Inexperienced SL Squad Face Daunting Task as Preparations Begin
By Anjana Kaluarachchi
Sri Lanka’s preparations targeting the forthcoming T20 World Cup 2021 in UAE began yesterday as players and coaching staff completed a three-day quarantine since they entered the bio secure bubble on Tuesday.
Sri Lankan players and support staff have been in a bio secure bubble for the past three months before Tuesday. That’s almost spending more than 2/3 of 10 months in a restricted environment. A commitment had to be made to play cricket with present day challenges.
Following three-day quarantine, the entire squad tested negative, and they will now prepare for a two match T20 series in Oman followed by the T20 World Cup in UAE. Sri Lanka were given a tenday break following their South Africa home series, but Coach Mickey Arthur wanted the team in the bubble after six days as he was concerned about the prevailing situation and did not want to lose further players.
Sri Lanka were thrashed by South Africa 3-0 at home in the T20 series, where the island nation who were once the world number one ranked team in the format and world champion in 2014, could not even be competitive in all three games. But their problems may not be over as the experience of the World Cup squad is thin with only two guys having played little over 50 T20 international games, while six of the original 15-man squad have less than ten games under their belt.
Sri Lanka Selectors youth policy saw players like Thisara Perera - who was well suited for the shortest format – opting to retire prematurely, while the most experienced Angelo Mathews is taking a break from cricket.
In fact, it will be the first time that Mathews won’t be in a World Cup squad since he made his debut in 2009. Out of Sri Lanka’s bowling attack, only Dushmantha Chameera has managed to play over 30 games, while players like Maheesh Theekshana and Praveen Jayawickrama - who are expected to play a major role in the spin department - only made their debut during the last South Africa series.
In contrast, most other cricketing nations had opted to go in with experience, with countries such as West Indies selecting their ‘free agents’ for the World Cup who play franchise cricket all over the world rather than representing the country in some of the bilateral series, as they wanted an experienced and wellbalanced squad for the format. It’s true that Sri Lanka does not have experienced players who can help them learn how to handle various match situations, and coach Mickey Arthur and co will try their level best to counter lapses during training with match simulation and situation practices.
Dasun Shanaka led team will leave the country on 3 October where they will play Oman on 7th and 9th. They will then participate in two practice games in UAE before beginning their campaign on 18th in the qualification round.
They are to face Netherland, Namibia and Ireland. Both Ireland and Netherland squads includes players who play several franchise T20 leagues and have players much more experienced than Sri Lankan by a mile. Task at hand will not be easy for Lankans but they have beaten the odds in the past which is something they may want to repeat coming into the big stage.