A-Z of Sri Lankan Cricket in 2012
This is taken off my blog which for those interested can be found here. Should point out that I essentially got the idea from the Deep Extra Cover blog who did an A-Z of County Cricket in 2012. Thought I'd give it a go and sift through the ups and downs that have been Sri Lanka in 2012 so here goes:
A is for Akila Dananjaya. Sri Lanka’s latest spin prodigy made a much heralded and rather unorthodox entrance into international cricket when he was picked in the preliminary squad for the World T20 after impressing Mahela Jayawardene during a net session prior to the team’s series versus Pakistan. Mahela, impressed with the variations he possessed told him to go and work on the control of his deliveries. Only 18 years old and having only played school cricket before his debut for Wayamba in the SLPL, he showed considerable maturity against some quality opponents, including this to make a fool out of Angelo Mathews. He showed promise in the World T20, taking the wicket of Martin Guptill just a few deliveries into his international career. He probably would have gone on to play in the latter stages of the competition if he hadn’t allowed a bullet of a straight-drive from Rob Nicol to blast through his hands and onto his face. He still finished the match with 2 wickets. Mahela has been keen to avoid throwing him in at the deep end too soon at such a young and inexperienced age so it might be a while before we see him make his Test debut (added to the fact that the SL Cricket board don’t deem Tests to be particularly important anymore).
B is for BCCSL. Yes I know that they are now known as ‘Sri Lanka Cricket’ but I had to fit them in somewhere. They might have changed their name but they haven’t changed their attitudes towards the game in the country, which still remains about making as much money as possible. To be fair they aren’t the only ones in the world, but Sri Lanka are a major Test playing nation and face the very real possibility of regressing into minnow status. Being competitive in ODI and T20 tournaments only go so far when we tour places like Australia, England and South Africa and routinely get our backsides handed to us. That win in Durban at the end of 2011 was one of the finest moments in Sri Lankan cricket in my opinion. Right up there with the Oval in 1998 and even 1996. Yet we haven’t pushed on from that. Yes there was a fantastic win Galle vs England which followed a long-awaited series win over Pakistan but it is hard to say that we are a better Test side now than we were say 8 years ago or so. And that isn’t even the worse part. The truly depressing thing is the cutting of Tests from the 2013 schedule, meaning that this time next year we might be in an even worse position.
C is for the CB series in Australia. Some people have a downer on the Commonwealth Bank Series that the Aussies host every year but I kind of like it. Last year’s tournament was the first in a few years but was a very tightly contested affair with two teams in Australia and the visiting Indians that have given us considerable grief in all formats of the game. Alright, so India were coming off a humiliating thrashing in the Test series versus the Australians but as we all know they are a different proposition altogether when the pyjamas are donned. I still don’t understand the need to have a 3-match final (the last two games being held in Adelaide) but the quality of those three matches was exceptional. Sri Lanka went into the last match of the regular tournament needing to win, and will no doubt still have been scarred by the Virat Kohli masterclass they endured in the previous match at Hobart. However, defending a below-par 238 at the MCG (Darren Pattinson with 4 wickets, and Daniel Christian contriving to take a hat-trick), Lasith Malinga shrugged off memories of the worst bowling performance of his career in Hobart, to take vital wickets. The other bowlers chipped in and ensured a thrilling 9 wicket victory to put Sri Lanka into the finals. The first final, held at the Gabba did not go well. David Warner’s 163 took Australia to 321, and heroics from Upul Tharanga (in an unfamilier middle-order batting position) and Nuwan Kulasekera couldn’t save us, finishing on an improbable 306. The second final was remarkably plain sailing given that Australia needed to win to win the whole thing outright. Centuries from Warner and Clarke took them to 271, which was effortlessly knocked off by Mahela (80 off 76), Dilshan (100 off 140), Sanga (51 off 57) and Chandimal (17 off 17). In keeping with the rest of the series, the final was a close-run encounter as well. After an excellent start, the Aussies were restricted to 231, but a traditional top-order Sri Lankan collapse left Upul Tharanga (71) with too much to do and we fell 16 runs short of what would have been an amazing CB series victory. Even so, I look back on this series fondly. Partly because I was in SL at the time and loved watching cricket with my relatives like I used to as a kid, but the team themselves took a lot of positives away from it as well. Dilshan and Malinga even finished up as top run-scorer and wicket-taker respectively. It was one of SL’s best ODI showings outside of Asia, and one of their best showings against major opposition outside Asia.
