Rex Clementine in the Island, 4 March 2017,where the title is
Should Sri Lanka fear Bangladesh really? On paper the hosts are a far better side. In their top seven, Bangladesh have just two players who average over 40 in Test cricket – Shakib Al Hasan (40) and Mominul Haque (49) and in bowling, they lack the variety or the experience of Sri Lankans. Yet, many fear that this two match series – that gets underway on Tuesday in Galle – as the one where the tourists could turn the tables. There are valid reasons for such concerns.
To start with, Sri Lanka come into the series low on confidence following their 3-0 drubbing in South Africa. But at home they have been quite formidable having whitewashed Australia 3-0. Given Australia’s excellent show in India in the first Test in Pune, the Sri Lankans should put aside fears.
However, as stand-in captain Rangana Herath said at the series launch, this is the best Bangladesh outfit to tour Sri Lanka. Four of their batters have been now regulars in their Test side for a decade. That’s lot of experience. Something that Sri Lanka lack. If you leave Upul Tharanga, who has not been a regular player in the last ten years, Sri Lanka’s most experienced batsman is Dinesh Chandimal, who debuted in 2011. That’s Sri Lanka’s Achilles’ heel.
Bangladesh right now are where Sri Lanka were in the mid 1990s. Their batting has experience, but lack consistency. Bowling, however hasn’t got much penetration. Same predicament the Sri Lankans faced two decades ago.
The Bangladeshi coaching staff is more Sri Lankan than ours. According to St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus said 2000 years ago that a prophet is not welcome in his own country
Bangladeshi coaches know Sri Lanka’s strengths and weaknesses as much as they know their own team. Most of the current Sri Lanka players came through the ranks when the opposition Head Coach Chandika Haturusingha was in-charge of Sri Lanka ‘A’ team. Thilan Samaraweera, Sri Lanka’s prolific batsman is their Batting Coach while former St. Peter’s cricketer Mraio Villavarayan was employed by SLC before he shifted loyalties to Bangladesh Cricket Board a few years ago as their trainer.
Stand in captain Rangana Herath expressed his worries. Chandika Haturusingha captained Moors SC for a long time and I played under him for many years. He is a crafty guy. He leaves nothing for chance and gives attention to minute details,” Herath said of his former mentor.
“With so many Sri Lankans in their camp, they have a good idea about our team and our game. The three of them have done a remarkable job with the Bangladesh team, particularly Hathurusingha. That’s why I say that this is a challenging series for us. They have more information than other coaches have about us,” Herath added.
While Bangladesh have been consistent in one-day cricket in recent times, they have a long way to go in Tests, although they are improving steadily. Their stunning win over England at home last year is ample proof for that.
With captain Angelo Mathews out of the series due to injury, there will be a sigh of relief that Dinesh Chandimal has returned to form together with opener Dimuth Karunaratne. Chandimal, the prolific middle order batsman made an unbeaten 190 in the two day warm-up game against Bangladesh at Moratuwa on Friday.
Karunaratne was unlikely to feature in the series after a string of poor scores in South Africa. But his double hundred for Sri Lanka ‘A’ in the series levelling game against England ‘A’ at Dambulla last week brought him back to the equation.
Last year was a tough one for Sri Lankan cricket. South Africa, England and Australia are the top three cricket playing nations in the world. Sri Lanka played all three opponents in 2016. This year the equation is quite different as they have Bangladesh, India and Zimbabwe at home and Pakistan in UAE. You can expect the team to fare much better in 2017 than last year.
Former great Aravinda de Silva, who heads the Cricket Committee has initiated several interesting moves that will certainly help the team in the longer run.
SLC has invested heavily on ‘A’ team cricket and under-19 cricket and those are steps in the right direction. The board has to be also honest with the state of domestic cricket. The authorities are happy to persevere with the current system as it keeps the people who vote them into office happy. However, there are big question marks over the competitive nature of Premier League tournament featuring the clubs. On top of it, SLC needs to promote the Provincial tournament with limited number of teams featuring the best of players. Unless that happens, teams like Bangladesh will frequently threaten to knock Sri Lanka out.