- Table toppers Jaffna Stallions look to further consolidate position
By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
While Jaffna Stallions led by all-rounder Thisara Perera are riding high with three wins out of three in the My11Circle Lanka Premier League (LPL) just the opposite is happening to teams like Kandy Tuskers and Galle Gladiators, both of which are struggling to find some form of consistency in the ongoing tournament.
For Kandy who has played one game more than the rest, it is crunch time in today’s contest against the Dambulla Viiking. Kandy has reached the halfway mark of the tournament and one win from four matches does not augur well for them to finish within the top four to qualify for a place in the semi-finals.
“We need to play as a team and execute our plans properly. There is nothing we could do right now. On paper we are a good side, it is just that we need to execute our plans accordingly,” said Kandy Tuskers coach Hashan Tillakaratne.
“In the second round each player has to improve his game by 10%, that’s the only way we can come out of this rut. Having a good side and under-performing doesn’t help anyone. We have to play as a team and perform as one unit. Each person should know his role in the team and what is expected of him. One or two individual performances will not take us to the semi-finals.
“We have to come up with a plan against Dambulla and we want to play the best that we know. Right now we have performed only to 50% of our ability.”
Having broken their sequence of two back-to-back losses with a win against the Galle Gladiators, Kandy were expected to continue in that vein, but once again the ghosts of the past began to haunt them and a poor fielding display saw them lose their game to Jaffna Stallions on Monday. “Up to the 10th over I thought we had done well, 50-odd runs and four wickets. Then from there to be fair to Thisara (Perera) he played some brilliant shots and took the game away from us.
“Then again we thought we could have kept them under 170, but we dropped a very important catch off Thisara. That really hurt us. The fielding also was sloppy because we gave about 20-25 extra runs. Coming back to the batting we have a very good line up but in the middle overs we couldn’t play to our potential. We fell behind again losing wickets at regular intervals. 131 all out, it doesn’t look good at all.”
Tillakaratne disclosed that South African fast bowling legend Dale Steyn will be available to play for Kandy only in the last two games as he is currently under quarantine. By that time Kandy will know whether they are in with a chance of qualifying for the next stage or not.
The Dambulla Viiking will draw a lot of confidence for the rest of the tournament after their laudable win over Colombo Kings on Tuesday. The win came on the back of a 66-run thrashing they received at the hands of the Stallions a day before. To stage a recovery of that nature after being pummelled by the broad bat of Jaffna skipper Thisara needed some courage and the Viiking showed it by outplaying unbeaten Colombo on a slow turning pitch, which Dambulla captain Dasun Shanaka read right by picking four spinners in his line-up – they accounted for seven of the ten wickets to fall. Third in the table, they will look to further improve their position with a win over a struggling Kandy side that is lacking in confidence.
Ominous signs from Jaffna Stallions
From the way the Jaffna Stallions are performing it seems like easy pickings for them when they take on bottom of the table Galle Gladiators, who have yet to win a match having lost three out of three.
Shahid Afridi, the former Pakistan skipper and outstanding all-rounder in the white ball game, has a lot of problems on his hands in trying to turn things around for his team.
Following their 25-run loss to Kandy Tuskers on Monday, Afridi said: “I think that total (196) was chaseable but the main thing was we couldn’t keep wickets in hand. We didn’t bowl well and we didn’t bat well either. In batting I was expecting more because we have a very good batting line-up, but keeping wickets in hand is very important. We just need one victory and it will give the team the confidence which is what we are trying to find.”
On current form the Stallions have been the team to beat, and their coach Thilina Kandamby said the team has so far not played to their potential – an ominous sign for the rest of the opposition in the tournament.
“We have not faced a situation so far where Thisara has failed, that is why I am so happy because so far we have not played to our full potential. We have come thus far due to the performance of just one man. There is Shoaib Malik, Avishka Fernando, and Tom Moores, and Jonathan Charles waiting to come in – if they also start clicking it will be good for the side. To win from worse scenarios means we are very good,” said Kandamby.
“My goal is for the team to finish no. 1 in the league, to prove that we are the best team in the competition. But when you go to the semis and final who knows, any team can have a good day. Not having a play-off is a big disappointment. However much you win in the first round, one day if you don’t perform well you are out of the tournament.”
The coach believes the success of Jaffna has been due to the presence of two world class all-rounders Thisara Perera and Wanindu Hasaranga.
“When you have them in the side it is easy to make other combinations and maintain the balance. I have also created an atmosphere not to put pressure on anyone but to bring out their individual game. So far that has contributed to our success.”
Talking of the change that has come about in Thisara’s game, Kandamby said: “I have played with him for several years, he is an exclusive person. As far as I know you have to always give him the confidence like saying ‘you are the man,’ then only he starts to perform. I think that has been his success so far. I have entrusted the entire responsibility to him and we have given him the combinations which he is comfortable with.”
In today’s game Jaffna know they hold a psychological advantage over Galle having beaten them pretty convincingly in the first round by eight wickets.
“This is 20-20 cricket, who knows if someone like Danushka (Gunathilaka) or Afridi gets a hundred you don’t know which way the result will go. We have plans, I hope they click.”