Chairman of cricket selectors Ashantha de Mel said the recent cricket tour to Australia was a very good eye-opener for Sri Lanka ahead of the ICC World T20 which will be hosted by Australia in October next year.
“We realized that in order to play well in Australia we need special skills. We have to go there early and get used to the conditions that’s number one, the other thing is you must look at players who can play the horizontal bat shot otherwise you are not going to get pitched up deliveries to drive. It’s a case of being able to play the short ball well, you have to cut and pull otherwise you are not able to score runs. We learnt a huge amount in the sense that what we need to do,” said De Mel.
“The only good thing is that since we have to qualify we will go to Australia early. That might be a good thing for us. We will be there for about four weeks prior to the tournament proper. By that time we would have got used to the wickets but of course teams that we are playing like Oman and Ireland I don’t think they have the kind of bowlers that we will be facing in the World T20,” he said.
Speaking further on the batting side De Mel said that the running between the wickets was poor and has to improve. “Experience is also required in a country like Australia. We’ve got to get used to the pace and bounce because they are going to come at you hard. We have to practice on faster and bouncy pitches. To put up a fight you need to come up with totals of 160 minimum. In Pakistan we were getting those scores because there was less bounce. When the ball is whizzing past your neck and head it’s a completely different challenge.”
“We have to look at our batting order as well. All the batters that we have are openers – Daunshka (Gunathilaka), (Niroshan) Dickwella, Kusal Perera and Avishka Fernando. How do we bat these guys? Bhanuka (Rajapaksa) where should he bat. Can he bat at no. 3? He has played only 5 games. You look around the world at the no. 3s there is Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root. They are all experienced players. Can you fit Bhanuka at no. 3 when he has so little experience,” De Mel questioned.
“All these countries you have players who are making hundreds in T20 cricket. Of the current batsmen none of them have made even an 80. Kusal Mendis made 79 against New Zealand. We have to get into the groove of making runs. If we don’t put up enough runs on the board it will be difficult for the bowlers to contain the opposition.”
AUSTRALIAN CONDITIONS ALIEN THAN PAKISTAN
“In Australia the conditions were much more alien to us than in Pakistan especially the pace and the bounce on those wickets. In Pakistan the wickets were flat more like in Sri Lanka. The way the Australians bowled they don’t give you anything upfront to drive mostly it’s just short of a length bowling at 140 plus basically with high bounce. Then you’ve basically got to play the cut or the pull you don’t get to drive. Those are the kinds of shots you’ve got to play.
“On those wickets with the speed and the bounce we found it difficult to adjust. We played 3 games in 10 days and we didn’t have any time to get used to the conditions. But as we went along we improved getting a little bit better than the previous games because the batsmen were gradually getting used to the bounce and pace. What happened in Pakistan is we played the ODI series first and then the T20I series and our batsmen got used to the conditions,” De Mel said.
From the bowling angle De Mel said that our fast bowlers must learn to bowl a slow bouncer, a fast bouncer and a wide yorker which the Australian bowlers used with great effect. “Lasith (Malinga) and Nuwan Pradeep bowled well so did Lakshan
Sandakan, the other bowlers they have to learn. They have not played very many games and don’t have the experience as the Australians who play the Big Bash and all that. We don’t even have a local T20 tournament so we don’t get much practice in this type of format,” said De Mel.
“The Australian spinners bowl much quicker than us. The ball doesn’t spin they bowl at about 90kph whereas our guys bowl at around 80kph. Their leg- spinner Adam Zampa uses more top spin than side spin so that the ball bounces more. The lengths they bowl are much shorter and they don’t give any full deliveries, they bowl shorter allowing you to most of the time play a cut shot and get a single. They bowl their four overs for 25 to 30 runs so when all the bowlers are bowling around that figure you end up getting about 125-130 which is not enough to defend against their batting,” he said.
TIPS FROM SHANE WARNE
Speaking further De Mel reiterated that our spinners must learn to bowl a short length because the ball doesn’t spin.
“We got Shane Warne to speak to our spinners in Brisbane. He asked our spinners did you realize that the ball doesn’t spin much in Australia. They said yes. When he asked them what you should do when it doesn’t spin, our spinners did not have much of an answer,” said De Mel. “What Warne said was if the ball doesn’t spin you’ve got to put more over spin and get more bounce off the wicket. When you over spin you come from the top, our guys spin from the side. Then what happens is the ball skids and then it is easy to sweep but when you bowl the top spin the ball tends to bounce more. So even if you go to sweep you might get a top edge. Actually Sandakan improved a huge amount on the tour he was bowling quicker and bowling his four overs for around 25 runs.”
“What we also learnt is that we might also need a finger spinner because if you look at that guy Ashton Agar he is bowling at 95 kph. He doesn’t give you anything to drive on the front foot. Mostly the speed is fast enough so that you cannot pull the ball and it is short of a length and comes to you very quickly. What you can do is go on the back foot and play it to extra cover or mid-on, midwicket for a single or you can play a cut shot. Our guys were giving more air to the ball and the Aussies were able to either slog sweep or come down and used their feet and hit them over the top. For their spinners we couldn’t use our feet because they were bowling quick. That is something that we have to learn,” noted De Mel. On fielding De Mel said that the fielders were not attacking the ball enough. “We are moving very slowly some of them are overweight and they are slow. We have to really work on it.”