“Win or lose, we booze.” On hearing that we feel lighthearted and we indulge in it – even if the consequences could be dire. Yes, there are some guys who love to live at the edge and I feel Lankan cricketers Kithruwan Vithanage and Ramith Rambukwella are two such characters. Yet, like the bear who [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Fight, flags and favourites: Lanka’s Cricket parody


“Win or lose, we booze.” On hearing that we feel lighthearted and we indulge in it – even if the consequences could be dire. Yes, there are some guys who love to live at the edge and I feel Lankan cricketers Kithruwan Vithanage and Ramith Rambukwella are two such characters. Yet, like the bear who told the man not to trust the friend who climbed the tree, now Kithruwan is holed in the dungeon while Rambukwella will board the flight to join the England ‘A’ tour with an unblemished record. Why? There was a brawl at a plush hotel involving the two cricketers and some outsiders and as a result Vithanage was admitted to hospital by Rambukwella.

Milinda Siriwardena bagged the wicket of England opener Alex Hales.

Yet, I feel the man in the hospitality trade who explained the incident wore his blinkers while making his statement at cricket inquiry. But the man handling the cricket law who was a witness was not called in to give evidence.
However, according to the story behind the story, Rambukewella is alleged to have come back to the hotel with some men and assaulted some persons. But there was no evidence to corroborate this version. It seems the right connections are thicker than blood and the water runs down the slope. The cricket inquiry, it appears, ended with only half the real thing being recorded.
The Lord’s controversy where the Sri Lankan cricket authorities were asked to remove the National Flag was another issue that requires scrutiny. First of all it is a well known fact that no national flags can be displayed at the Lord’s dressing room. There is a place for that purpose and that’s it. Even the Lankan authorities – however powerful they may be in Sri Lanka — have to live by such norms set by Lord’s authorities. The flag controversy culminated in Sri Lankans being asked to remove the flag. Yes, the Nuwan Pradeep incident was bad and we do not accept that under any circumstances, but two wrongs do not make one right – finally it ended on a sour note with our national flag being unnecessarily dragged into a controversy.

I am sure present among the spectators were SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala who is also the deputy Speaker of Sri Lanka’s Parliament, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera and Chief Selector Sanath Jayasuriya who is also a former parliamentarian. The flag faux pas occurred amid such a distinguished Lankan gathering. If it is so, it is a matter to be probed into.

Nevertheless, the Test leg of the Lankan tour was encouraging in spite of the terrible series loss. As Mahela Jayawardene aptly described while touring England the Lankans will have to adapt themselves to the severe cold weather, when they come to England in early summer. This was akin to Sri Lankans forcing the Englishmen to play in 35c degree heat in Sri Lanka. We do accept that ours was a fledgling outfit and how they kept growing – growing in confidence was encouraging.

Yes, there was more than one moment of sparkle. The first was the return of diminutive Kaushal Silva who in my mind is a growing integral part of the Karunaratne-Silva opening combination. Such growing components are generally not dabbled with, but, the former Wijegunawardena selection committee dumped Silva for the New Zealand tour – which was bad. Then in difficult times in the English cold, the opening pair limped back to life and ended the tour with a 108-run opening stand in the first inning and a 45 run-stand in the second innings of the match that ended under down pour.

What was good in that exchange was the birth of Kusal Mendis (first drafted by the Wijegunawardena committee) as a number three batsman! Possessing some reasonable technique, Kusal is a batsman who is willing to go that extra yard and take the deliveries on their merit rather than cow down to the bowlers’ reputation.

I am sure if this top order begins to perform, the Lankan resurgence will occur much sooner than expected. If they blossom they definitely could cushion the talents of Dinesh Chandimal and skipper Angelo Mathews – who are the brighter spots in the Lankan batting order.

Then in the lower middle, the reemergence of Kusal Janith Perera is a huge impetus. The biggest asset that he had was the belief that he could do it in spite of the obstacle set in front of him. When I spoke to him last, he said that he was ready for the comeback if he was given the opportunity.

Six batsmen who can bring the fight to the opposition especially in alien conditions can be a redeeming factor. The batting of veteran Rangana Herath was also encouraging, but, at the age of 38 one cannot have too many cookies in his jar.
Then we take up the case of the late order batting. In this day of age, you cannot have four batsmen in the dugout who could only score a zilch. It would have been an accepted norm a half century ago, but, in modern Test cricket, may be the number eleven is permitted to fail once in a way, but not as a habit.

Then comes the question as to why southpaw Milinda Siriwardena has been left out of Sri Lanka’s ODI squad for the series against Ireland and England. Yes, giving his place over to Kusal Janith Perera is one thing. However, Siriwardena scored 35 runs in his final inning and bagged three wickets which included the only wicket that fell in the England second inning at the Test match in Durham. This was no criteria for him to be dropped. To his credit, Siriwardena had made a good to his limited-overs career in 2015, averaging 29.11 with the bat and 30.50 with the ball. He hit 66, 12 and 39 in Sri Lanka’s most recent ODI series against New Zealand. We learn that Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews was against the move and he even had asked why that was done by chief selector Jayasuriya. However we learn that Siriwardena was not on the favourites list of Jayasuriya even before; the question that also arises is, how come that the name Rambukwella appears whenever the present chief selector is in business?

The other pose is, if Siriwardena was served with that spoon, how come that Lahiru Thirimanne still sucks the silver-spoon. Thirimanne even let the selectors down during the T-20 series, when he was rushed into the fray in the eleventh hour. Yes, in all his innings, Thirimanne did manage to middle the ball and play better orthodox cricket than most of the others, but, one cannot race on a rattling racing car even if it is a Viron. I hope chief selector Jayasuriya does not indulge in personal preferences, if that happens it is the country that will suffer the humiliation of defeat.

After Shaminda Eranga was called, he is about to be sidelined. As a result, the bowling department looks vulnerable with Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera and Dhammika Prasad already on the injury list.

Yes, veteran Rangana Herath is keeping the pressure on the opposition, but it is more by reputation – this is a machine that is well worn by constant erosion. Now work horse Nuwan is a luxury that we cannot expend or over exploit in any type of cricket.

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