Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Trials and Tribulations of T20I Cricket for Australia and Sri Lanka!

Twenty Twenty Cricket is very much like a human life. It is very difficult to predict what it will throw up at you, it will surprise you at every turn and it will leave you dumbfounded every time you try to make a smart prediction about the game.

I have been interacting with a lot of Sri Lankan fans online and they think that their team is crap. It is filled with players who can’t bat, they seem to rely too much on a few bowling superstars and they also drop catches at will. They are plagued by selection issues and don’t have any decent all-rounders expect Mathews (who also cops a lot of flak for his negative captaincy and silly team selections); Dilshan is ageing fast and so are Malinga and Herath; players like Shanaka and Kapugedera are labelled domestic beast’s at the most. Chandimal has a dismal T20I record (he improved it a bit with 2 50’s in the Asia Cup) for all the natural talent and flair that he seems to possess while their star wicket-keeper Kusal Perera is embroiled in a doping offence. Thisara Perera only plays to his potential once in a blue moon and Senanayake cannot extract turn for his life. Players like Jayasuriya, Vandersay and Rajitha are said to be products of a dysfunctional domestic structure which seems to be rotting.

Now compare this lot to the current Australian team which is, on paper, probably the most attacking team in the world and should be winning everything and destroying every team that comes in their way. They have Warner and Finch, a dangerous right-left combo which is keeping another left-right combo in Watson and Khawaja on the sidelines. Their middle order is filled with enterprising batsmen like Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell. They have dangerous all-rounders like Mitch Marsh and James Faulkner who can take the game away from the opposition within a matter of a few overs with either the bat or the ball in hand. Their bowling, though it is missing the raw fire-power of Mitch Starc, still has just about enough reinforcements to complement their ultra aggressive and strong batting unit. All these men are hardened by playing in the extremely successful and competitive Big Bash League back in Australia.

There seems to be a vast gulf between the two sides but the results of the two teams have been very similar over the past two to three months as far as the T20I’s are concerned. Sri Lanka lost 0-2 to New Zealand away, and then lost 1-2 to India in India before crashing out of the Asia Cup with just a solitary win against UAE, losing to India, Pakistan and even Bangladesh along the way; thus winning only 2 out of their last 9 T20 internationals. Australia, on the other hand lost 0-3 to India in their own backyard before being marooned by the Proteas in the 1st T20I of the three match series yesterday; in effect losing their last 4 T20 internationals.

Momentum is, what I feel, the biggest single all encompassing factor in T20 cricket. It is like an avalanche which starts off with a small mound of snow but assumes the form of a humongous monster gaining momentum and feeding on itself, thus annihilating anything and everything that comes in its wake. On the other hand, a huge boulder even if it seems immovable, is cut eventually even by water if it just sits in its place doing nothing. T20 cricket can change very quickly, a single good innings or bowling performance can take a side home, a single brilliant catch or a run-out turn around the fortunes of a sagging outfit.

India has the momentum behind them and they are riding on that wave which is feeding on itself. Each man knows its role right down to the bottom and they are executing their acts perfectly. Sri Lanka and Australia may not be winning too many matches at the moment but all they need is one or two sterling performances, a few men to stand up and take the game by the scruff of the neck and their more experienced men to guide the youngsters while coursing through the troubled waters. T20 Cricket, like human life, is not giving in while being down but getting up and trying to win even in the face of tricky situations. If you do that consistently, then your luck will turn, and eventually life will smile at you and shower you with unmatchable happiness and success!

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