As a cricketer, Sanath Jayasuriya had destroyed opposition teams over two decades, but as a chief selector; it seems that he is on a mission to destroying his own country’s cricket.
In world cricket, with the player’s like – Sanath Jayasuriya, Adam Gilchrist and Virender Sehwag, you can expect only one thing – aggression. In their cricketing career, whether they succeeded or failed miserably at times, they always remained aggressive with their approach.
Amongst them, Sanath was the original ‘master-blaster’. With his aggressive batting filled with audacious strokes, he completely changed one day cricket during 1996 world cup. From that period to until his retirement in 2011, he remained one of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket, largely due to his aggressive approach.
But now, as he is the chief selector of his national team, what we are seeing, is beyond our imagination. With Sanath, you can expect bold decisions, young players introductions, who are capable of demoralize the bowlers. Coincidently, during his tenure, Sri Lanka has found some explosive batsmen like- Dilshan Munnaweera, Kusal Perera and Angelo Perera etc.
But it seems that Sanath has other ideas. At the time, when every other country is focusing on developing a team for the 2015 world cup, he is trying to make a team of thirty plus cricketers. First, it was the inclusion of Dilhara Lokuhettige. Aged above 33 now, he played his first ODI in 2005, when Marven Attapatu was captaining the team. So, how can a selector imagine that he will be fit him in the team of 2013? But Sanath did it, not once but twice ! First, he included Lokuhettige for the Champions Trophy and later in recently concluded tri-series Played in West Indies.
As, lone inclusion of Lokuhettige was not enough, Sanath did it at the cost of SRI LANKA’S most valuable all rounder in recent months- Thisara Perera. At the time, when Sri Lanka’s so called young stars are failing miserably, Perera has been the most consistent player over the few months, either with the ball or bat. But regardless of his value in the team, Sanath opted for a 33 year old all rounder, who eventually, as expected, turned out just a ‘passing shower’ for the team.
And, when Lokuhettige’s brief honeymoon period with the team was over after a forgettable West Indies tour, Sanath took another bad decision, to bring back 32 year old batsmen Jehan Mubarak for the home series against South Africa. In a series, where touring South Africa is experimenting with a young team, Sri Lanka opted thirty two year old and proven failure Jehan Mubarak for the first ODI, instead of a twenty three year old talent Angelo Perera. A hard hitting batsman, with a first class average of 44, Perara is underlying as a future middle order batsman for the team, probably one, who could take the place of great Mahela Jayawardene in years to come. Sanath himself an admirer of Angelo’s potential, but when it comes to selecting a playing eleven, he opted for Mubarak over him. Now, if Angelo Perera couldn’t find a place in the team in the absence of regular captain Angelo Mathews, how can he expect a game, when the captain will arrive for the rest of the series.
Another exciting young player, Kusal Perera is getting same treatment by the Sanath. Came in to the side in January 2013, against Australia, he quickly became ‘blue eyed baby’ for millions of Sri Lankan fans, largely due to his fearless batting, and strokes, similar to legendary Sanath. But, as soon as he failed miserably in champions trophy and in West Indies, he has thrown out of the team. Sanath himself, as was a dasher in his playing days, had never been consistent with his batting, so he should understand that just like him, any destructive player, for example- Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle etc.- needs special treatment, simply because they won’t deliver for you in every single innings. But, whenever they fires, it always turns out as a match winning effort. His brief stay at international level showed that if groomed properly, he could become another ‘impact’ player for Sri Lanka.
Sad thing is that not only with the young batsmen, but Sanath is doing same painful experiments with the young upcoming bowlers as well. Akhila Dhananjaya has been disappeared now, and Ajantha Mendis is not getting chances, even against proteas, who are lackluster against spin. Sachitra Senanayake has the potential to become premier spinner of team, but even he has been suffering, with the policy of ‘in and out of the team.’ Yes, Rangana Herath has been picking wickets regularly, but if Sri Lanka can’t win tournaments, even with their seniors, there is no harm, if Sanath will opt for these youngsters.
So, it’s the high time, when Sanath must rethink about his approach, if he want to develop a team for the next world cup. With there are already several seniors in team – Sanga, Mahela, Herath and Dilshan, Sri Lanka can’t afford these self-destroying tactics.
In Mubarak case, as his father is rich man, maybe he can contribute a lot to the SLC bank balance, but as a national selector, Sanath is not here to contribute to solve his board’s financial crisis. Instead, he is here to contribute to the future of Sri Lanka cricket. Mr. national selector must understand his priority, only then Sri Lanka cricket will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
But, for that to be happen, he must remember great Arjuna Ranatunga, who had taken one of the greatest decisions ever to make Sanath as an opener, when he was just an ordinary middle order all rounder. Obviously, when Arjuna can do it with Sanath, he also can do the same with some of the new talents, Sri Lanka has found recently.