Sri Lankan Team Selection – Lack of Foresight or Playing Musical Chairs?

I can’t believe that, when all other teams are blooding youngsters in order to rebuild their sides, in Sri Lanka we keep reprocessing dead wood.

For some unknown reason (only known to selectors), it has been a habitual in Sri Lankan cricket that the team is selected from a core group of players. If one fails, then they bring in another from the group — usually a player who have been selected previously and has been a proven failure. It’s basically shuffling a deck of cards!! They discard Jeevan Mendis and bring back Jehan Mubarak! When we have players who are at the epilogue of their careers, it is prudent and a pragmatic approach to bring rookies into the side, since these youngsters are going to be the pillars of Sri Lanka cricket moving forward. They harp on building the team for the next World Cup, but I am not sure whether there is any methodology in team selections.

Are there any short-term and long-term plans? Is there any thinking outside the box involved? Unearthing and fast-tracking players who are going to deliver that X-factor?

Sanath Jayasuriya’s media interview after his appointment as a chairman of selectors was so thought invoking and rekindling the spirits of starved Sri Lanka cricket supporters. “He and his fellow selectors will be head hunting players with special talent”!

With a desolate trophy cabinet since 2008 and the national team is reminiscence of Raymond Poulidor, its music to ears if you are a Sri Lankan cricket follower. Well it’s almost seven months since his appointment, but I am yet to see any such selection made? At least under Asantha de Mel there was Akila Dhananjaya, but now he is on the outer? Is it just lip service, I wonder? I remember reading Jayasuriya mentioning about Yashodha Lanka and Sachith Pathirana, but none of them are in the senior squad? I know Angelo Perera has been named, but I will be very surprised if he is given a fair go.

The next World Cup is around the corner and we have been presented with an excellent opportunity to test our cubs against a quality opposition in South Africa, but what do our selectors do? They bring in show bags (all looks but no substance) Mubarak and Suranga Lakamal!

Picking proven failures is very hard to comprehend and quite baffling, when our team has done not so well in recent tours. Needless to say when Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara or Mahela Jayawardene make runs, more than often we win. But others like Upul Tharanga is just a side act — never the main.

We just can’t keep giving opportunities to players who have failed miserably, its about time we infused young blood and see what they can bring to the table. If our youngsters are not ready on big stage playing in our own backyard & on local condition, when they ever will be? We can’t do any worse? Making statements of content for reaching the pointy end of tournaments might enliven their post but is not good enough. If this is the mindset of our management, selectors and players we as might as well play in Afghanistan league and make merry!! It is because we are good enough to be on the podium and have plethora of greenhorns to take us there!!

I have mentioned numerous times about Tharanga. Since he has made 174 he will be a perennial member of the team. But is Tharanga going to be the opener for the next world cup? To all those Thranga backers, yes he has scored 13 – 100’s Averaging 33 with the strike rate of 73.86. But any score of noteworthy is few and far between. If you are comparing apples for apples lets compare Gautham Gambir’s record against Tharanga. Gambir has scored 11 – 100’s with an average of 39 and strike rate of 85 is in the outer because Indian selectors have moved on. So to keep banging about Tharanga’s past record is unavailing. To describe Tharanga’s ability is quite easy, he is consistently inconsistent performer. Slow runner between wickets compounded further by being a bad judger of a run. His fielding is atrocious to say the least and a liability on the field. He is Graeme Wood of Srilanka when selectors wanted to drop him, Graeme will score runs and then go missing until next time. When we have players who can play that role much better than him I don’t see the reason why we should persist with Tharanga. I think it’s high time players like Shehan Jayasuriya, Dilshan Munaweera, Dhanuska Gunatilake or Niroshan Dickwella given the nod ahead of this proven disaster. I don’t think banishing Kusal Perera after one bad tour is fair.

I can’t understand the thinking behind the selection of Mubarak. Here we have a flat track bully scores runs at will in domestic competition but doesn’t deliver on international arena like politician’s promises. His bowling could be best described as right arm off feasts. His stats (In local competition) are like G Strings!! Shows a lot but doesn’t reveal the real thing. The real Mubarak as often made to look very ordinary against quality opposition. Proven failure since 2007 but has been drafted in again at the age of 32? And he is selected ahead of guys like Yashoda Lanka, Farveez Mahroof, Chamara Kapugedara (If Chamara is serious about representing his country – what a wasted talent!!!) or even Dilhara Lokukettige(still good enough to play in next world cup).

I think Ajantha Mendis may have success (not 100% sure) against South Africa but he has struggled against other teams. Most teams have caught up with his mysteries thanks to video analysts who are part of all international teams. I don’t think going forward it’s a wise move because he is not going to pose any problems to opposing batting sides like he used to! I sincerely hope he has developed his bowling rather than resting on his (PAST) laurels. Sachithra Senanayke is proven to be a better bowler and a good fielder plus much better bat too. I think players like Malintha Pushpakumara, Akila Dhanjaya, Tharindu kaushal or Ramesh Mendis could be possible replacements.

Suranga Lakmal! I am not sure whether I was watching his twin. This guy bowls one good ball but delivers too many four balls and less penetrative than an eighty year old on Cialis! I am yet to be convinced that this guy is a four star. It is quite difficult to fathom why Ishan Jayarantne, Chathuranga de Silva, Lahiru Jayaratne, Saliya Saman or Southpaw Charith Jayamapathi hasn’t been given a go?

I know Jeewan Mendis will make an encore. Going by previous experience with our selectors thinking it won’t be a surprise. He is a good bat and a safe fielder but he is picked as an all rounder! That is a problem. His bowling is like sitting on Xmas lunch table waiting for the next food to be served (If you are the batsman facing him of course)!! He leak runs like a rusted gutter and should be ignored unless he improves his bowling. I believe players like Seekuge Prasanna, Sachithra Serasinghe & Sachith Pathirana are much better bowlers and can use the long handle very effectively.

I do agree Thirimanne is going to be a good test player in years to come but I don’t think short form of cricket his metier. But I do understand the thinking behind his selection (Unlike others mentioned above) that he brings some solidity in to our fragile middle order. But he absorbs too many balls hence putting pressure on him to lift the run rate and cedes his wicket by trying to invent strokes. One idea could be utilising him as an opener (He much better bat and a great fielder than Tharanaga) so he can hold one end. I believe players like Angelo Perera, Ashan Priyanjan or Rumesh Buddika are better suited to bat at his position.

I thought when Messiah by the name Sanath Jayasuriya was appointed as a Chairman of selectors (It is more red scarf than Halo) was a blessing in disguise. I am not quite sure whether it’s got to do with the chair he occupies as a selector. Like every single one before him, just recycled players. If Sanath and fellow selectors are trying to convince us that the team they have selected is best Srilankan players available, then they must all be working in a used car yard!! Is it a case of being trite or just inept?

It’s not too late Sanath. The ball is in your court. We are all waiting for your next move because you can make or break our team’s chances in next world cup. I am like many Srilankans admired you as a player who gave me so much pleasure watching you blast the opposition with your bat. But if you keep continuing with the current trend when selecting our team, it will be a very painful sight watching our team getting steamrolled by the opponents. 2015 will be a nightmare awaiting!!

Just in case if you want to revisit in the inclusion of hard hitter Ranith Rambukwella! Well we do have proven hard hitters like Amal Athulathmaudali, Janaka Gunaratne, Kushal Perera or Yashodha Lanka who are renowned hard hitters of the ball not with the bottle and might even open the door for you as a mark of respect and won’t be opening the door of an Aircraft!!

Over to you Sanath!!

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