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January 11, 2012
Fact: Sri Lanka's 258-run loss to South Africa is the worst defeat in the country's ODI history. In numbers terms it is Sri Lanka's heftiest defeat and the lowest ODI total they have ever recorded. There is no escaping that and Tillakaratne Dilshan did not try to.
He confirmed the team were scraping the bottom of the barrel and had harsh words for their ineptitude with the bat. "It was definitely the worst game of my career," said Dilshan, his strongest statement on the South African visit. "The batting unit, again, put in a bad performance. We didn't even come close."
Anger doesn't really describe the tone that Dilshan used, neither does disappointment, nor even disgust. On this tour, Dilshan has not been the kind of captain whose emotions cover a spectrum or, if they do, he does well not to show them too readily. Clearly the context of this defeat has irritated him but he is not going to suggest radical changes to the Sri Lankan style in order to put right the obvious wrongs.
"I don't think we can do different things," Dilshan said. "We are doing everything right, we are training hard but we are not carrying those things into the middle. We have to address what's happening in the middle."
What happened this time was somewhat unexplainable. On a pitch that did not grow demons as the lights came on, Sri Lanka played poor cricket. The short ball, pace and bounce undid them and all the progress they had made in showing that they are not susceptible to those factors unravelled. Suddenly they were back to square one, or perhaps even square minus one.
Dilshan struggled to explain exactly what caused the horror. "They bowled really well but we had some bad shot selection," he said. "This is a very good track but their line and length was good."
Sri Lanka appeared to have made the adjustment against the South African attack in the Test match in Durban and the subsequent one in Cape Town, even though they lost heavily. According to Dilshan, the inability to build on good performances is Sri Lanka's biggest problem. "We have to look at our consistency," he said. "We've played good cricket one day and bad cricket the next day. The same thing happened in the Test series. We have to address that over the next couple of one-dayers."
After an embarrassing loss in the first Test, Sri Lanka called a meeting of players and management and said the chat did help to resolve some of the pressing issues. Dilshan hinted that another conference of that sort would be needed to dissect some of the current problems. "We have to sit down and discuss," Dilshan said. "At the moment we can't point fingers."
Calls within Sri Lanka may be for the Test series hero, Thilan Samaraweera to be asked to pack his bags for South Africa again. Dilshan rubbished suggestions that Sri Lanka were missing someone of his calibre. "I don't think we are missing any experience in the batting," he said. "We have decided to go with youngsters for the future and we are going with [Dinesh] Chandimal at four and Mahela [Jayawardene]. Thilan won't come and bat at number No. 7 but this batting line-up can do a better job."
The batting collapse has taken the spotlight off Sri Lanka's bowers, who, barring Lasith Malinga, were off colour and lethargic on a pitch that would only reward hard work. The concerns with the ball have not escaped Dilshan, who said that it is another department Sri Lanka will have to work on. "We also didn't bowl well. This wicket was not a 300 wicket. We thought somewhere around 260 or 270," he said.
After that statement came one thing that Dilshan could reflect positively on. "But, everyone thought they could get to 330 but we came back strongly in the last 10 overs."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala