By Thiwanka Nagahawatte | April 12, 2015
The outgoing selection panel headed by Sanath Jayasuriya was appointed by the previous sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and served for more than two years. © AFP PHOTO
Sri Lanka's outgoing selection panel was responsible for many peculiar selections and unusual omissions during their tenure, and a recent interview with a former selector, Pramodya Wickramasinghe, has provided much needed insight into their actions, which lacked any sense of intelligence.
Upul Tharanga, an experienced opening batsman with 13 ODI tons, was allocated just five ODI matches in all of 2014 because he supposedly has a weakness outside off stump. Tharanga was not good enough because of an issue with his technique, according to the former selectors.
Tharanga's replacement, Kusal Perera, failed miserably despite repeated opportunities. How is his technique? Perera's repeated failures has not been connected to a technical issue — why is that?
Interestingly, the selectors seem to suggest that they know plenty about batting technique and other coaching aspects, enough to not give players a fair opportunity to perform and prove their worth. Wickramasinghe, who reportedly has earned a reputation for being a thug, and the former chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya could focus on coaching jobs next. Would you hire them as coaches?
The claim that any batsman with as many centuries as Tharanga needed to be sidelined because of a weakness outside off stump should be ridiculed. It is an unacceptable excuse, especially when the selectors experimented and failed with a number of openers in ODIs yet could not provide Tharanga with more opportunities, and all because of their biased and distorted personal views of his technique. They gambled with their opening combination even at the World Cup 2015 quarter-final when they turned to Perera again, giving him another chance to open and bizarrely pushing Lahiru Thirimanne down the order.
The number of absurd decisions taken by this panel are many.
Soon after they took over, they chose to deprive Angelo Mathews of captaincy in all formats and appointed Dinesh Chandimal T20 captain. They axed Chandimal from the T20 side and stripped him of captaincy not long after. They chose to discard the player that they had felt was good enough to captain Sri Lanka at the World T20 in the middle of that tournament. Not only did they appoint a player who was not a regular in the T20 side as captain, but they changed captains in the middle of the T20 World Cup. Then, how can one forget the decision to pick Dimuth Karunaratne for the 2015 World Cup squad, which appeared to be entirely based on one knock — Karunaratne's Test century against New Zealand. That too was an embarrassing failure.
Apart from this, Wickramasinghe also admits in his chat with the Sunday Times in Sri Lanka that Jayasuriya's selection panel discarded a fast bowler from the national set up because the selectors felt he was "faking injuries".
"There is a fast bowler who is among the wickets and is alleged to be faking injuries," Wickramasinghe said. "When we found that out, we kept him out. He was out of the side for a while because of that reason. Then Sanath had a chat with him and brought him back.
"That is not the only instance, there have been several cases of this nature where we intervened and straightened things out."
One can only hope that the selectors relied on more than their perception to come to such conclusions. They could well have deprived Sri Lanka of a bowler that the team needed badly, simply because they felt he was "faking" an injury.
The dimwits the corrupt politicians from the previous regime picked as selectors lived in a bubble and got away with anything — even the selection of politicians' sons to national squads. Former cricketer Hashan Tillakaratne, a politician now and a selector in the previous panel, was able to see his son play for Sri Lanka Under-19, while the former defence spokesman and later media and information minister Keheliya Rambukwella's son too made it into preliminary World Cup squads.
Advising the new selectors in his recent interview, Wickramasinghe also insinuated that there is no quality talent in Sri Lanka to replace the retiring seniors. Only Angelo Mathews, according to Wickramasinghe, can hold a permanent place in the side amongst the junior players. And in a post-World Cup press conference recently, former chief selector Jayasuriya blamed Sri Lanka's inability to qualify for a World Cup final for the first time since 2007 on fitness. The former selectors have left Sri Lankan cricket in a mess and are making farcical excuses these days to cover up their incompetence.
There is plenty of talent in Sri Lanka. What Sri Lanka has been deprived of is competent individuals to manage that talent.
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