Post Mortem: Sri Lanka’s skipper resigns

Mahela Jayawardene has announced that he will be stepping down as captain of Sri Lanka at the end of the upcoming Test tour of Pakistan.

Mahela addressing the media, stated that the decision was something he had been considering over a period of time, and he always intended for his successor to have at minimum 18 months at the helm prior to World Cup 2011.

The decision to step down, however, coincides with a 4-1 series loss to India and three consecutive ODI home series losses.

The man tipped to take over the captaincy is none other than Mahela’s mate, and vice captain through the troubled times, Kumar Sangakkara. It is left to be seen if a change of leadership is the answer to Sri Lanka’s recent ODI performances.

I doubt that Kumar can do what Mahela could not.

There is no doubt in my mind that Kumar Sangakkara will make for a brilliant skipper. But there is doubt that he can better our recent performances under Mahela.

The weak and constantly changing administration is more the root cause of these failures than the man at the helm.

Arjuna Ranatunga’s twelve months as the chairman combined with our media’s blind devotion to non relevant issues such as Test cricket Vs T20 – County Vs Money – has severely dented the confidence and the morale of the team.

Cricket is the last thing on your mind when the administration that governs you is trying to put a huge hole in your pocket. Arjuna’s attitude towards IPL and the entire England tour fiasco unsettled the players. What ensued in the local press hurt the players deeply.

These are professional sportsmen who toil day in and day out to remain fit and at the top of their game. They have sacrificed a lot to warrant commercial endorsements and IPL contracts.

They deserve every penny they make and it is not up to Sri Lanka Cricket to hurt them financially. I am not only referring to the pockets of Mahela and Kumar.

Twelve Sri Lankans took part in the opening leg of the IPL. The recent auction saw newcomers like Weeraratne and Thushara up for auction. All these players would have been affected financially by Ranatunga’s motives.

The captain was not directly responsible for Sri Lanka’s devastating home series loss to India. Every match that Sri Lanka lost in the series was lost before even a ball was bowled. The toss was the deciding factor in the series.

It baffled me how the TV commentators commended Anuruddha Polonowita on what a great job he had done with the pitch. Yet the captains at the toss clearly stated the importance of batting first.

Under lights at the Premadasa a finger spinner like Pragyan Ojha spun the ball at right angles. That’s not the ability of the player it’s the assistance from the pitch. On the only occasion Sri Lanka won the toss SL piled on 320 runs which was on par with the totals India had set batting first.

In the process of making 320 India’s fielders and bowlers looked pressed and under pressure. Resembling Sri Lanka’s bowling and fielding in the previous games.

In the last 12 months SLC has done very little towards maintaining and uplifting the playing surfaces at most of its international venues. We are, however, currently hosting a Canadian team due to a pledge to Cricket Canada made by Arjuna Ranatunga to aide in the development of Cricket in Canada.

At the start of the India series Polonowita, SLC’s official curator, made a public statement claiming he had no time to prepare the Dambulla wicket.

Our priorities are skewed and the results are showing.

It’s not just this series loss to India or the wickets in Sri Lanka. With the exception of Dilshan and Sangakkara our batsmen have struggled. In recent matches the failure of our top order gave the middle order players like Kapugedera a chance to prove their skill. But none of the youngsters have grabbed the opportunity.

Kandamby played some useful knocks, but his terrible fielding and dropped catches negate his achievements. This is international sport. The bar should be set high. Only the best must represent their nation.

That raises a new question. Why is Dilhara Fernando still playing?

What has Fernando done to deserve this free ride in the team? Dilhara Fernando is not an inexperienced newcomer. With 132 ODI matches under his belt he is a senior player in the team and the weakest link in the team.

I am all for sending players back into the domestic circuit and bringing them back into form at the domestic level not at the international level. In 132 matches Fernando has 166 wickets at an economy rate of 5.18.

Would you pick me to play for Sri Lanka? I can probably get a wicket every ten overs. It seems that a wicket every match is enough to keep a bowler in the team.

Mahroof has to come to the point that he realizes “Yes, I can bowl a leg cutter but it’s going for a hell of a lot of runs because I can’t control the length”. Bowling a leg cutter slower ball short and waist high is just asking for trouble. I’m sure the SLC video analyst will point that out to Maharoof. Wait..Do we have one of those?

Talking about what we have and don’t have. Is it me or has Sri Lanka’s once intense fielding drills settled to Farbrace knocking a few balls around?

What happened to a fielding coach?

On the subject of coaches. Bayliss’ tenure as coach of Sri Lanka has been a nightmare. Trevor was appointed coach in mid 2007. Now nearing almost a two year tenure Bayliss’ team has hardly displayed consistency or progress. With the exception of the emergence of Mendis all else looks bleak.

This is not to insinuate that Bayliss is the cause of our failures – under Tom Moody we lost 5-1 to India and had a spade of other losses. But to Tom’s credit he developed the unit to believe in themselves. He inspired. I haven’t seen any inspiration in Bayliss’ remarks to the media. In fact I feel gutted when he refers to the team as ‘them’.

I don’t see a strong character a tough leader when I look at Bayliss.

Indeed, that’s not the job of the coach but Sri Lanka is a team of humble characters who occasionally require a kick start. There is an age old saying “you get what you paid for”.

With a limited low ball budget the hunt for international coaches had to be limited to a list of virtual unknown club coaches. In the past the strategy has worked. People like Whatmore, Davison, and Moody gained some recognition after coaching Sri Lanka. They were club or county coaches and Sri Lanka was their first international stint.

I was one of those who felt that we could have extended Moody’s contract by offering him a package that would have suited his financial needs. Moody left Sri Lanka claiming he required more time with his family.

The truth however is that SLC was paying him next to nothing when compared to pay packages of other international coaches. Sri Lanka received One Million US Dollars for being runners-up in the 2007 World Cup. Not to mention prize money from individual matches. SLC chose to let Moody leave when they had the finances to keep him.

The dilemma facing our cricket administration was highlighted when Lasith Malinga was picked to make his comeback into international cricket in a T20 game! Malinga was sidelined from cricket for one year due to injury.

The lad is considered to be a match winner – the fastest bowler in Sri Lanka. He was thrown into the deep end to bowl 4 overs in a slog fest. But when Sri Lanka were 2-0 facing a series defeat to India.

The cricket board could not make an exception to the squad and introduce Malinga who was fit and able.

They say hindsight is 20-20. So let me use a better example. Why did we not choose to include Malinga into the ODI squad when we were 3-0 down faced with just two dead rubber matches? If you want to groom him back into international cricket an ODI match is better suited than 4 overs in a T20?

To see long lasting results our administration should be governed by steady professionals.

Interim committees and constantly changing administrators have ruined our sport. Politicians do what politicians do best. They do not make good cricket administrators.

It’s time we invest in a group of neutral professionals to govern our sport. We need transparent financial professionals to manage our finances. The Sri Lankan Cricket Board requires a complete over haul.

Kick the old cronies out and bring some young professionals in. Be willing to pay people a decent wage for their services and turn away the free volunteers.

Remember “you get what you paid for”.

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