D is for Durban 2011. This might have happened in 2011, but it was late enough and important enough for me to include it in the review of 2012. To be honest, the 2011/2012 tour to South Africa was always going to be a tough one, given that the Proteas were well on their way to surging to the top of the Test and ODI rankings in 2012. But one match in the otherwise chastening 3-match Test series stands out and I personally rate it as one of the greatest moments in the history of Sri Lankan cricket. It was our first and only Test win in South Africa which took place in the 2nd Test in Durban. After being thrashed in the first Test in Centurion by an ominous innings and 81 runs (the third Test ended in a thumping 10-wicket South African win), not many people held out much hope for the 2nd Test which started on the 26th Deecember. Having won the toss and batted first, Sri Lanka posted a solid 338 thanks to a century from Thilan Samaraweera and a fifty from Dinesh Chandimal, showing all the promise and potential that saw him get a ODI 100 at Lord’s earlier in the year. What followed though was remarkable as South Africa were blown away by a Chanaka Welegedera (5-52) and Rangana Herath (4-49) blitzkreig and ended up on 168. Sri Lanka’s second innings once again saw a fifty for Chandimal but Kumar Sangakkara followed his 0 off 3 balls in the first innings with a fine 108 to take us to 279 – a lead of 449. In host’s second innings, SL could not count upon any more Welegedera heroics as he went wicketless, but Rangana Herath showed a prelude to his golden 2012 with 5-79 to give the tourists their first win on South African soil – and what a hefty 208-run victory it was, too.
E is for Eranga. Sri Lankan pitches aren’t as spinner-friendly as they used to be back in the days when Murali was taking wicket after hapless wicket. These days the wickets can have something to offer for the seamers. Unfortunately most of our bowlers can’t seem to get anything out of it. Suranga Lakmal is one of the most promising bowlers in my opinion, and close behind is Shaminda Eranga. At 26, he isn’t exactly young but he is inexperience but he does have something about him. As he showed when getting Brad Haddin and Ricky Ponting out in the first over of his Test career, and Shane Watson in the first ball of his ODI career back in the Australian tour of Sri Lanka in 2011, added to being awarded the Man of the Series award in the inaugural Sri Lankan Premier League. The lack of Test opportunities in 2012 have hampered his progress. He didn’t play against England or against Pakistan but was brought back for that rain-hit series against New Zealand and the current tour of Australia. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to spearhead the Sri Lankan attack just yet, and there are some others waiting in line, but the signs are that the glut of limited overs cricket is hampering his line and length (which is ultimately the type of bowler he should aim to be, instead of trying to just bowl fast).
F is for Fitness. Pace bowlers in particular. This isn’t just restricted to Sri Lankan bowlers. Pacemen are dropping like flies all around the world and it is a minor miracle that the South African Pace Trio of Doom of Steyn, Morkel and Philander have remained relatively injury free and continue to bowl fast, unlike the much heralded and talented young Australian bowlers.. As far as Sri Lanka are concerned, Welegedera, Lakmal, Eranga, Pradeep have all succumbed to injury at some point and going back you have Dilhara Fernando, and the well documented case of Lasith Malinga retiring from Test cricket. You can go back even further to Pramodya Wickramasinghe and a picture of why Sri Lanka has struggled to produce fast bowlers begins to get a little bit clearer. Chaminda Vaas was a once in a generation player and even though he had injuries, we can be thankful that it didn’t get in the way of him fulfilling his talents and we can only hope that our next generation get an injury-free year or so to show us what they can truly do.
G is for Galle and the 75 run win over England in the 2 Test series in March. England were keen to remedy their humiliation in the UAE at the hands of the Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman-inspired Pakistan. Although vindication would come later in the year with the momentous series win in India, Sri Lanka would prove an obstinate task on home soil. Batting first, our performance was a pretty ordinary one which was made into a competitive one thanks to 180 mercurial runs from Mahela. During England’s innings, their spin-nightmares returned in the form of a short, slightly tubby slow-left armer by the name of Rangana Herath who proceeded to take 6-74 in the first innings, and 6-97 in the second. Up until this point, people in England didn’t really take any notice of Herath and indeed any of the other bowlers who have turned their arm over in the post-Murali era. But he proved vital in the end and even at the Oval where in the first innings, 94 from Alastair Cook and a brilliant 151 from Kevin Pietersen was the difference, Herath left his mark on the scorecard.
