22 September, 2018

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Where Good Fortune & Intelligent Backroom Decisions Enabled Lanka To Beat India

By Michael Roberts

Dr. Michael Roberts

Four huge ‘sequoia trees’ stood astride the path to the Champions Cup at the commencement of the tournament: South Africa, India, Australia, England.  But, as I write on Sunday night 11th June, a combination of English rain and good cricket from the minnows has felled Australia as well as that outsider prospect, New Zealand; while the Safs and Indians are battling for one semi-final spot – an outcome that will knock one of them out.

My focus here is on the factors that have given Sri Lanka a 50/50 chance of making it to the finals after they snuffed out India on Friday last with a commanding batting performance. Two sets of factors assisted Sri Lanka: (A) fortune; and (B) strategic choices and good tactics.

Fortune

Luck played its part in their victory. Misfortune can help one on occasions. Two stokes of misfortune were immensely helpful. Upul Tharanga was ruled out because of the team’s combined effort in marshalling a monstrous over-rate in their first match; while Chamara Kapugedera, a batsman with a questionable record over the long run and even perhaps of late (?), was ruled out by a hamstring injury. This opened the door for the insertion of Danushka Gunathilakha and Tisara Perera.

This provided captain Angelo Mathews (back in the side after injury and replacing Seekkuge Prasanna) with two bowling options to support the medium-fast trio of Malinga, Pradeep and Lakmal and the dibbly-dobbly deliveries of Asela Gunaratne. In parenthesis, one can note that the selection of Lakshan Sandukan as chief spinner has burdened the tour selection committee because his inclusion with the best three pace-bowlers would mean a batting XI that has bunnies at Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 11 – unless one inserted Kulasekera instead of one of the paceman.  With Mathews’ capacity to bowl in doubt, Tisara Perera replaced Prasanna as bowling allrounder and Danushka Gunathilakha took on the slow-bowling tasks with Gunaratne as back-up. Despite a past record that is more than ordinary (e/r = 5.69; s/r = 43.2; and av. = 41.00) Gunathilakha bowled 8 overs for 41 runs at an economy rate of 5.12. Between them Gunathilakha and Gunaratne in fact gave fewer runs than the three pacemen and Perera. Gunaratne also struck a major blow for Sri Lanka by winkling out Yuvraj Singh before the latter hit his straps. Such results could not be known before the match, but they vindicated the selection policy.

Sharp Strategy-cum-Tactics

Sri Lanka’s touring think tank is perhaps made up of Graham Ford, Asanka Gurusinha, Alan Donald, Sanath Jayasuriya, Angelo Matthews and Ranjit Fernando. I have no inside knowledge on this point; but suggest that they would have had inputs on the choice of the final eleven players. However, besides the choices indicated above, there were vital decisions before play and during play – with the latter moments demanding quick decisive action that did not permit a committee to come into play. Let me run through important decisions taken during the course of the match.

B1. The decision to bowl rather than bat when Matthews won the toss was the initial strategic choice. I did not follow the lead-up to the game with its pitch report and, as Sharma and Dhawan piled up the runs, began to wonder about that choice. However, it seems that the assessments all round were a benign pitch. So, maybe it was an obvious decision; but, again credit should be extended where credit is due.

B2. The decision to open with Dhanushka Gunathilaka rather than Kusal Perara panned out well. Both are attacking batsmen like the other opener Dickwella (and have overall strike/rates at 91.34 and 89.66 respectively now after this match).

B3. The decision to place Kusal Janith Perera at No. 4 ahead of Mathews and Chandimal: a good choice in the end. What intrigues me is this question: if Mendis had got out before Gunathilakha would the ‘operational commander” in dressing room have sent a right-hand batsman in, either Chandimal or Mathews?

B4. As it happened, both Gunathilakha and Mendis followed each other to the pavilion in quick time (courtesy of risky running and brilliant fielding). However, Angelo Mathews and Kusal Perera steadily retrieved the situation till Kusal pulled a hamstring. The high command took the obvious decision by having Perera retire hurt – though I would criticize them for not doing so an over earlier.

