With a new cache of silverware, some may be of the view that we have hit the jackpot! Indeed it was great to complete the first series win of any kind in South Africa, and we must thank Thilanga and company for infusing that extra adrenaline via the Skype chat they had as an afterthought, [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Just keep your ear to the ground … it’s buzzing


With a new cache of silverware, some may be of the view that we have hit the jackpot! Indeed it was great to complete the first series win of any kind in South Africa, and we must thank Thilanga and company for infusing that extra adrenaline via the Skype chat they had as an afterthought, last week.

Always an encouraging win is good for the morale of the players and the public, who shift into a different gear, the moment the Lankans push the winning button.

Yet, for the guys in that Maitland Place citadel, there is no room for complacency! Yes, they did win. Yet, the win came on a blunt South African sword that would not cut. The South Africans who generally, are masters in the art of fielding, came up with an abject lesson of butterfingers. At the same time, they made that dreadful mistake of being cloaked by that sinful notion of overconfidence. After running through the Test series with consummate ease, the Proteas thought the puny Lankans were mere pushovers, and this was the golden opportunity for them to groom some untested talent living on their periphery.

But, the undeniable reality at home is — did the Lankans beat the best available Proteas XI and did that win come in a manner that truly depicted our status as former winners of the ICC T-20 championship.

Last week, while speaking to the press on the subject of the South African tour, selection committee chairman Sanath Jayasuriya said that though there were seven batters in the side, really only two of them had to fire for the side to build up a decent total. His notion was amply proved in the two wining efforts. In the game that Mathews took the Lankans to a win, he got a solid pat in the back from his deputy Dinesh Chandimal, though he cracked his resolute before he took the Lankans home. In the second game, young Dickwella and experienced Prasanna hit themselves out of trouble, using the long handle, while licking the butter off the Proteas’ fingers.

But, day by day, the Lankans bemoan more and more about their insecurities in the business of batting. For instance, Sri Lanka’s best hope in the top order, Kusal Mendis, was a sitting duck. He was fed with a few half-volleys which were put to the sword disdainfully, but when those were followed with a well directed short-one, in most instances, the young protégé paid the price. Now he does not look like prince charming riding to the rescue anymore. He has a ghastly veil of insecurity on his face.

We feel that Mendis’ approach had been well scrutinised by the opposition. They found out where his vulnerabilities lay, and worked on them. Now, for the young promising Kusal Mendis, it is a fight for survival. Remember, after the African safari is over, I am sure that Mendis will be a part of the Australian short excursion too. There Messers Stark and Co. would remember how Mendis nullified their potency on Lankan wickets. Generally, one does not need a crystal ball to spell out this inevitability.

Sri Lanka's Kusal Mendis is run out during the T20 cricket match between Sri Lanka and South Africa at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town - AFP

Then we ask, are the young shoulders of Dhananjaya de Silva strong enough to carry the entire weight of Lankan batting? Even in the Dickwella match, de Silva saw to that the Lankans added another 71 runs for the third batting, but, the way he huffed and puffed for that 22 looked deplorable.

Now, more often than not, Dinesh Chandimal is trying to ride on his laurels or luck, but neither seems to work on most occasions. Yet, he is too hot a property to dump on the wayside, even though his first foot was on the wrong side of the street. Yet, we find that now he has been dumped as stand-in skipper in the absence of Mathews. Is this ‘more-to-follow’ of the Mathews saying that he is not afraid of losing the national captaincy. Is there something more sinister in the parachuting of Upul Tharanga to the helm in the ODIs?

Cricket insiders are abuzz with these questions?

However, at the same time, the question must be asked whether the authorities, too, were fair by the players and to the cause of Sri Lanka Cricket. Hence, we pose the question, “Who killed Cock Robin – was it the system?” Just listen to Kusal Janith Perera’s woeful tale. Who on earth decided he was fit to bat at No.3 against South Africa, with his suspect technique? At the same time, we also have to ask, was the omission deliberate and the cause was something else?

One may ask how Sanath Jayasuriya became a regular opener for Sri Lanka. Initially, the entire system was aware of his talents as a hard hitting middle-order batsman and, who could also bowl a few overs in the middle. Yes, he was a utility player. He had a few years apprenticeship in the lower middle-order, and then he was pushed up as a ploy. When he walked in at the top, he did not carry a pannier-bag with a stone in it, on his shoulders. From No.3 to No.7 there were players who could turn a game around single handed. At the same time, Sanath added value to his given position, and the rest is history.

But, Kusal Janith’s story is a different episode altogether. The whole world, including the opposition, knew he was mimicking the legendary Jayasuriya. He was partially successful in that endeavour, in the limited-overs format, and in the lower middle-order in the longer version of the game. But, there the equation ended. Ironically, he had to pay for someone else’s folly. Kusal Janith Perera lost his place in the limited-overs format too.

There is another deep-end episode that is being constructed right now. From obscurity, Thikshila de Silva was his way to stardom, when he was chosen to be a part of the T-20 squad to take on South Africa. Further, he was drafted into the playing XI right away just on his reputation of being a big hitter. Now, after two innings in two T-20s, de Silva has a tally of 3 runs in 6 balls of international cricket. Then in the final T-20 Thikshila was used for one over with the new ball and that single over cost the Lankans a wicketless ten runs. Yes, he is still in the ODI squad also! Yet, we wonder how long this story of make-believe would go on. Aren’t we playing yo-yo with some players’ international careers?

Now the hierarchy says they are happy about the bowling composition and, in reality, it is so. In spite of the injury to Dhammika Prasad who led the fast bowling segment during the recent past, and the indifferent form of Dushmantha Chameera, the Lankan seam threesome of Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep Fernando and new kid on the bloc– Lahiru Kumara – bowled as well as any opposition could. In some cases, if the catches offered were accepted by the Lankan fielders, even the results of the game may have been different. Both Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep have graduated and bowled purposefully through the South African Test series. At the same time, Kumara stepped into the boots of Chameera, and this 20-year-old proved he could be far more lethal, and is of International standard – he made full use of the opportunity that was on offer.

Besides, even on surfaces that did not help his cause, the hero of a thousand battles, Rangana Herath, commanded respect from the opposition. Now, in the shorter version of the game, Chinaman Lakshan Sandakan is improving by the game — the opposition finds it difficult to read the leftarmer.

Hats off to Champaka Ramanayake and company, he can live unscathed for sometime in the future. But, what about the Lankan batting? Do we have anyone responsible for this department or, does it come under the purview the head coach Graham Ford, if so what is he doing?

Advertising Rates

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