back to the days when Sanath and Kaluwitharana would take on the bowlers from the off, but I question whether such a tactic taken to such an extreme as it does with him, is wise in this day and age. There is always something to be said for playing yourself in, and then looking to push on, especially when the ball is moving. I hope that this is something that he will learn as he is certainly a very special talent who did not show his true potential in this tournament. But his time will come.
Tillakaratne Dilshan: 6/10
Batting-wise, Dilshan had an average time of it. His highest score was the 44 against England when he played one shot too many after having done really well to get himself in and was on the verge of really putting up a proper score. He looked pretty good against India as well, until he tore his calf. With the ball, he wasn’t much better against New Zealand but he did come on in a high pressure situation against the Aussies when we were on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and got the crucial last wicket with a nifty bit of fielding – as aspect of his game which was of a high standard throughout.
Kumar Sangakkara: 8/10
Sanga only made two scores of note in this tournament but both were of vital importance to the team. His 68 vs New Zealand was the highest score in a low-scoring match where he showed a level of aptitude to deal with the tricky conditions and the Kiwi bowlers that nobody else did. And his innings vs England at the Oval was one of his greatest in a tough chase. He never looked flustered and seemed to have everything under control. Usually he would flash a couple of drives in the air past a fielder, but on that occasion everything came off the middle; timed and placed to perfection. A true masterclass in how to accumulate and pace an innings in a tough chase. Unfortunately he could not recreate these in the last two matches as he did mistime a shot against the Australians and was pinned down expertly by the Indian seamers in the semi-final, causing him to play a drive that was just an inch too far away from his body, the bat turning a bit too much in his hands. With 222 runs he was SL’s highest scorer in the tournament and third highest overall behind Jonathan Trott and Shikhar Dhawan.
Mahela Jayawardene: 8/10
Mahela’s runs came more steadily than Sangakkara’s and were more evenly spread out.4, 42, 84* and 38 was enough to put him second in SL’s run charts. I was privileged enough to watch his 24* against Australia where he came in a tricky situation, lower down than he usually would. His ability to control the run-rate by simply finding gaps at will never ceases to amaze me. It was a shame that he couldn’t push on past 38 against India. Whilst he was at the crease you got the sense that a decent score was within reach. He laid a platform for a big finish with Angelo Mathews, but that finish would never come.
Dinesh Chandimal: 6/10
Chandimal only batted twice in this tournament. He got a duck against New Zealand and an unselfish 31 against Australia where he weighed in with late runs. He would have batted versus England but the situation necessitated Nuwan Kulasekera’s big shots. He would have been useful against India as well had he not been injured. Jeevan Mendis tried his best in his stead but was fighting a loosing battle. Chandimal used his lack of an IPL contract to focus on his batting and improve his technique. He will no doubt have a better chance to show it in the upcoming tri-series in the West Indies.
Angelo Mathews: 6/10
Mathews’ batting and bowling would not warrant more than a 5/10. It was two aspects of his tournament that elevated it to 6/10 in my eyes. His 51 vs India was a typically ballsy innings and one does wonder why he cannot recreate such timing and confidence in anything other than a crisis situation. Secondly was his calm and assured captaincy in a tournament where all bar the final game were tight affairs. I thought he kept his cool when the New Zealand game was going to the wire, and likewise against Australia although I think he did get a bit lucky given the circumstances of Australia’s chase and throwing Dilshan on at the end might have no come off as spectacularly as it did on another day. Overall an good eye-opener for the new captain on how to captain in major tournaments.
Lahiru Thirimanne: 6/10
There are many, like me who feel that Lahiru Thirimanne is wasted in the middle order. I believe he has the right temperament to open the batting or even come in third or fourth. After Sangakkara he is the best player of pace bowling in the squad, which is why he came in at 4 against Australia when their pacemen had taken Kusal Perera and Sangakkara out. During that innings he did exactly what was needed of him by blocking out a few overs, taking the sting out of the attack and going from there. His temperament coupled with a sure head should see him being promoted up the order but it is hard to see it when Dilshan, Sanga and Mahela are so immovable.