B5. At this point the operational command room took a sensible decision and sent Asela Gunaratne in ahead of both Chandimal and Tisara Perera. Having seen him in the T20 matches in Australia and observed his capacity for improvisation all-round the wicket and his coolness under pressure, to me it was the best tactical choice, an obvious one (where Ganguly and Atherton revealed their lack of background intelligence). Tisara Perera may have a strike-rate of 110.57 in ODIs at international level, but his average is only 17.98. More vitally, his hitting zones are restricted and two-dimensional at best; while his average of 17.98 is far behind the 35.70 average that Gunaratne has mounted in admittedly fewer games. 

Hats off then to the strategic and tactical decisions made by the high command, to Angelo Mathews for a cool and imposing hand in the crunch periods and for all the players for their outstanding commitment and combined efforts.

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    Most uncompetitive ICC Champion Trophy – two “No result” and several DL results. Felt that the overall morale of teams was low. Thanks Michael for not adding a list of references.

    • 0
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      K.Pillai: Thanks Michael for not adding a list of references.>>>>hahaha very true

      he could have added the portrayal of all the players , the umpires, grounds statistics and of course the Duckworth Lewis calculation method >>>>>and perhaps explained why Russell Arnold was missing from the commentary box

    • 4
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      Ah! ……… A nation trying to live through Cricket ……….. “grown-up’s” emotions taking over intellect. ………… To hell with Cricket, shouldn’t we put that effort to get our country right, first?

  • 2
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    …….followed by shabby batting and fielding against Pakistan

  • 3
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    Srilanka lost the two practice games to Scotland (non-test player) and Australia both badly. In the main tournament Srilnka lost to South Africa and Pakistan also badly. So what happened to good fortune and intelligent backroom decisions in these matches which the writer is talking about. The only victory was against India that too with only two balls to spare. That day luck was with Srilanka with several batsmen performing well where the bowlers did not have much success. Limited over cricket is full of luck and it is the only format that a weaker team can defeat a stronger team. West Indies are a weak side not in the tournament, but if it is Chris Gayle’s day it will be a different story. Bangladesh entering final round does not mean that they are a strong team. They were defeated in both practice games that too very badly by India, and also by England in the main tournament. They were on the losing side in their game against Australia till weather helped them to draw. Their only victory was against New Zealand, which if there is another contest they may not be able to repeat. Now that Srilanka has been knocked out, there is nothing more to crow about.

    • 6
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      “”Now that Srilanka has been knocked out, there is nothing more to crow about.””……………….
      CT and Lanka will still crow for the muslims because they love to see their women in the middle east and as gateway to europe. Salli at any cost.

  • 1
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    Pity, we can’t do the same in Politics…… The again. after Hindians signed Dr Ranil , and Malik Samare , on those big ass contracts , it is difficult ……… Wonder whether Galleon Ravi is on contract too….

  • 0
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    Analyst Simon Hughes on Test Match Special: “Sri Lanka never really had enough and, although they bowled well, their fielding was flawed and they didn’t deserve to win.”

    [Edited out]

  • 1
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    It is high time we ‘put to grass’ some dead weights like Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Chamara Kapugedera, Dinesh Chandimal and Kulasekera. The Zimbabwe tour will be the ideal opportunity to blood an entirely new set of youngsters.

  • 1
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    In Cricket (as in life) success hinges on whether you grab your chances when they come your way. Those on the ground witnessed a mostly piss-poor exhibition of fielding that would have disgraced a Daily News Trophy second-eleven team. No amount of batting and/or bowling talent can overcome that shortcoming.

    • 0
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      “”a mostly piss-poor exhibition of fielding”” ……………………………………
      Probable Placement Problem! the need to place pakistan against england and hope for an indo -paki final where pakis win at england then the paki mayor will be laughing all the way to the bank……………..
      “Money to the left of them and money to the right
      Money everywhere they turn from morning to the night
      Only two things count at all from mountain to the sea
      Part of it’s percentage, and the rest is guarantee”- G.Rice.

      • 0
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        “”a mostly piss-poor exhibition of fielding”” ……………………………………>>>>>>>like slippery grease yakka

        • 0
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          when he gets you there won’t be you.

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