Saturday, January 01, 2011
With the dawn the New Year, players of all countries contesting the 2011 World Cup are hard at practice. The countries have named their provisional squads of 30 players, from which the selectors will pick a squad of 15 by January 15 according to the rules of the International Cricket Council.
The Sri Lanka 30-member squad is being put through their paces by the coaches comprising Trevor Bayliss, Stuart Law, Champaka Ramanayake and Ruwan Kalpage.
Bayliss and Law are concentrating on the batting techniques, while Ramanayake and Kalpage are watching the bowling and fielding drills.
The squad is made up of tried and tested players who have been in the constellation of either Test, one-day or Twenty20 cricket. So there is not much to correct in them except the fine tuning of techniques for the Tests and the psychological finesse that goes with the terrain.
No doubt the preparations within the training squad should include discussions on various scenarios that range from the strategies of our teams and those of our opponents, from the type of wickets the curators will prepare and those that they will not prepare, from the quality of bowling to aggression of batting and …of course in these times of the effects of global warming, the vagaries and impacts of the weather.
Having played the game and being involved in writing about the game for over four decades, and having followed the failures and successes of our cricketers, we make bold to hazard a guess of the likely squad of 15 should be for the 2011 World Cup. We do so with all due respect to the selectors led by former batting great Aravinda de Silva, Ranjit Fernando, Amal Silva and Shabir Asgerally who when they sit to pencil the final squad will do so with none to fear.
Their target is to pick the squad that will deliver and bring the big prize in one-day cricket home. They have been in selection game before and are thick skinned enough to receive bouquets or the brickbats that await them after selection with equanimity. These selectors are gentleman of repute and neither fear nor favour affects them.
Arm chair critics
The brickbats will come from arm chair critics many of whom may not have handled a bat or know neither a chuck from legitimate delivery. And so thick skins and a sense of humour is what the Selectors and Sri Lanka Cricket led by D.S. de Silva need.
The selectors have made it known that they will look for the complete team. Translated, this means that they will mix youth with experience. With the World Cup not a pitch for the timid, there is no substitute for experience.
That is where the experience of Sanath Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas is essential. The selectors are all men of honesty and great integrity and who knows what it is to play a straight bat. Like in a team where only 11 can play, the ICC rules require that they name only 15. They would love to name more. But it is 15 and that’s it!
So here we go and here’s our 15. Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Matthews, Thisara Perera, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitheran, Suraj Randiv, Nuwan Kulasekera, Ajantha Mendis, Malinga Bandara, Lasith Malinga.
The one player we would have loved to include was Dinesh Chandimal. But with only a squad of 15 allowed, it was with great reluctance that we had to leave him out of our radar.
J and V essential
Jayasuriya and Vaas are essentials in the team. They have been in World Cups and finals before and know the frying pan heat that exists and are the ideal foam and hoses to douse the fire.
Jayasuriya need not allow the political tag that he is carrying worry him. As usual he will have the green-eyeds baying for his ouster. Cricket is a different ball game and he has the all round experience and the talent to prove his worth, value and necessity in the team.
Jayasuriya has been tops at training. He has shown that age has not slowed his reflexes nor dimmed his enthusiasm and hunger. He is performing every drill like he did a decade ago and is looking ferocious like a lion in hunger and waiting to pounce and devour. He must be let loose.
Chaminda Vaas too has shown that he has not lost his ability, although he has slowed in pace. He is now concentrating on line, length and movement and pushing batsmen into the run drought zone. His batting skills have improved tremendously and he has shown an opening batsman’s flair in recent times.
The choosing of the final eleven to take the field we leave that to those who will have to execute a different stroke which will be no easy task, because they will be on a sticky wicket. However the playing eleven will be known, only after a look at the wicket. If it is a green top then it is obvious that Sri Lanka will go in pace heavy. If it is a dry strip, then it will be spin-heavy.
However everything will depend on the winning of the all important toss. What ever the playing eleven, if skipper Sangakkara has luck with the toss everything could be fine. But losing the toss could put us in a tricky situation. Sub continent pitches are notorious for assisting spin. With this in mind Sri Lanka will go in with spin reducing the pace battery. Sri Lanka will be playing most of their matches on home soil. With this being the case, with the home advantage of preparing the wickets, although there is no written law, it is likely that the curators will concentrate on wickets assisting spin. The home team must take advantage when preparing pitches. We have the world’s best spinner in Muttiah Muralitheran and the other spinners in the squad are equally good and the opposing batsmen will not find it easy coping with them.
With final 15-member squad picking time nearing all eyes will be focused on the four-member selection panel waiting to see the squad that they will toss out to carry Sri Lanka’s challenge in winning the biggest one-day cricket prize the 2011 World Cup. We have made our informed guess and prediction, but like all should, we shall take the selectors’ decision with grace as we have confidence in their collective wisdom. We wish them well.
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