Sanga a better captain!
By Ranil Prematilake
Ricky Ponting was not the most disciplined youngster around when the then Australian cricket selectors earmarked the dashing right hand batsman as a future skipper, having the ability to cope up with the additional burden whilst being focused on run making. Ponting thereon was groomed under tight scrutiny. Unfortunately Sri Lankan cricket administrators do not seem to be following any rational thinking
on a long term basis in deciding on the Lankan captain to be, with World Cup 2007within striking distance.
Going by the prevalent selection criteria one can argue that Mahela Jayawardena though not good enough to be a deputy can be an excellent captain. Nevertheless the fact remains that the most suited out of the lot is none other than the incomparable Kumar Sangakkara.
Various quarters of the media have highlighted the eloquence of the hill country boy as an added advantage but conveniently brushed aside Sangakkara’s consistency, aggression and influence on the game overall. Emotions and seniority seem to have overridden the considerations of courage and boldness on the part of the selectors in making the right decision at the right time.
The inclusion of Kaushal Lokuarachchi in the backdrop of the emergence of Malinga Bandara has to be commended. ‘Loku’ as he is popularly known has the potential of being a handy all rounder in the shorter version of the game. The former Peterite possesses the ability to extract turn on any surface and no doubt would keep Bandara on his toes.
The emergence of Chamara Kapugedara from Dharmaraja College has given some life to the fragile Sri Lankan lower middle order. Chamara is the third member in the squad from the hill capital following in the footsteps of the illustrious Muthiah Muralitharan and Kumar Sangakkara. Not a bad contribution from a geographical location which does not include a single premier division club.
Promising Ian Daniel continues to be cold shouldered. When Marvan Atapattu decides to hang his boots, whichday may not be very far away, a huge lacuna in the form of a technically sound opener especially for the longer version of the game is bound to crop up. For long Daniel has been identified as a possible replacement. However no decent exposure at the highest level has been provided for this elegant right
hand batsman. Reasons may vary from insecurity to that of the right time. Nevertheless it is heartening to note the persistence of Daniel who has let his bat do the talking despite continued isolation.
The omission of Jehan Mubarak who cut a pathetic figure in the recently concluded VB series comes as no surprise. In fact Mubarak got his break into the national side following a mediocre performance against the Kiwi ‘A’ team, raising many an eyebrow. Whilst the lanky opener was provided with ample opportunities, his co-opener Upul Tharanga had the privilege of facing a menacing Brett Lee on lively and
fast Aussie tracks. The inexperienced wristy left hander could not have asked for more.
The tour to Bangladesh could give an indication as to the depth of Sri Lankan cricket minus our long standing heroes, whether one should wait for disaster to strike before taking necessary steps is a moot point at this juncture. The decisions have been made. On considering of the selectors’ modus operandi in the recent past one cannot expect anything more.
Laid low after Adelaide
Samat on Sunday
THE difference was so utterly pronounced in Sydney and Brisbane last week that the world champion’s defeat the week before in Adelaide has to be put down to a minor aberration.
This might seem rather uncharitable of Atapattu’s men and their wondrous deed in Adelaide. But when in the next two encounters the Sri Lankans are virtually reduced to helpless bystanders as the Australians got about making ruthless amends, you couldn’t help but wonder about the authenticity of the Adelaide win.
After all, the Australians surrendered nearly all their specialist batsmen to run outs in that defeat. Even so, they came short by only 22 runs. Spared of the grievous errors of the first final, the Australians won the next two by miles: by 167 runs in Sydney and nine wickets in Brisbane. There can be no better proof of their superiority than that.
Atapa- ttu’s men, though, won’t be gnashing teeth over the failure: It is pretty much an established fact that the Australians are virtually invincible in this one-day series, going back to times when it was called the World Series in the early ’80s. If anything, under the VB name they’ve become even harder to overcome as the chasm between them and the rest of the countries widened, especially under
the five-year leadership of Steve Waugh.
After all, the last time the Aussies were compelled into the third game of the best-of-three final was nine years ago; although eventually they went on to win the series over South Africa in 1997-98. So it is rather complimentary that Atapattu’s men were being spoken of, albeit fleetingly, as a serious threat to the world champion’s dominance, until of course, they were sternly put in their places in a
matter of four days.
It might be a tad too presumptuous to think the legacy of the VB Series is that it has brought our cricket to a state of wellbeing that we now can regard ourselves as a serious contender for the World Cup next year. That sort of conclusion, of course, doesn’t reckon with the six defeats, out of seven, at the hands of India and the 1/3 loss to New Zealand in the two-odd months preceding the VB Series. But
it has to be said Atapattu’s men did get off the slippery slope during their month-long campaign in the fiercely competitive air of Australia. The burdens of despondency and diffidence placed by the continuing losses in India and New Zealand have been laid down. Self-belief has returned.
Proof: whereas Atapattu’s team managed just two successes from a collective 11 matches versus India and New Zealand, in Australia they totted up four wins from an identical 11 games. One-day cricket is very much snakes-‘n-ladders and so, evaluating your worth on the quality of the opponents you’ve vanquished isn’t a reliable gauge. But given a choice of the opponents you’d prefer on your list of
conquests, any team would rather take wins over the world champions and then-positioned No.2, South Africa, over any other. And Sri Lanka achieved wins over Australia and South Africa not once, but twice, not to mention of the two near misses against the South Africans. Consistency seems to be on its way.
There’s little doubt the experience in Australia has left the team wiser and stronger of mind, just as previous tours to the country of the world champions did. No one forgets that our 1996 World Cup triumph came in the immediate aftermath of the 1995-96 series in Australia. It was also the tour that set Jayasuriya off on his journey to stardom.