H is for Hathurusinghe. Everyone knows the controversy surrounding Chandika Hathurusinghe but it is to the detriment of Sri Lankan cricket that he is still persona non-grata as far as cricket on the island is concerned. Since being essentially exiled from the game here, he has gone to New South Wales in Australia as technical advisor, taking over as assistant coach during the Champions League T20 as NSW put in some fine performances to win the whole competition. He is now the head coach of the team following the departure of Anthony Stuart and is a rare example of a talented Sri Lankan coach achieving success overseas. I wonder how long it will be (if ever) before SLC see sense and ask him to come back to the setup. As an aside I think Romesh Kaluwitharana was shaping up to be a talented coach too but I think other commitments have somewhat come in the way of his coaching. Same applies to Naveed Nawaz who is still coaching.
I is for India at Hobart. As explained earlier, I look back on the 2012 CB series fondly, but one dark moment that we were all quick to forget was that horror show at the Bellerive Oval, Hobart against India. Lets not forget that Dilshan and Sangakkara both scored world-class centuries in this match, but Virat Kohli just blew us away and made the 321 target look pathetically easy. In particular, Lasith Malinga came in for some awful abuse (conceding 24 runs in one over), proving that the Indians play him better than anyone else and any other batsmen looking to not be made to look a fool should watch their technique. Malinga recorded figures of 7.4-0-96-1, comfortably the worst performance of his career and an economy rate of 12.52 which according to Cricinfo’s Statsguru is the worst economy rate of all time in an ODI. Ultimately though, we had the last laugh over India in that series.
J is for Jayawardene. On the 11th of May 2006, Denagamage Praboth Mahela de Silva Jayawardene captained his country in the absence of Marvan Atapattu in a Test match for the first time. The opposition? England. The venue? Lord’s. Mahela scored 61 and 119 during that match as Sri Lanka drew that match, went on to draw the Test series and thrash England to all parts of the Isles as they whitewashed the ODI series and coupled with Tom Moody at the helm, a wonderful thing was born. He was even named the best captain of 2006 at the ICC awards. Now Sri Lanka had had some pretty decent captains since Ranatunga. Atapattu himself was a fine captain, as was Sanath Jayasuriya but at the time, Arjuna was still regarded as the finest and most important. Over the years under Mahela’s tenure we have reached a World Cup final, a T20 final and scaled the heights of the Test rankings to the extent that we were once the second-best Test team in the world. His tactics were daring and innovative and his leadership calm and assured. Yes there were bad times but all in all, Sri Lanka were a fantastically exciting team to watch during this time. Personally I think as a captain, Mahela is the best we have ever had. But Arjuna was the most important and we owe a lot of the success that followed to his attitude. Two completely different men yet their contribution cannot be understated. I was bitterly disappointed when in 2009 he announced that he was stepping down, and even though Sangakkara had long been groomed as the future captain it still seemed a premature end to his captaincy. Under Sangakkara we were still exciting to watch, reaching our first T20 final and another World Cup final where once again we choked. When Sanga found board interference too much there was only one man it should have gone to but Mahela too was sick of outside influence. Things never really got going under Dilshan, even though his performances were generally very good and there was that monumental win in Durban to celebrate, but when the captaincy came back to Mahela albeit temporarily it was like he never gave it up. Although we aren’t as competitive in Tests as we were in his first stint (the absence of Murali and Vaasy key in this matter), he has once again shown that he oozes as much class in his captaincy as he does from his batting. The decision to step down again now seems like it is the right time. And they have picked the right guy to replace him as well. Angelo Mathews shows clear-mindedness in tight situations which is vital given our propensity at shrinking under pressure. Even so, Mahela deserves one last hurrah and one last moment of glory. Lets hope we deliver this for him.
