While watching the second One-Day International between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, many thoughts were reverberating in my mind. There is no argument, Sri Lanka won the match in an emphatic manner scoring over three hundred runs against an attack which is as good as the Pakistanis possess. Yet, the composition of the Lankan team looked [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Lame duck Lanka for World Cup 2015


While watching the second One-Day International between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, many thoughts were reverberating in my mind.

There is no argument, Sri Lanka won the match in an emphatic manner scoring over three hundred runs against an attack which is as good as the Pakistanis possess.

Another worrying matter for the Lankan selectors ---- generally reliable Nuwan Kulasekera seems to have lost his guile and even unrecognised batmen are taking him to the cleaners

Yet, the composition of the Lankan team looked ill-fitting and full of plasters. In that game, one glaring feature was that the team hierarchy and the selectors had concocted an outfit which they thought would do well to face up to the challenge at hand. There was no indication they were building up a Sri Lanka team which is gearing up to take the challenges Down Under six months hence at the 2015 ICC World Cup.

At the top of the order there were two shaky veterans in T.M. Dilshan and Upul Tharanga. The onus moves on to the selectors: Are they sure that at the age of 37 plus, Dilshan would be able to cope with the same agility on the tough and fast Australian wickets and the swinging New Zealand wickets the way he did, may be, two seasons ago? The way he batted in the two One Day Internationals against Pakistan on the slow Hambantota wickets were less than impressive. However in the last outing he batted better.

In the same vein, Upul Tharanga is not an honest candidate against the moving ball at the top. Recently a top cricketer of yesteryear and insider of the game said, “I cannot understand why Tharanga is wasted at the top of the order. He is a talented batsman with a lot of ability, but he is vulnerable in the top order, because of the moving ball. Once we tried him in the middle order in Australia, when the lateral movement was much less and he came out with flying colours with a string of useful contributions, but, thereafter he was sent to the oblivion. Now again he has surfaced in the top order and the same old fickleness against the moving ball has surfaced. If we take him to Australia once again as an opener, the opposition is sure to work him out.”

Then come the two senior citizens – Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena who have built their castles in the number three and four slots. Thank heavens, both nimble footed seniors are still in showroom condition and much of Lanka’s fate depends upon how much their bats do the talking. Yet, in reality what we have done is something that defies logic. Knowing that these two batsmen are in the tail end of their careers, it seem that all selection committees and coaching outfits have failed to harness and retain the talent of two cricketers who would eventually walk into the shoes of the Sangakkara-Jayawardena combination.

It is an irony that in the last ten years or so, the only cricketer of true international class produced by Sri Lanka is Angelo Mathews. Yes, his nerves are made of steel and some stubborn carbon must be running through his veins. But, how much the Lankan management is exploiting him is sinful.

He began his ascend with that unbelievable triumph in Australia and from that point onwards he has not looked back. He let the selectors use his name against the captain’s slot. Now he even keeps climbing the ladder in the batting order to pay for others’ sins. But, little do the Lankan selectors and the management know that even the hardest steel has a breaking point and when that happens even all the king’s horses and all the king’s men may not be able to make Mathews again.

Then during the last ten years or so, there have been talented young batsmen like Chamara Kapugedera, Chamara Silva, Thilina Kandambi coming on to the scene shining for a while and then take a trip into the unknown.

When Kapugedera hit the Australian fast bowler Nathan Bracken for his third six in an inning of 38 made in 21 balls, there was a sense of awe and everybody talked about the new kid in town. When Chamara Silva hit an unbeaten 152 against New Zealand at the Basin River everyone talked about the discovery of another Aravinda de Silva, but the fire inside his belly could not be sustained. Kandamby’s unbeaten 93 against India in a lost cause was a true lost cause. He too made his presence felt when it was not required. Now it is the turn of two of the most talented young batsmen in Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal to face the music. Much was talked about them and both batsmen blossomed also together. So much so the selectors and some interested parties jumped the gun and made them the vice-captain.

Then, suddenly something flipped inside. First, it was the turn of Chandimal. One failure after the other saw him abdicating his T-20 crown in Bangladesh and he was unceremoniously dumped. Yet, the tolerance levels were not equal to the others who are aging. Chandimal’s ins and outs were as fast as the blinks of the Christmas lights in December.

Like the infamous decease Ebola, the next to catch in blithe was Lahiru Thirimanne. After a string of impressive innings in Bangladesh and a tour opener hundred in England, the left hander lost his nerve. A series of disasters saw him also out of the team. Interestingly Chandimal got a second chance. He was shipped to England to perform with the ‘A’ team in England. He produced two hundreds, two high-end half centuries and a forty-odd not out. He was brought back into the side and dumped again after another low score.

During the ‘A’ team tour in England the opponents were not second class. They were good opponents and most of the players even played against the Sri Lankan national team while it was in England. Once even Sanath Jayasuriya mentioned that he was interested in seeing how Chandimal would perform in England with the ‘A’ team. It is said he had overcome his bottom hand problem while in England. But, this is more we say, a dressing room problem rather than a problem of skill.

As far as many experts are concerned, both Thirimanne and Chandimal are the next-in after the senior two. So it is upto the selectors and the management to ponder and probe what this dressing room hitch is.

Another intriguing factor is the plight of Thisara Perera. Weeks ago he left the playing field and nearly bade adieu to the game thanks to the attitude of some of the hierarchy. Yet, some sanity prevailed and the situation was bailed out and the results were there to be seen.

Once again on Chandimal and Thirimanne – either of these batsmen is a necessity in the Lankan line up, if not the pressure that we are piling on Mathews will keep mounting. Just imagine a scenario where the Lankan team is minus Sangakkara, Jayawardena and Mathews.

Chief selector Jayasuriya may remember, as to how the 1996 World Cup winning combination was gathered. At least six months prior to the tournament, skipper Arjuna Ranatunga knew what his lineup was going to be. But, now — leave alone Mathews, even chief selector Jayasuriya may not have the slightest clue as to what the composition would be in Australia for the 2015 World Cup.

The bowling story reads the same. Has Sri Lanka produced a bowler of World Class in the last ten years? Herath came in while Murali and Vaas were dominating and he is from that era. Besides, paunchy Malinga looks unfit to be the strike bowler of a World Cup outfit as powerful as Sri Lanka. The once World number one ODI bowler Nuwan Kulasekera seems to be losing his magic and more often than not is taken to the cleaners by even unknown batsmen.

A win here and there will not make this team real battle worthy. We feel there should be a plan – a plan that is visible for the people who care to ponder.

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