ONE = Mahinda Wijesinghe, in Sunday Island, 20 August 2017, where the title is “Will Humpty-Dumpty’s fate be repeated?
At last – and thankfully – the three-Test series against India is over. Sri Lanka was outplayed, out-planned and out-distanced by many a mile as the visitors sauntered to a 3-0 series win seemingly without raising a sweat. Watching this massacre from a Sri Lankan point of view was excruciatingly painful to say the least. To think that not too long ago Sri Lanka humbled the mighty Australians 3-0 before this tumble. Hopefully, after this great fall, unlike the fate that befell Humpty-Dumpty, can the powers-that-be put our cricket together again? It is going to be a very difficult task.
Sri Lankan chief cricket selector Sanath Jayasuriya (R) and Sri Lanka Cricket President Thilanga Sumathipala attend a press conference in Colombo on August 16. India will play five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 game in Sri Lanka. The first one-day internationals starts today, August 20 in Dambulla.(Ishara S. Kodikara / AFP)
Just look at the figures after the Indian disaster. The visitors had comfortable first-innings leads of more than 300 runs in all three Tests, and their lowest score in a completed innings was a tad more than 100 runs over Sri Lanka’s highest in the series. As a result, the proposed 15-day three-Test series ended in a bit less than 11 days. Indeed, will somebody now propose four-day Test matches in the future based on the above?
The conclusion of the series enabled the Indian High Commission to – coincidentally – celebrate their 70th Independence Day on schedule!
In mitigation it could be claimed a few key players were not available for selection at the beginning of the series, and a couple suffered ailments during the series. The downside of the picture is that (a) the fitness of our players had not been monitored more closely over time. For example, the problem of hamstring injuries seems a key issue especially among the pacemen. Former skipper Angelo Mathews has given up bowling due to this problem. And (b) the replacement players do not seems to measure up to the standards required at international level. Surely with District Coaches around the country, and Selectors, expected to keep watch for talented players to be groomed, it appears we are still at the starting block. The problem here is that coaches are expected to deliver the goods. Coaches can coach but identifying potential players for the high table is another matter. Appointing of independent talent scouts should take high priority by the Cricket Board.
The Chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket seems to be most concerned – rightfully so – about this catastrophe that has afflicted our cricket. Now he is concerned, as reported in the media, about playing a T20 game against Pakistan in Lahore: “I am keen to take my team to Pakistan ….” Shouldn’t that be a joint decision to be taken by the Executive Committee of SLC? In his enthusiasm, and as reported in the media, Is the President overplaying his hand? Unconfirmed reports also state that he has been most vociferous on various other issues as well.
Recently Chaminda Vaas has been rightfully wary of the current first-class structure in the country. Sri Lanka has established an unseemly world record by having not less than 24 teams in the domestic first-class structure. Just the previous year there were only 14 teams. A recent media report stated: “The current administration increased the number of teams by ten more teams in order to satisfy the clubs that had voted them into office.” The President has also reiterated that he does not “intend to resign as the President of the SLC at least till the 2019 World Cup.” With a strong vote base he seems to imply that he could even go on after that as well.
The principle of what first-class cricket means is not something our vote-smart cricket administrators knew for a long time. Hence throwing that carrot around for whatever reasons will not help unearth skilled players. In fact, this situation dilutes the first-class cricket structure.
It is ironic that for seven consecutive years, beginning from 1981, (when we were first appointed as a Test-playing nation) the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, with reference to the status of domestic first-class cricket in Sri Lanka, commented: “at the time of going to press details of domestic competition with first-class status were not available.” The same report continued for eight successive years! Then, as now, politicians or those aligned to them held sway. Probably they did not even know the existence of the Wisden. Eventually, in the 1990 edition of the Wisden, an article appeared under the headline “Cricket in Sri Lanka”, an excerpt of which summed up the whole situation regarding the question of awarding first-class status to our domestic cricket as follows:
“Yet as 1989 progressed, the Board was to find itself under pressure from Sri Lanka’s Minister of Sports, (probably due to consistent reports in the local press as well. M.W.) and to the outside world it sometimes seemed that the country’s cricket occupied the same confused state as other aspects of life there.”
