Posts Tagged ‘Angelo Mathews’


Goutham Chakravarthi

If you have been to Sri Lanka you’ll know that there are few nicer people than them. And if you happened to know people from the Caribbean you also realize that few are as full of life as them. In more ways, this is also a battle between two nations, one, which has produced the most natural of bowlers over the past decade and another that has produced the most natural T20 players in the format’s brief history.

Contrastingly, pundits and fans of the West Indies think their captain, Darren Sammy is a liability and is taking up Russell or Dwayne Smith out of the team while some think he has managed to keep the team together and ride through tough waters. On the other hand, the brilliant Mahela Jayawardene has maneuvered his team and made inspirational player picks and brilliant on field decisions. That he is yet to commit to a long tenure as captain long tells of issues beyond his control. Cricket outside of the field has been eventful for both finalists over the last few years.

Gayle has been the inspiration behind Windies’ resurgence. © Reuters

While West Indies have made as much news for their Gangnam dances on the field as they have for partying in their hotel rooms, their form coming in to the finals will be worrisome for the Sri Lankan management. Not much seems impossible for their batting when they click as a unit.

It is apparent to the eye from outside that Gayle is the leader of these men and his contributions in playing the anchor and the grenade launcher and switching back and forth with the same ease he breaks in to his various celebratory dance moves. It was apparent when Samuels bowled the Super Over against New Zealand ahead of Narine that he had the final say in the on field meeting with Darren Sammy.

It would be daft to think that getting Gayle out early would seal the victory for the Lions. Gayle perhaps has been the reason and belief in Johnson Charles, Samuels, Bravo and Pollard having contributed immensely in tough situations. They, along with Sri Lanka, seem to have the team covered for all situations and conditions – including having the best answers for Super Over situations.

The wickets have slowed down and will aid spinners and clever medium pacers that favour the cunning. Expect Mahela to throw surprises at the West Indies with team selection and bowling changes. His horses-for-courses team selection has proved to be inspiring: be it either picking Herath in the semifinals over Dhanajaya or opening the bowling with Angelo Mathews. It is hard not to think Mahela bowling Dilshan and Kualasekara with the new ball to Gayle on Sunday evening.

It has been a tournament where most things have gone well for Mahela barring the loss to South Africa at Hambantota. His batting will still hold the key for his team either batting first or chasing. His batting under pressure and on difficult tracks are a thing of beauty. Twice in a span of 18 months he has played champion knocks when it mattered most for his team (ICC World Cup 2011 finals and in the semi-finals the other day against Pakistan).

Mahela has been spectacular as a tactician, leader and batsman. © AFP

Also, Mahela has the knack to smell tactics and seems to be able to move away from a pre-decided plan on his instinct. It is this aspect of his cricket from which Sri Lanka seems to have benefited with him back at the helm after Dilshan stepped down.

It is, of course, silly to pin the credit of his team’s entire success on Mahela alone for his troops stand by him and in Sangakkara, he has an able ally in implementing his various plans. But it must also not be forgotten that he seems to be the type to go out of his way to pick the players he wants: Dananjaya being a point in case. Nor did he seem hesitant to pick Herath over Danajaya given Herath’s success over Pakistan in Test cricket and the captain’s opinion that Pakistan had difficulties against left-arm spin. His inspired selection proved to be a differentiating factor in the end. Nor does the very promising Dinesh Chandimal feature in the captain’s scheme of things in this world cup.

Often, it is the captain who takes the major chunk of the blame should things go wrong in this part of the world, and often it is a very fine line between being inspirational and being insipid. Mahela duly deserves credits for being innovative and bold. Long may his instincts serve his country as its captain.

As the two best teams this tournament square-off on Sunday, it might boil down to a battle of wits at the end. And Jayawardene should fancy his chances of getting his hands around ICC silverware at long last!

This is a published article in Island Cricket


Goutham Chakravarthi

Though the rains in parts of Sri Lanka have been persistent, the tournament is finally gathering momentum with the beginning of Super Eight stages. Insofar only Afghanisthan added some colour to the tournament with their brand of brash and volatile cricket. Having seen a few of their players and staff at a restaurant in Colombo, they seemed to be thrilled to be a part of the tournament and seemed eager to do well.

Afghanistan’s progress has been rapid but, as has been seen in this tournament, their cricket still is raw and borders more on the emotional than on the rational. With time, the hope is that they improve their game whilst not losing the flair that has warmed the hearts of many who have seen them in this World Twenty20 tournament.

The heart-stopping tie that Sri Lanka eventually won in the super over is a reminder of the thrills T20 cricket can provide fans, spectators and players. Fists were seen pumping at the end by the batsmen in the middle and their teammates in the dug out. The next moment, the smiles were wiped off their faces when it turned out that New Zealand captain Ross Taylor had managed to knee a run-out off the last ball.

Akila Dananjaya impressed with his mixture of offies, leggies and googlies.

It was an evening where fortune changed sides more often than rains starting and stopping in the southern coasts of Sri Lanka. Taylor’s knee might have aided the match going in to the super over, it tested the umpires and players; and all will be glad for the experience, should they get in to a similar situation later in the tournament.

Earlier, Angelo Mathews and Ajantha Mendis had shaken off their injury scares to make it into the final XI. But the attention was on Akila Dananjaya once his name appeared in the starting line-up. His spin menu included flighted leg-breaks, googlies and offies. In short, it is enough to keep the English team up at night before their game against the Sri Lankans.

However, given the history of off-spinners from the sub-continent whose actions have often been scrutinised, Dananjaya’s might well be questioned.

The theory that established Test nations have worked out Mendis further gathered ground, as he was sent for 48 runs off his 4 overs — his worst T20 figures coming into the game. The theory that established Test nations have worked out Mendis further gathered ground, as he was sent for 48 runs off his 4 overs — his worst T20 figures. Mystery injuries have also clouded the career of this mystery spinner, and how much faith the Sri Lankan management has in him for future games remains to be seen.

Rangana Herath is a very fine bowler after all, and with Dananjaya holding his own even with the onslaught very much on, the management might be tempted to have the experienced Herath back in the team. With the pitch at Pallekelle offering more than enough turn, as was seen in Premadasa in the India-England game, it will not be a surprise to see more teams resorting to spin for both attack and defence.

The batting looked in rich form with Tillakaratne Dilshan finding fluency. Sri Lanka’s side is packed with several allrounders, so there is a school of thought — as Taylor pointed out — that they might lack batting depth and be too top heavy. So far, it has not proved to be a problem with the likes of Jeevan Mendis and Thisara Perera holding their own with the bat. Mathews has proved to be a reliable finisher and Lahiru Thirimanne is proving to be one of late as well.

West Indies and England are the other two teams in the group, and given England’s form against spin in the recent past and their form against India and West Indies, it will be a surprise if Sri Lanka do not find themselves in the semi-finals.

The objective would be to have peaked as a team by then and hope to have a couple of their match-winners in red-hot form. Sri Lanka have found themselves within reach of winning ICC tournaments many times in the recent past, and they will be one of the teams favoured to win.

Mahela Jayawardene’s men displayed the ability to handle the mental side of the game well in the super over finish today, and the hosts will hope to be at the finals this time too in order to have another crack at crossing the final hurdle.

This is a published article in Island Cricket.