Who is the most surprise pick in the World Cup 2019? For some people it must be Jofra Archer but England captain Eoin Morgan had a different answer.
According to Morgan, the most surprise pick in the tournament is the entire Sri Lanka team, who got some players that he never faced despite being in international cricket for many years.
‘Sri Lanka got about 10 new members or something, Don’t they? Sri Lanka have picked couple of guys I have never played and I have been playing for over 10 years. I think that they are the surprise for me,’ Morgan said in a press conference before the start of the World Cup.
Anyone familiar with the Sri Lanka team had no reason to feel surprised given that they came in the tournament with very few players having an experience of playing in a World Cup previously.
One of them is skipper Dimuth Karunaratne, who did not play a single one-day international match since World Cup 2015.
Despite his four years absence in ODIs, Karunaratne not only had to be recalled for the World Cup, but also had to be given the captaincy because their first choice captain Angelo Mathews refused the job.
Mathews had a frosty relationship with coach Chandika Hathurusinghe since his axing from the team ahead of Asia Cup in 2018, when Sri Lanka lost both their group matches against Bangladesh and Afghanistan and failed to qualify for the Super Four stage.
Mathews openly blamed Hathurusinghe for his axing, triggering a saga that ended in Hathurusinghe being stripped of his role as selector.
According to a Sri Lankan reporter, the Sri Lankan authorities stripped him off the role so that no other player could develop an ill feeling towards the coach.
Bangladesh must thank their luck they did not have to face a similar turmoil before the World Cup though there was always a possibility.
If everything had gone right, Hathurusinghe would have been in the Bangladesh dressing room for their World Cup match against Sri Lanka in Bristol today as he was contracted with the Bangladesh Cricket Board up until this tournament.
In his three-year stint as Bangladesh coach, Hathurusinghe was given a kind of authority that was unheard in any other cricket playing country.
While it helped Bangladesh initially as Hathurusinghe disciplined some rogue cricketers, his increasingly authoritative behaviour started to hurt the team badly.
During the disastrous tour of South Africa, when Hathurusinghe resigned and left his job unfinished, things turned so bad that Test captain Mushfiqur Rahim was struggling to decide his own fielding position.
Bangladesh enjoyed big successes since Hathurusinghe became coach and the Sri Lankan took maximum credit, leaving many people to ignore the contribution of the players.
But in the past two years, it became clear that players had the bigger role in Bangladesh’s success than the coach.
Since Hathurusinghe left the job, Bangladesh won 18 of their 30 ODIs in the past one-and-half year while Sri Lanka could win just eight of their 28 matches during this period.
Freedom that the players enjoyed in the post-Hathurusinghe period contributed a lot to Bangladesh’s continual success and Sakib al Hasan provided a glaring example of it in the ongoing World Cup.
Sakib returned to his preferred one-down position in the first match after Hathurusinghe left and took his batting to a new level in the World Cup, scoring 260 runs in the first three matches.
Sakib said he had to convince a lot of people to bat in this position and he must be glad that they did not include the stubborn Sri Lankan, who hardly allowed players to make their own choice.