Reemus Fernando, Courtesy of the Island, 20 August 2010
It was a ding dong battle. Sri Lanka Under-19 and England Under-19 fought head to head and did not let the other end up as the winner. With the two-match Youth Tests and the two-match Twenty 20 series drawn 1-1, the chance of a series victory was looming only in the five match Youth ODIs. But the weather gods dampened one match so that the two teams could win two matches each to draw the ODI series as well. Incidentally, Sri Lanka Under-19 coach Naveed Navaz’s evaluation of the series is also 50-50. While he is ecstatic over the outcome of the Youth Tests, he is disappointed that his side couldn’t pull off a series victory in the ODIs.
“It was a fine performance in the four day format. They showed character in beating a side whose players are accustomed to those conditions and the four day format. The Under-19s here don’t play four day matches. Against this backdrop, it was a creditable performance,” said Navaz in an interview with ‘The Island’ on his return from England. Sri Lanka Under-19, captained by Chathura Peiris beat England in the opening Youth Test before the hosts came back to beat Sri Lanka in the second.
“Playing a number of matches of the longer version of the game was the ideal preparation for the four day format. We played a number of matches with some strong club teams. That helped the team to do well against England Under-19, who have the experience of playing four day matches for their counties,” explained Navaz.
Navaz considers the experience of some World Cup players in the batting department and the decision to pack the side with pacemen helped the team do well. “Having played in England, we knew the players who would make the maximum out of those conditions in the pace department. Chathura Peiris, Sanitha de Mel, Lahiru Jayaratne and Charith Jayampathi all did well in the bowling department.”
Navaz said that it was the experience which finally mattered in England. “You need experience to play in those conditions. It was because of this lack of experience that the young Pakistan team failed in England.” Navaz attributed Sri Lanka’s batting failures to lack of experience, while its success due to the experience of a few batsmen who chipped in at vital moments.
The Under-19 coach was disappointed that despite odds the team could not win the Youth ODI series. “I knew that Youth Tests were going to be tough, but I was looking forward to a series victory in the Youth ODIs. Despite the odds, it was a series that we could have won,” he said.
Sri Lanka Under-19 included only a few players who could play in the next Youth World Cup in 2012. But Navaz said he was not worried as the attention was on fielding a side who could win in England. However, he was happy that two (Sanitha de Mel and Saranga Rajaguru) out of the three players eligible to play in the next World Cup gained much exposure and produced some notable contributions towards the team’s success.