Detached & Desensitized But Relentlessly Yearning For Better

It’s a time we would all rather forget and understandably so. Even after outclassing Pakistan away, our boys were found woefully wanting and crashed 4-0 down to India at home. Mistake after mistake, underachievement after underachievement, defeat after defeat, demoralizing for the team and painful for us fans.

You love your country and supporting the national cricket team is probably the field where passions soars highest for us Sri Lankans in expressing national pride, so naturally defeat is met with disappointment.

We will always back our boys and hope for the best but it got to the point in this particular series that Sri Lanka’s mediocre results no longer hurt. It was an intriguing mental experience – for me – since I for one am someone who is prone to get very anxious before and until we get into the ascendancy!

It is the psychological corollary of the phenomenon that happens when a receptor is chronically subjected to the same agonist and it is beneficial in that one can continue with life unburdened by sadness. This particular instance was the result of maturation after a culmination of poor results punctuated only by the Asia Cup triumph, home test series wins against England, and India. More recently against Pakistan and New Zealand.

Since the heroic and admirable 2007 world cup campaign, where only Australia stood above us, we have fallen by the wayside and consistent excellence we should promise has been elusive. So these losses to India, most recently during the second of the 2-0 away test defeat we fell so hopelessly short of doing ourselves justice caused this toughness to reform.

Now everyone’s literary interpretations have their own context and uniquity, and I am not saying for a nanosecond that I am fed up or apathetic with Sri Lanka cricket and I never will be, since 1996 I took the decision to let Sri Lanka and her cricket shape who I am and how I live and that will always be so.

I stand shoulder to shoulder with the iconic Percy Abeysekara in his impassioned utterance during August’s T20 loss to Pakistan: “Thopilata mang awuruddu panahak cheer karala, mona magulakda meka!?” (I’ve been cheering for you over fifty years but what kind of a mess this is!?”

It’s our moral duty to stand by our team during glory runs or horror patches and not stoop to the base level of some fair-weather fans and irresponsible journalists in taking cheap swipes at the team when they are at a nadir.

Detached and Desensitized

What I fear no longer hurts,
Battering after battering has left me numb,
What I see in my head tortures more,
No longer do I fear what hurt.

If it happens I will not be sad,
For it is beyond my control,
No longer do I wish to stand in the line of fire,
So I will step away, walk onwards and focus on what I can control.

Lay down this burden,
Tender your beleaguered shoulders may be,
See the sea as not just water,
Embrace thick forests, vast deserts, fiery volcanoes, reawaken love for life.

Disaster is not all tragedy for if desire is genuine,
Efforts are stirred to win back deserved success,
Repel these arrows now, hope for this better tomorrow,
So flee not, stand by and see optimism be vindicated.

So that’s a fans take on it, penned after we went 4-0 down in that tragic one day series against India in February. But back to the inevitable objectivity of the situation.

We have lost two tests to India by an innings, made basic errors in our play; be that poor bowling and ill-disciplined batting and sloppy fielding that has become a worrying trait since Tom Moody and Trevor Penney left. I was stunned when chief selector Ashantha De Mel mentioned the team didn’t do fielding drills and I will be open in saying that Trevor Bayliss is an inferior coach to the superlative Tom Moody, or the triumvirate of Moody-Penney and Mahela Jayawardene. I am hoping former Australian international Stuart Law and our Chandika Hathurasinghe will bring back these fundamentals…

I have only heard of Prasanna Jayawardena, the best pure wicket keeper in the world, dropping a catch once (v England in 2007 off Alastair Cook) but he erred three such times in this series alone.

Chanaka Welegedara definitely, fitness permitting has the potential to follow in the footsteps of the great Chaminda Vaas and playing just his 2nd test on these barren decks in India perhaps was a challenge too steep but he will be the better off for it in the future. It is an undisputed adage that bowlers hunt in pairs or together and the contrast of medium and express pace, coupled with movement makes for a menacing prospect. Nuwan Kulasekara is a fine bowler but without Thilan Thushara’s tireless one hundred and forty plus kilometre bilateral movement he was exposed. This is another reason why the fire of Lasith Malinga is a must in tests now.

