By Champika Fernando

Sri Lanka Coach Graham Ford called for a more robust domestic Twenty20 League to lift the standards of local cricketers to face the ever-widening challenges of the wham-bam version. 

© Getty Images

Ford said the lack of a proper T20 competition in Sri Lanka had limited the players’ exposure to pressure situations © Getty Images

Ford was speaking ahead of today’s (9) second and the final T20I to be played at the R. Premadasa Stadium. This will bring down curtains on a two-month long series against the men from Down Under.

Ford’s men were at the receiving end of a swashbuckling batting performances by the Australians in the opening T20 on Tuesday and were beaten soundly after conceding a record 263 runs.

“We unfortunately don’t get exposed to high pressure T20 games that much. The competition here is played in front of no crowd at all,” Ford said.

“Ten out of the 11 Australians play in the IPL and they all play in the Big Bash. So, the intent of the occasion gets to young and experienced bowlers. To practice your skills is one thing but to execute it under enormous pressure is another.”

Ford who took charge of the national team early this year, his second stint with the islanders, oversaw Sri Lanka’s historic 3-0 triumph in the Test series but the lack of intensity coupled with inconsistent selection saw them crashing to a 1-4 defeat in the five-match ODI series. They are now under serious threat of losing the T20 series — a format which Sri Lanka has struggled since of late.

However, Ford said a tournament like the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) which suffered a natural death after the inaugural tournament in 2012 needs to be revived.

“Unfortunately SLPL or the Super League or whatever it was called couldn’t continue. That was an opportunity for players to play games on high intensity and learn from guys from overseas. It’s that kind of tournament that will benefit our cricket and Australia have certainly benefited from that,” he explained.

Ford admitted that his inexperience bowling attack failed to execute the team’s plan during Tuesday’s defeat.

“A lot of it comes to execution. There were lot of balls that were in the areas that he (Glen Maxwell) wanted them to be. We didn’t execute properly. We didn’t have a superstar like Lasith Malinga in our attack and some experience in our attack and we didn’t execute as we would have liked. We thought about a few ways of going about our business differently, but once again it’s about execution,” Ford added.

Malinga claimed to have recovered from a bone-bruise, a regenerative knee injury was seen at nets last morning but his chances of being recalled to the side for the final match of the tour remain doubtful.

Sri Lanka are yet to finalize the playing XI but are likely to make few changes going into the must-win game. All-rounders Milinda Siriwardana, Seekkuge Prasanna and Dasun Shanaka are likely to be included in the playing XI in place of misfiring Sachithra Senanayake, Thisara Perera and Kasun Rajitha.

Meanwhile, Ford also paid a glorious tribute to T.M. Dilshan who will bow out from international cricket today.

“Look, he has been a wonderful man. He had just lost the captaincy when I first got involved with the team. He came to Australia and played amazingly well and really committed to the team’s cause and I have had wonderful support throughout from him. It’s wonderful to have his energy and commitment and the vast knowledge that he passes on,” Ford said.

“Very sad to see such a legend of the game finally calling it time. For me it’s a privilege to have been involved and had a time to witness his exploits first hand. He can be extremely proud of what he has done over the years and certainly goes down as one of the greats of the game,” Ford complimented Dilshan.

Dilshan – an outstanding T20 cricketer – was the leading run-score at the 2009 World T20 where Sri Lanka became the losing finalist and also only the second Sri Lankan cricketer to score a T20 century after Mahela Jayawardene. He scored 104 against Australia in 2011 at Pallekele, the highest T20 score by a Sri Lankan.

However, the Australians are beaming with confidence following their comprehensive win and will look to wrap up the series 2-nil. They are without George Bailey who has been flown out of the country and he will be replaced by Matthew Wade in the playing XI.

“We had a really good performance the other day. Spectacular batting. I thought we bowled well. When it’s a two-match series, you’ve got to win both of them. So it’s important for us to finish the tour well,” Lehmann said. He also complimented the wicket at Palleleke citing that it was the best they have played so far in the series.

“It was a fantastic wicket. I must give the curator a real credit there. It was an unbelievable wicket. It was one of the best ones I’ve seen so hopefully it’s the same here,” he added.

Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera (wk), Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal (Captain), Chamara Kapugedara, Dhananjaya de Silva, Milinda Siriwardana, Thisara Perera, Sachith Pathirana, Seekkuge Prasanna, Sachithra Senanayake, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal and Dasun Shanaka.

Australia: David Warner (Captain), Usman Khawaja, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, James Faulkner, Moises Henriques, Peter Nevill (wk), John Hastings, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa and Scott Boland.