Disappointing week despite fresh hopes of 2018



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Sri Lanka cricketer Kusal Perera (R) is bowled out by the Bangladesh cricketer Nasir Hossain as wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim (L) looks on at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka on Friday. Bangladesh won the game by 163 runs.


by Rex Clementine


Hopes of a new era being ushered into Sri Lankan cricket after a painful 2017 were soon crushed this week after some sloppy performances by the national cricket team in Dhaka where they suffered two successive defeats to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.


Everyone expected Head Coach Chandika Hathurusingha to have something up his sleeve against his former chargers but Friday’s clash against the host nation proved to be an anticlimax as Sri Lanka went down by 163 runs. It was Bangladesh’s biggest victory in ODIs against any opposition.


Rubbing salt into the Sri Lankan wounds was Bangladesh Test captain Shakib Ah Hasan, who spoke about there being healthy competition among their batsmen for slots in the side. The Sri Lankan selectors meanwhile are asking the batsmen to stand up and grab the opportunities as still spots for the World Cup in England and Wales are up for grabs but there aren’t any takers.


The national team has been in dire straits for quite some time now but what was alarming was the performances of Sri Lanka’s Under-19 squad in the Youth World Cup now in progress in New Zealand. There has been lot of emphasis placed on Under-19 cricket and prominent figures in the game like Roy Dias, Chaminda Vaas and Upul Chandana were put in charge of the Under-19 team, yet, they made a first round exit. Afghanistan beat Sri Lanka to earn a spot in the quarter-finals and on Friday Sri Lanka’s campaign ended. Thank God that Sri Lanka’s senior side is not playing a series in the near future against the Afghan national side.


We Sri Lankans are very good at sitting on our past laurels. Still we boast about a proud heritage of more than 2500 years, yet our youth are caught day in and day out attempting to travel in boats to a country where 200 years ago United Kingdom used to send their most incorrigible criminals.


Cricket is the same. We are still boasting about the World Cup win in 1996 and in less than 25 years after that historic triumph we nearly missed out on qualifying for the 2019 edition of the tournament.


We all admit that we have a First Class tournament that doesn’t prepare players for the challenges of international cricket but what have we done about it. Successive administrations have given domestic cricket the kid glove treatment for the fear of losing the vote base of clubs. The courage to bite the bullet, face the repercussions and do a complete overhaul of the system is an area that most administrators do not dare.


One area Sri Lanka bridged the gap between First Class and international cricket was by investing heavily on ‘A’ team cricket. Sadly, in 2012 one of our Presidents cancelled all ‘A’ team tours pointing out lack of finances. However, he ended up spending copious amount of money on tamashas. Upali Dharmadasa is his name. The incumbent head of the sport Thilanga Sumathipala shielded match fixers within his own Executive Committee and one year after the Panadura versus Kalutara fix, we are yet to penalize anyone. The crooks at Maitland Place tried to go scot-free making the poor Chamara Silva the scapegoat.


While the national team is hitting new lows the Nishantha Ranatunga cabal is making merry out of the current predicament in a bid to make a comeback to Maitland Place. His short sighted decisions are one main reason for the current mess in our cricket.


In a nut shell, all three forces should be kept away from the sport as their agendas mostly include pleasing the vote base and there’s no vision towards the future.


Some say that this is a transition period of Sri Lankan cricket. True, but that transition period has lasted for longer than we would have liked. Australia too went through a similar transition period. Heck, they were whitewashed by a young Sri Lankan side 3-0. A year after that humiliating series defeat, they have bounced back remarkably having regained the Ashes in style with a 4-0 series win. How is that possible? That’s because their transition cycle is shorter as their First Class structure is strong enough and people find their feet in international cricket sooner than the Sri Lankans do.


Usually Sri Lankan coaches find themselves in a ‘honeymoon period’ where everything seems to be good before they are exposed to harsher realities. For Hathurusingha, he has been exposed to just how bad Sri Lankan cricket is at the moment. Having sung his praises only last week, they now doubt whether he is able to do the job.


Sri Lanka may not qualify for the finals of this tri-nation tournament. They might not even win a game. But make no mistake; Hathurusingha will turn things around for sure. He just needs to be given more time and all the backing that he needs without holding things back.


Lot of people associated with our cricket get angry when we call the Sri Lankan team the worst fielding unit in the world. They categorically deny so. But the fact of the matter is that Sri Lanka has not got a single world class fielder at the moment. When was the last time you saw a Sri Lankan producing a direct hit to run out a batsman? Hathurusingha needs to fix the team’s fielding before we can move on.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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