Tharanga Paranavitana has had 18 chances to play an innings of substance but while doubtless class has been exhibited, a highest score of 73 with two other half centuries is a shortfall. That is why I urge the selectors to recall Malinda Warnapura, a solid opener whose most striking asset to me is confident shifting whether on the front or back foot to unleash strong strokeplay. Inexplicably dropped after seven failures, or should I say five, as two were ended by bad umpiring, the need for a reliable batsman to partner the brilliant Tillakaratne Dilshan is pellucid. I am unequivocally behind the referral system and shame on the BCCI for not implementing it. I am sure Samsara will turn in Sri Lanka’s favour soon however. Many have, understandably criticised Kumar Sangakkara as being a negative and restless captain of late but chopping and changing would be a ridiculous and disastrous error. This cerebral scholar of the game works with herculean endeavour and we are fortunate to have him in our ranks. He will indubitably look back and resolve to correct this approach and surely this will come to the fore in the communiqué between him, his closest friend Mahela Jayawardene and the coaching staff at SLC. Remember first principles; if it’s obvious to us then surely to the professionals will it be clearer and deeper.

Comparisons of Angelo Mathews with the great Sir Ian Botham are exciting and natural and we hope will even be exceeded! But the number 6 batting position would be better suited to the impressive Thilina Kandambi with Mathews dropping to seven. However I am well aware of the dilemma this would cause with balance with the need for two quicks and two spinners if Sangakkara or Prasanna Jayawardene is reluctant to open in tests as well.

However, where there is despair there is hope, the successful have the resourcefulness and inner strength to realise this and strive for a better future. The day we went four nil down I opened a discussion on another forum on what must change in our cricket and while we are innovating the results do not yet show. But there is opportunity; starting with the twenty20 internationals and more significantly the five match one day international series. It will be a damning indictment of a team boasting the greatest one day player of all time, for whom failure here could mean the end, the greatest bowler ever and energy and style and brilliance throughout to lose four consecutive one day series to India. Empirical assessment of current form spells a dark tale to come but as Kumar Sangakkara says “It doesn’t matter about what you did in your last match.” And why shouldn’t he talk up his team’s chances? He has the correct attitude and faith in his charges as should we, but people fault him wrongly for this just because the results have not yet reflected his discourses.

To gain sweet revenge win the one dayers against India needless to say the batting has to be void of needless mistakes and the bowling must be accurate, relentless and the fielding must match up to the standards we usually associate with the paradise isle. Sooner or later the honest intent and effort of our boys will reap dividends and the cooking pot of this cricket mad nation would be the ideal stage. It is a daunting task but as Sangakkara said “Apita dinaganna bari wage hithanawa nang api abhiyogayata avilla kisi therumak naha”- if we don’t believe we can win there’s no point entering this challenge. How true.

Indeed, I got some profound advice on Thursday when Virender Sehwag was 284 not out and fears abounded of a new world record and a new highest test total the next day at our expense, which were thankfully both prevented; “The team will move on, as fans you mustn’t get left behind.” This will probably stay with me forever and echo after any grim defeat. To be an international sportsman takes a level of mental toughness many of the laity cannot fathom and I know that the Sri Lankan cricket team will take the field again soon, resilient and recharged and giving their all to win for the country. It is a cruel and immature myth that the team are only in this for the money; they love the game and are skilled enough and you just need to listen to some of our players speak and read and watch them train to embrace the intimacy and seriousness of their work ethic and desire to fulfil their potential. They will try their level best to emerge from this slump. We did this before and will do again. However it’s only a game and more significant in the grand scheme of things would be goings on which would hinder our country’s future after this year’s defeat of the LTTE’s terrorism, but to political bungling and corruption we are definitely immune as we know life must move on.

My writing was hounded ignorant optimism void of realism during a slump in 2008 as so-called fans ridiculed the team before the Asia Cup. Myself and a few others stood by no less a former legend than Aravinda De Silva in backing Sri Lanka and funnily enough these shameless doomsayers were silenced. I am acutely mindful of the improvement needed to give us our true status befitting of the team’s ability as number one but I will not abandon my reasoning that it is within our grasp some way. Anyone who has watched Sri Lanka play, regardless of their agenda will have see facets of their own “brand of cricket” engraved with this capability. Consistency, especially overseas has escaped us barring tours to Pakistan, New Zealand and England but if we keep striving towards this goal aware of the need to amend shortcomings and select the personnel we feel best suitable, I am sure the glory days will return to Sri Lanka cricket. I hereby conclude this entry by wishing the team all the best for the T20s and one dayers of this tour.

Thanks go to Bhakthi Dushmantha Kasturiarachchi for uploading this edifying video onto youtube!

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