Nuwan Kulasekera: 7/10
It might have come as a surprise to everyone bar Sri Lankans and Australians that Nuwan Kulasekera knows how to hold a bat. But hold one he did, in that epic chase against England. He was a bit too hot headed at first but kind of settled into the crease before launching. This is something perhaps Kusal Perera could learn to do more often. Against India, though he suffered the ignominy of being bowled around his legs by Ashwin. With the ball his highest point was 3/42 against Australia but that was of course facilitated by the Aussies’ need to go hard and go early, playing into his hands. I was surprised that he didn’t manage to get more out of the conditions at Cardiff that Bhuvneshwar Kumar did in the first innings. At one point he was the highest ranking ODI bowler in the world but had since dropped down the list. His performances in this tournament has seen him make a re-entry into the top 10.
Rangana Herath: 6/10
One of the things about SL in this tournament that surprised me is that they did not go with Sachithra Senanayake as the second spinner. As a result, the main spin threat came from Rangana Herath with Dilshan backing him up. He is going through a resurgence in Test cricket, but perhaps the time has come for him to be replaced in limited overs cricket. That said, he took some important wickets in this tournament, even though he was scored relatively freely off. The wickets of Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott against England were vital as those two were well set. He dismissed Ross Taylor for a duck in the first game, which was a huge wicket at the time and against Australia he removed Adam Voges when he was turning the game for them and James Faulkner who had made his was serenely to 17 at the time.
Lasith Malinga: 8/10
Malinga’s 4/34 against New Zealand displayed exactly why the selectors will put up with some off-field antics from our star bowler as well as him constantly chasing the IPL pay cheque. His ability to change match situations and make paltry targets set by the batsmen seem just that little big larger for the opposition is invaluable to the team and is such an asset. I thought England played him quite well as did the Indians (but that isn’t a surprise anymore) and he lost his radar somewhat against Australia, although he did take Glen Maxwell’s rampant innings and he was his usual deadly self towards the end of innings.
Shaminda Eranga: 7/10
Shaminda Eranga will probably be remembered for being taken apart over the course of one mad over by Ravi Bopara, during which he served up some useless long-hops and general fodder. But he has shown an ability to take wickets in his first spell, which generally tends to be better and brisker than his second. I think he has taken over Suranga Lakmal as the second pacemen in the squad behind Malinga in limited overs and Welegedera in Tests. His pace was constantly in the late 130’s (kph) and showed some nice aggression with the short ball. He still needs to learn to be more consistent in his line which tends to err when the batsman gets on top. Even so, I think the decision to not play him at Cardiff against India was a big mistake given the conditions. I can understand that the selectors might have wanted to include Thisara Perera’s batting given the low score set on the same ground against New Zealand but against an Indian team where we have had trouble bowling them out cheaply time and time again, it would have made more sense to go with the better bowler out of the two.
Team Rating: 7/10
A decent tournament for the team as they gave the fans some exciting matches, notably against New Zealand and England. Perhaps getting to the final was one step too far on this occasion but there will be plenty of lessons to be learnt by the new captain.
Celkon Mobile Cup
The tri-series that literally nobody asked for or cares about is just around the corner. The tournament which features West Indies, Sri Lanka and India starts on the 28th June in the Caribbean. All three sides have named their squads and for the Lions, the big news that Upul Tharanga will replace Tillakaratne Dilshan who is out for up to four weeks with a torn calf and Ajantha Mendis will replace Thisara Perera. I find this quite hard to justify and can only imagine the pressures of the television companies wanting the ‘big’ players in the squad.
For a start, the absence of Dilshan is a great chance to show Thirimanne’s top order qualifications and bring Kaushal Silva or Vithanage in. And whilst I don’t particularly mind that Perera has been dropped, why not bring in an all-rounder such as Angelo Perera or if a spinner is needed, Tharindu Kaushal who have been with the A side in the West Indies over the course of the Champions Trophy. It would make much more sense as they are acclimatized and more importantly nobody will care if they don’t do well as this tournament will pass comfortably under the radar for most cricket fans. Overall I think the selectors have missed a great chance to give younger players a chance to play senior team cricket.