Old soldiers do they die?
By S.R. Pathiravithana
Friday morning newspapers came out screaming. They talked about the selectors finally taking that bold decision or else being forced to take that bold decision of saying enough is enough --- however big your name is. Now for the second leg of the tour where the three Test matches will take place, the rest of the players will have to note that the familiar sight of Sanath Jayasuriya will not be there – for better or for worse.

But did any doctor so far delve in to see as to when this patient first contacted this disease? Well…I am no doctor, but my gut feeling says it was coming for some time. It was on the cards that there was a likelihood that they would fall from grace once the real crunch battles started after their somewhat ballooned home exploits.

After their tsunami holiday, the Lankan cricketers had a relatively easy time taking on the minnows of world cricket – Bangladesh and the West Indian 3rd Xl. Though Sri Lanka made very short work of these two teams, thanks to some individual performances, their top order was beginning to get exposed to the hilt. In both matches against the West Indies Sri Lanka could hardly match up to the young visitors in their first innings and it was only their vast experience and home advantage that saved the day and saw them through to a 2-nil win. Mind you Cory Collimore and Fidel Edwards were languishing at home back in the Caribbean while their second string bowlers were up to no good against the Lankan batsmen especially when putting batsmen of the calibre of Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu into umpteen difficulties.

The West Indian Xl even managed to go back home with an ODI win against Sri Lanka in the end. Then in the next episode against Bangladesh once again Sri Lanka were reeling at 4 for 48 in their first innings in the second Test against two virtually unknown pacemen. Once again only a 280 run 5th wicket stand between in-form batsmen Thilan Samaraweera and T.M. Dilshan salvaged their pride and saw them through to an ungettable total for the Bangladeshis.

Meanwhile along with the West Indies the Indian team was here with a new captain also for the Indian Oil ODI series. Rahul Dravid – the present Indian captain, was standing in for the then skipper Saurav Ganguly who was facing an ICC match ban. Though Ganguly was here for the latter part of the matches, Dravid continued to lead, but Sri Lanka managed to make it three-nil against them.

Sri Lanka did win that duel at home. But, was it totally convincing? Or was there much to be desired? Did the Sri Lanka batsmen hold sway against the Indians in that series the way the Indians held sway against them in their subsequent exchange of fire on their own territory this time? The answer is no. Right through the series the Lankans were almost tottering and only the uncertainty that prevailed in the Indian camp, which is common history, enabled Sri Lanka to pull through.

Now it is time to sit back and take stock of the damage done. Were we happy with the number one and two slots? First, the so called time tested opening duo of aging Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu began to fail. Saner counsel prevailed somewhat and finally Marvan has opted to go down the order and it has paid dividends. But Sanath Jayasuriya was adamant that he should be there in the opening slot. There is no argument that Sanath has delivered the goods in the past and he is one of “THE GREATEST” that this country has ever produced.

However as a cricketer who has seen the rise of young Sri Lanka upstaging in the world circuit, from as way back as the year of 1989. So, he should have been able to read the game better and see how he and his experience could serve the cause of Sri Lankan cricket better.

Meanwhile with this hullabaloo in the top order, tremendous pressure has been brought upon dependable Kumar Sangakkara. However dependable or the thinking cricketer he is – no one can go on taking the entire batting pressure only upon himself for too long. Even jack-in-the-box Mahela Jayawardena comes out and scores only at almost every third innings that he bats. Besides the dropping of Jayasuriya, now we see another door being knocked upon. With the appointment of work horse Chaminda Vaas as vice captain in place of Mahela Jayawardena there is a message that is very loud and clear. Get your act together or the door will be shown. Nobody is infallible!

Then being in the middle did Arnold deliver the expected goods? At the same time whatever happened to Thilan Samaraweera who also bowls off spin (mind you he came into the side as an off spinner) and is as dogged as Arnold and his failing ratio is less. Were the tour selectors not so block headed and were so adamant on playing only Arnold in spite of his repeated failures, Arnold may have remained as a player for the Test matches too. However the replacement – Chamara Kapugedera’s choice is a little surprising as he still is of unknown qualtity. At the same time, they have brought in seasoned Avishka Gunawardena in place of Jayasuriya at the top. Is Gunawardena who also scores in patches the correct answer to this, is a question which could be answered by only Gunawardena himself?

The only ‘silver lining” is the batting of Dilshan who opts to play his natural game whatever the prevailing circumstances are. Then in bowling even the proven Murali-Vaas combination has failed to deliver. There was hardly anything to speak out about the other bowlers and the entire lot collectively failed. As a remedial measure the selectors have drafted in the left arm – right arm leg spin combination of Sajeewa Weerakone and Malinga Bandara which could be considered a move in the right direction. Along with them the ‘sling-arm kid’ Lasith Malinga is also now with the squad. These three players have come in place of Upul Chandana and Dilhara Lokuhettige who also failed to perform to their true potential.

At the same time it is good that reality has hit Mr. Tom Moody early in his mission with the Lankan team in their quest to win the 2007 world cup. At the same time the selectors have also got to be wise to take some bold decisions however bitter they may taste to some. With these moves maybe he has some time left to do some experimenting like his senior across the Palk Straight. During the foreseeable future Sri Lanka does not have a home series and every new town they visit will have a new experience.

Sanaths dropping was an unanimous decision-Kaluperuma
By Marlon Fernandopulle
Sri Lanka’s Chairman of Selectors Lalith Kaluperuma confirmed that the omission of former captain Sanath Jayasuriya from the test squad to India was a unanimous decision by the selection committee based on his present form and fitness.

Speaking to the Sunday Times Kaluperuma also went on to deny reports that Jayasuriya’s name was included in the squad and was not approved by the Sports Minister. “Even before we sat for the selection committee meeting we decided to drop Sanath from the squad. It was a unanimous decision we took considering his present form and his current level of fitness. We were of the view that Sanath needs to take a rest at this stage and left him out. This squad that was sent to the sports minister was approved without any hesitation”.Kaluperuma and his co-selectors include Shabir Asgerally,K M Nelson and Don Arunasiri who was in India with the team.

Kaluperuma admitted that it was a hard decision that they had to take in dropping Sanath who has played in 100 tests and 335 one dayers.”Yes it was a hard decision to drop Sanath and that is also one reason why I personally spoke to him and conveyed the decision to Sanath”. When asked how Jayasuriya reacted to the news Kaluperuma replied saying, “Well, he accepted our decision very well.

With the Premier League limited over tournament now in progress Jayasuriya will need to play for his club Bloomfield and regain his lost touch if he is to get back to the Lankan team. However Kaluperuma confirmed that Jayasuriya would not be considered for the three tests against India although it starts only in December.

According to Kaluperuma some of the current senior players will also be rested for tours in the future. “We feel players like Muralitharan, Vaas, and skipper Atapattu may also need a short break from future tours. We will be looking at this in the future”.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) in a press release yesterday confirmed the appointment of Trevor Penny as the Assistant Coach of the team. The decision to appoint an Assistant coach was made sometime ago and the management was on the hunt for a suitable candidate.

According to the SLC media release six candidates were in the fray that included three local coaches. However despite efforts made by the Cricket Committee and the Interim Committee an acceptable agreement could not be reached with the potential local candidates. Considering the importance and urgency of making this appointment the committee of SLC finally selected Trevor Penny from the three overseas candidates.


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