K is for Kulasekera, Kumar Sangakkara and Karunaratne. Firstly Nuwan Kulasekera’s innings in the first CB series final at the Gabba was one of the best individual performances of the year. Coming at number 8, we had long suspected that he knew which way to hold a bat, but the way he took on the Australian bowlers in a desperate situation was an amazing feat to watch. With Tharanga batting so well at the other end, Kula who isn’t very big or endowed with bulging biceps, showed tremendous bat speed to whack the attack to all parts and nearly script an improbably victory. Next, a mention to Kumar Sangakkara reaching a career 10,000 runs in Test cricket. Surely he now has to go down as one of the best and be mentioned in the same breath as Tendulkar, Lara and even The Don? Then we come to Dimuth Karunaratne our new opener. Now he has had somewhat of an auspicious time of it down under but Mahela came out and said that he would and should get around about a year to really try to cement himself at the top of the order. I must admit I haven’t seen that much of him as a Test player so I will reserve judgement until he gets the chance to bat regularly on Sri Lankan soil but the lack of Tests in 2013 will no doubt hamper his development.
L is for the Lorgat Report. In June 2012, SLC actually made a decision that was surprisingly forward-thinking and could even be for the betterment of the sport on the island in hiring former ICC Chief Exec. Haroon Lorgat to take a look at the mess that the game was in and come up with a report of recommendations as to what could be done. In November of 2012 that is exactly what he did with the publication of the long-awaited report. The issues he raised were some we all really knew existed for a long time. Stuff like the lack of transparency, lack of professionalism, government interference, address the crippling debt (around about $70m) by getting in “external or state support,” revamping the domestic structure and tap into the wealth of experience possessed by retired professionals by resolving all the issues they had with the board. Nishanta Ranatunga (who was unavailable to be contacted by Lorgat during his research) came out and said that, "As a board we are determined to tackle the challenges we face and to exploit the opportunities for the betterment of SLC."
So we went away thinking that there might be some hope for the future. Then up pops Sanath Jayasuriya and says, "We cannot accept certain decisions of Haroon Lorgat because he is a former CEO of the ICC. I don’t think he has a good understanding or is familiar with the cricket structure in Sri Lanka."
Now Sanath isn’t technically involved in the SLC (although the lines are blurred), but for someone of his standing to come out and simply dismiss it out of hand because Lorgat wasn’t Sri Lankan and had only spent around about a fortnight researching the report is simply preposterous. If you disagree with Lorgat, you cannot deny that the jist of what he is getting at is ultimately vital to the betterment of Sri Lankan cricket. I hope that the SLC haven’t readily dismissed it as Uncle Sanath has. Wonder why Lorgat agreed to get involved in the first place. Maybe he felt dirty after getting into bed so readily with the BCCI when he was in charge at the ICC that he decided he wanted to do some actual good. Either way, Sri Lanka Cricket has a problem and it is up to itself whether it wants to change or not.
M is for Mathews. Our new captain and leader going forward. Personally I was quite worried about the amount of limited overs cricket ruining his immense talent but he showed tremendous fight in trying to save the first Test against Australia at Hobart. Nobody knows what kind of captain he will turn out to be, but he has learned from two of the most astute minds in cricket in Mahela and Sanga so he has had a chance to learn from the best. We have seen captaincy transitions happen smoothly last year with Alastair Cook not missing a beat in taking over from Andrew Strauss in England and his captaincy shows all the calmness and conservative nature that Strauss’ had. I don’t think that Mathews will be a particularly conservative captain, nor do I think he should be. Sri Lankan cricket at its best is attacking and flamboyant, and although it needs a level-headedness that Mahela was so good at, it should be allowed to express itself with all the pitfalls that that entails. Mathews as a batsmen is one of the few batsmen I’d want at my side when scrapping for a win or to stay alive in a Test. Will his determination and skill show through in his captaincy? Only time will tell.
