ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 52

Down will come baby, cradle and all

Did Sri Lanka cricket gain an iota of anything by participating in this just concluded off shore series against Pakistan other than hard cash? Flying back to our little island after their exploits and ending up as the runners-up of World Limited overs cricket in the West Indies was a high. Then not even a week later Sri Lanka takes part in this series against Pakistan who are still reeling under their World Cup debacle with a kind of neither here nor there outfit and gets thrashed, but that too under cloudy circumstances. On Sri Lanka’s part it must be understood that to keep up that kind of momentum that they maintained at the CWC and play a champions brand of cricket unarguably takes a heck of a lot off you. Then what is the wisdom of taking a set of tired legs and go this excursion – please could we sit back and discuss the pros and cons?

Future Tours Programme
FTP – (ICC’s Future Tours Programme) is a long statement. This programme contains all tours and matches arranged by the International Cricket Council for the ten top players in their rankings. At present the ICC is working on a six year programme running from the year 2006 to 2012. Even this programme has run into serious difficulties with the International Players Association blaming the cricket’s ruling body of arranging matches without the player-health in mind and accusing them of risking player burn-out. (A while ago head of the players association Tim May criticized the ICC regarding the sheer number of matches countries are expected to play, highlighting the ridiculous schedule facing Australia and India later this year. The two sides will face each other 21 times in 8 months, but their packed itinerary is just the peak of the mountain. We’ve known this would happen for years yet the ICC continue to pile on the matches and honour the boards’ and TV companies’ greed, at the players’ and spectators’ expense.) This means that there is a real problem at hand.

But still the individual boards do arrange off-shore tours according to their short term needs and other developments at hand. For instance the just concluded Abu Dhabi series was in the pipe-line from December 2006 and it had to be played after the World Cup as a result of Sri Lanka’s other off-shore series against India which was another private arrangement. In spite everything had been ironed out between the two respective boards, the confirmation of the tour came in at the last moment as the organisers had not been able to find suitable sponsors to go ahead with the tournament.

Once again going back into the history of the tournament, when the proposal of this tour first came upon the Lankan board they would have been very tempted to go along with it they too were a cash strapped entity. But, with the very encouraging show by the Lankan cricketers at the CWC the Lankan board became rich overnight and the proceedings from the desert tour may have looked peanuts –or is it so? Ironically they had a dilemma. First they had to stand by a friend who had stood by them through their cricketing history. In the present context Pakistan fighting against wheels within wheels was in real crisis and it was this time that they needed a friend who could stand by them. May be they played that part.

Then the venue. The present non-cricketing developments in Sri Lanka are not making it so attractive to the visitors to come here, relax and play cricket. After Sri Lanka hosts the Bangladesh tour next month, they have to make arrangements to welcome the English cricketers on our soil. If there is some mishap at this end and the finicky Englishmen see there are more dangers in Colombo than in London and decides to stay away, Sri Lanka may have to look for a neutral venue and the most obvious choice would be Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. So may be they also had to keep some other people happy too.

Crux of the matter
Next comes the crux of the matter -- the composition of the team. After all the initial stutters, finally, when the selectors had to sit to select the final squad, it was a squad that had just reached the final of the cricket World Cup. Now the Lankan cricketers were in an enviable position. They were right up on a high and were to take on a team that was trying to find their own status, after a series of debacles on and off the field. At the same time they also had given the green light to several senior players to go ahead and honour their contracts which they had signed with the English counties. Nevertheless the said players are also under contract to the local board and were eligible for seletion in the national team. So the selectors had to weigh out how important this tour would be to Sri Lankan cricket in the present context. During the last six months in their run towards the World Cup and the tournament in real, Sri Lanka cricketers had been engaged in a gruelling session and at the end of it the players were nothing else, but a tired lot. They had two choices – send the best team possible without considering any other private obligations or send a team of fresh young hopefuls -- may be with a very few seniors for the sake of giving much the needed exposure to them irrespective of the ultimate result. May be that exposure would have held the youngsters in good stead for the future. But, finally the squad which took wing was a here nor there outfit. But mind you besides the young hopefuls there was a very senior player also available for selection; however his selection they say was overruled by another person who sat along with the selectors on that crucial day.It was very clear in the first match the entire team looked jaded and lacked commitment -- result, Sri Lanka lost the game badly. Before the second match the squad may know how many players attended practices. In the second match, two important players were rested and the team went in with only five bowlers in the series decider. This meant minus the three players who were out in the county circuit and two seniors dropped, Lankans went into the series decider minus five regulars which tantamounts to hara-kiri. The result: Sri Lanka lost the series very badly. In the third waking up from their slumber, Lankans put their best foot forward when Pakistan decided to rotate their squad and rest most of their regulars. Sri Lanka won the game handsomely. However cricket-wise the locals gained nothing.

Unruly dictator
Finally is it true about the rumours that are floating around about captain Mahela Jayawadena? Is he turning out to be an unruly dictator with his set of favourite players and even overstepping the boundaries of a conventional captain? We observed on the television unlike the previous captains Mahela does not consult any other senior even when things are going badly for the team. Then we also observed how he prefers to keep aloof when some bowlers take wickets and how he runs in to congratulate some bowlers the moment they take a wicket. Divisions of that nature will not do any good to any team. Mahela has been hailed as the best captain by the world cricketing community and he has an obligation above on his shoulders. At the same time his cricketing talent also may be unmatched. But, cricket is a game that is played by eleven players and the contribution of all members is critical for the well-being of the team.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.