On December 15, 2009 Sri Lanka almost pulled of the second biggest chase in ODI history when they lost to India at Rajkot by 3 runs chasing a target of 414. Even after that game these two countries played some exciting and competitive cricket including two world cup finals with India winning the ICC ODI World Cup 2011 final and Sri Lanka winning against them in the 2014 t20 World Cup final.
Come 6th September 2017 and Sri Lankan cricket is almost in disarray after getting mauled by India, losing 9 games on the trot in all three formats. This is the worst phase in the rich cricketing nation’s history and the embarrassment of such magnitude has never been witnessed. They failed at the Champions Trophy, lost ODI series against Zimbabwe and got rolled over by India. Once the giants of the game and one of the 4 teams to win all three ICC events, Sri Lanka has now been reduced to a lab rat where India did experiments of all kinds and tried out different combinations, giving their bench players a chance to shine in an attempt to start building the team for 2019 world cup. India from this tour achieved nothing much except that their players got the chance to improve their stats in both departments of the game and the bench got tested. Dhawan and Pujara were outstanding in the tests, Rohit improved his dismal record in Sri Lanka crossing 50 thrice and scoring two hundreds, Kohli was his usual best scoring two hundreds and Bumrah got his first fifer in a series that showed how good a bowler he is.
Sri Lanka though, achieved nothing from this tour. They had almost three captains changed and the team looked dispirited and disjointed. The on-field body language was low and it showed that the lankans were clearly over-awed by their mighty opponents and almost in each game they collapsed from strong positions and therefore ended the game on a low. The plans of the Sri Lankan cricket are unclear and no one can get what they actually want to do to build a team for 2019 World Cup. Over the last one year 45 players have represented Sri Lanka in all formats and 11 players have played less than 3 matches and in the Indian series 29 players played for Sri Lanka in the 9 matches with only Dickwella and Mathews playing all the games (Source EspnCricinfo statsguru). There seems to be no consistency in the selection of players and the lack of stability is preventing the smooth building of the team. The leadership is also an important factor which is lacking in Lankan cricket. We all have witnessed how important the captain of any cricket team is in order to lift his side and Sri Lanka have struggled in that regard. After a dismal Champions Trophy 2017 campaign their coach Graham Ford stepped down and Angelo Mathews also stepped aside and since then 3 players have lead Sri Lanka in the series against India. Moreover, they lack a leader of the qualities of Mathews and even though Upul Tharanga is trying his best but he is clearly not at that level. Another factor that has been attributed to the decline of Sri Lankan cricket is retirement of Sangakara, Jayawardene and Dilshan who were the backbone of Lankan cricket for more than a decade and their replacements have not yet performed consistently.
The Ind-SL series was a bad advertiser of competitive cricket and felt more like a david vs goliath. It was a series of mismatches of all sorts and fans from both sides would indeed be disappointed at this exhibition by Sri Lanka. While India next plays against Australia at home, Sri Lanka faces another grueling test when they play Pakistan away in October who are riding high in confidence after their Champions Trophy success. Whether Lankans perform well against Pakistan will be seen when the time comes but a weak Sri Lanka is not good for world cricket especially when it had previously been a giant of the game.
Written By Mohammed Kaab Baig.