Champions Trophy 2017 June 14, 2017

Ford sees bright future for Sri Lanka

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Four Sri Lankan batsmen in the Champions Trophy had played fewer than 30 ODIs © Getty Images

They were swatted away by South Africa, and let slip a winning position against Pakistan, but Sri Lanka still gained more from the Champions Trophy than some other teams would have. That, in any case, is the conclusion head coach Graham Ford drew from a campaign in which Sri Lanka glittered in patches, though not quite for long enough to earn a place in the semi-finals.

This optimism largely stems, of course, from the seven-wicket win against India, whose 321 for 6 Sri Lanka ran down with relative ease. Ford felt the top order's modest showings in the other games were down to inexperience - Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka and Asela Gunaratne having played fewer than 30 ODIs.

"If you look at the number of caps in the India side, and the number of caps in ours, we're vastly inexperienced, yet we outplayed them completely," Ford said. "I do feel that with inexperience, we're not going to get those performances every day of the week. We are going to have disappointments. But as time goes by - some of our players have played 20-odd, or fewer than 20 ODIs - and they get to 80, 90, 100 ODIs, these guys are going to win us a lot of games. That win was against the team everyone is talking about being favourites to win the tournament."

Ford believed that the loss against Pakistan, too, was not without its positives. Sri Lanka squandered a good chance to move to the semi-final with some horrendous catching at the back end. But Ford said that to even get to a stage where Sri Lanka looked like defending 237 required substantial resolve from the bowlers.

"The game against Pakistan, unfortunately we didn't play very well. But look at the attitude and the fight we showed - South Africa lost their game, and they just disappeared. We looked out of that game when Pakistan were 76 (they were 74) without loss chasing a moderate total, and somehow our boys found a way to fight back and get us into a winning position.

"The character that these guys continue to show is really exciting. If we get a bit of experience among the younger players and we continue to keep that fight - that kind of spirit is really important if we're going to build and become a highly competitive team. We were trying to win, but I think there are other teams going back from the Champions Trophy with far less positives and far less to really get excited about than we have."

Although Sri Lanka dropped at least five catches through their campaign, Ford said improvements had been made on the fielding front. Fielding had, in fact, been a particular area of focus during the pre-tournament training camp at Pallekele - a result of having lost several matches, across formats, due to poor catching over the last two years.

"The public probably don't realise just how determined these guys are to try and improve," Ford said. "Unfortunately our fielding let us down against Pakistan, but we started to look like a side that can field. I've always said it's going to take time before we become a fielding unit that the rest of the world talks about. But there's no doubt that there's been an improvement in that area."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • CRICFAN564789 on June 21, 2017, 14:31 GMT

    @PKosgoda: Interesting point to note; Near 50 % (62 /128) of matches in Chandimal's Odi career ended up with defeats, despite scoring 1x100 & 12x50 at his Snails-Pace overall Strike Rate of 70 .! (62 ings / 1464 runs /25.68 Av/ 70 SR/ 1x100/ 12 x50). This may be a good enough SR a decade ago in old times... but today's Odis are played in a different mold altogether, with broader bats, lightening speed outfields, field restriction rules, relatively hard-textured-balls making it easier to whack (thanks to 2 new ball introduction). Targeting 300+ scores is the norm requiring batters to keep up their momentum to match it with 85-100+ SR, especially in longer stayed innings.

    Coming at No4 & putting up a 50 from 86 balls with 45 Dot-balls without rotating strike at 60 SR on a 350+ deck is just one example for doomed matches thanks to his average boosting, match loosing 50s (as seen with Chandi in 2nd odi vs Eng in 2016). This is the unfortunate reality none can deny.

