Kudos for playing straight
How the current bunch of national cricket selectors led by Asantha de Mel pumped up enough courage to strike off the name of indestructible Sanath Jayasuriya from the touring party to Bangladesh would remain one of the greatest cricketing mysteries of the twenty first century.

On and off the general news line Jayasuriya was indestructible in its true sense. At the age of 40 years and 187 days up to date the man who was partly responsible for the Lankan’s wresting the 1996 cricket World Cup played in our own backyard after he was given an open ticket for mayhem along with Romesh Kaluwitharana by the then hierarchy that comprised coach Davnell Whatmore, manager Duleep Mendis, captain Arjuna Ranatunga and vice captain Aravinda de Silva forming the nucleus of it.

Along with Jayasuriya another man who is missing his plane ticket is master-of-the-track Muttiah Muralitharan - sidelined with an injured finger.
Mel and co have suddenly woken up from their slumber

In the same tone another missing link will be former skipper Mahela Jayawardena who is also side-lined with a groin injury or whatever it is.

In one way it is rather funny to think of a Sri Lankan cricket combination taking wing for a tournament sans this threesome, but, barring injury or not it was high time that the selectors got into their proper armour and began to think like a proper unit doing their job for what they are paid for.

While discussing the courageous dropping of Jayasuriya another colleague of mine simplified the whole issue. He said “going down the order was his last trial. Anyway with that inept performance I think he dropped himself than the selectors doing it.”

The most intriguing part of this episode is that both Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas were spoken to by the selectors on their stretching years and both cricketers opted to give up Test cricket and continue with the shorter versions of the game.

Ironically Vass’ career stretched only until he captured his 400th ODI wicket, but, weaning Sanath kept on moving from one unprofitable innings to the other.

No doubt Sanath, Murali and Vaas along with Aravinda de Silva are four of the greatest cricketers Sri Lanka has ever produced, and the likes of them may not grace the Lankan turf in a hurry.

Yes, in the past there were performers who took the visiting teams by storm, but, the pressure that the visiting team put on those cricketers who were indulging in a whistle stop game would have never been the same when Vaas was taking his ODI hat-trick or when Aravinda de Silva was plundering the Australian attack in the Cricket World Cup final.

Then one asks as to why Jayasuriya was kept in the side until he could not perform anymore? Today when Sri Lanka is in a crisis no one will ever say why they can’t bring Sanath back. But, I was surprised the other day when an irate fan exasperated “Oh wish they had taken Vaas on this tour at least he had the knack of going one up almost in every innings? But, I felt the selectors had shown mercy on that great left arm medium pacer and gone rather wicked on the great allrounder Sanath Jayasuriya who was demoted to a bowling allrounder from one of the best opening batsmen who reshaped the strategies of ODI cricket for all time.

Another question that has always bugged me is the ODI form of Mahela Jayawardena. In Test cricket this talented man is a true champion. However with his array of strokes and the inborn ability in batting how he translates that into runs in the shorter version of the game has baffled me. In his last fifteen ODI innings it contains a century and two half centuries along with six scores less than fifteen runs. Further he also has got out thrice after he had got into his thirties. Even for Murali his ODI performances has been weaning during the last half of the year 2009.

Now the selectors have dusted their cobwebs and have started preaching merits of blooding the young. However may I ask you sirs isn’t it too late in the day if you are talking about the 2011 world cup?

Before the next World Cup the matches Sri Lanka has in earnest are 2-3 matches during the tri-series in Bangladesh. 4-6 matches during the Asia Cup in April (However still the ACC has not dwelled upon as to who is going to play host for these matches). 4-5 matches during the tri-series that would involve New Zealand and India in June. Five ODIs and two Test matches against the West Indies in November and a tri-series tour of Australia from December to mid January where Sri Lanka would play 8-11 ODIs.Leave alone the West Indies and Australian leg of the itinerary. By then definitely the final composition has to be in place. This leaves the Lankans a maximum of 14 more matches to experiment on players and see if they good enough keep their nerve and the Sri Lankan place.

From the Bangladesh tour party besides skipper Sangakkara, T.M. Dilshan, Thilan Samaraweera (along with Thilina Kandamby and Upul Tharanga to a lesser extent with Angelo Mathews definitely to come in) the rest of the gang are still on trial. Then the Mahela Jayawardenas, Muttiah Muralitharans who are on the injured list and who are not at the top of their state at present will also want to go on at least till the World Cup.

This means the Lankan final composition for the world cup is still in disarray. Ask India, Ask Australia, Ask South Africa or ask even the West Indies their cricketing hierarchy will have at least nine definite names that will play their first World Cup match come February 2011.

The blame for this faux pas should be borne by the selectors. When senior players come of age they should be sent home like they did with Vaas no matter how good they are. If the changes are not affected in time the result is the status quo of today. By chance if there was any undue pressure on the selectors for the inclusion of a player or players and if they can - not justify the same by their consiousness they should have resigned en bloc and the fourth estate would have taken the matter up to save the day for cricket.
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