A Test series win in three years was more important for Sri Lanka


Russel Arnold responds to questions from fans in his weekly column
July 21, 2012

Sri Lanka win their first Test series in three years.
Sri Lanka won their first Test series in three years after they defeated Pakistan 1-0 recently. © AFP

It was really disappointing the way Sri Lanka played in the third Test against Pakistan recently. Why did they not go for a win? – Enoch Mahesh Silva

A series win has not come Sri Lanka’s way in three years and that was what it was about. No chances were taken, as on that pitch only loose stroke-play that could have got the Pakistanis wickets. Sri Lanka did not want to lose quick wickets to give Pakistan a sniff at levelling the series. With the bowlers Pakistan had, they could really have put pressure. Mahela Jayawardene just did not want that. It is maybe a case of the team still finding its feet and they have still not got accustomed to the winning habit. Once they get into the habit of winning regularly, the mentality would change – it has been survival for a few years now. While it is disappointing, it is understandable.

Who is the fastest Sri Lankan bowler you have faced? – Fadhil Muhammed

Dilhara Fernando is the quickest. If he gets his rhythm right, he can be extremely quick.

Why do our batsmen struggle in seamer-friendly tracks in Australia, England and South Africa? What can we do to improve their techniques so they can perform better in those conditions? Why can’t most of our fast bowlers swing the ball both ways like English and Australian bowlers do consistently? – Rajith Dias and Ramesh P

It has more to do with the bounce than the ball moving around. We grow up on slower pitches and pitches with lower bounce. Therefore, our techniques are more suited to such pitches. Our minds are also at home in these conditions. We don’t play a lot on bouncy pitches, so making the adjustment is tough. When under pressure too the tendency is to fall back on what you know. With tours to countries with bouncy conditions so few and far in between, it always ends up being a new experience to even the most experienced and skilled batsmen we have. The scoring shots and scoring areas all differ because the area which the ball pitches and the zone the ball passes you as a batsman differs on these different pitches. Batsmen need time to get used to the conditions to adjust, judge and execute their strokes. For example, in the subcontinent, a good length ball might still bowl you so you play at it. But, in Australia, it bounces way above the stumps and playing at it might result more often in an edge. In other words, we play our cricket on line but bouncier conditions you have to play on length too. This takes getting used to. The more you play, the better understanding you develop about survival options and scoring options. If Sri Lanka had back-to-back tours in countries with these conditions, I think we will perform better. We need a lot more time in preparing for such tours which has its practical issues.

However, as a team you still have to perform. Batsmen, as well as bowlers, have to combine. If you concede 500, then the batsmen are under pressure anyway. The bowlers also have to adjust how they use the ball; they need to work on their lengths and hit the seam too. The methods bowlers use on pitches in the subcontinent are slightly different. Bowlers in the subcontinent usually focus on the slower balls and the cutters. They focus on reverse swing and hence their wrists can drop. In bouncier conditions, the bowlers need to have stronger wrists and the wrists should be behind the ball. Again, it’s an adjustment that needs to be made. Sri Lankan bowlers can swing it both ways. But if the lengths and the manner in which you use swing is not right you will end up looking ordinary. The conditions they grow up in also has bowlers looking for different variations than just swing and thus the mindset would be different too.

It’s only when these two departments combine that either department begins to look better in alien conditions. Also, it’s an extra effort to make these new adjustments in live match conditions; how long can a player keep at it? It gets all the more difficult when the going gets tough.

I have seen several players like Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya retiring after the first game of the series. Is there a reason for this? – Cham J

It’s a great moment to build some hype. When you retire mid series, you live through that series too. When you have played many years of cricket, it’s only right you retire while playing and not as a player who was dropped. Usually, the decision is already made to give you a farewell game. The farewell and the limelight make it a special moment. Often it’s a home series that is picked, as you will not get the same farewell in another country.

What does ‘wicket-to-wicket’ bowling mean? – Hasitha Ranawaka

Wicket-to-wicket means trying to bowl within the stumps and not giving the batsmen any angles to work with. You do need to get close to the stumps to do so and try to pitch on the mat, while attempting to have the ball continuing within the mat. But slight movement always helps. It basically means a bowler must bowl at the stumps without giving much room for the batsman to work with.

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© Island Cricket

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