Sanga and Mahela captain from behind the screen

Nirgunan Tiruchelvam in the Sunday Island, 23 June 2013, where the title reads:Three Aiyas and a Boru Captain”

Knox Tavern 014Puppetry is dying in Sri Lanka due to the rise of television.  But, the cricket team may help revive it. The 26-year-old Angelo Mathews is a captain only in name. The  team is controlled by the old firm of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara,  who are aged 36 and 35. The two veterans whisper field placements to their prodigy. The  fielders look to the old guard for guidance not to the official captain. Master  strokes such as sending Kulasekera as a pinch hitter against England are not  Mathews’ ideas.

To add to the comedy, the 23-year-old vice-captain Dinesh  Chandimal can’t command a place in the side. Mathews barely looks at him, let  alone consult him. Chandimal was banished to the outfield, while Mathews sought  wisdom from the old men.

The two veterans have not only mastered cricket, but also  diplomacy. After the Australian win, the unofficial captains were falling over  each other to praise the official leader. Mahela and Sanga are brothers from different mothers. The duo  have formed a Bro-mance (brotherly romance), which has few parallels. They  complete each other’s sentences off the field. On the field, they have  accumulated mountains of runs with both of them reaching 10,000 runs in Test  cricket.

Sri Lanka has had as many as five captains in the last four  years. Mahela and Sanga are the cause of this game of musical chairs. They have  been reluctant to keep the job and intent on their personal advancement. Their own captaincy stints were marred by bitter tussles with  the board. The bone of contention was Mahela and Sanga’s objection to the  primacy of international cricket. After the 2008 Asia Cup win, the two spearheaded a campaign to  scrap the England tour in favour of the IPL. Cricketers became agitators. They  shamefully submitted to money over national duty. Arjuna Ranatunga, the then  Board President, correctly opposed the players.

Bad blood ensued, as the board finances deteriorated. In 2009,  Mahela found captaincy a burden and suddenly paved the way for Sangakkara to  succeed him. Sanga had success as a leader but his stint ended with the World  Cup final in 2011. The tussle with the selectors was not the only issue. Sanga  struggled to combine the role of captain, principal batsman and ODI  wicket-keeper.

Dilshan’s reign was marred by the attitude of his two leading  batsmen. Mahela and Sanga avoided the tour matches in 2011 England tour due to  the IPL. Mahela’s form went in to a deep slump. A fifty eluded him in nine  successive overseas Tests. In January 2012, the selectors lost patience with Dilshan.  Mahela consented to a one year return as captain.

Mathews is an ideal understudy to the old pair. His captaincy  experience is thin, having hardly captained in club cricket. Mathews disgraced  himself at the IPL. He went from captain to bench warmer in about five games. With just one century in international cricket, Mathews’ batting  has promise but little substance. He has strong hands and a calm approach. But, he takes ages to accelerate the scoring. His technique  against the spinners is poor. As an insecure and untested leader, he has no  choice but to listen to his mentors.

It is possible that Mathews will lead in the 2015 World Cup,  with three former captains in their late 30s under him. The arrangement may  succeed provided there is harmony.

The third former captain may undermine it. The 36-year-old  Dilshan’s reflexes are past their prime. The timing required for the Dilscoop is  fading. He drops sitters as often as he takes blinders. Despite his age, Dilshan is crucial to the ODI team. He provides  energy at the top of order and on the field. His crafty bowling provides  flexibility.

However, Dilshan’s presence in the dressing room may be a threat  to the fake captain. Dilshan is a prodigy of the powerful Chairman of Selectors  Sanath Jayasuriya. Graham Ford, the coach, is another who owes a lot to  Jayasuriya’s patronage. Ford and Jayasuriya formed a bond when Jayasuriya played  for the Dolphins in South Africa.

Puppetry may overshadow the cricket. Jayasuriya and his two  prodigies are an alternate source of authority to Mahela and Sanga boru  show. Sri Lanka’s fortunes at the next World Cup will be determined by the games  off the pitch rather than on the pitch.

1 Comment

Filed under cricket and life, cricket governance, cricketing icons, IPL, Mahela Jayawardene, player selections, politics and cricket, sanath jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Sri Lanka Cricket

One response to “Sanga and Mahela captain from behind the screen

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