Its nearly two months since the Sri Lankan players and staff parted company at the Gatwick airport in London. Some returned home while the rest went on to India, to play more cricket with the IPL. All that glamour and glitz and power hitting and excitemet has died down – at least temporarily.
For awhile it was a total reversal in the action, with England playing New Zealand and Australia playing the West Indies in the five day game. Almost unrecognizable, almost another game as men in white uniforms laboured day after day displaying every skill of the sport. The players mindset have changed, the expectation from the spectators is different.
|From the hectic IPL.. now it had simmered down to more conventional Test cricket
Last week India, Pakistan and Bangladesh assembled in Bangladesh to compete in a tri nation series. A change that could be expected in the future with Twenty Twenty games getting established, would be the reduction of tri nation series. Australia have already done away with the popular format which was very much part of the summer programme. They will play a series of one dayers with each of the two countries that will be touring.
For the Indians it has been continuous cricket, since November last. They have been tough assignments against Australia, then the Sri Lankans joining for the one dayers and on their return confronting the South Africans in a test series. The T20 IPL was no walk in the park. It was played as hard and seriously as any international. As much as everything else it was the power of money!
Pakistan lost out on the Australians refusing to tour their country. Only a makeshift five match series against Bangladesh could be arranged.
They are much underdone as a group at the present moment of time. Bangladesh have not been able to live upto their World Cup heroics of last year, when in the World Cup they beat India and South Africa. Since then they have played twenty two one dayers and lost nineteen of them. The three wins have come against the unfancied Irishmen at home. They are more fancied in the one day version and they must lift their game in this tournament and the Asia Cup that follows.
India is on a run currently. They are brimming with confidence. In their opening encounter in Dhaka they simply wiped out Pakistan. What the Indians have in abundance right now is plenty of bench strength. Their domestic tournaments are getting increasingly competitive. The IPL will from here on be a huge incentive for players to aim to get to. The recently concluded games also helped unearth plenty of talent.
In that opening game the margin of victory was one hundred and forty runs. It turned out to be the highest for India against Pakistan. The previous best of eighty seven runs was overhauled by a long way. To add to that it became their twelfth consecutive ODI victory.
The Sri Lankans also resumed their build up for what will be pretty demanding, during the next two months. Practice sessions were held at the S.S.C. nets and fielding and honing skills were done on the grounds. They looked relaxed and at the same time a consorted effort was going into the work. They trained most of the week, with the players being divided into two sessions. One group practiced late morning and the other early afternoon, spending about two and a half hours.
At present this is the main job the coach has to perform. Former Australian coach John Buchanan was so absolutely precise with his coaching format that the players were always prepared for the tasks ahead. To other outstanding coaches Bob Simpson and the late Bob Woolmer also followed a similar work ethic. International players are supposed to know their way around when they get to the middle. The captain should be capable of mastering the ship and carry out what has been planned. The coach leads in the preparation.
The next two months will be a real tester for Sri Lanka. India is their main foe. The better players of this current crop will be found out. The contests are eagerly awaited.
- Ranil Abeynaike is a former Sri Lanka cricketer and curator of SSC