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Sri Lanka's dull cricket

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Sri_Lanka_Cricket_ODICricket is supposed to be a team sport, but every team has at least a couple of players on whom they are extra dependent. Even the great Australian team of the mid-1990s and the 2000s had a dip in performance when a lot of superstars retired. Ideally, the domestic cricketing structure of a country should be robust enough to produce players who are ideal replacements when the established stars call it a day.

Sri Lanka has always been a very good ODI team. They won the ICC World Cup in 1996 and had a very good record in ODIs up till the 2015 World Cup. However, when established super stars like Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara called it quits, their performance waned as these players were of such pedigree that they could not be replaced easily.

Sri Lanka reached the Final of the 2007 ICC World Cup where they lost to Australia. Murali retired after their loss to India in the 2011 World Cup Final while Mahela and Sanga retired after the loss to South Africa in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup.

Prior to the match against India in the 2017 Champions Trophy, Sri Lanka have played 791 ODIs and have won 369, lost 381, tied 5 and 36 have been a no result, with a Win-Loss Ratio of 0.968. However, their performance has dipped drastically after the 2015 World Cup. The table below gives the performances of the top 8 teams after the 2015 World Cup till the conclusion of the match between Bangladesh and Australia.

Team

Matches

Won

Lost

Tied

N/R

W/L Ratio

England

45

28

14

1

2

2

South Africa

42

27

14

0

1

1.928

Australia

44

25

16

0

3

1.562

India

28

16

12

0

0

1.333

New Zealand

44

24

18

0

2

1.333

Pakistan

38

16

21

0

1

0.761

Sri Lanka

39

13

21

1

4

0.619

West Indies

23

5

17

1

0

0.294

Sri Lanka are one of just 3 teams among the top 8 Test playing nations who have lost more ODIs than they have won since the 2015 World Cup. Their Win-Loss Ratio is just 0.619 in this period, the 2nd lowest among the top 8 teams. This is 36% less than their overall Win-Loss Ratio.

An interesting stat that shows the value of these 3 players is this: if you take into account Sri Lanka’s performances in ODIs involving all 3 players, they have won 116, lost 68, Tied 1 with 8 being no result out of the 193 ODIs. This is a Win-Loss Ratio of 1.7 which is a 75 % improvement over their overall Win-Loss Ratio in ODIs. That shows just how valuable the contributions of these players were to Sri Lankan cricket.

The reason for Sri Lanka’s decline over the last few years in ODIs is that they do not have a strong domestic structure, unlike India and Australia, and are heavily dependent on individual brilliance rather than a cohesive team performance. Players like Rangana Herath - a proven match winner in Tests - are not quite the same force in ODIs.

Moreover, Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal haven’t quite made the same progress that was expected of them and have not stepped up after the retirements of Mahela and Sanga. While batting first, Sri Lanka have posted 300 on just 7 occasions after the 2015 World Cup and have won on 4 occasions. When chasing a total in excess of 250, Sri Lanka have won on just 2 out of 10 occasions.

Chandimal and Mathews have batting strike rates of just 75.06 and 84.5 after the 2015 World Cup, which is not in keeping with the high S/Rs of batsmen from other top teams. As far as the bowling is concerned, the absence of Muralitharan has been felt. Bowlers like Nuwan Pradeep, Malinga and Thisara Perera have conceded runs in excess of 6 runs an over.

More than just numbers, the team seems to lack the flair of past Sri Lankans. Generally, teams from the sub-continent play with flair and individual brilliance and this Sri Lankan team seems to lack both. Even before the era of the 3 superstars mentioned above, plyers like Sanath Jayasuriya, Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda De Silva and Chaminda Vaas had a certain personality to their cricket that transcended mere numbers.

Ranatunga was a shrewd tactician and a great leader who found a way of beating the opposition. While Mathews has done a reasonable job in leading the team, he doesn’t quite possess the same charisma of Ranatunga and the current generation while as talented as their predecessors have not performed with the same consistency.

A solution to the mediocrity that Sri Lanka currently find themselves in is to show more attacking flair and panache with the bat and find a way to play their cricket with the same expression and freedom that past Sri Lankan teams used to do. If they can succeed, then one will soon see the return of Sri Lanka as a top ODI team.

 

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