For a team that has featured in five World Cup finals from 2007-14, scoring just four wins in 26 matches during one year—including 12 consecutive defeats and three 5-0 whitewashes—should be a cause for serious concern.
Another sweep in India in December’s three-match series—should it come to that—will extend Sri Lanka’s losing streak to 15. That would be a new record for an international team, surpassing their previous record of 14 consecutive defeats in the 1987/88 period.
In the face of stinging public criticism and ridicule over Sri Lanka’s third 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Pakistan this year, Sri Lanka’s limited-over skipper Upul Tharanga has run short of explanations.
“I am absolutely baffled by our performances,” Tharanga said. “We are better than this. Honestly, I am ashamed of our performances. We win matches and lose matches that’s how the game goes. But we were absolutely pathetic. We did not compete.”
Tharanga, whose ascension to captaincy comes after Angelo Mathews resigned following Sri Lanka’s 3-2 defeat to Zimbabwe, led Sri Lanka in two five-match series. Both ended in a clean sweep by the oppositions (India 5-0).
“If you take the Pakistan series, the batting has let us down very badly,” he said. “We had seven batsmen and only two of them managed to score more than 100 runs in the series. That shows how badly we have been let down by our batting. So if the top batsmen are not scoring runs then it’s very difficult to compete at this level, even if you have a quality bowling side. You can never challenge the opposition without enough runs on the board.”
Tharanga was the leading run-scorer for Sri Lanka with 199 runs at 49.75, followed by Lahiru Thirimanne with 174 runs at 34.80 and Thisara Perera who was a distant third with 91 runs off his five innings—a clear indication of the top order struggle in the series.
“In limited-over cricket you need at least two batsmen to fire and get a big score and the others to bat around them,” he explained. “But we did not see this during the series. So we need to take more responsibility as batsmen and hopefully we will start performing very soon. There’s absolutely no question of talent but we are lacking in execution at present.”
During the recent series against Pakistan, Sri Lanka scored more than 200 runs (209 and 208) only twice— hardly competitive totals to defend.
“I think we have a decent bowling unit with us, especially with Akila Dananjaya and Jeffrey Vandersay in the side,” the skipper said. “They have done a pretty good job for us but our batting has not complimented them. This is one big area of concern for us, going into the India series.”
India series, which includes three Tests, thee ODIs and three T20Is, however, will see the return of injured trio of Angelo Mathews, Asela Gunaratne and Kusal Perera. Tharanga said the team will have much more balance after their return to the side.
Mathews has hardly played cricket this year. A hamstring injury in South Africa in January saw the former skipper out of cricket for close to six months. He returned to lead the side during the Champions Trophy but was injured during training ahead of the Pakistan series.
“If you look at last few years, Mathews has held our batting together in the middle,” Tharanga explained. “He has been a key player in the side. Now that he is ready to come back to the side, I think we have the solidness in the middle order and others can bat around him. His absence was a big loss for us, not only during the series but during most part of the year.”