SRI LANKA CRICKET…WHERE TO FROM HERE? –
BY TREVINE RODRIGO IN MELBOURNE
While the world looks on and hope that Sri Lanka cricket will return to where they once belonged, the team stumbles and bumbles along looking for fluency and consistency that was once a trademark of their flamboyant style which made them entertaining and riveting to watch.
Of course, the top teams at the moment would like them to remain where they are because of their enviable record since gaining Test status in 1982. The successes they have achieved since then far surpasses many other countries who have been in the top bracket for far more years with little to show for it.
Definitely not suffering from a lack of available talent, the Sri Lankan dilemma appears to be centered around the current structure and administrative input which has taken them back to the dark ages when they were whipping boys to the rest of the world.
Losing a top coach in South African Graham Ford due to reported political meddling appeared to spell doom and gloom to the islanders but fortunately or dare I say questionably they managed to net another top-class coach in Chandika Hathurusinghe whose drawback may be that he is home grown which may yet have a detrimental effect on how he goes about his duties if he is not given a free hand.
Knowing Hathurusinghe and his fierce determination to prevail over adversity in order to succeed as he did when Sri Lanka discarded him as an assistant coach where he went on to great things in Australia and as Bangladesh coach, it may not be long or surprising, before he abandons a lost cause if things don’t go to his plan.
Since Hathurusinghe took over the reins, the islanders have recorded limited success mainly due to inconsistency and lack of experience within the squad and compounding their plight has been the failure of the experienced brigade such as Skipper Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera and a few others with the only reliable player, former skipper Angelo Matthews plagued by injury and unavailable more times than not.
The fitness and physical preparation of the team also appear questionable judging by the ins and outs of players which also affects team gelling.
Currently in the West Indies and staring down the barrel of yet another hiding in the 3-Test series, Sri Lanka’s plight can only get worse in the daunting encounters ahead of them against the top rungers of the game whom they encounter unless they can unravel a dramatic turnaround to their fortunes through consistency and a more committed approach.
Sri Lanka were thrashed by 226 runs in the first Test in Port-of-Spain.
There appears to be a fair amount of talent in the existing pool but exposure and perseverance at the initial stages particularly among the younger players may play an important role in establishing a team of world beaters. Youngsters Dananjaya De Silva, Kusal Mendis and Dilruwan Perera must be persevered with until they get to the next level while Matthews and Chandimal try to re-discover their lost momentum.
Blessed with a rich cricketing culture and a deep history in the game, there has to be successors to their legends of the past that have won worldwide admiration such as Aravinda De Silva, Arjuna Ranatunga, Asanka Gurusinha, Sanath Jayasuriya, Romesh Kaluwitharne, Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Chaminda Vaas and a few others who were themselves successors to some fantastic players such as Michael Tissera, Anura Tennakoon, Sidath Wettimuny, Roy Dias, Duleep Mendis, Ranjan Madugalle and Rumesh Ratnayake just to name a few, when they made their initial foray on the world stage.
The above-mentioned players were fiercely competitive with controlled aggression which in many players around the world is the ultimate catalyst to producing champions not just in Cricket but any sport.
Cricket, like Sevens Rugby is to Fiji, is the only sport that Sri Lanka are able to compete on an even keel with the best in the world. So, their focus should be on nurturing what they have got and being the best at it.
Sadly, at this stage the cavalier globetrotters of the recent past are nowhere close to their desired goal.