The IPL wagon is steaming at its full ‘chug…..chug’. Mercifully only a handful of Sri Lankans are on show now. Yet, besides freelancer Lasith Malinga -- “Bombay’s local hero” -- the rest of the Lankan gang are seemingly struggling, in spite of the fat fees the Indian entrepreneurs have pitted on them – backing them as good horses.
At one end former skipper Kumar Sangakkara is a pitiful sight leading the rag-a-tag Deccan Charges and it looks as if the team’s woes have befallen on him and that is exactly how he looks while on the field. Even the supreme touch in his batting has deserted him and at this end we feel that the pennies are eating him rather than him climbing the scales through the ‘IPL’ get rich cash. My lowest point in recent Lankan cricket was to see him on the bench during a match in his luminous armory because that just did not match his international credentials.
Mahela Jayawardene’s batting looks more like Christmas lights with sporadic blinking though being one of the highest paid overseas players.
The other former Sri Lankan captain, T.M. Dilshan, looks a complete Test batsman playing T-20 cricket and if he keeps this vigil while turning out in the longer versions of the game for his country in the near future he would be an asset and may be able to contribute more.
|Deccan Chargers’ skipper, Kumar Sangakkara in action in the ongoing IPL 5.
Then the prince in waiting in Sri Lankan cricket, Angelo Mathews, is almost a regular feature with the Pune Warriors, but his role here is more of a bowler (Which he is doing quite intelligently) – a role that he has opted to skip posing an injury when it came to playing national cricket. Yet Sri Lanka cricket wants him as the complete allrounder that he is very capable of being.
The reason for the above narration is because come June the Lankan cricket holiday would be over and we would be back on the road again through two gruelling tussles with Pakistan and India. These tours will be followed by the SLPL in August and the T-20 World Championships in September.
Now these four cricketers form the very nucleus of Sri Lanka’s international cricket. Just imagine a Lankan outfit without these names included – it would be disaster.
Even last year the Lankans went through the same gruelling experience during Sri Lanka’s tour of England with the team entering that country in separate units and struggled through the series unable to get into the routine Test technique. This failure was largely due to the T-20 adaptation.
At this end the national selectors had some work at hand during this period when the rest of the Lankan cricket was in hibernation.
They selected an ‘A’ team that is Africa bound; a list of sixty cricketers who would be employed by Sri Lanka Cricket with its annual central contract and also selected a 30-member squad to take on the visiting Pakistan and Indian cricketers. Pakistan, which have been reduced to the status of nomads in international cricket as a result of the unstable security situation in the country, have apparently been motivated by the very subjugation and have grown strong to believe in their skills. Under skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan today fields one of the strongest cricketing outfits in the fray.
In batting without big names the Pakistan lineup has gathered enough momentum to pose good enough scores to be competitive. But it is the bowling that has put them on the upper side of the divide. The pinnacle of their achievements came when they ‘sandwashed’ the English cricketers 3-0 when they took the latter on in the three Middle Eastern venues.
The bowling skills of the Pakistani threesome of Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman proved too much for the English batsmen and the latter fell flat on their faces when the thin Pakistani batting lineup failed and gave the visitors seemingly gettable totals. The Pakistan tour gets off the ground with two T-20 matches. Well, during the past one month, most of the Lankan top order were engaged in that version of the game even without limited or no success while the Pakistani cricketers were ignored by the Indian franchises. Here, the Lankans have the edge.
May be the Lankan selectors are running short of talent and ideas. The squad of thirty looks as if they have driven through the names rather than cricketers who could deliver. For instance, injured Ajantha Mendis is still to bowl even at the nets after his injury. Then what merited the selectors to pen his name down as one of the potential cricketers who would be a part of the two series. Then while a cricketer is recuperating why give him false hopes. Let him come out of his affliction, get some match exposure and start taking wickets and then bring him back into international contention.
Then what about pacemen Dilhara Fernando and Nuwan Pradeep? They too just have come out of recuperation and are terribly short of match practice. Why even rush them into the international arena without proper rehabilitation?
The repeated failures -- Chamara Silva and Chamara Kapugedera -- are named in the thirty. But, the selectors themselves know that these two batsmen have failed to deliver at international level, but, they get repeated calls. We feel they have more visits to the crease than the runs scored at international level. At the same time Kaushal Silva from the SSC was thrown into the deep end to play against Pakistan and South Africa. That too while talented Dinesh Chandimal was breathing down his neck.
In the last domestic tournament Silva has scores of 33, 39, 55, 16, 25 and a 141 against the strong Chilaw Marians.
At 32 plus Chamara Silva is on the other side of making it right. Yet at 25 both Kapugedera and Kaushal Silva have another decade of cricket in them. Yet, there is speculation that the selectors are hoping to make more use of Chandimal’s wicket-keeping skills and may be that is why he is posted in the list as a potential wicket keeper. But, yet, Kaushal Silva is also good to be looked individually as a batsman as much as Chamara Silva or Chamara Kapugedera.
There is heartening news too coming down the grapevine. According to insiders, the new coach Graham Ford is settling down to useful business, after his initial ‘fly abouts’ with the Lankan national squad.
We hear now, in real Proteas style, Ford is getting down to serious skill building business. Unlike his predecessors, Ford is at the nets by 9.30 a.m. working with his squads. Yet even squads are taken in small workable batches and every member of the squad is looked at. However, we hope he takes a closer look at the Lankan fast bowlers and derives a method so that they would and could learn to stick to the right paths and also to read the opposing batsman the way Lasith Malinga bowls when he turns out for the Mumbai Indians.