By Karthik Parimal
Sri Lanka has played a considerable amount of cricket since the beginning of last year. They competed fiercely in a gruelling World Cup and had their task cut out immediately thereafter as they faced formidable sides like England and Australia. Apart from the incessant on-field action, they had a plethora of undesirable off-field issues to deal with. The fact that they performed with undying enthusiasm, despite having not been paid since last March, speaks volumes of their character and dedication. Nevertheless, in spite of putting up some brave fights, the Sri Lankans have sadly not won a series in almost a year.
Below is the list of the tournaments and series they featured in since last February to no avail despite having given it their best.
ICC World Cup 2011:
India and Sri Lanka were considered favourites right from the start of the tournament. It is known that the subcontinent conditions usually elevate the efficiency of both these teams. The Sri Lankans looked almost invincible, despite the initial hiccup against another formidable side in the form of Pakistan. Predictably, they made it to the final, where Mahela Jayawardena scored a majestic century to help Sri Lanka post a mammoth 274. However, Gautam Gambhir and Mahendra Singh Dhoni made mincemeat of the Lankan bowling and turned a potential defeat into an epic World Cup win. It was a case of so near, yet so far for the islanders.
Tour of England (May – July 2011):
If not for that one instance of batting collapse during the second innings of the first Test at Cardiff, the Sri Lankans would have been proud of the way they stood up to a world-class English attack. They lost the first Test by an innings and 14 runs, but managed to draw the remaining two Tests. Nonetheless, there were some mesmerising individual performances. KumarSangakkara defied the odds and scored his first ever century on English soil in the third Test.
Sri Lanka took a 2-1 lead in the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series that followed, but England’s resilience in the next two ODIs meant that the Lankans eventually lost the NatWest Trophy 2-3.
Series against Australia at home (August – September 2011):
Sri Lanka was back to playing in familiar conditions. Australia’s transition phase had just begun and one expected them to face multiple obstacles on dustbowls. However, the Australians showed their indomitable spirit to win the series 3-2. Mitchell Johnson’s six-wicket spell was the highlight of the ODI series.
After the ODIs, the two teams squared off against each other for three Tests. Australia won the first Test by 125. Sri Lankamanaged to draw the remaining two Tests at Pallekele and Colombo, but lost the series 0-1.
Series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates (October – November 2011):
Both teams started on a similar note in the first Test, and a draw looked inevitable with Taufeeq Umar and Kumar Sangakkara slamming double centuries. A collective effort by Pakistan in the second Test saw them register a nine-wicket victory. The third Test ended in a draw and Sri Lanka lost the Test series, yet again, 0-1.
The Pakistanis looked in sublime form throughout the ODI series as they left no margin for error whatsoever. They were bolstered by the return of Shahid Afridi who contributed decently with the bat and brilliantly with the ball. As a result, Sri Lankalost the One-Day series 1-4; their third consecutive series defeat since the World Cup.
Tour of South Africa (December 2011 – January 2012):
After a string of successive defeats, not many gave Sri Lanka a chance against South Africa. It didn’t come as a surprise, therefore, when they were trounced by the hosts in the first Test by an innings and 81 runs. However, a sarcastic comment by Kepler Wessels spurred the Sri Lankans in the second Test, and they surprised many by pulling off a stunning victory over the hosts by 208 runs. Tillakaratne Dilshan had a tongue-in-cheek dig at Wessels by thanking him for igniting a spark in an insipid looking Sri Lankan side after that Test. However, Sri Lanka failed to sustain the impetus and lost the final Test by 10 wickets, thereby losing their fourth consecutive Test series; this time 1-2.
The ODI series provided Sri Lanka no respite as they went down consecutively in the first three games of the five-match series. They won the remaining two ‘dead-rubber’ contests, but by then the series had already been lost.
Commonwealth Bank Series (February-March 2012):
Mahela Jayawardene was reappointed as captain and Graham Ford replaced Geoff Marsh as the coach before the start of this series. The alterations seemed to be paying rich dividends, as Sri Lanka added value and entertainment in what had been a one-sided summer between India and Australia until then. Despite a few hiccups during the initial phases and the final leg of the league stages, Sri Lanka booked their deserved spot in the best-of-three finals against Australia. After losing the first of the finals to Australia, Sri Lanka managed a spectacular comeback in the second, but yet again lost the third - by a narrow margin of 16 runs.
This has been Sri Lanka’s story since May 2011. They compete real hard but fail to cross the final hurdle. Nevertheless, credit must be given to the Sri Lankan players for coming up with stellar performances and successfully circumventing the many issues that bother them. It’s only a matter of time before they get back to their winning ways.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)