All-rounders key to Sri Lanka’s success
Team management is an integral part of any sport. Apart from marshalling his troops on the field, one of the most important jobs a captain has is deciding the team combination. In cricket, skippers have to be astute while choosing the best eleven depending on the opposition, pitch and weather conditions. There is always a dilemma during the selection process whether to go in with an extra batsman or a bowler. This is where all-rounders come to the fore, ensuring that they provide the required flexibility for the man in charge.
Profitability of a player plays a huge part in the success of the team and Castrol Index defines this profitability by summing up a player’s Batting Momentum, Bowling Efficiency and Fielding points. This is where the Castrol Index determines the importance of all-rounders on the field. The cricketing fraternity has witnessed great all-rounders such as Garfield Sobers, Richard Hadlee, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Shaun Pollock and many more. One such group that has flourished in the present generation of shorter formats is the Sri Lankan all-round unit.
After the retirements of Sanath Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas, the Lions have failed to produce a genuine dexterous performer who can contribute both with the bat and ball. But the emergence of Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera has given them a new lease of life. Their recent heroics have lifted the team to new heights. Following the 2011 World Cup final loss to India, they were going through a lean patch which saw them win just one out of seven ODI series. But with some Castrol Index-topping performances, all-rounders Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera and Jeewan Mendis finally turned the tables around and powered the Lankans to a 3-1 series win over an in-form Pakistan.
Angelo Mathews has grown by leaps and bounds ever since he made his debut in 2008. He provides great strength to the middle order and his ability to pace the innings to perfection with tremendous composure at the crease has worked wonders for the team. Finishing is an art that very few players possess and Mathews is one such talent. His dicey medium pacers have proved to be a death trap for the opposition batsmen. His consistent performances in the T20 International series helped the hosts outclass Pakistan by 16 points on the Castrol Index. In the first T20 International in Hambantota, he bowled a mindboggling spell of 2/8 from 4 overs to help the hosts defend a paltry target of 133. An immaculate line and length coupled with vicious inswingers and outswingers ripped through the Pakistani middle order and propelled him to the top of the Castrol Index with 78 points. He continued the juggernaut in the ODI series and stamped his authority as a finisher when he helped the Lankans chase down 248 after they were staring down the barrel at 138/6 in the 5th ODI. A mature innings of 80 off 76 deliveries steered Sri Lanka to a 3 point win over the visitors. It was his extreme calmness under pressure that attained him the best Batting Momentum of 116 in the match.
Another youngster who has impressed big time of late is Thisara Perera. His big-hitting prowess in the Extreme Performance Overs and medium pace zippers in the middle overs have proved to be a huge boon for the side. Perera and Mathews complement each other well and the former too was one of the most important contributors in the win over Pakistan. He ended up as the highest wicket taker in the ODI series with 11 wickets which included some super performances. In the 1st T20 International, he strode to the crease at 89/6 and blasted the bowlers out of the park (32 off 16 balls) to power the hosts to a respectable 132. His humongous hitting garnered him the highest Batting Momentum of 77 in a low-scoring affair which the hosts eventually went on to win.
Two Castrol Index-peaking performances came in the 2nd and 4th ODIs. In the 2nd one-dayer, Sri Lanka were defending 280 on a good batting track. Pakistan got off to a good start but the introduction of Perera proved to be the master stroke for the hosts as he decimated the opposition with a great spell of seam bowling. His greatest strength is his ability to purchase movement from the track and this worked wonders for him as he ended up with career best figures of 6/44 which achieved him the best Castrol Index, 78. The best was yet to come as he stunned Pakistan in the 4th ODI with a spectacular hat-trick, becoming the first Sri Lankan bowler to achieve this feat against Pakistan. He lacerated the middle and lower order by constantly bowling a probing line outside the off stump and picked up the key wickets of Younus Khan, Shahid Afridi and Sarfraz Ahmed when the visitors were going strong. This paved the way for the 23-year-old to top the Castrol Index with 54 points.
The Islanders’ all-round department has further been strengthened with the inclusion of leg spinner Jeewan Mendis who can bamboozle batsmen with his spin variations and can also be handy with the bat in the Extreme Performance Overs. He too played a crucial role in helping his team clinch the ODI series with a skilful all-round performance of 19 off 20 balls and 2/30 in the only but most important 5th ODI which helped him top the Castrol Index with 59 points.
These players have proved to be great assets in the field too. Mendis, Mathews and Perera ended the Pakistan ODI series with decent fielding points: 53, 48 and 49 respectively.
It is clearly visible from the graph that in the last six matches, it is the all-rounders who have ruled the roost for Sri Lanka, topping the Castrol Index in four of them. This exemplifies the importance of the all-rounders to the Lankan outfit. With a big ODI series against India just around the corner, the chances of their success will heavily depend on how these ingenious men deliver on the field.