SLPL squad selections were strange but suit franchisees’ game plans


Russel Arnold responds to questions from fans in his weekly column
August 4, 2012

The inaugural SLPL T20 tournament kicks off later this month.
The inaugural SLPL T20 tournament kicks off later this month.

How was the selection for the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) done? I noted that players who have given up on local cricket and are in England and Australia have been selected. Also, players who have not played more than two premier matches this season have also been selected. For example, players like Charith Sylvester and Ishara Amarasingha who have not played this season are also selected. What happens to the real talent such as a Tier-B player who has got 800-plus runs this season? Why do you think he is not included? What else can this tournament bring? Do you agree with such selections? – Rathika Raj

Each franchise had its own selection team in place and each one had a different game plan. One franchise even picked overseas players who are not going to be available for the first edition. They picked players who they feel will fit into a specific plan, as well as compliment the players they already have. Some players are picked with the future in mind as an investment. With some players, chances are taken hoping that they fire. Some do deliver and excel in certain situations and conditions, so research is done and the teams come up with their own plans and target players. We saw seven different selection panels at the draft and they all found certain players not good enough for their cause. There were some very surprising picks too. Reasons for selection, or non selection, can vary. This is T20 cricket after all, not the longer form of the game.

I want to know about U19 player Lahiru Jayaratne who is a fast bowler ( I remember he clocked close to 135 km/h in the last U19 World Cup. What happened to him? Have you heard anything of him lately?
– Praveen Samarasinghe

Jayaratne injured his ankle in a soccer game during a warm-up just before the start of the last first-class season. He however recovered in time to play the end of that tournament. Therefore, we have not heard much of him since his days in the under-19 team. Jayaratne did struggle to walk during that period. He is back and fit now and had a wonderful under-23 season and is looking forward to the upcoming season. He is in the fast bowling academy and will turn out for Basnahira in the SLPL as well.

We know Ajantha Mendis can bowl the doosra, googly and off spin. So, why isn’t he better than Rangana Herath? – Hasitha Ranawaka

Success is not determined by skill alone. There are other factors that do come in to the equation. You do need to use whatever options you have in a clever manner. Bowling is an art of deceit. You also need to be very patient and be good at your basics. Herath’s strength is just that. He will be very accurate and the moment he gets some help off the pitch he becomes a handful. Although Mendis is a mystery spinner, what made him really dangerous was his ability to bowl wicket-to-wicket. He also had a delivery that would skid on and hurry on to the batsman. Of late, I feel that particular delivery does not skid on and that makes him easier to play and his other variations are easier to cope with. He does need strong fingers to flick that ball out as well and maybe he has lost power there. But it’s all about using your strengths and showing resilience. Herath is doing that better than Mendis at the moment. Injuries have also not allowed Mendis to have an extended run.

Do you think four bowlers would be enough to take 20 wickets in Test matches? We expect Herath to take 5 – 6 wickets in the sub-continent. But, in Australia, where conditions would not favour Herath, Sri Lanka might need an extra bowler. In Test matches, Angelo Mathews is not very effective with the ball either. And since Thisara Perera is more than capable with the bat, Sri Lanka can afford to sacrifice a batsman for a specialist bowler. We have a pretty strong middle-order in Test cricket and Prasanna Jayawardene is more than reliable with the bat as well. Tharanga Paranavithana will have to be dropped and either Kumar Sangakkara or Mahela Jayawardene will have to open with Tillakaratne Dilshan. Do you think it would be better if we could play an extra bowler with Perera coming in at number seven? – Nipuna Liyanapathirana

The combination of seven batsmen and four bowlers is good enough to win a Test. Sri Lanka could win in Australia If they can stay in the game till the fourth or fifth day, when the pitch will deteriorate and the spinners will come in to play. At that stage, a spinner will be more dangerous than in Sri Lanka, as those pitches are harder and the ball will turn and bounce with pace. To get to that situation, we must bat well. The best example of that is Durban last December. Bat first, get runs on the board and work your way in – that’s the way forward. I don’t see a change in combination doing the trick. But a strategy that utilises our strengths is the way to go.

Thisara Perera should open with Tillakaratne Dilshan in both T20 and 50-50. This young man, if he clicks, can do lot of damage in a short time so why not try him? Remember what Sanath Jayasuriya did when he was promoted in 1996? What do you think? – Senarath Ginige

If any of our top-order batsmen click that will be the case. Not just Perera but anyone can do a lot of damage if they click. I really don’t think Perera is prepared as yet to take on the new ball. He will give you better results against the older ball in the middle of the innings. He also has not shown the ability to bat long innings and strike a balance between attack and defence; that will come with maturity. At this stage, he is very good when attacking and should be allowed to grow in that role. His shots also do not suit the new ball.

During the Test series against Pakistan in Sri Lanka recently, Rameez Raja pointed out the monitor lizard and asked you: "What is that creature, Russel?" Was it intentional humour for you to say "තලගොයා" [the Sinhala name for the lizard] or you couldn’t remember the correct English word?
– Osanda Prashan Gunaratna

I was having some fun. I tend to do that now and again. At times, the right word does not come to mind but on that occasion it was just about having a bit of fun.

Do you think when Sri Lanka plays against India and other Asian sides they should use pace to a great extent? For example, in the current Sri Lankan team it could be Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Pradeep and Dilhara fernando attacking the opposition. It is hard in Sri Lanka because of heat and conditions. But most of the players in the Indian team struggle against bouncers, yorkers and good length deliveries which come in the speed range of 135-140.
– Janarthanan Nagarajah

You are spot on. But then again, it goes against the type of cricket Sri Lanka play, so it will be a very tough ask. Bowling in the 130s is not going to help much, as you need to be express pace – maybe closer to 145 km/h to really cause problems. It’s not only the Indians; you can have many teams hopping around if you can keep hitting the bat at those speeds. The pitch should also assist with bounce, or it will go off the bat quicker too. Most batsmen tend to struggle more against the bounce than speed. Sri Lanka is working towards that change and are headed in that direction. Unless the transition happens naturally, it’s very difficult to go abroad and throw punches. But the conditions available to bowlers in Sri Lanka and the current structure still does not allow that line of thinking and style of play to blossom.

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