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Chief selector unhappy with World Cup preparations

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Karunaratne will be making the numbers if Thirimanne succeeds as opener

Sri Lanka chief cricket selector Sanath Jayasuriya is far from happy the way the national team is preparing itself for the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“I am not very happy the way things are going out there in New Zealand,” Jayasuriya told The Nation yesterday.

“There are areas to be improved and in the next few weeks I hope we can sort them out. I am not 100 percent happy as there are aspects to improve every day.

“The only good thing is that we are playing in New Zealand and against the same opposition whom we will meet in our opening match of the World Cup.

“It’s a good advantage for us to play here in these conditions which are tough. We have almost two months here playing Tests and ODIs to settle down and to play against the same country is a big advantage,” he said.

One of the key areas of concern is the bowling department that has been leaking runs constantly after putting the opposition under pressure.

“The bowling department is an area of concern. They need to plan themselves on things they should do when it comes to a crunch situation,” said Jayasuriya.

“We lack experience in our bowling at the moment in the absence of Lasith Malinga which is huge. (Nuwan) Kulasekera and (Suranga) Lakmal have come back from injuries and bowling alright.”

They have allowed New Zealand to recover and win from positions of 101-5, 63-3 and 93-5 so that they lead the seven-match series 3-1.

The assuring news for Sri Lanka is that Malinga is showing signs of recovering and being fit for the World Cup.

“Lasith started to bowl about 30 balls yesterday and today also he was bowling. He has shown no signs of discomfort and he will be increasing his workload gradually. I think he will be alright for the World Cup,” said Jayasuriya.

The other area of concern is the lower middle-order batting that has failed to see Sri Lanka play out their full quota of 50 overs. They fell short at Nelson (3 balls) and Dunedin (6.2 overs).

“When they get opportunities they should make use of them and deliver. The fourth ODI we should have got over 300 runs but we just threw it away. That kind of thing you can’t accept. They are experienced enough to bat the full fifty overs,” said Jayasuriya.
Sri Lanka were coasting along nicely at 245-4 but lost their last six wickets for 31 runs to be all out for 276 in 49.3 overs.

Even in the fifth ODI during their massive run chase of 361, Sri Lanka were strongly placed at 211-2, but collapsed to 252 all out in 43.2 overs.

“Jeevan Mendis and Thisara Perera need to contribute more. They need to concentrate on their bowling a little bit more when they don’t bowl well the confidence in their batting goes. Leg-spin is vital and if Jeevan can bowl 6-7 overs it will be crucial for us. It’s not a very big issue but if they work hard they can come back.”

Jayasuriya admitted that the team management had made a blunder in opting for Dimuth Karunaratne as opener. After many attempts with Upul Tharanga and Kusal Perera and even Mahela Jayawardene, Karunaratne was eventually picked as opening partner to Tillakaratne Dilshan for the World Cup on the strength of his maiden Test hundred against New Zealand at Christchurch.

However in the on-going ODI series against New Zealand so far Karunaratne’s contribution as opener has been 5, 21 and 5. In the fifth ODI he batted in the lower order at nine and scored 12 taking the place of injured captain Angelo Mathews.

Thirimanne who captained the team in that match was promoted to open and scored 45 out of an opening stand of 93 with Dilshan and it looks as if he will continue to hold that position for the rest of the series and probably the World Cup.

“Our earlier option was for Mahela to open if one of the openers was not firing. I don’t want to touch Mahela at no. 4 where he has settled down nicely and is playing a long innings,” said Jayasuriya.

“Lahiru is playing in the lower middle order and not getting opportunities so we thought of opening with him and if he can prove himself we can get him to open and work the batting line up from there onwards with (Dinesh) Chandimal taking Thirimanne’s slot in the middle-order,” he explained.

This could mean that Karunaratne’s role will be confined to just another player in the 15-member World Cup squad and he will be just making the numbers.

Jayasuriya’s main concern was for the players to perform their respective roles in the team ahead of the World Cup when they meet New Zealand in the tournament opener at Christchurch on March 14.

“I am not that too worried about the result of the ODI series against New Zealand but put things that need to be put right like the bowlers and the lower middle-order. The next 2-3 weeks are crucial to work on our specific areas before the World Cup,” said Jayasuriya.

“Those are the areas we need to improve and fine tune. I hope when the World Cup starts it will be there and hope that everything will be in place.”

SOS for Ramanayake

Sri Lanka Cricket is to consider sending former fast bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake to New Zealand to assist the Sri Lanka team in their preparations for the 2015 World Cup that is barely three weeks away.

The Nation learns that the fast bowling department that is currently under fast bowling coach Chaminda Vaas is lacking in a lot of areas and needs to be supported.

Ramanayake was one-time fast bowling coach of the national team before he was replaced by Vaas, the former Sri Lanka fast bowler.

Sri Lanka’s bowlers have taken a pounding in the last two ODIs against New Zealand at Nelson and Dunedin conceding 640 runs in less than 100 overs. They trail 1-3 in the seven-match series.

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