‘Sri Lanka will play seven batsmen’ – Bayliss

Trevor Bayliss, the Sri Lanka coach, has given some insight into the XI his side will field during the World Cup, saying they would stick to a combination of seven batsmen and four bowlers, since it has served them well in home games. Sri Lanka experimented with playing six batsmen and five bowlers on their 2010 tour of Australia, with allrounders Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera batting at Nos. 6 and 7, but reverted to a seven-four formula for the home series against West Indies.

“We’ve got eight batters [in the 15-man squad] and in the last two or three years we’ve played a seven-four combination with (Angelo) Mathews in the top six being a bowler as well,” Bayliss, who will quit the Sri Lanka job after the World Cup, said. “I can’t see it changing just at the moment. In Australia we played six-five but seven-four seems to be the way we play our best cricket in Sri Lanka.”

That means Thisara Perera may not find a place in the XI, since he has been a bit inconsistent with the bat, and may not make the cut as a seamer ahead of Nuwan Kulasekara and Dilhara Fernando. Bayliss, however, said Perera would play some part in the campaign. “Thisara Perera’s been very impressive through the Asia Cup and the tri-series we played before Christmas, up in Dambulla, against India and New Zealand. Ever since then he is taking wickets.

“He is a big fellow, very athletic in the field, got strong arms and as you know he can whack the ball out of the stadium. He is an important part of our squad and I am sure that at some stage during this World Cup he will find form.”

The other decision Sri Lanka have to make is which four bowlers to play. Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan are the two sure starters, if they are fit, while Fernando and Kulasekara are the two other fast-bowling options with Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis the other two spinners in the fifteen.

Fernando took four wickets in Sri Lanka’s 158-run win in the warm-up match against Netherlands, and while Bayliss was satisfied with his performance, he suggested he may only be used in a three-seamer attack. “Dilhara is a guy who cops a little bit of criticism but if he can bowl more like the way he did [in the warm-up match] more often I am sure that criticism will disappear. That’s the type of bowling we want to see from him in this World Cup and if he does that and backs up Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara then we’ll be putting in very good bowling performances.”

In the home series against West Indies, Sri Lanka opted for two spinners, and Bayliss said Mendis and Herath would have to battle it out for the second spot. He explained Muralitharan’s absence from the warm-up game by saying, “Murali is getting towards the end of his career and we want to make sure that he is mentally and physically fresh to play the game we want him to play.”

Sri Lanka are being touted as one of the favourites to win the World Cup, with their one possible weakness being the inexperience in the middle order, but Bayliss was quick to defend his batsmen. “The middle-order guys get a bit of a raw deal. They are asked to perform when the top order don’t. You’ve got seven batters in the team and it is up to every one of those seven to do their job in the line-up and that includes the openers, the top order and the middle order.”


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