Rex Clementine, in The Island, 19 August 2016, where the title is “Cherishing our finest hour in cricket”
The great game of ours is filled with uncertainties. Steven Smith arrived in Colombo having not lost a Test match in the 11 games he had been in charge as Australian captain. Australia were world’s number one ranked team. Their preparations were meticulous.
By arriving 17 days before the first Test, the tourists wanted to be well prepared for the turning tracks here. They used Sri Lankan experts such as Muttiah Muralitharan and Tilan Samaraweera to stay one step ahead of the opponents.
Sri Lanka meanwhile arrived in the island following their tour of England with their heads down. To sum it up, the England tour was a nightmare. The experts were of the view that it will take a considerable time for Sri Lankans to be competitive in international cricket again. Coach Graham Ford wasn’t sure how he was going to make the turnaround happen. He had toiled tirelessly with little result. But he didn’t lose hope. John Wooden, one of the finest basketball coaches used to say, ‘Don’t complain about not having talented athletes. If you keep working hard, talent will emerge.” Ford seemed to have believed in that mantra for some of the younger players he backed in the series made a huge difference.
Sanath Jayasuriya, the Chairman of Selectors, was known as Master Blaster during his playing days. With some smart moves and resisting the pressure to drop the misfiring openers he has proved that he is master brain too.
Since the World Cup last year, our cricket had moved not knowing exactly which direction it was heading. One of the first steps to get things back on track was to hire Ford and back Jayasuriya. Together with Angelo Mathews they have made an excellent combination.
Mathews had come under intense criticism during the tour of England. Against Australia, he showed huge improvement and the greatest captain we have had – Arjuna Ranatunga – told ‘The Island’ following the series win that Mathews could go onto become Sri Lanka’s finest captain.
Former great Aravinda de Silva kept saying that there was no dearth of talent in our cricket and what was lacking was self belief. That self belief was given by Kusal Mendis, whose stunning 176 at Pallekele stunned the Aussies. Ford said that it was one of the best knocks he had seen. That set the tone for the series. When Sri Lanka were worrying over the unavailability of leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay due to injury, Lakshan Sandakan came over as a godsend and played a decisive role at Pallekele. He needs to work on his control more, but suddenly Sri Lanka’s reserve has started looking impressive. Dhananjaya de Silva playing his debut series batted like a veteran. Kaushal Silva was all grit and determination batting with six stitches on his left-hand.
Can you imagine that Rangana Herath was dropped last year? With the Test series against Pakistan leveled at 1-1, Herath was dropped for the final Test at Pallekele as Sri Lanka packed the side with four seamers. They were imagining that the Pallekele track was going to behave like the old track at Perth. Herath has gone from strength to strength since being dropped. His 28 wickets, the second most by a Sri Lankan in a three-match series is worth more than Murali’s 30 wickets against Zimbabwe in 2001.
Former captain Kumar Sangakkara in a tweet said, “If Rangana Herath was English he would be knighted. I am so glad he is Sri Lankan. He deserves the highest credit and recognition. Great man.” Sanga went onto say that it was our greatest moment in Test cricket. While whitewashing world’s number one ranked team must be celebrated and adored, you will always cherish an away series win above a series win at home. That’s why Sri Lanka’s series win over England two years ago remains the country’s greatest moment in Test cricket.
The Australians have been so disappointing in this series. There have been five Australian teams prior to this to tour Sri Lanka and they had an excellent record. Sri Lanka had beaten Australia just once before this in 27 attempts. The current team lost three Tests in three weeks.
Perhaps, they could have done better by not over complicating things. Only Shaun Marsh had scored a hundred in Sri Lanka prior to this tour. When Australia toured Sri Lanka in 2011, Marsh made his debut at Pallekele and batted for over seven hours on his way to 141. It’s confusing as to why they didn’t want to play someone with a proven record from the start of the series. Marsh came into the equation only after the tourists had lost the series and proved himself with a fine hundred in the first innings at SSC. Glen Maxwell is another guy the Sri Lankans fear like the plague after he smashed a century against them in 50 deliveries in a World Cup match in Sydney last year. Mathews is happy as doesn’t have to worry about Maxwell. “He plays spin better than most Australian batsmen. He scores on both sides of the wicket. We are quite happy to see him not in the squad,” he said.
Our generation grew up admiring a host of Australian cricketing heroes like Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor and Michael Clarke. Their cricket hierarchy at that point had men like Malcolm Speed, John Buchanan, Trevor Hohns and Steve Bernard. They were practical men and produced quality teams that played exciting cricket and outstanding ambassadors of their country.
The current Australian team and their set up is looking like the England of 1990s. They are overcautious, whining, boring, arrogant and traditional. A closer look at them will tell you that men with rugby background are running Australian cricket.
Daniel Brettig: “Brettig’s Brilliant Deciphering of Test Disasters in Lanka,” 17 August 2016, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/brettigs-brilliant-deciphering-of-test-disasters-in-lanka/#more-8253
Gomin Dayasri: “Spins and Grins: Diarizing the Third Test at the SSC,” 17 August 2016, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/spins-and-grins-diarizing-the-third-test-at-the-ssc/#more-8257
Andrew Fidel Fernando: “Dhananjaya’s Casual Brilliance frustrates the Aussies,”13 August 2016, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2016/08/13/dhananjayas-casual-brilliance-frustrates-the-aussies/#more-8241
Geoff Lemon: “Stephen Smith amongst the Driftwood of Australian Wreckage,” 8 August 2016, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/stephen-smith-amongst-the-driftwood-of-australian-wreckage/#more-8229
Michael Roberts: “Dhananjaya as Sri Lanka’s Cricketing Star Today,” 18 August 2016, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/dhananjaya-as-sri-lankas-cricketing-star-today/#more-8269
Vithushan Ehantharaja: “Murali’s Testing Times …. Through Thick and Thin,” 9 August 2016, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/muralis-testing-times-through-thick-and-thin/#more-8231