‘Assess the situation and conditions’ – SL bowling coach Aqib Javed’s advice before Nepal encounter

Sri Lanka haven’t been great as of late. They know that, and anyone watching them at the T20 World Cup 2024 knows that. But there have also been some mitigating circumstances which become glaringly obvious when you start comparing Sri Lanka’s batting to some of the other sides in their group.

In fact, in Group D so far, no team has managed to score more than Sri Lanka’s 124 batting first, which isn’t saying much but it does put their performances and results into context.

“Now people are realizing how unpredictable the pitches are,” stated Sri Lankan fast bowling coach Aqib Javed ahead of their game against Nepal. “We were the first ones who’d gone through this process. Because I mean, look, as a player, you cannot expect anything like that, which we played the first time in New York on a new pitch. Now the people are realizing what total to place, and what they’re expecting when they’re choosing even a small total.

“Even though the Dallas pitch we played was I think one of the best in the country to bat on, still these new conditions are surprising, not just us, but many teams. The batters especially, they’ve gone through a lot. This is not the normal behaviour of the pitches and the conditions. So, I think now the teams will change their strategies, and there will be a little bit of change in the homework as well.”

The surprising nature of the wickets has also meant that results have conspired in such a way that despite Sri Lanka’s two defeats to start the tournament, they’re still in with a chance of qualifying for the next stage – provided they win their next two games and Bangladesh and Netherlands both lose at least one of their next two. But Javed is acutely aware that the performance of Sri Lanka’s batters have nevertheless not been up to scratch.

“The beauty of this World Cup is that you cannot take easy to anything. We have seen some outstanding results from the associate teams. I think honestly if you look at the pitch, you have to be very careful, especially as a batter. How to adapt, what to leave out, and I think the best plan is to go out there and assess the situation and conditions.

“If you ask me, what happened in New York, nobody knew what was going to be the wicket behaviour. [Score of] 77 was never enough. Even in the second game, we could have scored 150 to 160 because if you look at the batting card, we scored like 24 in the last six overs, we didn’t capitalise.”

One area Javed doesn’t have any qualms with is in the bowling, with Sri Lanka’s varied attack giving their side a fighting chance in both matches they’ve played so far. Against South Africa, defending a measly 77 they did their best to stifle a strong batting lineup, while against Bangladesh they nearly nipped in at the death to steal it with a late flurry of wickets.

“I’m really happy and enjoying the role as a bowling coach because this is one of the bowling sides which can challenge anyone. The ideal combo for any international team. You have the best legspinner in the world, you have a mystery bowler, and you have slingers which is very unique and very effective in T20 cricket.

“It’s not easy all the time to defend the low totals, but so far, I think it’s good to see the captain leading from the front and you can see that energy in the field as well. And still, I think we have very good bowling options. I’m really satisfied so far.”

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