Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Subcontinent syndrome

Sri Lanka is a good side. I'll go on to say that they're the best ODI side in the subcontinent.
Unfortunately, that doesn't say much about their cricketing ability.
Like other teams in the subcontinent, there is a lot of dependence on two or three players. If those guys make a mess, the team crumbles.
If I'm not convincing, here are a few examples:
In the 90s, Sri Lanka depended on two batsmen: Sanath Jayasuriya and Arvinda de Silva. If either one of them failed, the other would make runs (see Eden Gardens 1996 semi-finals at the World Cup). If both failed, then Sri Lanka was screwed.
Note: At that time, Murali was still discovering that he was a freak of nature.
Move to the current scenario. Sri Lanka's openers are strictly okay. Tilakratne Dilshan is an attacking player, as is Upul Tiranga. However, if you take away Dilshan's subcontinent record, barring South Africa, he has struggled elsewhere. He averages 22 in Australia, 10.33 in England, 26 in New Zealand and 36 against West Indies. South Africa is a more impressive 64. However, this shows that he is inconsistent.
Sri Lanka still depend a lot on Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. If they fail, the rest of the team fails. In today's game against New Zealand, had the two of them not made a century and half century respectively, the rest of Sri Lanka scored 69 runs.
Sri Lanka also still depend a lot on Murali. Although he is playing his last ODI series, he is a key bowler in their team. Lasith Malinga is also a valuable asset to have, but he's like a very non-controversial Shoaib Akhtar. He can be brilliant on one day and very ordinary on the next. Like Shoaib, he too has the makings of one of the greatest ever - only if he is consistent.
My point is that had Sri Lanka had not have players in the calibre of Muralitharan, Jayawardene and Sangakkara, the chances of exposing a weak spot would have been done even my a minnow side.
I think that this over-dependence by teams in the subcontinent. India had it on Tendulkar then and Zaheer now. Pakistan has depended on Wasim, Waqar and Inzi when they need help, which is probably one of the main reasons why the team is so mercurial.
In Sri Lanka's favour, however, the experts publically announce the fragile batting and bowling if Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Murli and Malinga are absent from the team. For India and Pakistan, nobody says it too often. They just keep saying India's strong batting lineup and poor bowling lineup. Yeah, the bowling is weak, but the batsmen don't exactly make you want to jump with joy either (remember 9/29 against South Africa and another collapse against England?).
If India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka want to be consistent, they should remember that cricket is a game about 11 and not about a few brilliant performances here and there. 

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