Angelo’s embarrassment


by Rex Clementine

Angelo Mathews makes an appeal during the second ODI.

Sri Lanka cricket captain Angelo Mathews summed up his team’s fielding during the second One Day International against Pakistan at Pallekele on Wednesday as embarrassing! We thought that Sri Lanka suffered that embarrassment long before. Early this year, at Basin Reserve in Wellington, Sri Lanka ‘snatched defeat from the jaws of victory’ against New Zealand due to their horrible fielding.

The World Cup followed soon after that Test series. As Sri Lanka had been runners-up in 2007 and 2011, many put them as favourites for 2015, but Sri Lankan fans remained pessimistic mainly due to the team’s embarrassing fielding.

A team is in for huge trouble when its best fielder is also the oldest. Tillekeratne Dilshan stands out to be the team’s best fielder at 39.

The fault for fielding woes lies within the system. Here are some of them.

Some coaches that Sri Lanka have had were obsessed with excellence on the field. Dav Whatmore put a huge premium on that discipline. It doesn’t seem to be the case at present. Under Marvan Atapattu, during the World Cup, the national cricket team spent more time honing their football skills than fine tuning their fielding skills. You wonder whether Marvan is trying to emulate Sir Alex Ferguson or John Buchanan!

Watch a practice session of the national cricket team. Their commitment while playing football will make you think that Jose Mourinho or Louis van Gaal had turned up at the ground on a scouting mission.

Marvan has failed to address a burning issue in Sri Lankan cricket. He was asked during the World Cup about the team’s horrible fielding standards. His reply was that the team had several wicketkeepers in the side and therefore fielding lapses had to be expected.

In the recent World Cup, Sri Lanka had the worst fielding team in the competition. The Afghans fielded far better than the Sri Lankans.  

Sri Lanka Cricket has done a commendable job to address the burning issue by bringing in fielding experts like Trevor Penny and Jonty Rhodes. Whoever the board brings, the team’s fielding won’t improve if players’ attitude wasn’t changed. Currently, the mood within the Sri Lankan camp is that bowlers had to take wickets and the batters had to score runs. Fielding seems to be no body’s baby.

It seems that those who excel in fielding and encourage fielding are also generous people. At present, Sri Lankan cricket is full of selfish individuals.

There was a time when player agents used to send e-mails to coaching staff of the national team that certain fast bowlers should not spend too much time working on their fielding and physical training fearing player burn outs. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, Mathews’ predecessors, turned a blind eye to such high handed acts by player agents. Despite all his faults, the biggest contribution of Nishantha Ranatunga to our cricket is to keep player agents at their places.

Mathews must stress on excellence on the field as Sri Lanka move forward towards the 2019 World Cup in England. 

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