Playing spin; Sri Lanka’s Achilles’ heel

Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis during the 1st ODI between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh

Time was when the poverty-ridden areas of the city were called as ‘Korea’. Today, Sri Lankans are heading to South Korea in numbers seeking employment. Then take Bangladesh for example. In the South Asian region, they were one of the poorest countries. They have come a long way and today are wealthy enough to provide Sri Lanka a loan. And they have a cricket team that is giving the Sri Lankans a real hiding.

The 103 run defeat that Tamim Iqbal’s side handed the Sri Lankans on Tuesday was a bitter pill to swallow. One of the irritating things in losing to Bangladesh is that they go bonkers with their celebrations. Not anymore. Nowadays it seems that they are so confident of beating Sri Lanka and there was not much of a celebration.

Bangladesh are in a different league now. They are heading the points table of the ICC World Cup Super League having replaced World Champions England. We Sri Lankans are on the brink of playing the World Cup qualifiers; our slide in the last five years has been so rapid. The Sri Lankans need to win 12 of the 18 games left in the qualifying period to earn automatic qualification. With our opponents down the line expected to be England, India and South Africa, there’s little hope of that happening.

The scary part is that there is even the possibility of Sri Lanka not qualifying for the 2023 World Cup.

Some have argued that Sri Lanka should have been at full strength as Bangladesh were one of the easier opponents. Well, spin has been this young team’s Achilles’ heel. The seniors weren’t covering themselves in glory when England were in town with little heard Dom Bess, claiming a five wicket haul on Test debut. Arjuna Ranatunga said that with two days of training Aravinda de Silva at the age of 55 could hit the off-spinner out of the park. So you doubt whether the seniors would have made a big difference.

One positive has been the fielding and energy on the field. But that will be of little use if the team is losing in this fashion without any fight.

The youth policy was good but some aspects of it are highly flawed. Kusal Janith Perera is one of the nicest guys you will come across in cricket. But not sure whether he is a leader. The selectors have argued that he is one of the few guys who can hold onto his place. But that is very defensive thinking. England would have never won the Ashes in 1981 had they followed similar strategy. Ian Botham was the golden boy of British sport in the 1980s. England’s selectors were bold and ready to sack Botham which forced the all-rounder to quit paving the way for Mike Brearley, an average First Class cricketer to be appointed captain. The rest as they say is history…

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  1. SL and the spin challenge is something I fail to understand unless you accept that we cannot bat, bowl or field. We certainly can’t play pace or produce match winning pace bowlers which is no surprise for an Asian team (except for Pakistan – just how do they produce so may quality pace bowlers?). But we are now at the stage that our leading spinner is yet to play 10 test yet in our stocks are the greatest right arm and left arm spinners the world has seen!

    We are supposedly playing on spinning tracks but pie throwers from overseas including SENA countries are foxing our batters on our tracks. Teams are now coming to SL with a spin plan to beat us – this would be like us going to Australia with a pace plan and beating them! It’s simply unfathomable that even guys like Chandni and Angi cannot keep out opposing spinners at home.

    If the batting was a problem, we cannot find a spinner who can out-spin an opposing spinner at home. If you can’t out spin Ashwin and Jadeja fair enough but when you can’t hold your own against SENA spinners, we have a major problem.

    All we can do is go back to the past and look at the tapes of Marvan, Sanga and Aravinda tearing apart all spinners from all quarters on rank turners. I think Sanga scored a few double hundreds against Ajmal – then considered a top spinner in the world. That is of course Sanga but surely this was only a few years ago – there are guys in this team who played alongside Sanga. I just cannot explain this decline against spin in both batting and bowling.