time has all the answers
Lord’s was sunny and bright for the start
of the 1st test between Sri Lanka and England, and the young and
the inexperienced Lankan outfit was no doubt going to be up against
the strong English out fit. Though short in experience the Lankans
never lacked any enthusiasm or hope! Mahela Jayawardane’s
comments just before he left “We do not fear any side. We
all talk of the difficulty in batting in English conditions but
what about some of the good batting conditions available?”
Surely very strong and confident words.! But the problem of the
Sri Lankans has been their inability to live up to these expectations
at least up to this time.
To begin with did Sri Lanka have the right combination
on the tour to England is the question many pundits seem to ask?
The current Chairman of Selectors Ashantha De Mel was very critical
of the fact that Dilhara Fernando was not in the side. “If
a player is plagued with a problem what do we do to him? Work with
him and build him or drop him? were his views on the matter. Looking
at the side selected to tour England, it doesn’t appear to
inspire much confidence for the future. Is this the best we have?
Or have we looked at everybody with potential? Some thing I am not
sure at all. This is an area that needs to be dealt with at length
and with precision.
Let’s not dwell on that for now. And instead let’s look
at the team for the first test! I think it should have been prudent
for the tour selectors to have taken a leaf out of the former Sri
Lanka skipper Arjuna Ranathunga’s book. Ranathunga didn’t
mince his words when he said that Sri Lanka should look at playing
positively in every game on the tour which includes the tests, the
ODI’s and the 20-20. Looking at the Sri Lankan line up it
is clear that the approach to Lords was more defensive than anything
else. It appears that the Lankans wanted to get out of Lords keeping
their hopes in the series alive rather than really looking to make
inroads into a depleted England line up. Even that cannot justify
the leaving out of both Malinga’s-- the fast and slippery
Lasith Malinga and the leg spinner Malinga Bandara. Otherwise what
would have been the motive behind the team selection? At the start
of the game it was not clear. But may be when England was batting
and when they declared, the pitch proved to be placid and docile
and is sure to have a mountain of runs, unless the batsmen are able
to perform in an inexplicably poor manner.
A test match at Lord’s is always a very special occasion in
the English cricket calendar. It is to most past cricketers a reunion!
And to some others it is a visit down memory lane. Amongst many
former Sri Lankan greats that we came across, present for the test
match, the name of Sidath Wettimuny figured prominently. Fresh from
the heroics of the Sri Lankan oldies in Bermuda, Wettimuny as a
life member of the MCC, was watching the 1st test. Commenting on
the track when asked about the Lord’s track in 1984 the first
comment was “ placid! In fact this pitch is much more batsmen
friendly with the ball not bouncing that much. “I hope one
of our young guys will play a similar innings of similar length”
Sri Lanka surely needs that type of confidence building performance.
The question is who will be the player to put up his hand and take
on the responsibility? Sri Lanka cannot afford to depend on a Sangakkara,
Jayawardane show all the time. It is important that the young guys
emerge sooner rather than later. Another debatable point doing its
rounds in the cricketing circles, is the expected return of Sanath
Jayasuriya from retirement. He is expected to join the squad in
time to be ready for the 2nd test. This decision has seen many raised
eye brows amongst both the English Media and some of the former
greats. “The question on many lips was”, is England
the correct place for Jaysuriya to return? Why not look at more
batsmen friendly conditions back home when South Africa and India
tour Sri Lanka later in the year? The answers to these questions
only time will tell. The important factor for Sri Lanka especially
for this young side is how they perform more on this tour than the
results they achieve? Will they able to cope with quality seam bowling
in difficult batting conditions? How will the young bowlers be able
to tame the free scoring English batsmen? More questions for the
future no doubt.
Finally during the 2nd day of the Lord’s test the Sri Lankan
media contingent had an unexpected visitor in the form of the Former
First Lady of the Country President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarathunga!
It was nice to see the former first lady free from all her political
pressures able to share a few light moments in the company of the
Deputy Minister of Tourism Arjuna Ranathunga, another former great
of Sri Lanka who was at Lord’s during the 1st test.