We take this opportunity thank the minister of Sports C.B. Ratnayake for taking prompt action and also welcome Aravinda and company to their seats which will be a real struggle against time, and a challenge to change certain malpractices that were bugging the selectorial process in the past few seasons.
The past is the past and the new selectors are here to remedy them. Like a moth eating a curtain, the preparations for the World Cup cricket in general also has hit some slowing stumbles with the amount of T20 cricket that has been holding them back akin to a bad dream.
Sports minister C.B. Ratnayake
It is only seven months more for the World Cup proper to begin, Now may I take the liberty of asking the hierarchy if Sri Lankans are ready with their plan ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ of approaching it or else are we still groping in the dark trying to first settle the personal agendas rather than the cricket at hand. These are the tasks that the new committee of selectors has at hand. The last one completely floundered the issue by getting too close to the senior players to their comfort.
Before taking the issues at hand for analysis, let us go back to the preparations that Sri Lanka went through for the Wills World Cup in 1996.The guys at the helm today were there and especially Aravinda in person when the episode below was enacted, but we feel that it has to be said again.
By mid-1994 the Sri Lankan team management had more than a fair insight as to what their middle order was going to be with Asanka Gurusinghe at No 3, Aravinda de Silva at No 4, Arjuna Ranatunga at No 5, Hashan Tillekeratne at No 6 with utility batsman Roshan Mahanama then taking a top slot. Then there were combinations worked with Sanjeewa Ranatunga, Chandika Haturusinghe, Asanka Gurusinha along with Mahanama taking turns to find out a working combination, but, nothing was consistent enough to cushion the experienced Lankan middle order properly.
Aravinda De Silva
Then while touring Zimbabwe (Then a much stronger side) young Sanath Jayasuriya who was demanding a more permanent place in the side by then with some promising shows was given the chance to open with Mahanama and thus became almost a regular feature in the Lankan top order. However by end 1995, Jayasuriya had almost clinched the No1 slot and batted along with whoever was at the other end.
The Lankans were finding their feet by this time and when they met West Indies and the home team Down Under just prior to the Wills World Cup once again the Lankan top order begun to fail. The first six matches it was a poor show and then for the seventh match on 9th January 1996 there came the ‘out of the blues’ combination of Romesh Kaluwitharana and Sanath Jayasuriya for their vital match against Australia. In this game even though the openining stand was only seventeen runs, little Kalu hammered a 75 ball 77 and the Lankans coasted to a three wicket victory.
Suddenly the Lankans had got a surging opening stand that had ousted the Windies and taken them to the final against Australia. The Lankan ploy had worked, now they had a workable opening pair at the helm with a bonus of Roshan Mahanama in the middle order.
The Lankan combination at the Wills Cup World Cup was a well formatted confident one and the rest is history.
Just seven months away what could the present set of Lankan national cricketers boast of? In the entire Xl there only two certainties. In the batting line up it is certain that Kumar Sangakkara will bat No 3 and Muralitharan will bowl if he is fit. After failing in his slot at No 4, former skipper Mahela Jayawardena is moving round with a parasol looking to bat at the top where he has been successful. T.M. Dilshan was made to do the same for other reasons; he clicked at the top in spite of a bad patch that he is facing right now. However we also have heard of a sinister move that is being worked to implicate the dashing right hander so that he will be under pressure.
Besides that Upul Tharanga, Mahela Udawatte and Sanath Jayasuriya are also eyeing a slot at the top if the opportunity is given. In short the melee in this position is just opening out and a solution is yet out of sight. Combinations keep changing from match to match.
In the real middle order Mahela Jayawardena, Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Kapugedera, Thilan Samaraweera, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne are vying, but nothing is certain as yet. Combinations keep changing from match to match.
In the lower middle order Sanath Jayasuriya, Angelo Mathews, Tissara Perera, Farveez Maharoof and Malinga Bandara are vying, but no real slot is certain. Combinations keep changing.
In fast bowling Chanaka Welagedera, Dilhara Fernando, Nuwan Kulasekera, Isuru Udana, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Thilina Thushara are vying. But, no place is certain.
In the spin department Muralitharan will play either with Ajantha Mendis or Malinga Bandara.
Combinations changing in the lower order are acceptable as that is the optional combination. However when one goes into a challenge like the world cup, they should have their middle order battle worthy and confident.
I certainly agree that Sri Lanka has enough talent and the know how to be a top team in the world, but, most of the mishaps have occurred by the actions that some seniors have taken to derail the whole process.
If the new selectors probe as how Thilina Kandamby was requested to stay out for a few games to try Thilan Samaraweera out was eased out of contention completely? Both are weak fielders, but both have the flair of reading the game, but Kandamby can be more enterprising if quick runs are required in the death overs. But, right now he is dead as a Dodo.
Lahiru Thirimanne was brought in and out and out and out now he stays. Dinesh Chandimal was pushed down the deep end to open his international career in a T20 World Cup, he won against all odds, but what did the selectors and the senior player with the clout do?
Aravinda you can teach Mr. Sangakkara that arrogance does not pay but consensus does. When you were playing with Arjuna you know how you played the second fiddle! Thank God that a better player than Sangakkara is at the helm.