N is for New Zealand. In particular the two-Test series that took place in November. It was really a tale of two Test with the Kiwis getting well and truly Herath-ed in Galle. Then they rocked up at the P Sara Oval and gave us an almighty hiding (167 runs to be exact) that we not even they could explain. A lot of credit must go to Ross Taylor who had long been told by Michael Hesson that he was going to be replaced as captain by Brendon McCullum yet showed great leadership to drag his team up off the canvas and give Sri Lanka a bloody nose in the second Test. The ensuing mess that followed prompted Martin Crowe to pen this excellent piece for Cricinfo. To be honest, New Zealad have some promising players coming through, including a potentially deadly pace unit in Boult, Bracewell and Southee added to some competent spin by Jeetan Patel. Then they have Kane Williamson with the bat who is one of the most underrated batsmen in world cricket so it really does surprise me that they aren’t more competitive.
O is for Oz. Couldn’t think of anything to go here so just referenced the current tour of Australia and the horror show at the MCG. At the point there really isn’t anything else to be said about it other than the team for Sydney needs to be and thanks to injuries, will be a vastly changed one with more youngsters. Thirimanne, Chandimal and Pradeep are our future and should be playing together regularly. I hope this will be the case. And whatever happens in the Test, the ODI series will be a blast I’m sure.
P is for Paarl. I’ve managed to put this travesty out of my mind for most of the year, so taken away was I by the Test win in Durban but it has to be highlighted. The first ODI of the series starting on the 11th January and South Africa won the toss and posted 301 runs thanks to Hashim Amla showing what would come later in the year with a 112 and Kallis and De Villiers supporting with half centuries. It was a daunting target no doubt, but if we knuckled down to it we might challenge it. We didn’t come close. In fact we didn’t even come close to even consider coming close as South Africa bowled us out for 43. Morkel took 4-10, Tsotsobe took 3-19 and Peterson took 2-5. Only Kosala Kulasekera got into double figures with a solid 19 runs and Nuwan came second-highest with a fluent 6 runs. An embarrassing 258 run defeat.
Q is for Questions about technique. Scraping the bottom of the barrel here so bear with me. Our problems outside Sri Lanka have been long documented and ultimately it comes down to a lack of technique on foreign pitches. All too often we have seen that in mildly seaming conditions our batsmen wafting away at deliveries outside off-stump, edging to the slips and our bowlers struggling to bowl a simple in-swinger. Pitches in Sri Lanka are never likely to be as seamer-friendly as say Trent Bridge or as bouncy as the Gabba but in my opinion SLC should allow youngsters to spend more time abroad, preferably at professional counties or state as opposed to carting bowlers around in village cricket, in order to improve their technique. Also this could be where the experience and nous of retired players could come in useful as well. If they hadn’t had enough of the board to still be part of Sri Lankan cricket.
R is for Rangana Herath. Seemingly forever in Murali’s shadow in the same way that Stuart MacGill was in Shane Warne’s, Rangana Herath has had a golden year in 2012 taking 59 Test wickets in the calendar year including sterling performances against England and New Zealand. It really has come at a vital time too, with no Murali to bail us out and Test specialist spinner Suraj Randiv not really cutting it (or spinning it either). He has arguably been our best Test player this year, and has even turned into a very useful ODI spinner as well. However at the age of 34, the time might come when we will have to bid a fond farewell to Herath and look to our pool of spinners to carry the attack in the future. The aforementioned Suraj Randiv has been largely ineffective at anything other than holding up an end, and Ajantha Mendis being ‘found out’ against the top batting line-ups, it might be down to Akila Dananjaya, Sachithra Senanayake or Jeevan Mendis to take those decisive wickets. Needless to say I have less reservations of our ability to produce a spinner from somewhere in the domestic circuit than I have fast bowlers, and injury-permitting, Herath will be around to see through that transition but when it is his time to hang his boots up, we should remember him in the same light as we viewed Murali. In the last Cricinfo Switch-Hit podcast of 2012, Jarrod Kimber (from the cricketwithballs blog) affectionately likened Herath to, "An old fat man, who pulls hot women" which is perhaps the best description of Rangana Herath as a cricketing entity I have ever heard. He also took two of the most bizarre catches of 2012, first misjudging then snapping up Matthew Wade in the CB series back. Then misjudging and then snapping up Michael Hussey at Melbourne.
