February 25, 2008

Sweat the small stuff

Sri Lanka have the ability but the execution has been lacking so far in the CB Series

It hasn't been a memorable CB Series for Sri Lanka so far © Getty Images

Thankfully the IPL auction has not been a distraction for the Sri Lankans. Of course, some of us figured in the auction but the overall focus of the team has always remained the CB Series. Unfortunately, though, we seem to have faltered on certain fronts in our campaign. People might just be wondering what has happened to the team that reached the World Cup final.

The only thing that has changed from then is, we are not functioning well as a batting unit, and some of the players are a bit low on confidence - though no one is out of form.

There also seems to be a slight confusion in terms of individual gameplans. But overall the belief and the ability are the same, so it's again a question of finding an individual gameplan that is successful. Indidviduals need to learn their own games better so that they have a successful formula always in mind and fine-tune it to situations they face in the middle.

That ability to formulate a proper gameplan is critical. When you don't function as a batting unit, you lose wickets early, and that puts pressure on the middle order. And if the middle-order batters are also struggling a bit, you'll always be putting too much pressure on yourself attempting to come out of that situation. In contrast, when people are high on confidence, whatever the situation they are in, they have an instinctive idea of how to play. That's the sort of belief we should be having in ourselves at the moment. We have the ability; we just have to find a way of executing plans successfully out in the middle.

Personally, I take confidence in the way I am training a day before the game or in the week leading up to the game, and how I'm achieving what I want to achieve in practice. That gives me a lot of satisfaction and in turn confidence. I also believe very strongly in challenging myself in training and doing difficult things, because when you overcome those difficulties, you always have an overwhelming sense of confidence going into games. It doesn't guarantee success in games, but at least it gives you the base and the confidence needed to go out there and perform. That is the first step always.

Sri Lanka, as a team, have historically had the label of being unpredictable, but we are trying to change that and become consistent, so people know exactly what they are going to get from us - a very, very professional performance every single day.

The starting point is obviously in training, where you need to challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Players get confidence from the way they train, and the things they achieve in practice. Also from what they talk about in a team environment, what the attitude is in the dressing room, and the relationships they have with each other - the belief and trust they have. These are all factors that go into building confidence and are of vital importance in a team sport.

I wouldn't agree that our batting order has become weak. It looks worse than it is because there are more than one or two batsmen in the side who are going through lean periods. The pressure is compounded when the others get out to good balls. But the key is having the ability to scratch around and stay at the wicket and score, as Steve Waugh used to say, an "ugly" hundred.

Yes, we've struggled with finding a consistent opening pair. We had one in Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya, but we haven't done well in that department on this tour. It's time we identified who we want to have as long-term openers and really trust those players to deliver and keep faith in them.

As for the rest of the batting order, we have some fantastic ODI cricketers, like Chamara Silva, who did well during the World Cup and since. Unfortunately, he's been going through a phase where he's short on confidence. Tillakaratne Dilshan, again, is a really good player. Mahela Jayawardene is in top form at the moment and he has been delivering consistently for years now and has been the batting lynchpin for Sri Lanka. Lower down we have Chamara Kapugedera, who I believe has the ability to become a really good cricketer; we need to keep faith in him. We've been looking for a fast-bowling allrounder for years and now Farveez Maharoof has emerged as the chosen one.

I believe very strongly in challenging myself in training and doing difficult things, because when you overcome those difficulties, you always have an overwhelming sense of confidence going into games

At the end of the day, everyone must carry their own weight and deserve their place in the side. As I said earlier, players must individually examine themselves and see whether they have the belief, commitment and hunger to not just get into the side, but more important, also stay in the side for long periods.

The youngsters have not been overwhelmed by the responsibility. They understand very well what they have to do. I'm a great believer in the senior players leading by example and making sure their performances are at a peak, so the youngsters see and follow those examples. That's the best thing in a team environment.

Preparation, both mental skills-wise and physically, is going to be very important if we are to perform better in the two remaining games than we have so far. Whether we win or not doesn't matter as much as doing the little things right, sticking to the basics, and getting the processes right so that the results take care of themselves. It's always good to go into a match thinking that you have to win it, but not without a process in place to achieve that result.

