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Experience holds key in alien conditions

If experience is all that was needed to win the 2003 World Cup, then Sri Lanka could be called the winners from the time they announced their squad for the tournament.
By Michael Holding | PTI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 05, 2003 12:27 AM IST

If experience is all that was needed to win the 2003 World Cup, then Sri Lanka could be called the winners from the time they announced their squad for the tournament. With the inclusion of stalwarts like captain Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene, Aravinda de Silva, Hashan Tillakaratne, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas, there is more experience in that lot than some teams can muster amongst their entire squad.

Jayasuriya, De Silva, Muralitharan and Vaas have between them just two less than a thousand one day games and Sri Lanka will be looking to them to carry the bulk of the fight to the opposition.

Like good wine, Aravinda de Silva's talents have not diminished with age and he is still a very important member of this team. One only has to look back to the recent ICC Trophy in Sri Lanka to see how his experience and talent will be a valuable asset to the captain and team. It was in the match when the Australian openers threatened to take the match completely away in the initial overs with their power hitting, that Aravinda went to his captain and the end result of the conference was that he was given the next over.

He would never be considered as an outstanding attacking bowler, not with 97 wickets from his 298 games but he did what was needed. He dismissed the openers and pretty much stalled the Aussie innings. His batting talents should play an even bigger role for his team. 11 centuries and 62 half centuries with a strike rate of over 80 runs per hundred balls faced is a very impressive record.

Sanath Jayasuriya, just a touch behind Aravinda in matches played, has over the years proved to be a very demanding opening batsman to bowl to. He can be like a hurricane in the first 15 overs when the field restrictions are in place and only two fielders are allowed outside the 30-yards circle. Many bowlers have just been blown away out of the attack as his record of 15 centuries and 52 half centuries testify but added to that is his phenomenal strike rate of almost 90 runs per 100 balls faced. Like Aravinda, his game is not one dimensional. His bowling has been very influential in the outcome of many close games although not so much in the recent past.

There are a lot of specialist bowlers in this tournament that cannot lay claim to having taken four wickets in an innings six times and five wickets in an innings three times. With the supporting act of Mahela Jayawardene, Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakarra and Hashan Tillekaratne, Sri Lanka should be able to get lots of runs on the board. It will then be up to the great Muralitharan and the seemingly-overworked Chaminda Vaas to halt the progress of the opposition batsmen.

Sri Lanka being former winners combined with the aforementioned experience has them amongst the favourites but not at, as little an odd as the casual onlooker might believe. And that is because their record on hard bouncy pitches over the years has not been as impressive as they would have liked. Their recent tour of South Africa was far from successful and they will have to erase those bad memories quickly if they are going to produce the results their obvious talents say they should. (TCM)

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