Malinga himself admitted after the losses to India that he did not perform at his best for the team and that he was ready to step down from the captaincy if the selectors want him to do so. The old warhorse who usually leads the team from the front failed to take a single wicket in the two T20Is and went for a princely figure of 81 runs off his quota of eight overs. He also failed to contribute anything with the bat being dismissed for a golden duck in both innings he played.
“The thing is as the captain performance wise Lasith’s bowling was below par, his thinking was below par, and batting, he was out first ball in both innings. Performance wise it was very poor. He himself has admitted it,” said chairman of selectors Ashantha de Mel.
“Lasith didn’t bowl well at all in the two matches he went for some 80 runs in two games and didn’t take a single wicket. That is something that we will have to look at. Maybe he had two bad games, but overall we have to have someone who can bowl, then you have to look at his captaincy and whether he is doing his job. You can’t blame the captain for all the faults the team makes. We have to assess all those things. We have to see whether there is a suitable captain also,” he said.
“A captain has to find a place in the team. They are talking about Dasun Shanaka but he also didn’t perform much. Sometimes it may be a situation where we might have to make a decision after consulting with the coaches, their plans and all that. We haven’t thought about anything. I think the press has jumped the gun. We’ll have to talk about it only when we come back from Zimbabwe. We need time to discuss it.”
Since Malinga was reappointed captain in January 2019 Sri Lanka has lost 10 T20Is and won just one – the solitary victory coming when Malinga single-handedly wound the clock back and captured four wickets in four balls against New Zealand at Pallekele. De Mel said that Nuwan Pradeep is coming back from an ankle injury and added, “We are looking at a few more fast bowlers like the left-arm tall boy Binura Fernando. He has a lot of skill in bowling. He was unfit and we have put him through the HPC (High Performance Centre) and trying to get his fitness levels and bowling skills to improve. We have to get him fit and bowling well. He is one bowler especially with the extra bounce in Australia and with his height will be useful. We need to find 4-5 good fast bowlers that’s an area we are short in.”
THE BANE OF THE DOT BALL
Sri Lanka’s biggest bane is their top order batting that has failed time and again to put up enough runs on the board for their bowlers to defend. In the recently concluded T20I series against India, Sri Lanka scored 142/9 and 123.
“The players are putting too much pressure on themselves because they are playing too many dot balls and then they want to go for a big shot. The batsmen are making only 20-30 runs and there are too many dot balls being played. You can allow a maximum of 30 dot balls but 25 is the norm, but in the second game there was 49 dot balls,” pointed out De Mel.
“The problem is our players their mindset is all wrong. They are playing dot, dot, four, or dot, dot, dot, four. What happens is the four is a risk and they are hitting the ball in the air. They have to learn how to rotate the strike. That is the problem. The coaches have identified the lapses and they are working towards that. The coaches are teaching them where the singles are available, and the running between the wickets has to improve. We are working on it and you will see a definite improvement going forward,” De Mel said.
“We have 10 more games (before the T20 World Cup) and we have a squad of about 25 players. What we want to do is we want to try them out against West Indies (which is Sri Lanka’s next T20I series in February at home). The coaches are working on their skills, the fitness and in a lot of the areas there’s improvement coming. If you take the last game the fielding was much better than on previous occasions.
“India was tough it is not an easy place to play and all teams that have played there find it tough. India are a very good side. Our batting without making 170-180 we can’t compete with these countries. Working with the new set of support staff they are quite professional, they are on the ball, they are not accepting mediocre performances and they will push the boys.
In The West Indies series should be a good test to check,” he said.
The positives to come out of the Indian tour were that spinners Lakshan Sandakan and Wanindu Hasaranga have come good and with Dhananjaya de Silva and Angelo Mathews coming in has made some sort of an impact.
“Dhananjaya batted well and Mathews can come and settle in the middle order. What we need to do is to get the two openers sorted out. We have to decide between Avishka Fernando, Danushka Gunathilaka and look at Niroshan Dickwella which are the two best and one would be standby,” said De Mel.
“I’ll be looking at Kusal Perera at 3, Kusal Mendis at 4, Angelo Mathews at 5 and Dhananjaya de Silva at 6 and find an extra batsman in the middle order. It has to be Thisara Perera or Dasun Shanaka at no. 7.”