At the end of the third Test at Johannesburg, Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews said, “I have been a part of many defeats as captain… yes… this is certainly the worst. We are extremely disappointed with the result. When it came to preparations, we did our best where, even in Sri Lanka, we tried to [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

African debacle: Lollipop cricketers can’t win matches


At the end of the third Test at Johannesburg, Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews said, “I have been a part of many defeats as captain… yes… this is certainly the worst. We are extremely disappointed with the result. When it came to preparations, we did our best where, even in Sri Lanka, we tried to prepare wickets with grass, because we expected to get wickets with lots of grass. Unfortunately, we could not handle it and the credit should go to the South Africans. They outplayed us in all three departments of the game, as well as in the whole series.”

The SLC heirarchy summoned an emergency meeting to discuss 'the way out' from the present form of the Sri Lanka team. The commitment made by team members still remains verbal

This means, in his mind, he has come out with the bare truth, not holding back anything. But, doesn’t this prove that the brand of cricket we play on foreign wickets is woefully inadequate?
Mathews admits he tried practising on grassy tracks, but yet, could not be sufficiently competitive, when it came to facing bowlers who hit the deck hard and generate enough lift to bewilder the young Sri Lankans, affecting their stroke-play.
In the early 1980s, we did have the frights while playing on grassy tracks, but gradually, we developed cricketers in the calibre of Aravinda de Silva, Asanka Gurusingha, Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, T.M. Dilshan, Thilan Samaraweera, Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara who scored against sides that adopted bounce as a means of subduing the opposition. I mean, I have read through this list of players who have engaged themselves in our business of playing cricket, from the time we won the 1996 World Cup to the tenure of Angelo Mathews, who was elevated to the position of captain, because of his fighting spirit and his ability to turn a game around under many circumstances.

The match that Mathews won for Sri Lanka against Australia in Australia, tagging along with the tail, is still in my mind. Then, the innings he played against England, to turn a whole series on its head — I could replay any moment, if I just close my eyes. Yes, we did lose matches and series along the way. But still, Lankan Cricket remained competitive and all oppositions respected us for the brand of cricket we played – at home or overseas. But sadly, all those past achievements are only a distant memory whose light is fading fast.

On Tuesday afternoon, the entire Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) think-tank that included President Thilanga Sumathipala, two Vice Presidents K. Mathivanan and Jayantha Dharmadasa, CEO Ashley de Silva, Secretary Mohan de Silva and the selectors led by Sanath Jayasuriya. Besides, there was Simon Willis who brews the magic potion for SLC, and Cricket Committee Chairman Aravinda de Silva. They converged at SLC headquarters and conducted an emergency Skype meeting with Captain Angelo Mathews, Manager Ranjith Fernando and Coach Grahad Ford. They discussed steps they should take to combat the situation, as per the T-20s and the ODIs. Earnestly, the SLC tried to make that meeting as transparent as it could.

Then, on Thursday, once again the cricket hierarchy of Sri Lanka sat down with the media and tried to explain the now famous Skype assembly and what transpired in its aftermath. Amidst the barrage of questions posed by the sceptical and angry media, I must admit that, both victims of circumstances – SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala and Selection Committee Chairman Sanath Jayasuriya, batted better than any of the top seven Lankan batsmen that faced the South African pace barrage.

However, the final outcome of the whole episode was that, the hierarchy explained that they cannot perform magic or, get some Indian guys to come over and represent Sri Lanka. So, we have to play musical chairs with the top 20 players that we have in hand. However, there are points that I disagree with the local think tank! At one point, Sumathipala went to lengths, saying there is nothing wrong with the current cricketing structure and even at present there are many cricketers who score centuries as a habit in the local tournaments. At the same time, he also said people such as chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya also came from this local system.

Yet, I agree with Coach Graham Ford who said there is a disparity within the local cricket structure. Yes, there was a time the local cricket tournaments had a better structure and fewer clubs engaged in top Division Cricket. During that time, even the local clubs had their own graduation structure, and produced and sustained cricketers in the calibre of Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya, while the other list of cricketers were generated from the local school cricket system prevailing then. Yet, though there is quantity now, the quality is rather suspect.

We must admit that we play in a forum where the other breeding grounds of cricket for international competition come from structures such as County Cricket or Ranji Trophy Cricket, and in a majority of the cases, the transition from top division local cricket to international cricket is very fluid. However, we must admit that our local cricketers who score ‘tons’ of centuries in local tournaments, struggle against good oppositions in international cricket. Reading between the lines, this is how the musings translate this situation.

At the same time, we beg to ask, if the present lot of our senior pros in the international arena are behaving like lollypop babies. At one point of a conversation someone pointed out that during the South African series, the Lankan batsmen faced a barrage of short stuff off wickets that had more bounce than the usual low and slow wickets they are accustomed to back home. But, did any of the Lankan senior pros opt to play fire with fire and were they bold enough to take a blow or two on their torsos, and lead the way to a match-winning innings?

Well, at one stage in the past, Mathews did. Chandimal scored back-to-back half-centuries against South Africa, which culminated in Sri Lanka registering its first win against South Africa in South Africa. Yet, not as seniors. It now seems that, both Mathews and Chandimal have doused that fire within their bellies, and are playing for the next match, rather than taking up the cause for Sri Lanka. Mathews and Chandimal do have a huge role to play in this mission. But, if they opt to bat with lollipops, instead of real bats, they would realise that they are sadly mistaken.

I say the key word is “Commitment”.
PS: Is every thing in the SLC cupboard is tacked neatly and in order? Still I am not fully confident about the tour selectors and the selectors saying that they were not ready to go as tour selectors for the South African and Australian tours.
Are you sure that there are no hidden skeletons in the bottom shelf?

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.