It seems they are everywhere these days. They are a necessary evil in cricket. Sure we’d love to see Lara’s and Viv’s and the Miller’s just flay attacks with their eyes closed and emasculate us while they are at it but like the cockroach the accumulators have survived and are thriving in the modern game. Cook, Amla, Trott just in the immediate test eye line. But Sri Lanka also has their fair share of them. Unfortunately for them, they are quite keen to stack a lot of them in the same batting line up in the short formats of the game.
Last nights loss to India was one of those times Sri Lanka suffered because of it. Tharanga, Sangakkara, Thirimanne, Chandimal are all similar type of players. Sri Lanka have been trying to play all 4 of them in the same ODI side for about 6 months. And its not working. It’s a forced tactic that Sri Lanka are struggling with. What appears to be happening is that they’ve identified two potential young players in Thirimanne and Chandimal and are keen to give them as many games as possible. Traditionally this is not a bad move and both have played decent ODI knocks in the past but both together with Sangakkara and Tharanga is accumulator overkill. Chandimal who was a carefree batsmen when he started is now slowly evolved into a player similar to Sangakkara – slow and sluggish – at the start of his innings and that is not the type of player Sri Lanka need him to be. Thirimanne coming in at 6 or 7 takes up too much time to get going.
There is a long held belief that Sri Lankas middle order is fickle. And this is mostly true. So its not surprising that the selectors and team management are happy to play batsmen that are solid in their technique and are capable of digging in. They have sacrificed flamboyance and dynamism for restraint and as it appears - a lot of sameness. And it is beginning to hurt Sri Lanka. Sangakkara may have mistimed his assault and left it a little too late but the issue was compounded with the partners he had. Tharanga, Chandimal, Thirimanne and even Mathews are not very strong starters to their innings. Most are unable to go over the top. At times they even struggle to get off strike.
With Amla, Trott type of players, they are still capable of rotating the strike even without the big shot. Trott is renowned wheeling away at a SR of around 80 without hardly doing anything at all, something the Sri Lankan trio have struggled to do.
Currently Sri Lanka have 3 players who are natural ODI and aggressive players. Dilshan, Jayawardene and Perera. But with Jaywardene batting at either 3 or 4, it has also forced him to sacrifice some of his natural flair. He has admitted that he loves the freedom that comes with opening and when he does he is instantly transformed into a different player. Tharanga in his brief stint in the lower order has proved that he is extremely capable of the role. Even more so than Thirimanne. And this is the gamble that the selectors must now make. Should Thirimanne be an automatic pick in the side knowing that there are players like Rajapakse and Angelo Perera who offer them a different option in terms of the type of player they can bring in?
A series that many won’t remember in a week is as good a place to start as any.