There’s very little going right in Sri Lankan cricket at the moment and even the rain gods aren’t kind to them.
With the Afghanistan game already in the bag, looking at their remaining World Cup fixtures, against opponents like Bangladesh and Pakistan, they would have breathed easy. But with both games washed out by rain and some tough games coming up, the Sri Lankans know that they have little room for error.
Of their next five opponents — West Indies, England, India and Australia are all semi-final hopefuls and the former champions have their work cut out. They also play South Africa, who have blown hot and cold in the competition and of those five games, Sri Lanka need to win three to have any hope of reaching the semis and given the status of the side at the moment, that is wishful thinking.
Sri Lanka need to find momentum soon as well as they would have spent 11 days since their last game ahead of the clash against the defending champions on Saturday.
Captain Dimuth Karunaratne felt that reserve days would have been a better option after back-to-back washouts and the points shared one each. “If the ICC can give us a reserve day, that’s fine. It’s a major tournament and we are playing nine games. I don’t think it is possible to give us an additional day because we have to travel the day after the match. It is not easy but I feel if they can have a reserve day, it will be good for everyone.”
Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes, who played over 400 first-class games for Worcestershire and Yorkshire, too shared similar sentiments. “If you know the English weather, sadly, we're going to get a lot of rain. I know logistically, it would have been a big headache for the tournament organisers, and I know that it would have been difficult, but we have got quite a lot of time in between games, and if we have got to travel a day later, then so be it. We put men on the moon so why can't we have a reserve day, when actually this tournament is a long tournament.”
With Sri Lanka having four days ahead of next game and Bangladesh six days, reserve days could have been a good option. While reserve days ensure there would be no total washouts, it could have also ensured that the organisers didn’t suffer financially. Washouts mean ticket refunds and host broadcasters suffering major losses.
Another reason to ponder is the timing of the World Cup. Cricket’s showpiece event got underway in May, still early summer here in England and the temperature at times touched single digits. England is hosting the Ashes after the World Cup with the first Test starting on the 1 August and stretching for 46 days. Could we have been better off playing the Ashes first and then the World Cup? Or is it that the Ashes is bigger than the World Cup that it gets prime summer time?
Washouts have left teams cursing their luck and thousands of fans who challenged the weather and turned up hoping to see some play were leaving with disappointment.
But here’s a counter argument. Sri Lankans, are they really cursing these washouts? Deep down they may be smiling that they have picked up two points thanks to the washouts.
This Bangladesh team has outperformed Sri Lanka in their recent outings and reached the final of last year’s Asia Cup, having beaten both Pakistan and Sri Lanka along the way. In the World Cup, they shocked South Africa and nearly beat New Zealand. So they would have fancied their chances against an underperforming, disoriented Sri Lankan team.
As for Pakistan, they beat tournament favourites England and against a Sri Lankan side that struggled to overcome Afghanistan, they would have looked forward to picking up two points. Especially given the awful form of batsmen like Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva, who form the middle order of the side.
So actually, instead of making a hue and cry about the washouts, the Sri Lankans should be feeling that the rain, in fact, bailed them out.
Defeat to former champions Pakistan wouldn’t have upset many. But losing to Bangladesh could have been a bitter blow and fans would be fuming as Sri Lanka have never lost to Bangladesh in World Cups.
The realistic hope for Sri Lanka at the start of the tournament was not making the semi-finals, but not finishing bottom of the table either. Now with four points after a win and two washouts, there is a realistic chance that they could finish seventh or maybe even sixth. Those who have followed Sri Lankan cricket closely in recent times wouldn’t be grumbling about that prospect. Rain, after all, hasn’t been too unkind towards Sri Lanka.