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The wickets here in India are less forgiving: Theekshana

Last updated on 11 Oct 2023 | 05:10 AM
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The wickets here in India are less forgiving: Theekshana

The spinner said Sri Lanka’s inexperienced bowlers are struggling to make an impact in these batting-friendly conditions

Sri Lankan bowlers have received quite a beating in their first two games of the 2023 World Cup. They first conceded 428 runs against South Africa in Delhi and then failed to defend 344 against Pakistan in Hyderabad on Tuesday (October 10). Maheesh Theekshana, who missed the opening game, said Sri Lanka’s inexperienced bowlers are struggling to make an impact in these batting-friendly conditions. 

“The fast bowlers, even the spinners that we have, they don't have much experience. They haven’t played games all over India. Me and Wanindu Hasaranga are the only players who have played all over India. I haven’t played in Hyderabad. So, I think they have to get more experience and play more games. Even for the fast bowlers, the smaller boundaries that they had in Delhi, it's really hard to bowl,” said Theekshana, who took 1/59 in his comeback match.

“We have traditionally been a team that wins through our bowling. However, playing here is significantly different from playing in Sri Lanka. The wickets here are less forgiving; a slight misstep in line and length from a bowler can easily lead to a boundary. In Sri Lanka, the slow and uneven wickets offer some room for error, especially for spinners. 

“The other noticeable difference is the high-scoring nature of games here; the team batting second can chase down big totals. I believe if we had scored at least 370 runs, the outcome might have been different. The conditions were favorable for us, and we had a rare opportunity to beat Pakistan, something we haven't done for many years. Unfortunately, we lost due to mistakes in all three departments—bowling, batting, and fielding.

“We're not very accustomed to these wickets, where batsmen can easily score 350-360 runs. From a bowler's perspective, if we don't maintain discipline in our game, we'll definitely lose. The same goes for our fielding; discipline is key. Given the magnitude of this tournament and the number of matches, I believe we need to work harder and maintain discipline to secure wins.”

Sri Lanka posted 344/9 in their 50 overs but could have easily got to 370-380. Kusal Mendis (77-ball 122) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (89-ball 108) slammed stunning centuries but Sri Lanka couldn’t get much in the final 10 overs. They were 283/4 at the end of 40 overs but could only get 61 runs in the last 10 overs. For Pakistan, Abdullah Shafique and Mohammad Rizwan got hundreds, as they got to the target in the penultimate over.

“We lost more than 20 runs because we had a chance to go for the 370 or 380. Actually, the wicket was a little bit slow in the last 10 overs. They bowled a lot of slower balls and we didn't execute our plans really well. We lost a lot of wickets in the last 10 overs. And that was the turning point.”

Theekshana also spoke about his role in the team, especially in the absence of Hasaranga. “Wanindu is an exceptional player who specializes in taking wickets. My own approach is a bit different; I aim to take wickets throughout the early, middle, and late stages of the game. My primary objective is not to turn the game around with a five-wicket haul, but rather to restrict the scoring while taking a wicket or two.

“In today's game, even when we scored close to 350 runs, I didn't set my sights on winning by taking 6 or 7 wickets. Attempting to do so would have been counterproductive; I lost my mark, and at that point, it's unreasonable to expect younger players to step up and execute perfectly. What people need to understand is that it's difficult to perform certain kinds of heroics on these wickets.”

Sri Lankan bowlers might have struggled but their batting have been quite good. Mendis has smashed 198 runs in two innings at a strike rate of 166.38. Even Samarawickrama has 131 runs at a strike rate of 121.29. On Tuesday, the two put on 111 runs for third wicket and ripped apart Pakistan’s bowling line-up.

“If you look at Kusal's recent performances, he has been playing aggressively and adapting well to these wickets. I'm not discrediting their talent, but these wickets do make scoring easier. We haven't seen this level of performance from our players back in Sri Lanka. When Kusal and Sadeera played well today, we were on track with a run rate of around eight, accumulating 280-260 runs in just 30 overs. Unfortunately, we lost momentum when Kusal got out, and we kept losing wickets, which impacted the game significantly.

“Even if the opposition had scored 420 runs, I think we could've chased it down. With these wickets, we need to aim for 380 or 390 runs rather than 350. Our bowling attack may lack experience, but that's not to say it's subpar. During the qualifiers, we managed to bowl out thirteen consecutive teams, a record that speaks volumes. We're acutely aware of the mistakes we made. When we perform at our best, we're confident of a win. The opposition simply capitalized on our errors, and we expect better outcomes when we play to our full potential.”

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