A late spell from Wahab Riaz couldn’t stop Afghanistan from a surprising win in their World Cup warm-up match.
Highly rated after their success over South Africa at home, Sri Lanka’s cricketing heroes were shunted and kicked out after the first round by minnows Bangladesh and Afghanistan in an Asia Cup embarrassment that will be long remembered.
No matter what their world ranking in the one-dayers is at the moment, Sri Lanka’s performance in Dubai will remind them that complacency or whatever reason that saw them falter firmly puts them at the tail end of Asian cricket. In current form they may have succumbed to Hong Kong as well had they crossed paths.
The shocked and bewildered squad returned home to a media and social media frenzy that heaped insults and abuse onto their substandard effort and called for the immediate resignation of the captain, coach, selection committee and several players who many felt should not have been selected in the squad.
Clueless batting, sloppy fielding and a toothless bowling attack – apart from reinstated Lasith Malinga, who was the only shining light – were the factors that made the Lankans the laughing-stock of the tournament.
How the mighty have fallen. The Lankans, once dominant in this format, are today’s whipping boys to everyone, including Zimbabwe, who they even succumbed to at home last year.
India look set to win back-to-back titles as they face up to a vastly improved Bangladesh, who shocked the fancied Pakistanis to make the final.
It is painfully obvious that the current squad lack the finesse and know-how for the modern one-day approach. And while it is comforting to see the development of teams such as Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who now add to the number of teams that can take it up to the best teams around, it sadly reflects poorly on the former world cup champions, who appear to have lost their way despite an abundance of talent and a rich cricketing history.
Consequent to the team’s poor showing there has been scrambling for cover by the selectors and administration seeking a scapegoat to be put up as a sacrificial lamb so their part in the debacle could be covered.
So far skipper Angelo Matthews has been singled out as the sole cause for the team’s dismal showing, and the move is viewed by most as laughable when he was asked to step down from the role with immediate effect.
The sad reality of this sorry episode is that there must be more heads that roll, including those of the selection committee, performance management and the coach, expectations of whom have not been met.
A complete mopping up operation and the reinstalment of team-oriented gelling is the only avenue left for the struggling Sri Lankans.