Sri Lanka Under-19 tour of Bangladesh has brought back the preparation for the much awaited ICC Youth World Cup to where it had begun and, as admitted by its Coach Roger Wijesuriya, Sri Lanka Under-19 couldn’t match the maturity of young Tigers and have to work hard to improve the standards.
"There was a vast difference between the maturity of their players and ours," Wijesuriya said in a brief interview with the ‘Sunday Island - Sportstar’ on his return from Bangladesh last week.
"They learnt the conditions of the game quickly while our players did not. They were mature and played hard," said Wijesuriya.
"There were occasions when we had good starts but we couldn’t capitalise on them. Some of the players who were doing well gave away their wickets after a good start," he said.
Experience Matters -
Sri Lanka Under-19 had at least four players who have more than ten Youth ODI experiences under their belt.
From them, skipper Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Janith Perera were the most experienced players. They have played over 24 Youth ODI matches since 2007. Incidentally, they were the batsmen to produce highest averages in Bangladesh. While Chandimal averaged 37.2 and scored two half tons before failing in the last two crucial matches, Kusal Janith averaged a credible 46.6 runs in the five ODIs. He scored three fifties.
Both Chandimal and Janith are not eligible to play in the Youth World Cup in 2010. The only other player to score a half ton in the five-match Youth ODI series is Bhanuka Rajapakse who has averaged 35.
The thinking behind sending over half-a-dozen players who are not eligible to play the World Cup was to reward them for their good performances in the First-XI season and the head coach Wijesuriya and the selectors thought that the youngsters in the squad could learn from the seniors.
Another school of thought behind including these players was to make sure that Sri Lanka Under-19 comeback with a positive result. But their presence couldn’t change their destiny.
Futile Efforts –
The team included some of the best players of the past season, number of school captains and good all-rounders. The last First-XI cricket season produced a good number of 1000-run scorers and 100-wicket takers.
And Sri Lanka Under-19 touring party had five players who had scored over 1000 runs (Chandimal, Angelo Perera, Rajapakse, Buwaneka Ekanayake and Shameera Weerasinghe) and three players who had taken over 100 wickets (Matheesha Rasuwan, Shameera Weerasinghe and Rushan Jaleel). Among other players were batsmen who had scored over 700 runs and bowlers who had taken over 70 wickets during the season.
Misleading Stats –
A senior school coach says that the result of the Bangladesh series not only question the preparation of the SL team but also the standard of the local Under-19 two-day tournament from where these players are picked. And, it should be noted that some teams had the luxury of bettering their aggregate of runs and wickets while playing against several weaker teams due to the change of the tournament format that shuffled teams disregarding their standards. He says that the stats of a low standard tournament could give wrong indications of the player strengths.
From the players eligible to play the World Cup, Chathura Peiris was the only player to feature in all five matches. Probably his experience of playing over 10 Youth ODI matches including those in the last World Cup helped him to top the bowling averages although his tally of 11 wickets couldn’t bring Sri Lanka anywhere close to winning the series.
Looking back at the result, an analyst says that Sri Lanka has wasted a valuable opportunity by not fielding all players, who are eligible for the World Cup, in this series against Bangladesh.
Time Running Out –
However Sri Lanka Under-19 did well in the Youth Tests with three batsmen scoring centuries. There too, only the players who had good experience (and who cannot play the World Cup) managed to impress.
Chandimal, Kusal Janith and Angelo Perera, all scored a century each but the performances of the players who are eligible to play the World Cup were disappointing with the exception of Udara Jayasundara, who scored back-to-back half tons in one game. But he failed in three out of four ODIs he played.
It should be noted that Sri Lankan players appeared in the Youth ODIs after a long season of two-day matches and playing in very few Limited-overs matches due to a new format in the Under-19 Schools Limited-overs tournament.
With little more than eight months to go for the Youth World Cup, and Sri Lanka Under-19 struggling against one of their neighbours, time looks to be running out for the caretakers of National youth cricket to make amends.