In the first match of their tour to India, Sri Lanka was trounced by 88 runs by India A, and then in the first international outing it was rolled over by 169 runs by the Indian team. It is really hard to believe that a team that won the World T20 and the Asia Cup just a few months back was now reduced to the standard of journeymen so early on in the tour. When Angelo Mathews arrived with his team a few days back on Indian shores he stated that his team was not prepared for a series against an opposition of the quality of India and they had only been doing physical preparation before the ensuing England series at home. Such lack of confidence from the skipper of a team like Sri Lanka is hard to fathom.
However, the way Sri Lanka has selected its team would not really inspire much confidence as far as their claims of regarding India highly as an opposition is concerned. To start with, on a supposedly tough tour they have picked young and inexperienced batsmen such as Niroshan Dickwella and Ashen Priyanjan instead of players such as Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne.
Not a good thing for team’s morale
The possible reason that one could cite is injury and fatigue or loss of form but then the last time Sri Lanka played international cricket was in August and that too at home against Pakistan. Two months have passed since. In this day and age when cricketers are playing all round the year such excuses can be a little hard to digest. Even if it’s a question of form, the Sri Lankan selectors need to realize that chopping and changing so much ahead of the World Cup may not be a good thing for the team’s morale in the long term.
They could also suggest that they are trying to give their younger cricketers some exposure. Well, the question that would arise in that case is, do you give your younger players a chance during a tough series? The answer is, perhaps not. Their selection policies too have been highly inconsistent – after the allrounder Chaturanga de Silva performed creditably in the Asia Cup he was left out of the side and then brought back again for this tour.
Such illogical decisions debase a player and could make him feel less confident. They have not picked someone like Jeevan Mendis for this tour. Mendis was once with Mathews and Thisara Perera the backbone of a very successful Sri Lanka One Day team but for the last couple of years he has been continued to be left out. Coming to the spin attack there are several questions that could be asked. Why is Ajantha Mendis not in the team and why is Randiv not consistently selected if he is a better spinner than Mendis? Why was Senanayake not given a chance? He is supposed to have corrected his action. This series could have been the perfect platform to see how much progress he has made.
Coming to seamers, Sri Lanka is probably one of the weaker nations right now, just marginally better than bottom rung nations like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Even with Lasith Malinga their pace attack never really inspired much confidence. It was proven with the injury that he received owing to the excessive burden that he had to take as the only bowler of wicket taking quality. Now with their over-reliance on Nuwan Kulasekara – well past his sell by date as a wicket to wicket seamer – their bowling attack is looking threadbare at best. For this tour they should have selected the trio of Shaminda Eranga, Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep who are the brightest pace prospects in the Emerald Isle.
One weakness of India has always been in dealing with quick bowling and with their extra pace these three could have formed a potent combination. Now that Lasith Malinga is unsure about his participation in the World Cup these three could have been given a run in the squad and could have been groomed to take his place. Their absence will put extra pressure on Dhammika Prasad to be the main quick man and that could affect his performance as well.
Instead, they have opted to go with Lahiru Gamage who did not inspire much confidence in the first game. If the logic behind their non-selection is injury then at least multi-dimensional seamers such as Farveez Maharoof, Isuru Udana, Kosala Kulasekara and Dilhara Lokuhettige could have been chosen. A year or two ago Sanath Jayasuriya, one of the selectors, had remarked that in order to be successful in the World Cup they will need allrounders who could bowl quick. However, till date, there has been no reflection of that thought in their selections. Since, this tour is basically being used to look at possible options for the World Cup these players could have been tried out as well.
It is said that in life if you are not clear with what you want to do it shows in every aspect of your life – your approach, your choices and decisions and your results. With the India series Sri Lanka was not sure about how it wanted to approach things and how it wanted to do it – from the looks of it, a part of the team management wanted to win and the other part wanted to experiment. Unfortunately, these conflicting approaches showed in the skewed selection and could very well end up costing them the series. It seems now that the Indian board would have been better off trying to bring in England. At least, that would have helped them prepare adequately for Australia and England too would have benefited by getting conditions similar to Sri Lanka.