S is for SLPL. After much publicized financial struggles the Sri Lankan Premier League spluttered and coughed into life in a short window of opportunity in August. Seven frachises were involved; Basnahira, Kandurata, Uva, Wayamba, Nagenahira, Ruhuna and Uthura all with suitably ridiculous franchise names (I mean what the hell is a ‘Cricket Dundee’ anyway?). The captains for these teams consisted of Dilshan, Sanath, Mahela, Mainga, Mathews and for some unknown reason, Jehan Mubarak and Thilian Kandamby. I don’t know if the tournament was a financial success other than the fact that players were still to receive payment months after it finished, but as someone who despises the IPL and the encroachment of T20 cricket on the other two formats, it was still nice to see Sri Lankan cricket take the stage and show off some of the lesser known talents in the country. I had hoped that like the IPL unearthed Virat Kohli, Ravi Jadega and Ashwin for India, the SLPL would do likewise. Dilshan Munaweera finished top scorer for the tournament and was thrown in to the WT20 squad, and was largely unconvincing although I still think judgement on him should be reserved until he gets to play more. One of the more surprising aspects apart from Wayamba not cake-walking the tournament was that Jacob Oram finished top wicket-taker. Even though media interest in it was low, teams like Wayamba did attract a lot of support from their fans however general attendances was low and nothing like the IPL that it aspired to be.
T is for Tony Greig. I said what I had to say on the great man in my first blog post. It was an honour to listen to him and have him as part of my cricketing education. It is such a shame that the last Sri Lanka match he saw was the terrible performance in Melbourne but I hope the team show some fight in Sydney in memory of him. R.I.P.
U is for Uva Next. The Uva Next were the rather unfancied winners of the inaugural Sri Lanka Premier League, beating the star-studded Wayamba in the final. Led expertly by Thilian Kandamby they nevertheless had talents such as Umar Gul, Shiv Chanderpaul, Andrew MacDonald, Upul Tharanga, Shoaib Malik and Banuka Rajapakse. They even had Chris Gayle lined up but it was not to be. However it was ageing trundler Jacob Oram who took the headlines with several eye-catching performance and ending up as the leading wicket-taker. So off they went to the Champions League T20 and flopped resoundly. Although that tournament is grossly set up in favour of the Indian, Australian and South African teams, so the English, Sri Lankan, Pakistani and West Indian representatives had to scrap for the right to get into the tournament proper. As it turned out in their first match they were beaten by 5 wickets by Yorkshire who then beat Trinidad and Tobago in their next match to eliminate both the West Indians and Uva. The final match of that side of the draw between Uva and T&T was washed out due to rain with only one ball being bowled in the Uva innings who needed to chase down 182. Chances are they would not have got there anyway as they were 0/1 after that one ball.
V is for Vaasy. Following a strong spell in County Cricket with Northamptonshire, Chaminda Vaas left the county and seeked coaching opportunities elsewhere. You’d have thought that SLC would have been wise to this opportunity to let him coach our young fast bowlers in the finer techniques of bowling seam and swing on foreign conditions but somehow he ended up coaching Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell on a temporary advisor basis as they toured Sri Lanka. Tim Southee in particular was particularly devastating so much so that at the end of the tour, amidst the furore of the spat between Ross Taylor and Michael Hesson, the New Zealand authorities were reportedly considering making his position permanent.
W is for West Indies and the WT20. The scene was set for a memorable WT20 final. After enduring the pain of Barbados, Lord’s and Mumbai this was supposed to be part of our redemption and give the people of Sri Lanka an international trophy on home soil. Nobody took the West Indies for granted, and I even tipped them to win the whole thing before the tournament started but in the end, nobody quite expected them to go and do it in the way that they did. Especially as Sri Lanka had beaten them earlier on in the tournament. There was one bad loss to South Africa early in the tournament but along the way there was memorable wins over the Windies, New Zealand, England and Pakistan. Morale was high. This was supposed to be our moment. It was all going to plan as well, with Ajantha Mendis taking 4-12 and restricting the explosiveness of the West Indies batting to 137 but what came after I still cannot understand. There is no other explanation other than the fact that we once again choked when it really mattered most. Only Mahela, Sanga and Kulasekera got into double-figures as slowly and excruciatingly painfully the Windies twisted the proverbial knife into us. Sunil Narine took 3 for 9 and Darren Sammy 2 for 6 as the West Indies Gangnam Style-d off back home to the Caribbeam with what could and should have been our trophy. I don’t begrudge them for that win like I do India in 2011, Pakistan in 2009 and Australia in 2007. I was happy for them and maybe it convinced the next generation of West Indian youngsters to put down their footballs, basketballs and baseball bats and pick up a tennis-ball wrapped in electrical tape and a vaguely bat-shaped stick and play the game that brought so much joy to that region all those years ago. But looking back at that scorecard, it still hurts like hell.
