It was not rocket science after all

At present there was only one subject that was discussed and debated in earnest and with more passion than Johnston’s eggs in this country -- that was the composition of Sri Lanka’s final fifteen that will be battle-readied for the 2011 Cricket World Cup to take place in our own backyard next month.

It was just the other day that President Mahinda Rajapaksa took time off his busy schedule and walked down the park at the Premadasa Stadium to witness the progress of the reconstruction work at the facility that will host a major part of the tournament in Sri Lanka. There, he declared that when selecting Sri Lanka’s final squad no consideration be given to individual’s whims and fancies, but it must be based on hard facts and merit.

We as members of the fourth estate endorse the statement whole heartedly. Yet, we wondered what prompted the President to make that statement, but may be he knew better. National Cricket does not belong to one individual or a collective group. It belongs to people who often abandon their posts and leave the country almost inactive whenever their blue-and-yellow clad heroes are in action.

No, we did not agree with the argument that the Lankan selectors should have been given a week’s training at NASA on rocket science before they penned down the four balance names on Friday morning. Yes, Chief Selector Aravinda de Silva stated at the scribes’ meeting that he knew about eleven names that would make to the final fifteen, but, he refrained from divulging them. But, now it is common knowledge.

The onus of producing positive results rests on the shoulders of eloquent Kumar Sangakkara

Last week, the selectors were busy going through the vital statistics of some players that they were concerned about. They had gone through the performances in the past two years of players such as Chaminda Vaas, Sanath Jayasuriya and Thilina Kandamby before shutting their doors tight with a final decision.

Yet, at this end, we humbly felt that the most important criterion is a cricketer’s present form and his ability to deliver in the current context rather than when he hit a few sixes or bagged a few wickets and won the match for Sri Lanka, one day in the past.

At the same time we also agreed that experience and being familiar with the pressures of a World Cup are plus points in equation to the stomach butterflies of a green horn however talented he may be, provided the former does fulfill the already discussed criteria. But, there are other factors that are also egged in like a cohesive dressing room with a guided team spirit.

Down the grapevine we do eavesdrop a little. Once we heard that a cricket boss was promoting Jayasuriya as a left arm spinner. Yet again we also heard another official who has a say talking to one of the coaches about trying out Jayasuriya only as a spinner weighing on his sheer experience. Thankfully, sanity prevailed at last.

Now that the composition is out, it is up to the top five in the Lankan line-up to deliver the goods. Upul Tharanga, T.M. Dilshan, skipper Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena and Thilan Samaraweera have proved before and even batted well even in the Premier League tournament which chairman of selectors Aravinda de Silva proclaimed as no criteria. Still runs on the board mean that they are in touch and it sounds so sweet in the present context.

Then the two Chamaras -- Kapugedera and Silva -- too have scored in their outings lately, but, their consistency at international level remains a huge question, yet the selectors have kept faith in them.
Angelo Mathews by all means has played himself into the side and proven to be one of the vital cogs while gusty Tissara Perera seldom fails to report his presence with wickets on the board or runs on the sheet.

In the spin department there is no argument on Muralitharan’s place being reserved for this world cup, but the argument was that when the Lankans reached the second round the paler skinned gentry from England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will find it hard to dabble with the wiles of Ajantha Mendis and the selectors once again kept their faith in him.

However, the inclusion of Rangana Herat has been the regular south-paw for the past two years and a spinner who has been contributing – no one will argue even if he fails. In the fast bowling department while Lasitha Malinga is an automatic choice, Nuwan Kulasekera is also a steady performer who has even got into the ODI top ten. Once again we heard the topic going to and fro over the inclusion of Dilhara Fernando or Chaminda Vaas in the final 15. However it is Dilhara who has pipped the veteran fast bowler at the post.

Finally, whatever the argument may be, the onus of producing results rests on the shoulders of eloquent Kumar Sangakkara. It is he who has been entrusted with the task of keeping the side together in perfect harmony and shepherd his flock to the desired destination. We feel the selectors were also aware of that fact because they too have been in that same dressing room at one juncture in their lives and they very well know how a minus virus can spread the disease like in their 1999 effort.

So now the Lankans who also cleared the hurdle of winning at their last frontier down under, will have the backing of the people to bring home the plum, playing in their own backyard.

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