When word got out that Sanath Jayasuriya is rumored to be the next chief of selectors, there were more concerns than excitement among cricket fans. At a time when everyone, starting with the greatest son of SL cricket, Arjuna Ranatunga, to the board hired foreign consultant Haroon Logart have highlighted the potential harm of too much political interference in Sri Lankan cricket, the appointment of Sanath as the chief selector was a very controversial decision at best. Sanath the cricketer had a bad reputation for using his close relationship with the president for personal gain and later in retirement had been rumored to have influenced some of the not so popular decisions made by SLC. It had been pointed out that Sanath’s appointment as chief selector, when most of his former team members were still active players, was also ill-timed if not ill-advised. Despite all of these concerns, once Sanath was appointed, all that was left to us the fans was to give him a chance and hope that all doubters would be proven wrong.
Sanath and his team of selectors have now had their first chance to put words in to action and they have gotten off to a decent start. Contrary to rumors that a player from the outside, possibly a favorite of Sanath’s or one of his allies would be made captain of the test team, Angelo Mathews has deservingly been named captain of the test and ODI team. I said deservingly and did not use the word rightfully because it is true that Angelo still has to prove that he not only can handle the responsibilities as the leader, but can also take that next step as a player and transform his game from being a reliable support man to a lead role. As captain, he should learn to lead from the front and a good place to start that would be batting a bit higher than number 6. For the past couple of years Angelo had been the man that SLC chose to groom as the next captain and he deserves the opportunity to prove his worth. The appointment of Dinesh Chandimal as captain of the T20 team is also a positive and forward thinking move that ensures we did not put all of our eggs in one basket.
While the selectors have also done a decent job with their selection of the test squad for the Bangladesh series, some of their choices do leave room for debate. The easiest of such decisions to defend is the axing of Prasanna Jayawardene. He had not done too much wrong in the past couple of years. Unfortunately for him, it has become increasingly difficult for the selectors to justify keeping out Dinesh Chandimal, whom many believe to be the greatest batting hope this country had seen since Aravinda De Silva. The emergence of young KJ Perera also does not help Prasanna’s cause. Another player who might feel very unlucky is Angelo Perera. It is somewhat questionable a decision to pick Vithanage based on a few good performances in the past couple of weeks, but not Angelo Perera who had been scoring heavily over a much longer period. Suraj Randiv’s inclusion is another questionable choice. The off spinner did have his chances to prove his worth during HOME series against England, Pakistan and New Zealand and did not grab his opportunities. Sachithra Senanayake had done well enough to deserve an opportunity, but his IPL fortunes would surely help cope with the pain of having being left out. The other surprising exclusion is that of Suranga Lakmal. He had just recovered from injury when rushed to help out in Australia and should have been given a chance to continue his comeback.
The biggest name to miss out is also the most expected and Thilan Samaraweera perhaps had played his last test match for Sri Lanka. Selectors will not be faulted if they also decided to rest at least one of the big three in each of the tests to give a younger batsman the much needed exposure to test cricket.
Being a selector has to be one of the toughest jobs in cricket. You never can make everyone happy. Sanath’s team has started off reasonably well.