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Lanka: How to shoot yourself in the foot

By Andrew Jayasinghe

THE Sri Lankan World Cup campaign is over and the team is in tatters. Dark clouds are gathering and the vultures are swooping. Critics are calling for heads. It has been decided that Ranatunge should go. Many of the previous captains have come up and asked for Ranatunge to be retained Not surprisingly, Shane Warne, who is always known for his great sportsmanship, asked for his nemesis to go into cricketing oblivion (where he seems headed now).

Let us see what went wrong with the Sri Lankan campaign before joining the stream that is threatening to be a raging torrent.

The conditions in late spring in England did not help. Even as Sri Lanka was playing in Australia last Australian summer many Sri Lankans knew that the chilly conditions in England will not help their cause. In fact, many knew that there was no real chance with the cool conditions and the seaming ball. The batsmen had little exposure or experience in these conditions and were particularly ill equipped. If the conditions created Sri Lanka's downfall it was quality or the lack of it that caused England's downfall.

Key players lacked form. In 1996 the batsmen were in blazing form. There were almost unstoppable just like the Indian ones were this summer. That and the guile of Ranatunge was what helped perform that miracle with 10 batsmen and one bowler. Leading to this cup all the key players were off form. Jayasuriya, Murali and Aravinda were all coming back form injuries. Also Sanath and de Silva possibly did not have their mind on the job with the off field activities and trauma. In fact they lost 15 of the 20 matches leading to the cup and the few they won were due to a few performances from Ranatunge, Atapattu and Jayawardena.

The Tactics used were pretty ordinary. In the early stages of the cup almost no upper order batsmen got going. Key players like Jayasuriya were risked at the top of the order when they should have been coming down the order and trying to get them selves back to form. A champion blocker like Arnold should have been up there with Mahanama, a role Hussain performed well for England. Even Australia is suffering heavily with having a good slogger but poor technician like Gilchrist up there instead of Michael Slater.

The bowling attack was poor. Except for Murali and Promadaya the others were poor at the time of need. It is sad to see Vaas's career dwindling away as it was one that held so much promise. Upashantha was a mistake and could not take the pressure. Sri Lanka's inability to produce a world class paceman really hurt in this bowler dominated World Cup.

The cricketing board affair was a major factor in the failures well. The sordid power battle which stopped the premier league functioning definitely consumed the mind of the players.

In fact, through all these criticisms nobody has bothered to examine the Sri Lankan record at previous World Cups. Their record was poor prior to one Ranatunge pulling off that miracle. They had won four solitary matches in four cups prior to 1996. That is one win per cup. This record in England with two wins in five matches is still superior. Are the Sri Lankan cricket fans spoilt by success? Or are they trying to kill the goose that laid the golden egg?

What is going on now has a sad political ring to it. No body is looking at the stars that failed and are having a go at the skipper. Admittedly the glorious reign of a decade has to end. Anybody who witnessed the multi-talented Pakistan anahillated at Lords by pretty much the same Australian team that played in Lahore cannot underestimate the value of Arjuna's captaincy. It is one that shouldn't end this way. It will be a nation's folly if this feisty old cricketer's brain is not used to nurture the talent of today. In fact, Ranatunge should continue as captain and nurture a future captain. Sri Lanka cannot afford to lose the talents of Jayasuriya or Aravinda to captaincy. Mahanama's candidacy is falling apart as he is unable to hold his spot in the team. May be it should be Atapattu or even Murali. Whoever that is he should play for some time under the cunning old fox who miraclously turned the tables on the world with a team of 10 batsmen and one bowler. !!