Sri Lanka’s Dinesh Chandimal (R) is bowled by England’s Moeen Ali (not pictured) as England’s wicket-keeoer Jonny Bairstow looks on during the third day’s play of the first cricket Test between England and Sri Lanka at Headingley in Leeds, northern England on May 21, 2016. (AFP)

By Mahinda Wijesinghe

Playing in the cold of Leeds, Sri Lanka was simply wiped off the slate by an innings and plenty within the first three days of the First Test versus England. Of course, on paper it seems a one-sided affair. If on the other hand, an itinerary was arranged for England to play the First Test in Colombo when the mercury was scaling 30+ degrees Celsius the result would quite possibly be similar to what happened to Sri Lanka at Leeds. Admittedly, playing in the bitter cold is more of a strain than one experiences on the field with the sun on one’s back.

Did playing in the cold – at least where the Sri Lankan players were concerned – result in two of our pace bowlers, Prasad and Chameera, having to suffer injuries and abandon the tour? Next, why are there eight free days before the next Test, and to be played once again in the cold of Durham? And since there are no first-class games arranged in the intervening period, the Sri Lankans can only train in the nets – and twiddle their thumbs during this entire period. It seems our former colonial masters have simply thrust an itinerary on us to ensure that they go 2-up in the three-Test series.

The question is who/why did Sri Lanka accept such an itinerary? There are committees and other mandarins in the local Board who are expected to scan such issues, after all, the weather in England is no secret. The bottom line is playing in May, or the first half of the English summer does not suit teams from the sub-continent. There was a time when Sri Lanka had to accept whatever was on offer, be it a "one-Test series" or a tour to suit the whims and the fancies of our colonial masters. That should be history now, certainly not after the glorious performances at Lord’s by the Sri Lankans in 1984 – just two years after playing our inaugural Test match. As the respected journalist and cricket promoter E.W. Swanton enthused after the game: "The music of the Beatles and the batting of the Sri Lankans should be put into a time-capsule and buried for posterity to indicate what was best in music and cricket in this era." Of course that Test was played in a friendly temperature of August at Lord’s and enabled the tourists to declare both innings closed with Wettimuny (missed a double hundred by 10 runs), Duleep Mendis (narrowly missed twin centuries) and Amal Silva scoring hundreds.

Interestingly, former pace bowler and now a respected BBC commentator, Jonathan Agnew, who played in the above mentioned 1984 Test against Sri Lanka (and had a lot of running to do during that game!) has this to say on the debacle that Sri Lanka is currently suffering due to a lop-sided itinerary that has been shoved down the throats of the Sri Lankans:

"I don’t understand why Sri Lanka has been sent to Leeds and Durham for these opening two Tests. You could say that the cold, grey conditions quite likely in the north of England at this part of the year give the hosts their best chance of winning - but there’s much more to it than that … "While you certainly do not want to give the opposition a leg-up, you have to do what’s best for Test cricket. That includes providing the best possible spectacle, ensuring the match is a contest and giving value for money to those who have tickets."

Yorkshire’s chief executive Mark Arthur was also critical of the ECB staging Test matches at Headingley in May. Arthur has said it would be "sensible" for Headingley to host Tests in July.

Arthur told BBC Radio Leeds."The current regime at the ECB has inherited this situation and they agree with us that it is nonsense to have any Test matches in the north in May."

"On Monday we questioned the manner in which the Sri Lankan tour itinerary had been drawn up and why Sri Lanka Cricket had not even made an attempt to change it. We also criticized the amateurish way in which the administrators had handled the fixtures allowing eight free days between Tests for a team that is struggling to come to terms with English conditions.

The second Test against England ends on May 31 and Sri Lanka have to wait till June 9 for the start of the third Test at Lord’s with no fixtures arranged in between."

It now seems patently clear that our players are suffering injuries and abject humiliation due to the muddle-headed officials in the administration.

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