ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 02, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40

Learning about the word ‘temperament’

It was a week of poor results for Sri Lankan cricket, first the Under 19 team bowed out of their world cup suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of the New Zealanders. Then the seniors were completely outplayed by the Indians in the must win game in the triangular series, in Australia.

Throughout the final preparation campaign over the past six months or so the juniors whenever they flopped were let down by the batsmen. In Bangladesh, at home and in Malaysia, it was the same story. The bowlers did not concede huge scores. The batsmen failed to score enough. The last game against New Zealand seemed it all up. Two hundred and fifteen runs to get in fifty overs is not a huge ask. It required application and the will to stay at the crease. Not before long the top order disintegrated and the opposition were on top slowly but surely tightening the screws.

GAUTHAM GAMBHIR has provided the best example He is a slightly built player, but what a fine temperament, what precise shot selection. He was playing a lot square of the wicket both on the off and on side of the pitch.

There has been a lot of pressure on Kumar Sangakkara this series. He has handled it well. Even on this occasion he got off to a start, did most of the hard work and then fell prey to Irfan Pathan. Only Sanath Jayasuriya ( 39) and Chamara Kapegedara (57) made worthwhile contributions.

The word temperament” was a commonly used terms in the game particularly on batsman and batting-- the first occasion that it sank into my head as when I was ten years old. Anura Tennekoon was the school captain and he got selected to play against the powerful West Indian side, led by Gary Sobers. He was to play in the four day unofficial “test” and bat at number three.

It was a huge experience and a challenge for a nineteen year old at a time when such exposure was no existent. Tennekoon took forty minutes to get off the mark, when Sri Lanka batted first. He went on to score sixteen runs, staying at the crease for over an hour. A couple of years later he scored a century against England. He went on to captain Sri Lanka and is remembered as one of Technically Correct and most sound batsman the country ever produced.

After that first innings, I need to hear many other people say that he had the right temperament for batting. This meant he had the patience, the composure, the will and the technique to stay at the crease and bat for long periods of time.

The advent of one day cricket has rubbed out the term “temperament” to some extent. Aggression is being advocated as a more necessary for success in the game, both in batting and bowling departments. Even in the longer version of the game the aggressive approach is now in the forefront. Thus approach is naturally more appealing to the public. The game got a new lease of life after limited over cricket was introduced in the mid nineteen sixties. Therefore it has now become necessary to strike the balance between attack and defence.

Still defence is what protects the batsman at the crease. It is defence that prolongs an innings. Its defence that helps a batsman from keeping good deliveries at bay. Whilst attack is very much the mode of operation, it is defence that keeps a batsman out in the centre. After all, runs can be scored only in the centre, not inside the changing room!

A term that is commonly used now, is “shot selection” that term was not tossed around even fifteen years ago. Very simply it emphasizes what a batsman must do when out in the middle select which delivery he could attack, which delivery he could defend and which delivery must be let alone. To Excel in all this a sound temperament is absolutely necessary.

Watching the three teams, Sri Lanka on these bowler supportive pitches, took the bottom place. Kumar Sangakkara provided the lead, the model, while the others failed to follow. Gautham Gambhir has provided the best example He is a slightly built player, but what a fine temperament, what precise shot selection. He was playing a lot square of the wicket both on the off and on side of the pitch.

Gradually, he has started hitting straighter too. He is a very compact player and looks good for many more runs for India.

Australia are still not looking convincing , with a number of players yet striving to establish themselves However, they all have that quality of fighting tooth and nail, always attempting to pin the opposition down. Coming back fighting when the chips are down. All of which has made them survive and get to the final of the tri nation Tournament.

Temperament is acquired through the years, by being constantly aware of its necessity Technique goes hand in hand with building temperaments. A vast majority of school boys reaching the first step are yet to grasp this very vital requirement of the game.

Teach them all to occupy the crease, develop technique through constant effort Be prepared to play long innings. Value your wicket and every innings that you play. Make the bowler work for your wicket. It s about temperament – the need of the hour at all levels.

* Ranil Abeynaike is a former Sri Lanka cricketer, curator of SSC

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