Nirgunan Tiruchelvam, courtesy of Sunday Leader, 15 February 2015, where the title is “Too Many Cooks Spoil the Christchurch Soup”
Sri Lanka has broken new ground in cricket. They have introduced a novelty – captaincy by committee. Though Angelo Mathews is the official captain, the two aiyas (elder brothers) Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene openly set the field. Lasith Malinga, the Twenty20 captain, and TM Dilshan provide their two cents worth. Lahiru Thirimanne, the official vice captain, can just as well be the twelfth man.
Today, they proved that ”too many cooks spoil the soup”. The committee made some shocking blunders. The reliance on seam bowlers was inexplicable. There was hardly any movement for the aging seamers. Jeevan Mendis’s horizontal leg-spin was under bowled, despite a fine spell.
The young tearaway Dushmantha Chameera’s would have added energy. His omission was disappointing. Thirimanne is not just a fine batsman and a namesake vice captain. His slow medium pace would have been effective, but was not even given a bowl.
There was a strange symmetry to start of the World Cup. Sri Lanka chose to field under grey skies. Several Sri Lankan players are greying at the temple. Nuwan Kulasekera, one of the grey brigade, bowled the last ball of the 2011 World Cup and the first ball of the 2015 World Cup. That was his only noteworthy contribution in the match.
The game begun with a spectacular assault by Brendon McCullum. McCullum has the potential to tear apart the tournament. His first ball was despatched through a covers with the crack of a rifle shot. It was heard well beyond Christchurch. Corey Anderson’s late order assault put the match beyond the opponents.
Sri Lanka’s veteran opening bowlers were rusty. Malinga is a pale shadow of his pomp in the 2007 World Cup. His waist size is several inches wider and his pace is much slower. It took him two spells to find his yorker.
Kulasekera is barely faster than a spinner. Swing has deserted him, rendering him completely ineffective.
Sri Lanka’s catching was mediocre. Four catches were spilled. Three of those should have been taken. Matthews had the burden of hiding three poor fielders – Rangana Herath, Thirimanne and Mendis.
The batting’s complete dependence on the experienced trio needs to been addressed. Dilshan, the most flamboyant of the trio, struggled with his timing. Sangakkara was surprising casual.
Dimuth Karunaratne, a Test match opener, is a sitting duck in the middle order. He can’t score freely nor can he rotate the strike.
Jealousy has long been the bane of the game. There could be non-cricketing reasons for Upul Tharanga’s omission, who has played 176 ODIs, including two World Cup finals. Tharanga is playing for NCC this weekend. His rightful place is at the top of Sri Lankan order.
New Zealand were thoroughly professional, confirming their status as favourites. They paced their innings perfectly. The middle-order wobble was overcome by the Anderson blitzkrieg.
The hosts fought back a second time. At 124 for 1 in the 21st over, Sri Lanka was in the hunt. Trent Boult was devastating and could be New Zealand’s clincher. He is a left-arm seamer who can produce the unplayable in the middle overs, like Wasim Akram in the 1992 final.
Adam Milne was lightning quick. He nearly touched 150 kph, which is awesome for a first change bowler. Daniel Vettori, the longest standing player in the tournament, was at his wily best.
Sri Lanka were outplayed, but not disgraced. There was a keenness in the field that was lacking earlier on the New Zealand tour. Lakmal was surprisingly alert.
Malinga showed some direction in his second spell. He finally found his yorker and showed glimpses of guile.
Thirimanne sparkled as an opener who can patiently accumulate. He could play the role Atapattu played in 2003 World Cup. Mathews was defiant despite a hopeless position. Matthews has exceptionally strong hands and is nearing the height of his powers.
The 2011 runner up have had a poor start to the tournament, but all is not lost. The squad has sufficient talent and class. Sri Lanka has excelled in the last three ODI tours to Australia.
We are almost a month away from the knockout stage. The first round is almost meaningless. The committee can fix the problem, though they must be prompt. Otherwise, the soup will continue to rot.