Only father time has all the answers

Lord’s was sunny and bright for the start of the 1st test between Sri Lanka and England, and the young and the inexperienced Lankan outfit was no doubt going to be up against the strong English out fit. Though short in experience the Lankans never lacked any enthusiasm or hope! Mahela Jayawardane’s comments just before he left “We do not fear any side. We all talk of the difficulty in batting in English conditions but what about some of the good batting conditions available?” Surely very strong and confident words.! But the problem of the Sri Lankans has been their inability to live up to these expectations at least up to this time.

To begin with did Sri Lanka have the right combination on the tour to England is the question many pundits seem to ask? The current Chairman of Selectors Ashantha De Mel was very critical of the fact that Dilhara Fernando was not in the side. “If a player is plagued with a problem what do we do to him? Work with him and build him or drop him? were his views on the matter. Looking at the side selected to tour England, it doesn’t appear to inspire much confidence for the future. Is this the best we have? Or have we looked at everybody with potential? Some thing I am not sure at all. This is an area that needs to be dealt with at length and with precision.

Let’s not dwell on that for now. And instead let’s look at the team for the first test! I think it should have been prudent for the tour selectors to have taken a leaf out of the former Sri Lanka skipper Arjuna Ranathunga’s book. Ranathunga didn’t mince his words when he said that Sri Lanka should look at playing positively in every game on the tour which includes the tests, the ODI’s and the 20-20. Looking at the Sri Lankan line up it is clear that the approach to Lords was more defensive than anything else. It appears that the Lankans wanted to get out of Lords keeping their hopes in the series alive rather than really looking to make inroads into a depleted England line up. Even that cannot justify the leaving out of both Malinga’s-- the fast and slippery Lasith Malinga and the leg spinner Malinga Bandara. Otherwise what would have been the motive behind the team selection? At the start of the game it was not clear. But may be when England was batting and when they declared, the pitch proved to be placid and docile and is sure to have a mountain of runs, unless the batsmen are able to perform in an inexplicably poor manner.

A test match at Lord’s is always a very special occasion in the English cricket calendar. It is to most past cricketers a reunion! And to some others it is a visit down memory lane. Amongst many former Sri Lankan greats that we came across, present for the test match, the name of Sidath Wettimuny figured prominently. Fresh from the heroics of the Sri Lankan oldies in Bermuda, Wettimuny as a life member of the MCC, was watching the 1st test. Commenting on the track when asked about the Lord’s track in 1984 the first comment was “ placid! In fact this pitch is much more batsmen friendly with the ball not bouncing that much. “I hope one of our young guys will play a similar innings of similar length”

Sri Lanka surely needs that type of confidence building performance. The question is who will be the player to put up his hand and take on the responsibility? Sri Lanka cannot afford to depend on a Sangakkara, Jayawardane show all the time. It is important that the young guys emerge sooner rather than later. Another debatable point doing its rounds in the cricketing circles, is the expected return of Sanath Jayasuriya from retirement. He is expected to join the squad in time to be ready for the 2nd test. This decision has seen many raised eye brows amongst both the English Media and some of the former greats. “The question on many lips was”, is England the correct place for Jaysuriya to return? Why not look at more batsmen friendly conditions back home when South Africa and India tour Sri Lanka later in the year? The answers to these questions only time will tell. The important factor for Sri Lanka especially for this young side is how they perform more on this tour than the results they achieve? Will they able to cope with quality seam bowling in difficult batting conditions? How will the young bowlers be able to tame the free scoring English batsmen? More questions for the future no doubt.

Finally during the 2nd day of the Lord’s test the Sri Lankan media contingent had an unexpected visitor in the form of the Former First Lady of the Country President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarathunga! It was nice to see the former first lady free from all her political pressures able to share a few light moments in the company of the Deputy Minister of Tourism Arjuna Ranathunga, another former great of Sri Lanka who was at Lord’s during the 1st test.

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