The fruits of the just-concluded tour, however, have yet to bear, that is, in terms of individual talents. The first signs of the blossoming of Chamara Kapugedera is promising, though he’ll have to do a lot more to qualify for the ranks of permanency. Leg spinner Malinga Bandara, however, did enough (14 wickets from eight games) to emerge as the long searched-for spin partner to Muralitharan.
After the rigours of Australia, a tour to Bangladesh has to be a milder exercise, which suits the Sri Lankans fine. It provides a chance for the elders to rest weary minds and limbs after non-stop cricket since last October, and correspondingly, the chance to experiment with fresher talents. The Test and ODI squads, named Wednesday night, fulfilled that expectation the best it can though, inevitably, the
selections won’t win universal approval.
Skipper Atapattu, Vaas and surprisingly Arnold have been left out of the entire tour. Jayasuriya has been retained only for the three one-day series (20, 22 and 25) and Muralitharan for the two Tests (Feb 27-Mar 3 and Mar 6-10). Sadly, Arnold has drawn again the short straw. One thought his two half centuries in the VB finals would give him guaranteed presence all the way till the 2007 World Cup. But
apparently the selectors, at least for the moment, has set aside just one slot to a veteran in their World Cup experimentations, and this time round the choice seems Jayasuriya/or Arnold – a race the gutsy Arnold was never going to win.
If that were the selectors thinking, then obviously the statistics of youngsters like Kapugedera, Mubarak and Thranga were going to be discounted vis-à-vis Arnold’s. And so it was. Arnold, though, has reasons to believe that he has been hard done by. After spending nearly a year in the wilderness, he battled back to the team through consistently good performances in the A team. But now he’s asked,
unfairly, to sit it out on the sidelines, his recall dependent on how well or not the youngsters perform.
Granting Vaas a well-deserved full holiday is justifiable, but why only a half-holiday was given to Muralitharan, the other workhorse, does open the selectors to accusations of practicing double standards. There’s another interpretation, though. Our bowling has never had the luxury of multiple options. The task of bowling out the opposition twice has long been the lot of either Muralitharan or Vaas, mostly
the spinner. So, keeping both out of the tour is, in the selectors thinking, too risky a move. But there won’t be Muralitharan either in the ODIs. No matter, for, that gives Bandara the opportunity to assume the responsibilities of Muralitharan and emerge the third trusty bowling option.
The vesting of leadership in the hands of Mahela Jayewardene and Sangakkara as his deputy is to be applauded as, for once, attention has been paid to long-term strategy. On seniority there’s no begrudging Jayewardene’s appointment. But it has to be remembered he was thought of as a future leader back in 1999 and appointed deputy to Jayasuriya. The burdens of responsibility, however, weighed heavy on him,
and the resultant run of poor contributions eventually led to Atapattu being given the deputy’s job in 2000-01. When Atapattu took over the reins from Jayasuriya, the no.2 role was restored to Jayewardene, only to be taken away again last year and given to Vaas. The change during the middle of the last Indian tour might have been ill timed, but unless the selectors had reasons to be unhappy with Jayewardene’s level of consistency, it is difficult to
conceive that they would’ve dared to make the change.
Jayewardene’s reading of the game is smart and incisive. But that he can combine the leader’s responsibilities with the expectations of a leading batsman is something he’ll have to show he can do on this tour. He no doubt is aware that the job as of now is temporary, and mindful, too, of Sangakkara’s leadership credentials. He’ll be under microscopic scrutiny from the selectors and public —
because there’s a healthy lobby for Sangakkara, for sure.
Race hots up for SLRFU council jobs
Eleven candidates are to contest the seven Council jobs set aside for Provincial Union representatives, but the four seeking the most important posts will go unchallenged at the AGM of the SLRFU on Saturday at Trans Asia Hotel.
Incumbents Priyantha Ekanayake and Michael Jayasekera enter their second term as President and Vice President respectively uncontested, as will Fazal Mohamed, who took over the Secretary’s job mid term last year consequent to elected-secretary Dilroy Fernando’s appointment as CEO. But a new face will be in the Treasurer’s chair; Sunil Karunanayake replacing Shantha Kurumbalapitiya, who steps down after
Karunanayake, a product of Thurstan College, is a Chartered Accountant and works as a senior executive at the Institute of Chartered Accountants. His election too is unchallenged.
But there will be intense lobbying for the seven Provincial Union seats. The Southern Province Union is expected to play an influential role in the outcome as it commands 10 votes by virtue of having 23 clubs in the district. Western and Central provinces are the next most powerful with eight votes each. The voting strength of the other five provincial unions varies from two to four.
The eleven nominations for provincial union representatives are: Maj. Gen Krishnaratne, Sqd. Ldr. Sanjaya Fernando, Roshan Deen, Chris Jordasehe, Charith Fernando, Arjan Dharmadasa, Trevor Nugawela, Daya Jayasundera, Mohan Samarakoon, Roger Canagasbai and Izwan Omar,
"It would’ve been nice if all the provincial representatives too were returned uncontested, but then we don’t live in ideal times. But the top four officials being unchallenged are encouraging because the year ahead is crucial, especially as we are hosting the Asiad in November – and we’d like to think that the unanimous choice for the major posts is indicative of a united commitment to the
tasks ahead," said CEO Fernando.
The year’s international programme begins with our participation in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and the March 31-April 2 World Series Hong Kong Sevens. The 15-a-side engagements take off in May with two second-round World Cup qualifier matches – against Hong Kong in Hong Kong and China in Colombo. The climax, of course, is the 19th Asiad, featuring 15 nations, in Colombo, November 15-25.