SRI LANKA CRICKET’S AMAZING TURNAROUND – BY TREVINE RODRIGO IN MELBOURNE
If motivation comes from within, it should not be activated by the misfortune of others as Sri Lanka’s cricketing fortunes appear to indicate. The sacking of the coach and the installation of a new leader appears to have done just that judging by the sudden dominance of an ordinary looking line up that struggled against all-comers till now.
installation of a new leader appears to have done just that judging by the sudden dominance of an ordinary looking line up that struggled against all-comers till now.
Rising like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes of a horrendous past few months, Sri Lanka under new skipper Dimuth Karunaratne have discovered a new confidence which has turned things around and brought with it unprecedented success.
Following up on a better than expected World Cup performance, the Lankans have shown dramatic improvement and a newfound mindset which saw them merciless in crushing Bangladesh 3-0 in the one-day series in Colombo. The Bangladeshis have proved that they
are no pushovers in the modern environment and the hiding they received is an indication of Sri Lanka’s growing maturity despite the constant chopping and changing of the squad.
Following up on the success against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka have now grabbed a 1-0 lead in the World Test Championship with a comprehensive 6-wicket win over the high riding New Zealanders. That gives Karunaratne a 100 per cent Test captaincy record with three
consecutive wins following the team’s success in South Africa.
Diehard fans have been scratching their heads wondering what happened so quickly to turn things around. Surely it cannot be just the change in the Captain. And they are now functioning without a Coach after Chandika Hathurusinghe was given his marching orders
following a mediocre return for a handsome paycheck and high expectation.
Many feel that Hathurusinghe was a victim of circumstance and some pig headed members of the team who did not like his coaching style who then proceeded to orchestrate his failure and removal. Such is Sri Lanka’s style historically, that only in chaos and confusion
can they perform at unexpected levels. This was confirmed to me many years ago by a star member of the past who said to me. “Trying to make Sri Lanka perform under a structured process is almost impossible. There will always be personality clashes and divided opinion as they wade through a pool of confrontation”.
Dimuth Karunaratne has emerged as the man for a crisis picking up the pieces of a fragmented set up and cautiously exploring the avenues open to him. He openly admits drawing on the experience of the seniors in the squad before tinkering it to his own plans.
It’s obviously working for him and the team as they build towards an era similar to the one
commandeered by the likes of Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara, Mutthiah muralidaran, Sanath Jayasuriya, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga and many others.
The Test in Galle against the Kiwis was a low scoring affair with Sri Lanka succumbing to New Zealand tweaker Ajaz Patel who grabbed 5 for 89 to restrict them to 267 after New Zealand were bundled out for 249 falling to the wiles of Akila Dhananjaya 5 for 80 and
seamer Suranga Lakmal 4 for 29.
New Zealand fought back to get 285 in their second stint leaving Sri Lanka an imposing target of 266 on a quickly deteriorating wicket. Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne led from the front and with Lahiru Thirimanne cautiously negotiated a century opening stand to lay the
platform for a memorable run chase which resulted in a six-wicket victory. Karunaratne was fittingly named man-of-the-match.
“I had a positive approach to this innings,” Karunaratne said. “We were watching the batsmen that did make runs, and we noted how they went about it. After the ball became a bit softer it became easier to bat, and then it was a case of using your feet to the spinners. We had a plan to do that, and we knew that whoever got a start needed to go big. Both myself and Thirimanne were able to do that. We batted well yesterday, and this morning we added a good 30 runs to that partnership. We set ourselves little targets and broke the chase down.”
“Keeping New Zealand to around 250 in the first innings was a big thing. We made sure that for the shots that are easy to hit – shots with the spin for example – were covered off by fielders on the boundary. If a bowler bowled a bad ball, we needed that to cost only one run, because that’s a big advantage. There was a good chance bowler would deliver good balls, because the pitch was taking turn, but in the meantime, we needed the bad balls not to cost us. It was really important that we didn’t let them get away from us at any stage.”
The makeup of the current squad boasts of some outstanding emerging talent in the likes of Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Lasith Embuldeniya, Akila Dhananjaya, Dhananjaya De Silva, Kusal Mendis and Lahiru Kumara to name a few.
The future appears to be back on track for Sri Lanka and the hope is that less meddling by the administrators will enable them to climb back to the status of respect they once commanded
Their visit to Australia this summer for a T20 series is now much looked forward to.
NEW ZEALAND 249(83.2 OVERS)
• Ross Taylor86 (132)
• Henry Nicholls42 (78)
• Suranga Lakmal4/29 (15.2)
• Akila Dananjaya5/80 (30)
SRI LANKA 267(93.2 OVERS)
• Niroshan Dickwella61 (109)
• Kusal Mendis53 (89)
• William Somerville3/83 (22.2)
• Ajaz Patel5/89 (33)
NEW ZEALAND 285(106 OVERS)
• BJ Watling77 (173)
• Tom Latham45 (81)
• Dhananjaya de Silva3/25 (12)
• Lasith Embuldeniya4/99 (37)
SRI LANKA 268/4(86.1 OVERS)
• Dimuth Karunaratne122 (243)
• Lahiru Thirimanne64 (163)
• Tim Southee1/33 (12)
• Trent Boult1/34 (9.1)