Mind Over Matter

Ranjan Mellawa anticipates most teams to be on par at the next World Cup

In the group stage at the 2003 Cricket World Cup, Sri Lanka scored an imposing 268 after a magnificent 124 (129 balls) by Marvan Atapattu, solidly supported by Aravinda de Silva’s 73 (78).

Having lost their sixth wicket at 212, South Africa needed 57 off 45. With rain falling steadily, it was all but certain that the method used to decide weather affected matches – Duckworth Lewis, would come into play at any moment. At the end of the 44th over with the score at 216, the South African dressing room relayed a message to Mark Boucher in the middle – a win needed 229 by end of the 45th, assuming no further wickets fell.

The contest was headed for a photo finish.

Next over, Muttiah Muralidaran conceded 5 wides and Boucher, believing it was the coup de grace, belted the penultimate ball over wide mid-on for six to take the score to 229. He pumped his right fist in jubilation, and confidently defended the last ball. As anticipated, the players left the field.

Alas, South Africans had misread the fine print. As rain drenched the ground and play was called off, it painfully dawned on everyone in the South African dressing room that 229 was needed to tie but 1 more elusive run prevented them from winning and going through! This unexpected absurdity, plunged them into depression.

Despite the relative inexperience, players and coaching staff would do well to recognise the importance of the famous adage: ‘We can’t always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose HOW WE DANCE TO IT.’

The proud hosts South Africa, though given a last-minute lifeline by way of heavenly assistance were knocked out of the World Cup. Shaun Pollock faced the wrath of the nation and was sacked as captain.

Sri Lanka proceeded through the Super Sixes before being blown away by the searing pace of Brett Lee in the semi-final.

Had Boucher been afforded accurate information and taken a single off the last ball of the over, the history of the 2003 World Cup could have been significantly different.

Four years later in the semi-final of the 2007 World Cup, after the early loss of Sanath Jayasuriya for 1 and then Kumar Sangakkara for 18, Mahela Jayawardene joined Upul Tharanga. The pair took the score to 111 before Tharanga fell for a fluent 73 off 74 balls in the 26th over.

Mindful of the tricky situation that Sri Lanka were in, skipper Jayawardene waited, waited and waited: 2 from 19 balls, 11 from 37, 17 from 47. Then the gears changed: 23 off the next 23, 60 off the next 30, and 15 off the last 5 balls. He didn’t score a single boundary in the first 16.5 overs but added 10 fours and 3 sixes in the last 20. It was a perfectly paced, risk-free innings by a master craftsman.

Jayawardena’s unbeaten 115 guided Sri Lanka to an impressive 289 for 5, with 102 runs coming in the last 10 overs. Muralidaran’s supple wrists then returned 4 for 31 and New Zealand could only manage 208 in 41.4 overs.

Sri Lanka won by 81 runs and romped into the final.

There are countless other examples of mindfulness determining the final outcome –concentration and experience too, contributing.

Sri Lanka’s playing XI in their last World Cup encounter in 2015 had a mind-blowing aggregate of 1,919 ODI caps between them, compared to 752 in the last ODI they had played at the time of writing, against Bangladesh in January 2018.

A Comparison of Aggregate ODI Statistics of Sri Lanka Players in 2015 and 2018
*Angelo Mathews didn’t play the game in 2018 and therefore, his stats (196 ODIs│5,107 Runs│114 Wickets) were excluded.

Despite the relative inexperience, players and coaching staff would do well to recognise the importance of the famous adage: ‘We can’t always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose HOW WE DANCE TO IT.’

Living magazine cover

 

An edited version of this post appears in the September 2018 issue of the LIVING magazine.

 

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