In effect Sri Lanka lost almost a decade of establishing first-class cricket records for our players due to the sheer ignorance of our so-called administrators who knew more about winning votes than the knowledge of the game.
How different is the situation today?
Sri Lankan cricketers … during the presentation ceremony after India’s victory on the last day of the third and final Test match between Sri Lanka and India at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Pallekele on August 14.(Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP)
TWO = Neil Perera, “Sri Lankan cricket in doldrums. Some solutions to current woes,” in Sunday Island, 20 August 2017, , http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=170286
As Rex Clementine has indicated a few days ago, Sri lanka Cricket has hit rock bottom. It is not on the defeat in three Tests itself against India that one comes to this conclusion, but the unbelievable margins of defeat including two innings-defeats and one inside three days that makes one wonder as to how we could recover from this impasse. The Sri Lanka administration must sit back and plan out the short-term and long-term strategy to regain the standards we were proud of till the steep fall during the last one year or so. It would be a wise step to form an Advisory Committee or Think Tank, comprising of some of the past cricket Captains and senior cricketers like Anura Tennekoon, Sidath Wettimuny, Duleep Mendis, Arjuna Ranatunga (if he is acceptable to the SLC), Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara etc. with inputs from Sanath Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas etc. and obtain their advice to resurrect the game.
Watching the Test Matches against the Indians, a keen observer could notice that the mental approach of some of the highly talented cricketers needs to be corrected. This brings to mind a less serious situation we had in the 1980’s when the then President of the BCCSL, Gamini Dissanayake, obtained the services of a renowned Sports Psychologist from the West Indies by the name of Dr. Rudy Webster (if I can remember the name correctly). Dr. Webster interacted with the team for nearly a month and the consequent results were remarkable. It has been stated that the standards of the local cricket tournament is low and that the Provincial Tournament should be revived.
As a person who has served the Executive Committees of the Board of Control for Cricket and Sri Lanka Cricket for nearly 20 years as Vice President, Honorary Secretary, etc. and Manager of six Sri Lanka cricket teams, I would venture to make a few suggestions for Sri Lanka to get out of the present impasse.
- The 1st Class fixtures should be confined to 14 or 16 teams divided into 2 Groups, Group ‘A’ and ‘B’. After the 1st round of 7 or 8 matches, the top 4 teams of each Group should combine to play 7 matches each and the team that gets the highest points will be adjudged the winner of the Main Trophy. The teams that did not qualify within the first 4 on points in both Groups will play in a different league and the winner will be awarded a different Trophy.
If the 1st Class fixtures are confined to 8 or 10 teams, it is likely that almost all the Outstation Clubs, form Kandy, Matara, Galle, Moratuwa, Panadura, Kurunegala etc., who have been playing cricket for over 75 years will never be able to reach the 1st Class level.
- It was evident from the performance against India that those who participated, particularly the younger members, needed greater exposure at a higher level of cricket than is available locally. It is very necessary that SLC arranges for particularly younger members to take part against several international sides as happened in the past, as members of the Sri Lanka ‘A’ sides and Sri Lanka Under-23 sides. Dimuth Karunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, Lakshan Sandakan, Malinda Pushpakumara etc are highly talented youngsters, but they need more exposure at a high level.
When Sanath Jayasuriya was made the Chairman of Selectors, while congratulating him I reminded him that he established a permanent place in the Sri Lankan side only after he did exceptionally well while playing in the Under-23 sides as well as the Sri Lanka ‘A’ side. A similar programme should be arranged by the SLC for Sri Lanka Under-19 sides.
- There appears to be a serious lacuna in the bowling department. Neither the fast bowlers nor the spinners have performed creditably in recent times. Chaminda Vaas is a good addition as Fast Bowling Coach and with necessary encouragement, he should well be a fine addition to the coaching staff. Muttiah Muralitharan should be made use of, along with Rangana Herath, to assist the Sri Lanka team spinners.
I hope that the Sri Lanka Cricket administration will accept the above suggestions.
Neil Perera is former Vice President, Honorary Secretary of BCCSL and SLC, and Manager of Sri Lanka cricket team)