  • CRICFAN564789 on June 21, 2017, 13:45 GMT

    @PKosgoda: The point here is FC batting averages reflects his ability in Test arena. No one is saying that Chandimal is not a Test-class batter and he certainly got the right temperament to play long innings in tests. But can you truly say the same with his shorter version batting? No need to say, that kind of temperament and approach to put up fifties @ No4 in Odis sinks the game, by negating upfront quickfire starts put up by openers & sedating the middle order. This triggers middle-order collapses trying to catch up the lagging RR by others, thanks to Chandi's batting tempo at 60-70 constant SR, without attempting acceleration in any stage of his innings. This was the undeniable prominent feature obvious to anyone who followed him closely in recent times (his last 8 innings yielded only 178 runs /22 av/ 65 SR). Yes he scored 5 consecutive 50s in 2016 yet his overall SR is below par 77 despite average boosting games against Ireland & SL lost every series other than Vs Ireland.

  • PKosgoda on June 21, 2017, 8:12 GMT

    Mathews First Class Batting Average 50, Chandimal First Class Batting Average 48 is a clear proof to prove their Class. Some fans' such as "SLMASTER, SLBRAND,CRICUSER,CRICINFOUSER" recommendations are somewhat peculiar very strange at times, in the eyes of a true Sri Lankan fan. They always want Sri Lanka's best players removed from the Team.

  • slbrand on June 20, 2017, 16:35 GMT

    @SLMASTER - Who in the current squad should give way for him? I don't see him in the first 11 in the shorter format, at least not at the moment. My argument was far from what you claim it to be, my suggestions was that this is not a time to test youngsters with an average of 10 who failed miserably in the past 10 or so innings he played, rather a time to win some games and hopefully to not expect any pressure to qualify for the next world cup. Take a look at Australia -- Billy Stanlake was expected to do a job which he failed, he was removed in the next match -- and, he could come back to the team later after improving stats in a few domestic games. Simple as that. I cannot recall a single shot de Silva middled in the shorter format, yet the suggestion is to persist with him. Nevertheless, he's a good test cricketer, again judging by his actual performance and not what he was or will be.

  • SLMaster on June 20, 2017, 16:12 GMT

    @slbrand, to be confident they need to play for few matches. He was brought in straight to CT. Was he given enough as Chandimal & Thisara? If so, we can remove him. It takes time, give enough chances to find the best. Also, to your argument no one can be suited because we are 8th.

  • slbrand on June 20, 2017, 14:27 GMT

    @SLMASTER - De Silva did not look confident playing any of his shots in the ODIs and T20s he played so far, so I don't think we should take any chances with him in the shorter format (especially since we're ranked at the bottom of the first 8 teams), unless he proves himself otherwise in domestic/first class cricket of shorter format. But, he definitely is one to play tests.

  • SLMaster on June 20, 2017, 13:34 GMT

    Currnet Chandimal and Thisara doesn't match squad. De Silva should be given consitent place and run before judging his quality. He has played only few as similar to other new comers.

  • SarathMendis on June 20, 2017, 13:17 GMT

    I suggest not take Candimal and Silva for the short version game consider only for the test cricket

  • cricfan48799952 on June 20, 2017, 11:12 GMT

    SL should not make too many changes in the squad against Zimbabwe for test match and ODI series,since we can't underestimate Zim. For test match 1. Upul Tharanga 2.Dimuth Karunaratne 3. Kusal Mendis 4.Chandimal 5.Mathews 6. Kusal Perera 7. Dhananjaya de Silva 8. Asela Gunaratne 9. Herath 10. Dilruwan Perera 11. Lakshan Sandakan 12. Dushmantha Chameera 13. Pradeep 14. Lakmal 15. Dhammika Prasad (if fit)/Lahiru Kumara. For ODI series 1. Upul Tharanga 2.Dickwella 3. Kusal Mendis 4. Gunathilake 5. Mathews 6. Kusal Perera 7. Asela Gunaratne 8. Dasun Shanaka 9. Kulasekera 10. Malinga 11. Pradeep 12. Lakmal 13. Jeffrey Vandersay 14. Lakshan Sandakan 15. Pathirana

  • cricfan70256478 on June 19, 2017, 18:26 GMT

    I would take my chances on a SL xi with Thirimanne in it under a good captain against a Rest of the world xi with Mathews as captain.

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