An unfortunate situation for Sri Lanka to be in


Russel Arnold responds to questions from fans in his weekly column
November 11, 2012

The careers of a number of specialist Test players to be affected with the axing of Test matches. © AFP

With several Test matches being postponed by SLC, Sri Lanka will play very few Test matches in the near future. The careers of players who are only in the Test squad, like Prasanna Jayawardene and Chanaka Welegedera, are going to be seriously affected. What is your view on this?Rahal Dias

It is going to hurt them in many aspects. At the end of the day, playing cricket is their job. And when you are labelled a Test player, the opportunities with the T20 leagues don’t come your way either. SLC have made the decision based on the view that they need to raise funds at any given opportunity to keep the game alive. Players who play only Test matches are not part of the equation. The senior Sri Lankan players won’t feel the pinch as much, they are well placed. The other argument is that if SLC don’t make money and they don’t pay the players, the players are not going to play. You need funds to pump into development etc. It is an unfortunate situation for our cricket to be in. I hope that they find the right balance.

It seems like the selectors have increased their trust in Upul Tharanga’s abilities since last year after a string of good performances. But at only 27 years of age and with a temperament that appears more geared towards Test cricket, it confuses me as to why in the past and present he has only been considered by selectors for ODIs. Can you explain and clarify the reasoning behind the persistent use of Tharanga in the ODI squad, but rarely considered for the Test squad?Rashmi Goonasekera

You are spot on. He does know to make big scores and has done it in ODIs. Despite that, when you take a closer look at him, you notice that he plays away from his body often and has poor footwork. There is a school of thought that his technique is not good enough for Test cricket, where you find more slips in place and cannot afford to play loosely. For me, if a player is proving he can score runs, that’s who I would go with no matter what he looks like. Tharanga also has a Test hundred to his name. He will be a more mature player now, compared to when he last played Test cricket. It is always good to try him out. There is a Test opener’s position available for the taking.

Who should open with Tillakaratne Dilshan for the Test series in Australia? Should we stick with Tharanga Paranavitana?
Cham J.

I am inclined to look elsewhere as Paranavitana has had a good run, but has not taken full advantage. Looking at his last 16 innings, going back a year, he has only scored three fifties. If Dilshan was to get out early, it puts a lot of pressure on the other batsmen, as Paranavitana does not score as fast as you would like him to, even in Test match terms. Dimuth Karunaratne is someone who did really well on the A-team tour of South Africa recently and is a solid player. Thirimanne was an opener at first-class level, but he might struggle to open now after his role in the middle order in shorter games; the limited overs mentality might not work out in the five-day game. The biggest dilemma is that Sri Lanka will be playing Australia in their own backyards, where it will be tough for the Sri Lankans. The question is: do you want go with what you know, or throw in a new opener in conditions in which even the tried and tested struggle in? This ongoing tour against New Zealand is when that decision must be made and where the selectors should ideally be experimenting.

What are your thoughts on Nuwan Pradeep? We know he’s definitely fast and our Test squad lacks pace in the calibre of a Lasith Malinga to get the vital breakthroughs. Do you not think he should be given a few more playing opportunities?Sohan Ratnaike

He is quick, but still very raw. It’s good to be quick, however, that alone is insufficient to pick up wickets at the highest level. He needs to learn to create and maintain pressure — that is an art. He does lack in that department. If you look at his first-class stats, he has played 40 games and averages more than 38. Now, compare that to Nuwan Kulasekera’s record. Kulasekara averages around 23. Injuries have also not helped him with continuity, but he is someone the Sri Lankan camp has identified as a bowler with potential. Hopefully, he will justify the faith shown in him and deliver. Many opportunities will come in time, but he has to stay fit and learn quickly.

Do you think it would be feasible for Sri Lanka to invite Ireland over for a tour of Sri Lanka? With Ireland emerging as an incredibly promising cricketing nation, their main downfall seems to be the lack of international fixtures against Test playing nations. Would it be possible for SLC to invite Ireland down to play first-class games against Sri Lanka A, and then end the tour with possibly a couple of ODIs and maybe a T20I against Sri Lanka?Jonathan G.

It is certainly a great idea and there is a lot to benefit for both parties. But the financial angle causes a major obstacle for SLC because A-team tours do not make money, which is perhaps why A-team tours have dried up of late. It is an expense that SLC cannot afford due to the current state of SLC finances. The recent changes to future international tours, where we saw Test matches postponed for more profitable ODIs and T20s, also indicates that such tours that are deemed non-essential are unlikely to happen any time in the near future.

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