In times where big names like Yuvraj Singh for India were not selected due to fitness reasons, it becomes a must for an ODI team to have fit and agile players who can contribute with their fielding and catching skills.
Catches win matches and every run saved is a run gained. These clichéd statements define the torturous run for Sri Lanka of late. Too many catches missed, and very average fielding has compounded the woes for Sri Lanka.
There have been far too many instances where there are really glaring errors displayed by their fielding unit, which in some cases has led to defeats after being in winning positions.
Again, this team has too many fielders who are either not very fit or who need to be hid. The likes of Upul Tharanga, Lasith Malinga, and Thisara Perera are some of the names which come to mind.
These are players who concede the extra singles or twos releasing the pressure put on the opposition. There needs to be lot of emphasis which needs to be put on grooming youngsters who are quick, agile and are willing to save every run and take all the chances which is on offer.
Currently, this Sri Lankan team has got very few players who can be counted on as far as fielding goes and the catching has been abysmal to say the least over the past few years.
A classic example of this glaring loophole in the Sri Lankan team was the home series against Zimbabwe where there were a lot of easy singles provided which eased the pressure. There were some critical catches put down in pressure situations which cost Sri Lanka the series.
They need to find a solution to this glaring problem which is staring at their face. No international team in modern day cricket can hide or escape with sub-standard fielding.
Lack of talented youngsters coming up through the ranks
Every team’s strength lies in its youngsters. The role of the Under 19s and the ‘A’ team is huge in promoting new players to choose from the national side.
The Sri Lankan domestic system needs to be looked at really closely as there is a dearth of good, talented youngsters who have come in from the domestic system and impressed on the national stage.
Take for instance the likes of Joe Root, Virat Kohli and Steve Smith who came up the ranks from success at the Under 19s or after performing consistently well at the domestic level. Very few players in this Sri Lankan team have come from such backgrounds.
Some of the names which come to my mind are Niroshan Dickwella, Lakshan Sandakan and Lahiru Kumara who have shone in the Under 19s and then made into the national squad with decent returns.
Unless this rut is not looked into rather seriously, Sri Lanka would be looking at the same set of 25-30 available players to choose from and that would complicate their woes even more.
The cricket administrators need to take stock of the situation, groom up-and-coming youngsters, provide them with adequate facilities and infrastructure so that they can shine and be ready for national selection.
Lack of a solid and settled batting line-up
Sri Lanka currently have some batsmen who individually can win matches for them with their batting, but as a cohesive unit, they just look lost in the ODI format. Apart from their opening combination which seems to be relatively stable, every other spot in the batting order seems wobbly
Too much chopping and changing and too many swaps in the positions for their batsmen has led to this situation. There needs to be some time-frame given by the selectors for the players to perform.
As of now, any batsmen irrespective of his talent and experience could find himself out of the team, creating a mindset of doubt and lack of clarity which is reflected in the way the batting team has shaped up in the past few years.
No team can succeed in the ODI format without having a solid and settled look to the batting line up. Sri Lanka have been changing their batters too often, which has hampered their performance to a large extent.
That is one of the reasons Australia, England and India have been performing so well in ODIs as they have a settled batting line up and more importantly, they back certain players irrespective of their experience or form.
Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera are players who were marked for big things. But one bad patch and the selectors somehow lose faith. They need to back them and build their batting line-up around them.
As of now, barring few players who can shine on a given day, Sri Lanka’s batting looks dazed and confused, something which reflected clearly when they collapsed from 136-1 to 216 all out against India at Dambulla in the first ODI.
Lack of a quality and potent finisher
It’s imperative in modern day ODI cricket for international teams to have a quality finisher who comes in at Number 5 or 6 and can bat till the end of the innings and most importantly can single-handedly win games for their teams.
Players like Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, Jos Buttler, MS Dhoni are examples of players who come lower in the order and can, on their own, win games for their respective teams. When we look at this Sri Lanka team, we don’t see anybody who can do this for them.
They have batsmen like Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal who could possibly step into their shoes. Mathews has been far from his fluent best barring few games in the recent past and Chandimal has not featured in the ODI team since the Champions trophy debacle.
Sri Lanka tried some youngsters like Dhananjaya De Silva and Milinda Siriwardana but again they have not been persisted with for various reasons. Until the Lankans can sort out this problem things are not going to improve for them as every team needs a finisher in order to succeed consistently in the ODI format.
Bowling which lacks consistency, depth and variety
What sets apart a successful team from the rest is the depth and variety in the bowling attack. In modern day cricket, where pitches are getting flatter by the day, boundaries are getting smaller and the quality of the stroke making has increased, bowling units need to have depth, ability and variety to be effective.
Sri Lanka have tried far too many fast bowlers apart from their spearhead Lasith Malinga in recent times like Shaminda Eranga, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Pradeep and Dammika Prasad, to name a few.
As you can see their bowling stocks are decent but the main problem with all the options is that they lack variety and in some cases, ability, too. They all are bowlers who are right handers who bowl at around the same speed (130-135 km/h), and they don’t execute their slower balls or yorkers well thus leaking too many runs at the end of every innings.
This bowling attack desperately needs some variety in the form of a left-arm fast bowler. Vishwa Fernando has been tried against India, but we must wait and see if the selectors persist with him or like their tendency has been off late, chop and change again.
Even their spin bowling which has variety in the form of Lakshan Sandakan who must be persisted with, lacks edge over the opposition. Batsmen are easily able to negate any effects the spinners from Sri Lanka pose.
Even the Zimbabwean batsmen were able to minimise any effect the Sri Lankan spinners could have by attacking them and not allowing them to settle. The lack of experience in the spin attack is very reflective when they are attacked as they are unable to come back with a counter-attacking plan, thus making it easy for oppositions to control them.