Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)
Sleek late-cut saves cricket
We know that we have been here before. Have seen the same faces and shared the same experiences. It may be the result of Sri Lanka being a small country. A few moons ago, Asantha de Mel and his band of selectors were done away with and the task was given to Aravinda de Silva and co.
De Silva resigned during the controversy-ridden gray area in the aftermath of the 2011 World Cup and then the task was handed over to Duleep Mendis and now the selection committee has been handed over to de Mel and co again.
May be Mendis may have done something wrong that warranted his removal, but, forever a selector – Don Anurasiri with a history behind him -- still hangs on.
Who killed Cock-robins? Was it Charlie’s Angels or was it the same hole that Cock Robins dug through the last few years that finally killed him too?
Anyway as far as we know, there was a huge sigh of relief right through the cricket camp the moment they knew that the cricketing changes are in the making.
There was no argument. Like the infamous D.S. de Silva Interim Committee brought the Lankan cricket administration to a grinding halt, the Lankan incumbent captain, T.M. Dilshan, wittingly or unwittingly brought the on-field play to almost a grinding halt.
Let us reiterate that there is nothing wrong with Sri Lanka cricket. Definitely Sri Lankan cricket did not die with the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan. This island do possess some of the most exciting and talented cricketers in the world. Yet, to bring the best out of them and put them in the right frame of mind one needs a good captain with a head above his shoulders and a team of administrators who back his vision.
Now Mahela Jayawardena who is being touted as captain needs to ponder the offer more deeply before committing himself, yet he – by far the best captain that Sri Lanka had in the post-arjuna era, is a man who once abdicated his throne while the Lankan cricket was on song. May be he had his own reasons. But he did it. Yet we welcome him at this hour of need.
As for Duleep Mendis, he is now trying to jump the rail and become the team manager – a job that he has done before.
As for Dilshan – we genuinely feel sorry for him. It is very natural that every human being on earth has a bloated assessment of himself. But, he is no leader of the pack. Dilshan is essentially a touch cricketer that is good in all departments
on the field – batting, bowling and fielding. Yet, the moment you dabble with this natural instinct with external pressure he is lost. I know many a people watched that dashing opener scratching for runs in the third ODI while even not being able a score off a half volley. Then it was to show him standing at the balcony bare bodied with a complete blank look on his face.
So in the long run by appointing Dilshan as the captain the real loser was Sri Lankan cricket. On one hand they lost their credibility as one of the top contenders in the world arena as a result of the string of losses. Then on the other hand, Sri Lanka lost the services of one of the most lethal openers in world cricket – succumbing through sheer external pressure.
Now in reality the set-up seems to be another ‘INTERIM’ arrangement where you bring in a captain for a given period on hope that he will put the cricket train back on track and let it run again.
It is also learned that during this interim period not only the captaincy, but the vice captaincy also may change.
It is learned that Thilan Samara- weera is being looked at to become the vice captain of the Test team while pace ace Lasith Malinga is being given a load of responsibility by making him the vice captain of the shorter versions of the game. This means young Angelo Mathews being given a break from responsibilities to get himself back in right side of the boat and start rowing again.
So we asked one of the former selectors as to what really went wrong and how did the Lankan ship hit the reef so early.
The selector said that when they were given the responsibility of selecting the sides in the post-murali era, there was one unique situation. Sri Lanka had just ended up as the runner-up of the Cricket World Cup and the captain – Kumar Sangakkara who guided us to that accolade -- had just resigned.
He said that initially they were given the task of looking at the side from four years from now where Sri Lanka would have young and fresh legs running the show and some losses in the early stages would not matter .
he authorities were of the view that Sangakkara, Jayawardena, Samaraweera, Prasanna Jayawardena and Dilshan would bid adieu to international cricket almost at the same time. As a result they were asked to get some young blood into the side. At the same time they were also asked to ease off the seniors so that there would be no big thud when the axe falls.
They managed to fit in Chandimal in the Test team owing to the injury of Prasanna Jayawardena, but once the latter comes back into the team for the England tour, the selector argued what the situation would be. He said that the ploy was to ease off Samaraweera and take Chandimal onto that slot. But, things went awry when Samaraweera was forced back into the slot and when he started scoring.
Besides this, the disharmony among the seniors and the indifferent approach to the game by the seniors were cause for concern. But, finding replacements for them at short notice was well nigh impossible.
According to the insider, the present structure of local cricket does not cater to this need and the gap between local cricket and international cricket is huge and keeps drifting apart by the hour.
Adding to the woes the communication between the players and the coaching staff was another matter of concern. They were well aware that there have been important team meetings without the presence of the senior coaches. He attributed that the incompetence of the team manager.
Then he even said that they were not happy with the leadership qualities of Dilshan, but were not in a position to go back to the crux of the problem as both Sangakkara and Jayawardena had already given up their captaincy while Samaraweera had no sights in a responsibility like a captain. As it was they were really caught in a catch 22 situation.
Yet, by Wednesday evening things had fallen into its slot. They were relived of their predicament and the plaster version of Sri Lanka cricket had started its tenure.
All seems well at the moment. As we learn Jayawardena may hold his reigns till the end of the T-20 World Championship at least.
Yet what we like to know is where we are going from there. Have we the wherewithal to remedy the situation?