At the moment what we need to do is keep wickets in hand and bat for long periods of time. If we can get that right, we can come out of this difficult period and ensure that we don't go into a slump again.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kaan on February 29, 2008, 2:43 GMT

    I must commend for Kumar's batting briliance. But overall, as a team, we need to improve a lot in all departments. I always consider Australia for their outstanding all round performance, especially fielding. Number of direct hits to wickets, is amazing & slip catches are treat to watch. SL need to get a few videos of their fielding & see how they are very positive in the field & preasure the batsmen all the time with direct hits. When compared, our team is by far from their standards.

    What we all need is bit more commitment & ability to play under preasure. I wish & pray, SL players will understand their shortcomings and try to play the game very positivly. I would love to see our guys beating (or at least challenging) Aussies on consistant basis. After all we have not beaten them for a while now...

  • Jagath on February 29, 2008, 1:13 GMT

    1st of all, i think the coach has to go, he seems to not care about what is going on with the team (thats the picture im getting anyway), i never seen him talk or anything to try defending the team when they most need it, let alone the results hes achieved since taking over, hes a MUST GO!! for the good of the TEAM. (Hes had his honey moon period, now he should go back). Secondly, some of the players, must call it quits too, i know its easy said then done, but some of these players seem very lost to me and thats just simple facts, these players are not going to carry this team to future success like the next world cup, they are ageing and the team needs new fresh breed of players. Third and final point,, i dont see much hunger in the team, looking at their body languages they seem like they dont look to fight for their country, some dont seem worthy of wearing the national emblem simple as that if sri lankan players say otherwise, id say theyd be lieing. GD Luk in tha future series!

  • Evie on February 28, 2008, 15:21 GMT

    Dear Kumar, you are my favourite cricketer in the world and everything, but please can you not make pre-tournament statements like 'Sri Lanka are one of the top 3 teams in the world'? Because it just doubles the humiliation of us SL supporters when our team performs in this manner. I'm not sure how anyone could even think of such a thing after the home series loss to England last year anyway. I don't think I've ever seen our team so abject in the whole time I've been watching cricket. Not sure if it's the departure of Tom Moody or what, but this is a very different team from the one that made the WC finals last year. You have been a true professional throughout this tournament and your efforts are much appreciated, but one man does not make a team. Did the others leave behind their pride in Sri Lanka? We bat like schoolchildren, we can't bowl a decent opposition out, and our fielding standards have dropped alarmingly. And to make things worse, we still have to face Australia on Friday!

  • Achintha on February 28, 2008, 13:11 GMT

    I think our middle order is not strong enough to win matches under pressure situations.We can't expect Dilshan and Chamara to win matches for us like Dhoni and Symonds.Maximum they can do if we are 100-4, batting first they will get us 225. And we should not send Sanath to open the innings in Fast bouncy tracks.He should be sent in the middle order in Aus,SA.He hasn't done there and will never do,untill he finds a flat track.. And clearly mahela didn't do his duties well in this series.He was not innovative as he was in the WC.And didn't put enough pressure on new batsmans.

  • Thisara on February 28, 2008, 11:35 GMT

    First of all i would like to say 'Thank you Sanga for your great exhibition'.Obviously we have some problems with our middle order.I strongly believe that we don't need to do much changes to this team. But we need to have a spinner to the team.Coz spinnes are our strength.It is not good to depend on Murali much more.He've done all the thing to SL.Now Australia, India & SA trying to aim & attack to Murali.If we think about our future i think it is better to have Lokuarachchi in.Bandara doesn't have much time to improve, because he is now end of his 20's.It is good have a compare those two.Chamara Silva & Upul Tharanga must be out for couple of series until they came in to their typical form.we can take Udawatta or Lokuarachchi in & there is a possibility to train a good opener with Jayasuriya.I think Maharoof & Kapugedera have a good talent in facing the balls.I mean we can train those two as our next openers after the retirement of our hero,Jayasuriya.Maharoof would be a key player.

