Hashan: good or bad?
Tillekeratne's appointment as captain completes an extraordinary
comeback story: exiled in 1999, reinstated in 2001 and elevated as
leader a week ago. History will stamp him as Sri Lanka's eighth
appointed Test captain.
promotion took many, reportedly the new captain himself, by surprise.
Tillekeratne, after all, had never been mentioned as heir apparent to
Jayasuriya. His appointment, so, is not going to be universally
popular, but then no new appointee is. A shockingly unexpected choice
he might be, but commendable all the same, resurrecting from the grave
his international career and then ending as captain. It says a lot for
the depth and strength of his resolve, a virtue which one hopes will
rub off on a team notorious for easy capitulation at critical moments.
course, whether his promotion would've been possible without apparent
help from his former D S Senanayake MV and NCC teammate, selector
Aravinda de Silva, can be debated till the cows come home to no avail.
The old boy network theory will inevitably be overworked. But you
can't discount either that de Silva's enormous experience too went
into his judgement. It is fair to assume that after 19 years of
international cricket, de Silva would view things from an elevation
above parochialism. Be that as it may, few will disagree that the
selectors have shown quite some extraordinary faith in Tillekeratne.
It will be up to him to justify that faith in more ways than
first reaction of many to his appointment is to recall instantly his
infamous verbal abuse of and physical threats to former chairman
selectors, Sidath Wettimuny, in 2001. With that sort of personal
history, it is excusable to question the wisdom of placing the reins
of national captaincy in his hands. Lesser breaches of proper conduct
are known to have earned transgressors a place on the permanent
blacklist. His detractors will go so far as saying, his appointment
tantamount to a desecration of the title of Sri Lanka cricket captain.
But then others will argue that when violence-ridden Board AGMs are
pushed among the forgotten things, Tillekeratne's offence is a misdeed
undeserving of punishment.
be fair though, Tillekeratne, after his recall, has scrupulously
steered clear of trouble. He might well have mended his ways and the
captaincy could well bring out the best in him. It is possible the
selectors might have extracted a pledge of exemplary conduct from him.
Personally, it gives him a chance to remove from public minds the
lingering memories of his infamy and be remembered as the discard who
came off the floor and climbed the peak.
legacy he inherits, however, could've been better. His surprise
selection over the more popular candidates is not likely to present
him with the happiest assembly of players. Marvan Atapattu's
disenchantment is to be expected, as would from a victim of a broken
promise _ well okay, not quite a promise.
But after nearly three seasons as deputy, a recommendation from
the previous skipper and his proven worth as a player, Atapattu looked
to be the captain in waiting. But the promise went unrequited and
clearly public sympathy will be on his side. He is not the only one to
feel displeased. Jayasuriya too has to be miffed that the choice of
his successor was disregarded. There were candidates for vice
captaincy too: Vaas and Muralideran from the experienced ranks and
Jayewardene and Sangakkara, if selectors were inclined to think long
term. None of their names even got a mention in the post-selection
these personal disappointments won't quite make them the merry men of
sunny Sri Lanka. The new captain's skills at man management so will
surely be tested to the hilt as he must shore up the spirits of the
disappointed in his ranks, men who make up the backbone of the team.
This is not to say that there will be deliberate under-performing, but
a united team in a happy state of mind can do quite some wondrous
deeds, as did Ranatunga's merry men of '96 and Jayasuirya's team at
other times. All we know of Tillekeratne is his obdurate batting, a
quality that is useful given a capricious middle order. Henceforth,
that alone will not be enough. He will have to show the combined
qualities of persuasiveness, sternness and whatever to earn the
respect of his men. There will be times when it would be tempting to
choose the harsher option: ''do as I say or...". It is the
language of the battlefield, and cricket sometimes does become war
(without guns). In such difficult situations it's easy to cross the
thin line separating decorum and the devil. Tillkeratne will have to
show that he can stay on the right side of the red line at all times
by suppressing the old instincts that got him into trouble.
won't take long before comparisons with his predecessor will be made.
Jayasuriya's leadership through consensus brought success _ and
troubles too. The style bred a sort of camaraderie that raised
suspicions of favouritism, a suspicion that gained ground especially
when out-of-form players were retained. But Jayasuriya somehow didn't
allow his leadership to be questioned: he contributed like a captain
should, with bat and ball _ to such an extent that it became an
article of faith that the team wins only if he performs. Such
dependence might not have done the team much good but his right to
captaincy wasn't ever challenged. He was insulated by his own
is less endowed to lead from the front in the way Jayasuriya could.
Batting is his only medium of expression, and at his usual no.5 slot
he might not get the platform should Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Sangakkara
and Jayewardene do the job. That hasn't happened as often as it
should, which is why Tillkeratne won a recall. Salvaging his team from
a crisis though is a better way of establishing his leadership. But he
can't bowl, which leaves his qualities of leadership, including
tactical intelligence and player-relationship, as the only other way
to make his success.
he could not have asked for a more hopeful start _ against New Zealand
on home turf, not Australia or South Africa. There's nothing like
launching a captaincy career with a series win, just as Jayasuriya did
in 1999. In his first outing as skipper he won the series against
Steve Waugh's Australians, 1/0, and went on to become the country's
most successful captain in both versions of the game.
Tillkeratne makes the same sort of start Jayasuriya did, the question
arises as to how long a waiting game will Atapattu have to play out.
Selector de Silva, after all, has publicly declared that
Tillekeratne's job is as good as temporary and promised that after
Atapattu has comfortably settled in as one-day captain he will be
handed leadership of the Test team too. de Silva makes out that he is
being rather caring of Atapattu, but whether the disappointed opener
sees it that way is another matter. This much is certain: a longer
period of gestation for Atapattu will make for stronger political
undercurrents within the team.
decision to ease, rather than rush, Atapattu as captain of both teams
has some value, especially in these times when international cricket
is yearlong hard labour. But not all countries think the two jobs are
too much for one man. Australia and England have two captains, but for
other reasons. Hussein didn't want the one-day job because he wouldn't
be around for the 2007 World Cup. Ponting's appointment as one-day
leader has been officially described as the making of way for his Test
captaincy, which is what the selectors' plan is for Atapattu.
The rest of the countries obviously think having one and the
same for both forms helps make a better captain. Ranatunga and
Jayasuriya did pretty well as captain of both teams.
easing of Atapattu into the role of dual leader is arguable. It is
true that the experience gathered as one-day captain would leave him a
wiser leader when inducted as Test captain one day in the future. But
equally true is, if given both jobs at once he would've matured s
leader in the time spent waiting for the second appointment.
is all conjecture. The ongoing Test series and the one-day triangular
will provide tangible evidence on whether the naming a 35-year old as
Test captain is wise or not. Only the first words on Tillkeratne's
appointment have been spoken. Surely much more will have to be said _
hopefully nice words, for the sake of Sri Lanka cricket - the old hymn