Too many cooks spoil the broth for Sri Lanka
After Australia's 2004 tour of the island, the then captain Hashan Tillakaratne was forced to step down; will Tillakaratne Dilshan suffer the same fate after this Australian tour?
By Ranjan Paranavithana
September 11, 2011 (Island cricket): There is no doubt the Australian cricket team on tour in Sri Lanka is the weakest one we have seen for some time. This side lacks the bowlers in the caliber of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, and batsmen like Adam Gilchrist and Mathew Hayden. Out of the present lot, only Ponting and Clarke are capable batsmen against spinners.
Their Test squad included two rookie spinners Nathan Lyon and Michael Beer. The latter is yet to play in the series. But Lyon, a Brisbane groundsman, has already played in two matches, and made a huge impression. At Galle, he exposed Sri Lanka’s vulnerability against spin. He snapped Kumar Sangakkara with his very first ball and hasn’t looked back since. Lyon grabbed five and restricted Sri Lanka to 103 in the first innings.
That was the main reason for Sri Lanka’s loss at Galle. A further 100 runs in the first innings would have made the difference for Sri Lanka. Our batsmen are responsible for Sri Lanka’s undoing, they gifted their wickets to Lyon. At a time when Lyon was going great guns, Sri Lanka’s offie Suraj Randiv, who was hailed as the next best thing after Muttiah Muralitharan, struggled on a spin-friendly wicket.
The Galle wicket was a challenge for batsmen, as puffs of dust were visible on the first day itself. Although Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews learnt the art of scoring runs on that wicket in the second innings, it came too late. Before them, Mike Hussey and Clarke showed everyone how to score runs, and put the match beyond Sri Lanka’s reach.
The selectors too contributed to the loss. They kept away Ajantha Mendis, who had already started troubling the Aussies during the T20 series. Not playing the mystery spinner was a big blunder. Another blunder of our think-tank was seen in the preparation of wickets. They advocated for slow wickets to nullify the threat of Australian batsmen. But they failed to note that Sri Lanka lacked a bowler like Muralitharan who could bowl out the opposition batsmen twice. A 50-50 wicket would have more suited the Sri Lankans, who could have gone on to win both the ODI and Test series.
The Lankan batsmen love a wicket where the ball comes to the bat nicely, and even our bowlers do well on such wickets. That’s how we won the ODI series in Australia.
Some argue that Angelo Mathews should be the next captain. But as the vice captain of the team, he should first prove that he is a responsible batsman. In the first innings at Galle, he played a rash shot against Lyon and got out. The same mistake was seen even during the ODI series as well. In the second innings, however, he played a responsible innings.
At Pallekele, during the second Test, he got a half century, but soon after sacrificed his wicket. Mathews could have done well to add at least 50 more runs with the last two batsmen. He even evaded the media who had wanted to talk to him on the first day. It’s clear that there is a lot more for him to learn, if he wants to captain the country one day.
Thilan Samaraweera too has failed to show any consistency. Since the tour of England, in eight innings, he has scored only one half century.
The last time Australia toured Sri Lanka, Hashan Tillakaratne captained the country. But as a batsman, he had to do the bulk of scoring, as other seniors failed to deliver the goods - Sri Lanka lost all three matches. That too after gaining advantage in all three first innings. The seniors in the team then didn’t help Hashan with their inconsistent batting. This scenario can be seen even now as Dilshan captains the team. At the end of that series, Hashan came close to resigning from captaincy; will Dilshan suffer the same fate?
The Australians seem to have got everything right when it comes to taking decisions. They have a handful of people to do so. But for Sri Lanka, there seem to be many hands. We see, the selection committee, coaches and their assistants all having a hand in selections and preparation for matches. One cannot but think about the saying that too many cooks spoil the broth.
So, to raise the head again, the team spirit should be brought back, unnecessary people who influence team decisions should be removed, and the captain and the coach should be given freedom to act.
Ranjan Paranavithana is the coach of Baduraliya Cricket Club and the former sports editor of the Lakbima newspaper in Sri Lanka.
© Ranjan Paranavithana