A pack of guys who had some insight to the game of cricket were having a serious discussion about the present status quo of Lankan cricket. Then suddenly one of them came up with a good argument that no one could disagree. He said, “Well, I see that opener Upul Tharanga has perfected that snick [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Let the jerseys dry – we can talk the aftermath


A pack of guys who had some insight to the game of cricket were having a serious discussion about the present status quo of Lankan cricket. Then suddenly one of them came up with a good argument that no one could disagree. He said, “Well, I see that opener Upul Tharanga has perfected that snick to such an extent that I am sure that no one else could play that shot in a more elegant manner. He does that with all the grace and charm of a left hander. Now I know why the selectors keep including his name in the playing list”.

Offering the Lankan opener a bat with a bigger blade – Pic Amila Gamage

Could anyone disagree on this statement? We generally accept that the selectors are named by the all-powerful sports minister who do know a thing or more about cricket than mundane you and me. That is why he in turn entrusts a band of past cricketers who catches his eye with such arduous tasks.

Let us leave those jibes alone and go to the crux of the matter? What have the Lankans learned from their Indian experience?
I guess initially someone should come up with the proposal that all cricket playing nations stop playing against nations that do not abide by the accepted norms of cricket’s governing body — the International Cricket Council. Yes, we are talking about Decision Review System. Even if India is the richest cricket playing nation in the world, it does not have the cricketing or the moral right to go above the resolutions passed by the ICC. May be had the series gone on with the accepted ICC system, there would have been some decisions that would have bent the fate of the series.

Let’s comeback to the Lankan fact file; from the inception, when the news hit the street that Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara were moving out of the international arena, the selectors donned their pads and began to bat looking for faded seniors. Top in the pack of larder were the files of Jehan Mubarak and Upul Tharanga – two names that keep doing the jack-in-the-box and get locked in once again when they fail at the given task.

This time Mubarak came with the added qualification of being labelled the best fielder by none other than Jonty Rhodes who was considered one of the best in the business. Yet, the very fielder who was trusted with the job in the slip cordon let K.L. Rahul off the hook — a regulation slip catch was dropped like a hot brick. The batsman went to score a century and laid the foundation for India’s first win after losing the first test match in Galle.

Mubarak was dropped for the third Test and the other experienced man Upul Tharanga was brought in to infuse experience. May be he was entrusted with that task of staying around and nurse the younger brood, teaching them a thing or two about the longer version of the game. Yet, ironically, he chose to show them how not to open an inning and thus put immense pressure on the top order. In turn, the Lankan top order crumbled and this resulted in a Lankan series defeat against India in Sri Lanka after 22 long years.

The selectors keep talking about the existing young talent at hand. This is a good example. Kusal Janith Perera was groomed during the Pakistan ‘A’ series in the longer version of the game. He scored tons of runs and a few days later the Pakistan real thing made their visit to Sri Lanka. Janith was overlooked. Came the Indian tour; they had to wait till they could tolerate Mubarak no more to consider Perera. The right hander turned left hander was given the Test cap and he reciprocated with half centuries in each inning in a lost cause.

Then are the authorities investing too much on talent that fails to deliver? We all know about the talent that Lahiru Thirimanne carries within himself. Yet, if he keeps failing, can the thin bank of the existing Lankan talent bear the weight? In reality, Thirimanne is billed to bat at number three, but, just see the mockery that occurred in the last Test. Upul Tharanga had to come into the side as an opener. Regular opener Dimuth Karunaratne had to bat at number three. Skipper Angelo Mathews moved to number five and Thirimanne comes in at number six, shoves for a while and makes twelve runs. This is a similar case to Lasith Malinga being held in the Lankan line up. Longer he fails to deliver the longer the Lankans wait for him recover.

If this is the scenario, what is happening to all those lovely talent that we have in abundance? For a cricketer, a day too late may be an opportunity lost. Now the latest is Tharindu Kaushal – one of the hopes for the Lankan future is reported with suspected illegal bowling action. The match officials’ report, which was handed over to the Sri Lanka management, cited concerns about the legality of the 22-year-old’s bowling action.

Now Kaushal will have to undergo tests at an ‘ICC-approved facility to detect illegal bowling actions’ and then go through a remedial course. An informed insider said the match officials were concerned about some of the doosras that the bowler delivered while he was tired. But, unlike Sachitra Senanayake, whose bowling action was in question, Kaushal’s was not so complicated. However, the fact remains – Sri Lanka’s best two off spinners Sachithra Senanayake and Tharindu Kaushal are under the ICC radar while Akila Dhananjaya, also considered a budding aspirant, also did some remedial work voluntarily on his action. Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews is requesting the public to be patient. Yet, he too thinks certain changes should be effected. We have no qualms about the team going through a period of transition. But, what we are trying to protrude are pitfalls that could be averted under good management.

Finally the behind-the-curtain talks about Marvan Atapattu came to the open with the Lankan chief coach tendering his resignation, after the second consecutive series defeat at the hands of the Indians and the Pakistanis. For some time there were talks in the higher echelons of cricket about the work ethics of the chief coach. It was said some of the senior cricketers on certain occasions even had to seek the assistance of the Max Academy coaches at the Premadasa Stadium to sort out some of their batting problems. Matters came to a boiling point when the team began to face a slump in positive results in the recent past.

However, the Marvan episode did not filter to the next level and a day before the resignation it is said Atapattu had a brief meeting with Interim Committee Chairman Sidath Wettimuny, but, what really transpired at that one-on-one is not known.
The Lankan cricket hierarchy cannot afford to take things on the bounce. The team is inexperienced and young and is going through a period of transition. The sooner they find the replacement, the better it is for the Lankans lads. Yet, at the same time there is a certain chirp about a coach who knows about the brown wickets and green trees in Sri Lanka. He can make a positive move.

Finally who was responsible for the green top at the SSC? Certainly it could not be Michael de Zoysa – the SSC curator trying to get even on the SLC management. It was a good experience to watch the Lankan fast bowlers bowling in tandem in helpful conditions. Then if this is an accepted norm even the domestic tournaments should be played on tracks of this nature exposing the Lankan to the fast and the furious.

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.