There's also the question of the costly physical toll of
this desert campaign, especially the injury to Dilhara Fernando, the quickest of our
bowlers. It is suspected that the source of his hurting back could be a stress fracture in
the base of his spine, an injury requiring months rather than days to mend. So, his
availability for the current series has to be in serious doubt. His loss is of no mean
significance, as it was in Sharjah. Fernando snapped five wickets, three against Pakistan,
in the two opening games before being forced out of the competition. If Sri Lanka had been
spared this misfortune, it is no exaggerated supposition that the final might have run a
Muralitheran's sore shoulder didn't keep him out of the final, as it did in the
Pakistan match of two days before. The official explanation is that the off spinner was
rested, partially at his behest. This is rather out of Muralitherans' character, a
workaholic who loathes to idle behind the boundary while others play. Obviously, the
soreness has been more than a minor irritant. One hopes his troubled shoulder wouldn't
flare up into something more serious in the long and demanding days ahead.
The consequence of the six-week sidelining of Kaluvitharne (by a fracture to his index
finger) may prove less harmful than Fernando's or Muralitheran's likely absence in the
series against the West Indies. But it was always a comforting reassurance to have him
around. When things haven't quite worked out well for his replacement, "get
Kalu" became a familiar cry. He is yet some distance ahead of Sangakkara in the
gloves-job, though the same quite can't be said of his batting. But then his rival's too
didn't deliver to his full potential in Sharjah.
There will, however, be no shortage of replacements for Fernando and Kaluvitharne. What
ever be the end result of the series, the absence of Fernando and Kaluvitharne won't be
the influential reason for it. There are replacements of proven ability at the top level
with the likes of the Pereras, Ruchiara and Suresh, Pushpakumara, to fill in for Fernando.
The battle between Kaluvitharne and Sangakkara for the keeper's job is still a running
one. Though not quite the most charitable way of saying it, the truth is that the former's
injury would only make it easier for the selectors.
The crucial question, however, is just how much of a psychological toll has the Sharjah
failure taken on Jayasuriya's men. It's the first failure after two successes _ over India
and, as expected, over Bangladesh. Then the comprehensive wins over Pakistan and twice
over Zimbabwe in the three opening matches in Sharjah gave the impression that team's
notoriety for inconsistency had become a thing past. But the second Sharjah meeting was
conceded to Pakistan in the last over. Death was swifter in the final, in the 44th over.
The conclusion is obvious: lessons on how to battle out of adversity remain unlearnt.
Clearly, the sudden capitulation in Sharjah was mental. How else could one explain the
staggering transformation of an efficient and composed team into a bunch of desperate,
dithering men. Of course, there are theories that offer consolation. Like, 1) had not a
sore shoulder kept Muralitheran out our total of 272 would've been defendable, the second
Pakistan match won and a huge psychological advantage taken into the final;
2) had Arnold not been a victim of a dubious lbw decision and Jayasuriya not recklessly
swung his bat at one that had all the descriptions of a wide, a total of 230-240, rather
than 173, would've been almost a certainty. Even with a target of 174, Pakistan was
pressured to win, suggesting 230 or thereabouts would've been a winning total.
Be that as it may, one thing is certain: the post-Sharjah mood isn't quite the right
prescription for the approaching series. Whether they can come out of the depression, only
the future will say. But given that the exceptionally talented Sri Lankans work on their
moods, Sharjah, in the end, hasn't quite left them in a state of buoyancy.
Not all, however, is depressing. A life in the world of sublime batsmanship looks all
but assured for Mahela Jayewardene. Consistency, the key to such a world, was proved in
Sharjah, following on his centuries against India and Bangladesh. Clive Lloyd's choice of
Jayewardene as man of the series is a tribute to the beauty of his batting as much as his
consistency. Happily, Russel Arnold was the team's next best performer. Obviously, this
will inspire him to get among the Test runs, the lack of which was what put his permanency
in doubt, pre-Sharjah. But Jayasuriya, Atapattu and Sangakkara didn't discover their true
form and will have points to prove in the current series.
Sharjah proved again that Sri Lanka's bowling depend solely on the redoubtable Chaminda
Vaas and the magical Muralitheran. Nuwan Zoysa's return is comforting. Sharjah debutante,
Prabath Nissanaka, took quite some punishment at the hands of Afridi, Imzamam up-Huq and
newcomer Naweed Latif, but it would be unwise to rush to conclusions on the 21-year-old's
future. He's talents are obvious, and with maturity will become one of our leading strike
bowlers. Chraith Buddhika too is a prospect for the future. Commonsense says they ought to
be exposed in the current series.
The empty airport Jayasuriya's men flew into on Monday is testimony of the country's
impatience for success on the cricket field. Disappointed by the failures in Sharjah, the
fans here will no doubt demand successes against the West Indies. Jayasuriya's men will
have to show the sort of grit that moves mountains to deliver those expectations before
the scrutinizing eyes of the home audience.
Standard Chartered Bank has announced that they will co-sponsor the Hong Kong Cricket
Sixes with Cathay Pacific Airways. Staged at the Kowloon Cricket Club in Cox's Road on
November 10 and 11, the Cathay Pacific and Standard Chartered Hong Kong Cricket Sixes will
be played for the record prize money of HK$2 million with eight top playing nations
chasing the first prize of HK$ 623,000.
The Hong Kong Cricket Association (HKCA) who are the organisers, in conjunction with
WSG-Asia, have invited representative teams from: Sri Lanka, Australia, England, South
Africa, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, West Indies, Hong Kong and United Arab Emirates. The
team from Sri Lanka will consist of Chandika Hathurusinghe (Captain/Manager), Upul
Chandana, Eric Upashantha, Indika de Saram, Jeevantha Kulathunga, Pasan Wanasinghe,
Malintha Warnapura and Dulip Liyanage. As part of the sponsorship Standared Chartered
Bank, Sri Lanka, will be presenting them with clothing for their travel to Hong Kong.
The eight teams will be drawn into two pools of four for the tournament with the top
two sides in each pool entering the cup semi-finals and the others contesting the Plate
"We are delighted that Cathay Pacific and Standard Chartered have agreed to
sponsor the Cricket Sixes and put up such attractive prize money. This event will be a
welcome addition to the Hong Kong sports scene," said Mike Walsh, the HKCA Chairman.
"The upturn in the economy over recent years has resulted in the re-appearance of a
terrific tournament concept and that is great news for SAR sport.