Is the preparation of Sri Lanka going into the World T20 right? Is the team in the correct frame of mind, with the former captain showing his displeasure and citing injury and resigning! Also the former set of selectors being axed with no reason or time given! These appear to be factors that can make one think that Sri Lanka is in the doldrums not knowing where to go!
Besides the team named for the World T20 also had two changes made, and a brand new captain and a vice captain appointed! How would these rub off on the Sri Lankan team as a whole? Can it have a negative impact or can the team pick themselves up from here and move on! To start with, Kumara Sangakkara the new kid on the block when it comes to selection, was quite candid when he said that when Sri Lanka won the World T20 in 2014 there were many unresolved and burning issues the team had with the then Board.
Besides, Chandimal the official captain was dethroned half way through the tournament and Malinga appointed. In fact, if one goes back to the then situation, Chandimal had a graceful exit from the leadership, first when he had to serve a one match ban for the poor over rate, and then was conveniently told he was carrying an injury. It served every one well with the team winning and Chandimal saved of embarrassment!
However, the scenario this time around appears to be carrying a few ingredients of a recipe that tasted only disaster. To start with, despite whatever anyone may say and argue, the selection was flawed and such shortcomings have been continuously exposed in the media which needs no revisit on that count! One other factor, that most were not privy to was the ongoing battle between a senior player and the skipper; which was never good for the health of the team. The selection made was with the intention of discarding the said player at the very first opportunity, and it looked obvious!
Thankfully, despite such intentions of interested parties using an unassuming young player as the cat's paw, the expected failing of the said senior didn't happen, making the plan and the selection look rather farfetched. With such a backdrop where team unity was not on, there was no chance of Sri Lanka succeeding! The Asia Cup was the clearest example of such a situation where the team unity or the spirit virtually was in tatters.
The hope this team carries, besides having a better balanced unit, is the team spirit and oneness which is paramount for any unit to overcome hurdles! Many champion teams of different sports will tell you that it's vital to have this as a priority in the team if they are to achieve set goals and objectives. From that perspective, and considering the manner Sri Lanka cricket took pains to send them off for the World T 20 which was extremely grand and well thought of, one can confidently state that self belief, confidence and happiness appears to have returned from being worried and divided. The Lankans looked a happy bunch willing to play for each other.
Add to this the other development which took place in the backdrop of the team departure, the bringing in of the former great Aravinda De Silva as the chairman, and having icon Kumara Sangakkara as a member along with Kaluwitharana in the selection panel, which was definitely the right way forward. However, one has to wait and see how much of one's time the likes of De Silva and Sangakkara could devote to this cause, which is naturally a demanding and full time commitment. Sangakkara in particular, with his playing commitments to Surrey and leagues around the world, may struggle as his input as a former skipper and an experienced, recently retired player belonging to the modern era, is bound to be crucial in the overall plan of the team going forward.
The decision of the selectors to make two bold changes, namely, bringing in Lahiru Thirimanne who has been batting brilliantly in the local domestic tournament, and Suranga Lakmal, despite being one dimensional as a player, has to be applauded. Many a critic did question the exclusion of Thirimanne in particular from the squad, and also insisted that experience is the way to go when playing in world events.
Though Sri Lanka can never boast of the experience and the depth they had during the last T20 it's good to see them picking the available ones despite it being in the eleventh hour. One other face that could have been good in this line up is Danushka Gunathilake! A powerful left handed opener with a wide array of strokes up the order with Dilshan could have given the team some stability with Thirimanne, Chandimal, Mathews, Siriwardane and Kapugedera making up the top seven! Sri Lanka could then look at four front line bowlers as the top seven provides three good and decent bowling options that can give the team around four to eight overs if the need arises.
The selected squad definitely has a better look about it and should represent a much better chance than the unit we saw doing duty in the Asia Cup. Besides the experience, having a team that will blend and bond has been the first good decision of the new panel of selectors. Whilst many, including me, are not over the moon with this team and them winning the plum, one could safely say that we could expect them giving a good account of themselves. Will they be able to turn the corner after all what happened in India and Bangladesh? Let's wait and see.