Cricket commentators blame that the Sri Lankan cricketers conceded the victory to the Pakistanis in their decisive match against Pakistan when their victory was in sight in the Champions Trophy cricket tournament. They compare it to the Pakistanis grabbing the victory from the Sri Lankan jaws.
Many never expected the Pakistan team’s eight-wicket win at the semi-finals against the host country, England, in order to enter the finals.
Reiterating the saying “catches win matches” Sri Lankans’ weak fielding shattered the hope of winning the semi-finals.
After the match, Sri Lanka Captain Angelo Mathews commented that the pitch of the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff was very difficult to predict.
“The pitch was slightly green and I felt that the batting was not easy in the second session,” Mathews said. But he did not blame the pitch because it affected both teams equally.
The Sri Lankan team made a single change when they faced the Pakistan team. Dananjaya de Silva called to the team within hardly 48 hours from Sri Lanka due to the injury caused to Kusal Janith Perera during the match against India.
Winning the match was the top priority. Dananjaya de Silva was called to the match to strengthen the middle order. He had hardly any time to acclimatize himself to the English weather and he couldn’t perform well as Kusal.
The main reason for the defeat in the match against Pakistan was the poor fielding. The fielders dropped three catches, two runouts, bad coverage in throws, and on top of it, the wicket keeper Niroshan Dickwella awarding byes costing Sri Lanka 20 to 30 runs.
While Pakistan was chasing the target of 237 runs, they lost seven wickets for 161 runs and the win was swung in the favour of Sri Lanka.
In the 39th over, Thisara Perera dropped a sitter at mid-on given by Pakistan Captain Sarfaz Ahmed when he was at 38 to Lasith Malinga’s bowling. Again the Sri Lankan team dropped a vital catch from Sarfaz Ahmed in the 41st over bowled again by Malinga.
In the first over itself, Danushka Gunathilaka missed a catch bowled by Malinga to Azar Ali when he was at no score with the result being the amassing of 74 runs in 11.2 overs in the partnership between Azar Ali and Fakar Zaman for the first wicket.
Taking the advantage of Seekuge Prasanna’s dropped catch in the 41st over, Pakistan Captain Ahmed and pace bowler Mohamed Amir built an unfinished eighth wicket partnership of 75 runs to reach the victory on the 45th over.
The Pakistan team got full advantage of our poor fielding and our low score of 237 runs to their full benefit to enter the final.
Our cricket fans were sadly disappointed over the humiliating defeat to Pakistan while winning chasing a tall target of 322 runs against India.
No one can excuse our world-class professional cricketers for such grave mistakes. Captain Mathews cannot escape from blame merely saying that it was not our day.
The Sri Lankan team was provided with world-class trainers. Nick Pothes was appointed as the fielding coach, Allen Donald as the fast bowling coach and Graham Ford as the chief coach, all veteran South Africans.
Our players cannot lay the blame at the doorstep of anyone else.
It is because they gave a good fight till the very end that even Captain Mathews had much praise for the bowlers.
Although the players made a solid attempt to improve fielding well and even though the coaches contributed much in this regard, at the crucial moment, the result of sloppy fielding was that Pakistan qualified for the semi-final match.
Although the selection committee in charge of selecting the Sri Lankan team and manager Asanka Gurusinghe reiterated that much attention was being paid to and would be paid to fielding and physical fitness, if such a result is what is achieved in the end, it is evident that something is wrong somewhere.
Fighting spirit not lost
Although the fighting spirit was well on display against the powerful Indian team against which Sri Lanka won and boosted its confidence, all hope was shattered in the Pakistan match primarily due to the fielding. Although the Sri Lankan team had added Lakshan Sandakan as the main trump, this yielded no results because Sandakan was on the bench throughout the duration of the match.
Our batsmen were at certain times under pressure from fast bowlers from and of opposing sides, and even in the first match against South Africa, Seekuge Prasanna came under heavy fire from the bowlers. In this situation, it is fair to have placed faith on and in the fast bowlers.
At times, Lasith Malinga was spoken about with some doubt because of the state of his physical fitness. Yet, he succeeded in bowling ten overs each in all three matches. Unfortunately, if the catches were caught, his exemplary bowling performance would have shone. No matter what the reservations against Malinga in the beginning was, he proved that he had set them all aside when in the Pakistan match he performed with maximum effort and served the team. Because of this, his bowling performance came in for praise from Captain Mathews.
Following the victory against the Indian team, Captain Mathews had stated that the style and aggressiveness of the Sri Lankan team was capable of defeating any opponent. Yet, it is unfortunate that the Sri Lankan players were unable to prove this proud talk right in the Pakistan match.
This is why Mathews after the Pakistan match stated that based on the team’s fielding performance during the Pakistan match, there was a probability that the Sri Lankan team was likely to be labelled as the world’s weakest fielding team.
Although it was thought that the English pitch in the Champions Trophy would prove to be a challenge to Asian teams, except for Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, all three, qualified for the semi-final round while Sri Lanka was out of the tournament from and in the first round itself.
Another fact that recurred during the tournament was that Chamara Kapugedara and Kusal Janith had to drop out of the tournament having suffered injuries. Although Danushka Gunathilaka and Dananjaya de Silva had to be included as substitutes, Dananjaya had to even before 48 hours had elapsed get used to playing in and under English conditions.
Although much effort has been taken in the recent past with regard to physical fitness, if the players are increasingly prone to injuries, this too is an aspect that sporting officials must think twice about. In the journey taken by the Sri Lankan team targeting the 2019 World Cup, if Sri Lanka doesn’t act with a critical understanding of their performance at the Champions Trophy, Sri Lanka Cricket will have to face a grave tragedy in the future.