X is for Xavier Doherty. Can’t think of anything else. Played all the CB series matches against Sri Lanka and took only 3 wickets against us. Was generally milked all around Australia for runs. Thats about it really. I suppose there was that final over in the WT20 against the West Indies where he had to bowl at Chris Gayle and Keiron Pollard and somehow stop himself from being mown into the next continent – which he was, including 3 consecutive sixers from Pollard, causing David Lloyd to go into full ‘Bumble’ mode in the SKY commentary box.
Y is for Youngsters. Over the years I have been following cricket, the national team has seen a golden generation of players come and go. The likes of Aravinda, Sanath, Kalu, Murali, Vaas, Kapugedera, Atapattu, Mahanama and Arjuna have all come and gone with the Mahela, Sanga, Dilshan and even Samaraaweera and Herath set to join them in the pantheon of Sri Lankan cricketing folklore in the not too distant future. So the attention has to turn to the future and see what prospects we have in store. I am not particularly familiar with the players on the domestic scene so I might be overlooking many players here but to take those who have been involved in the setup at some point you are looking at Suranga Lakmal who is by a distance the most promising fast bowler we have produced since Vaas (my opinion), Nuwan Pradeep and Shaminda Eranga who could be anything they want to be at this point. Akila Dananjaya who may not be ready for Test cricket just yet but his time will come (lets just hope that Test cricket is still alive at that point). Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal who I think could do the job that Sanga and and Mahela have been doing for us all these years. I’ve been very impressed by both of these two players. Thirimanne has something I don’t believe a lot of young batsmen in the sub-continent have which is a solid temperament. He clearly can set himself to dig in for the long run and that is vital in Test cricket. He also showed in that epic finale against New Zealand in the WT20 that he is good under pressure and can play shots all around the wicket. Chandimal should really have gotten more Test exposure this year after playing so well in the tour of South Africa and the CB series. I think the fact that he was selected for the Rajasthan Royals in the last IPL but didn’t play a match was a lucky break as too much of that could ruin his technique which I feel is sometimes prone to playing lazy shots when bogged down. The scrapping of the West Indies and South Africa tours from the 2013 calendar will not do anyone (apart from South Africa who need the rest) any favours. The tri-series ODIs with India and the Windies is a simple money-spinner that I doubt will actually spin any money. Yes Test cricket is failing in the sub-continent but for the sake of the players coming through it is vital that the schedule has them in it, regardless of IPL commitments. I don’t know what the calendar is like for 2014 in terms of Test, but I dread to think of the condition we will be in when we finally face a top-eight team in the longest format of the game.
Z is for Zimbabwe. There really is only one contender for this to cap off the review of 2012 and that is the first World T20 2012 match in Hambantota against Zimbabwe on the 18th of September. A combination of Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jeevan Mendis got us to 182 which in hindsight was always going to be too strong a task for Zimbabwe who before the tournament had shown some signs of life with some competitive performances and a domestic structure which was finally getting up on to its own two feet. However, on the face of it bowling them out for 100 doesn’t seem like too big a deal but what was special about it was who shared those wickets. Lasith Malinga had been carted along relatively serenely by Hamilton Masakadza who top-scored with 20 off 23, but it was Ajantha Mendis who took a record haul of 6 wickets for just 8 runs off his 4 overs. In contrast his name-sake Jeevan Mendis’ figures of 4-0-24-3 looked quite expensive. Nobody doubts Ajantha Mendis’ value in the shortest format of the game with his subtle variations and his line in and around the stumps, but it is a shame that he is a busted flush in any other format against all but the weakest of batting lineups. Nevertheless he was a vital cog in Sri Lanka getting to that rather harrowing final.
I might be missing out lots of stuff that you may think belongs in that list. If so, I apologize and am willing to be corrected on such matters.