Ranked number nine in ODIs the most Sri Lanka can end up is in sixth place in the World Cup standings. They have one game in hand against high riding India who has already qualified for the semi-finals along with Australia leaving the other two places to be fought out amongst New Zealand, England and Pakistan.
“I am very disappointed that we could not finish among the last four. My focus from the start was to get into the last four and take it from there. We planned a lot and a lot of things happened in between. Still, I tried to end up among the top four but that didn’t happen,” said Hathurusingha looking back on Sri Lanka’s failed World Cup campaign.
Although low in the rankings Sri Lanka came to the World Cup with a lot of hope, but found their middle order batsmen not firing and their bowlers unable to get wickets in the middle overs.
One of the key players in the side of whom much was expected was Kusal Mendis. He failed to cross the 50-run mark in any of this six innings and was a big disappointment and was one of the reasons the middle order failed to fire.
“I was expecting a better World Cup from him. Whenever he got a start not converting them was disappointing,” said Hathurusingha.
“We all get disappointed due to the potential he is showing. People who are watching will be disappointed with him because he is so easy to watch. He is maturing quickly. I chat to him frequently on building an innings and going through phases. You have to also understand that he is taking lot of burden for the team,” he said.
“We don’t have experienced batters like it was the cases in the past. The most experienced that we have is Angelo (Mathews). Earlier people like Kumar, Mahela and Dilshan handled the mentally tricky period. That Kusal is not matured to handle at the moment. But disappointed he has not done much.”
The middle order slump led to defeats against New Zealand in the opening match followed by ones against Australia and South Africa, two matches which Sri Lanka should have won. Sri Lanka won over Afghanistan in a low scoring game but it was their stunning win over England that threw the World Cup open to other teams as well. The only other win for Sri Lanka was over West Indies where they defended a total of 338 successfully to win by 23 runs.
It was Mathews’ golden arm that sealed the match in Sri Lanka’s favour after West Indies spurred by the batting of Nicholas Pooran nearly turned the game in their favour.
“That was actually Angelo’s initiative. The decision was taken by him in the middle. He came back and put the bowling shoes on. It was a great initiative on his part. He risked his body deciding to bowl. He hadn’t bowled since December, not even in the nets. It was a huge call by him,” said Hathurusingha.
Mathews captured the key wicket of Pooran with his first ball and after that the West Indies run chase simply faded away.
Sri Lanka winds up their World Cup campaign against India here at Headingley on Saturday. Hathurusingha said that if the team plays to its maximum potential and if the number two team has an ordinary day Sri Lanka could emerge winners.
“We know that cricket is a different game. That’s why we love this game. On that day if you perform better you win.”
Hathurusingha said the present position he is holding he can contribute to the development of players and the important thing for him is to plan for the next series which is three ODIs against Bangladesh at home. “I have already done that.”
About his future? “It looks okay. I don’t assume until it happens. I haven’t heard from the people who matter.”
Sri Lanka held their practice sessions at Sport Park, Weetwood a few miles away from Headingley. Headingley is not available for practice as they are hosting the World Cup match between West Indies and Afghanistan on Thursday.