By the time this reaches you the second Test between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh would be on its second day. As I am not in the habit of reading the crystal ball, in no way that could I predict how the game would be poised at that juncture when you read this. But, I am [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Galle hit wicket kills Test cricket


By the time this reaches you the second Test between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh would be on its second day. As I am not in the habit of reading the crystal ball, in no way that could I predict how the game would be poised at that juncture when you read this. But, I am still going to discuss about Test cricket, the home advantage, preparation of wickets and curators.

Last Sunday our own newspaper in its Premier League column talked about eight batsmen scoring 100 runs and over. Generally in this dry period when the wickets are watered and rolled, the moisture oozes out and the clay transforms almost into concrete. Any cricketer who has batted on a concrete ‘side’ wicket would know how it behaves.

Just look at this foursome….. Jayananda Warnaweera (Curator), Pramodya Wickremasinghe, Sanath Jayasuriya, Hashan Tillekeratne – the three stalwarts of the selection panel -- seem to be in deep discussion as how the curator missed the right clarity of top soil on the Galle wicket for the first test. This prize picture was captured by our Daily Mirror Sports editor Channaka de Silva.

So if the prevailing conditions were as such when Sri Lanka is going into a Test match, we could automatically bet on a belter so that batsmen could just go on batting forever if they wish to.

To get a wicket of that nature one does not need curators with expert knowledge on soil and the preparation of wickets. I guess any ground boy could do that.

Even the under-educated ground boys do know something about wickets. Some ‘ground boys’ who were at one stage trusted with the task of preparing wickets were able to predict whether the wicket was a 300 run first bat wicket and spin friendly in the third and fourth innings. I have experienced that.

‘Deen’ of Bloomfield and ‘Alagasamy’ of NCC are two names that just flashed into my mind – they even could say which bowler would be more effective from which end.

But what I spoke was only local cricket. Yet, the matter at hand is international cricket and national pride.

There is no written law about this, but, it is a commonly practiced norm in any type of cricket and when it comes to international cricket the onus goes several scales up. It is called the home advantage.

Generally, a home match against Bangladesh is considered easy meat. But, this time with new selectors, new vision (if that is the case), a new captain who is also the youngest to lead Sri Lanka since the country got full status from the world cricket authority along with a larder full of youngsters who are expected the guide the ship into the next millennium, this series had more focus.

Yet, history says that Sri Lanka generally plays better cricket than their visitors and had won all their previous matches played in Sri Lanka. When discussing the home advantage they should have given a lot of emphasis to that factor.

Surprisingly, the entire lot of brains behind Sri Lanka cricket — which includes Sanath Jayasuriya and company along with the Graham Ford, Marvan Atapattu and new captain Angelo Mathews — wanted to play it safe.

The result of this thought was the excessive use of the heavy roller on the pitch during the pre-match preparations. The curators were requested to do so in the pre-match meeting. Just prior to the game it rained in the South and more rolling was done and every bit of moisture taken out of the track.

Sri Lanka took the first lease of the wicket. First it was Kumar Sangakkara — who was short of runs and match practice — who made the full use of the track. He made his mark and when he had enough he drove his way back into the hut. Then the youngsters Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal looked as if they were not getting out even if they wanted to. Skipper Mathews and Graham Ford thought 570 was enough for the Lankan bowlers to roll over.

The wicket still looked like a first day wicket on the latter part of the second day and even on the third day. Besides Rangana Herat, the rest of the Lankan bowlers succumbed to the conditions and the Bangladesh innings ended with a slight lead over the Lankans on the fourth day. At the end of the fourth day the Lankans still played it safe as they were still trailing with one wicket down. At the end of the fourth day after the match still the sponges were placed under the covers on the wicket. The prevailing dry conditions and seas breeze did the rest, sucking out the last bit of moisture. With a bit of pre-game rolling, even on the fifth day the wicket still looked fresh as ever. Both overnight batsmen scored centuries and equalled another record by making this match the game that the most number of centuries scored – 8.

I sincerely do not know the reasoning behind this whole episode. Generally, the Galle wicket is under prepared and even on the first day when the ball hits the wicket, ‘puss’ comes out. That even happened during the Sri Lanka Australia match which was played at that venue not very long ago.

In Australia they love ‘chin music’ so when – especially the Asian visitors come over there, the Aussies greet them with an orchestra of fast bowlers. Then in the Indian sub-continent the Asians love ‘spin music’. What they do is when the Australians come over there they get even the Australian openers to the ‘Gangnam’ by coming out with spinners. So much so right now the Australians in India are even dancing the jigs in the dressing rooms and the hotel lobbies in India after losing two three-day tests.

In the post-Murali era Sri Lanka, the home team has won four Test matches – three in Galle and one in Durban. But, I do not know what sort of trust that they have thrust upon the abilities of Herat at this end. In the last calendar year he was one of the highest or the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket. Yet, the Lankan puppeteers wanted to play it safe, even after the Lankans had beaten England and New Zealand at that venue. When Sri Lanka lost to England and New Zealand outside Galle, it was their batsmen who failed.
To be very honest, I am a huge follower of Test cricket. But, I feel Test cricket of this nature will only send it to the grave sooner than expected. I am well aware even at this moment, the controllers of the game at Maitland Place are standing with drawn daggers to stab Test cricket in its back. But, have some mercy on Test cricket, which is still the purest form of the game. Don’t kill the curator; it is the players who are up to it.

PS: I do agree with you ‘son’ – Test cricket does not get your kitty as big as the other two forms of the game. So why bother?

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