  • Panduka on February 27, 2008, 23:00 GMT

    Sri Lanka overall played very poor cricket - they deserve to lose. They need to realise that they need at least 5 world class bats to compete at top level - I think they have only 2. Also, need to smarten up their filed setting (captain). I think SL should have won 6th game against India and 7th game against Oz if they did that. Just replay the last 3 overs of that game against India. Malinga bowling to Harbajang - there was a risk of leaking runs behind the wicket. They gave away 7 valuable runs behind the wicket. 7th game against Oz - when Murali came in to bowl Ozs were 4 wickets down with a run rate of 2.7 something - with field restrictions. Field was spread and Muralis first over went for 6 runs. This is not rocket sceicne - all commentatros were bemused by SLs field settings. Had they restrictyed OZ to 170 SL would have won under DL. SL has to play smart cricket with skilld bats and bowlers overall if they are to compete against top teams.

  • Shafni on February 27, 2008, 17:39 GMT

    Firstly i must say Sanga you played really well all hats to you & kept some hope for our Team. As all said earlier we need to bring young blood to the team & give them chance to grow, cuz it seems our teams depends on the big guys like, Jayasuriya, Vaas, Murali etc to do well as usual. Its time we come up as a whole team and each play their best at it. The Feilding is really improving, but batting is unpredictable, for instance in these matches we've seen our guys play wrong shots when its really not necessary at that situation. I really hope you guys will improve & make us proud :) cuz when you guys play its really enjoyable. Hope things change & get back to the winning times.

  • Hafiz on February 27, 2008, 17:28 GMT

    Sanga I do accept your fact its true. I feel we need a change in the batting department because it has failed during this tour (CR Series) specially Chamara Silva who didnt perform well in the bat and Dilshan he had couple of good matches but i guess he's out of form too. Except the middle order i guess we can have a good tail enders too like Malinga & Murali played well and got some partnership going on during the India match on the 26th Feb and those two players got well strokes i feel the coach and the responsible pepole in this should take a look in this. We need a good opening pair of batsmen too Sanath will perform well when he gets a good partner who keeps on scoring from the other end like we had during 1996 Sanath & Kalu those two were well balanced we would like to see someone like that coming with Sanath. We Wish to see some exciting cricket coming from our home country Sri Lanka Good Luck....

  • Sojhan on February 27, 2008, 13:43 GMT

    To some extent I have to disagree with sanga's comments. I understand that as a current player addressing the public you have to reassure fans, but I hope I'm not the only one who sees the team's problems are far greater than stated here. A simple stat - since 2007 world cup final, sri lanka hav won only 7 out of the 18 games played to date (inlcuding series losses to pakistan & england). The problem is far greater than jst a loss of confidence with some of the players. As a result of the slump I would say the confidence is low and is prolonging the period of the slump, but is definetely not the reason for the slump. this may be the best time to try out new young players. the domestic province system needs to be given more exposure as this is the best way to give new blood a chance to play against the best. the problem with the team at the moment is that so much reliance has gone into the senior players, not only is the team not performing now, but youth is also given little exposure.

  • Rajinda on February 27, 2008, 4:13 GMT

    Hey Sanga, the guys confidence was low for sure which couldn't have been fixed with one solid win. We missed few opportunities when we had Aussies restricted to 236 & you were left hanging. But in my opinion we also made a mistake in choosing the side. We relied too much on specialist bowlers, playing 5 all the time, which weakened our middle order. We should have played Tharanga or Dilruwan at the top & drop Dilshan to lower order to strengthen that area. As for bowlers, the biggest mistake Mahela did was (& I hate to second guess him as we share the same alma mater) stop bowling Kapugedara after the second match. If the guy was good enough to bowl 10 overs @ 5.4 against Aussies, & 6 overs @ 3.4, how come he wasn't good enough on Match #8 against India when Maharoof tanked big time? Mahela tried Dilshan & Sana for 3 overs for a higher run rate & we lost in the last over. I think a win like that could have turned the tide around for us. We aren't that far off being a solid team!

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