One, two, three selectors caught a...
By S. R Pathiravithana
In these frugal times it’s mind boggling to note that the Sri Lankan selectors can still afford the luxury of sending players on learning holidays on real tours. A newspaper report contained a story to the fact that the Sri Lanka team manager Michael Tissera reportedly being quoted as saying that young 18-year-old Chamara Kapugedera was sent to India only to be in the company of the seniors as a learning experience.

Sadly his holiday was cut short and he had to come back home with a knee injury sustained while at practices. Taking Kapugedera’s track record one wonders if this young man is a real genius in the Ranatunge calibre? He has one first class inning in which he scored a good 70 while he also made a belligerent 93 not out for CCC in a twenty-twenty match. However in both forms of batting he has an average of over 50.

The other day I was having a chat with a prominent youngster who is a regular feature for one of the leading clubs in the Colombo cricket triangle. Obviously our topic was based on cricket which had us spellbound and the others around us almost bored. Because we were talking about the local scene and they did not know much about it. Suddenly I remembered this Kapugedera guy.

Then I asked this colourful guy what were his impressions of this youngster, he said “Kapugedera is indeed good material and he is good talent. Initially he is a bit wobbly, but once he gets his eye in he hits the ball harder than most of the other players. When he hits the balls stays hit. He is good one-day stuff. I wonder how he was chosen for a Test tour.” There I brushed aside his comment because this is the thin line where the selectors are selectors and players are players.

My next question was “If you say that Kapugedera is good, but is only one-day stuff, who are the players around who have the knack of building an innings and then pace it along?” His answer was prompt “The players who can do that are the seniors like Kumar Dharmasena, Russel Arnold etc. who have been in the scene for a period of time, but, I have not seen any during my era who tend to apply themselves and build a long innings. All these players who are my age like to go for their shots from the beginning and if they succeed they will score”.

Now….this was a comment that came from the bottom of the heart of a player who is in the premier circuit and this little comment says a mighty lot about the status of present day cricket. At the same time even the national selectors have endorsed this statement. I will show you how.

Upon Kapugedera’s injury and his return to the island the national selectors once again sat together to ascertain who his successor was to be. Then when they opened the cupboard they surely would have found it bare, with no proper contender to claim the stake. Then while sifting the remnants they may have stumbled upon Jehan Mubarak to be the lad to get a SLC paid holiday.

Surely Mubarak is not the hottest material in batting, and surely not Test material. He has proved it himself by scoring 48, 13, 15 and 2 in the four innings that he spent time at the crease wearing the Test cap of Sri Lanka. He has an average of 20.87 in Test cricket and even in first class cricket his average is less than thirty. With all due respects to his abilities his deeds beyond the boundary lines prove that he not a Clark, a Hussy or even a Raina.
What depths have our local cricket plunged to? For instance take the English side. You give young Kevin Peiterson a chance in the one-day team, Graham Thorpe one of England’s foremost batsmen in his prime loses his place. Then in India Raina’s and Dhoni’s have blocked the way for batsmen in the calibre of V.V.S. Luxman and Saurav Ganguly to stake a claim to their rightful places in the team. In Australia you get down from the wrong side of the bed one morning and you will find another youngster has padded up for the country in your place.

But in Sri Lanka and the West Indies there is a definite dearth of young talent. One could argue that in the West Indies at present the tide is against cricket and is shifting towards American sports where there is bigger money. Then what about Sri Lanka? In Sri Lanka cricket is by far the most popular sport. But bad administration especially at the lower levels of the sport mingled with image cleansing, political bickering and a host of allied minus factors have brought the levels of the game to an all time low.

Coming back to this pathetic tale of woe, it must be stressed that the selectors also must take their share of the blame. At this point of time the question arises as to what were the criteria for the selection of Mubarak? Had he a fantastic “A” team run during the past year especially in the lap against South Africa and New Zealand? No, it was below average according to the asking standards. In the same breath I am no hero worshipper of Arnold. Yes, he was dropped from the touring squad for the Test matches. But, his performances were reasonably good or was bad as anybody else’ who was in the ODI team. He was definitely unlucky to be chopped, but when the winds of change blow even big trees fall by the wayside at times.

However the selectors shouldn’t have been as ‘block-headed’ as they were in selecting Mubarak. There is no argument, right at this moment that the cupboard is bare and there are suitable replacements to the senior side. At thirty two years and a few days old, Arnold still has a few years of cricket left in him. And if the selectors could not find any suitable replacement certainly they could have been large hearted enough to give Arnold another go without letting things, other than what happens in the middle, get the better of their judgement.


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