Sangakkara and the team need to adapt to conditions…  : Home-grown fiasco


Whatever you feel Yahaluweni, and as disappointing as it is for Kumar Sangakkara and the side, there is just one way to look at the Sooiryawewa venue fiasco and that is get on with it. And as hard as it is, there is little wrong in playing the Canadians as if it is an "away game." Sri Lanka are a professional enough side to know the conditions in their own country and need to adapt accordingly.

In some cases, it can come down to mind games, yet the side does have some experience of playing at Pallekele, even if it was a rained-off Test in a so-called dry zone, while the eastern regions of the country were suffering floods from monsoon style conditions. It is pity that playing Canada comes down to what is a one-off venture. And advice from those who have played at the venue before in the ‘A’ team games would be of help.

Well, it should be if they could recall the conditions. One of the difficulties, being at the coast, is the dew factor. It is always a gamble and no side wants to bat where they are at a disadvantage, which is where taking a long hard look at the Canadian practice games, if they get the chance will be of value to judge their bowling.

At least there has been the chance to test the side’s skills in the three games against the West Indies at the Sinhalese Sports Club. Not ideal if you compare what could have awaited the side at Hambantota and Premadasa. Playing in the middle at least gives the coach and captain a chance to judge the players’ form. It was better than having nothing to assess fielding skills.

Despite being rained off, the fielding and bowling performance in the first game showed there was a lot of rust; sharpness in the field was missing and the bowling was often woebegone and too reliant on Lasith Malinga to clean up the innings.

In the second game, Sangakkara showed a lot of ingenuity in his leadership skills that was good to see. There were possible questions why Sangakkara removed Lasith Malinga from the attack at such an early stage of the West Indies innings, but his tactics worked by mixing the bowling the way he did: pace and seam and on such a pitch, stroke play wasn’t so easy. There was always pressure on the batsmen as the bowlers dominated and Malinga, getting the ball to come back the way he does, was too much for the tourists.

With five wickets between them for 72 runs in 20 overs (Malinga 3/30 and Nuwan Kalusekara 2/42) always had the West Indies under pressure. Herath, a replacement for Ajantha Mendis, bowled tightly and supported Muttiah Muralitharan to keep the West Indies always guessing.

There would be a lot of lessons coming out of that game for Sri Lanka, it was a far better and more polished performance, they didn’t squander their wickets and supported the bowlers in the field.

He has since explained his preference for the batting order, and that is understandable. It is the adaption policy – "flexibility" is the term Greg Chappell used in 2005 to explain his philosophy for India – which he will be mindful of when it comes to playing the games.

Illness did not allowed me to see Sunday’s game and the doctor was not impressed how placing cricket before health was first on a list of priorities until he insisted that strong medication and bed rest, not cricket, as the best answer to a slow recovery.

In pre-tournament pronouncements Sangakkara, while unhappy over the lack of the Sooriyawewa experience, admitted it is a matter of accepting the problems and being mentally fit when it comes down to testing the conditions for the first time. It is not the players who are at fault, but the wayward administration.

He is a professional and has a solid group of experience in players and coaching staff around him.

Imagine the embarrassment though, had as is the case with Eden Gardens in Kolkata, the two Hambantota games were moved elsewhere because of bureaucratic bungling. Jagmohan Dalmiya cannot be blamed for the entire chaotic shambles that descended on that iconic Asian venue. However, as an administrator in the building industry, he should have been aware of such problems and kept checks on progress.

What this explains, is how those without knowledge of the building industry and placed in charge of administration of what is a multi-million project for an international event, cannot get it right and as such, deny the country’s players a chance to test the venue.

In Kolkata, they thought they would get away with it. This is after the Commonwealth Games fiasco over venues and the chaotic bungling of the accommodation for athletes and team staff. It would have been thought how sports administrators would have learnt. As can be seen they did not. It also serves the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) and the smug Board of Control for Cricket in India right for ignoring danger signals last December (17).

Blaming the ICC for the Eden Gardens circus and non-use of Hambantota and Premadasa, is typical of such officialise obfuscation that you get in this part of the world, to make up for such obvious shortcomings that cannot be otherwise explained. Did the International Cricket Council appoint the Central Organising Committee to oversee the progress of the venues? No – they didn’t. That is the other mob, the BCCI in Mumbai with the head clown Ratnakar Shetty in charge.

It needs to be pointed out that at no stage have the ICC appointed the local organising committee to run any of the World Cups. The first three in England were handled by the TCCB (Test and County Cricket Board). In 1992, Australia and New Zealand appointed a joint committee in 1989 to oversee the event.

Pilcom, the India-Dalmiya dominated cabal in 1996 was a BCCI organised body with solid inputs from Pakistan and Sri Lanka. England’s ignominious running of the event in 1999 was by a group of nobodies headed by someone no one can remember.

When it was South Africa’s turn, it was Dr. Aaron (Ali) Bacher, appointed by the then United Cricket Board, not the ICC. The CWC07 was a West Indies affair, like England in 1999, highly forgettable, and tainted with the death of Bob Woolmer under suspicious circumstances, despite claims of heart failure.

It is admin miscreants at the COC CWC11 in Mumbai and their minions in Sri Lanka, who need to face the truth instead of pointing fingers at the ICC, for pulling the plug first on Eden Gardens and the use of Hambantota and Premadasa.

Sure, having a dig at administrators in cases as this explains why errors and flaws need to be pointed out. After last week’s column headlined "Pack of Jokers" this one will elicit just as much umbrage in the email in-box as last week.

Unfortunately, writing about the foibles of cricket administration is as much a part of the game as describing a game in progress. As it is about match fixing, spot-fixing and any other dirty trick that low lifes like Mazhar Majeed, with the help of middlemen, were able to corrupt players into committing fraud and thereby cheating the public.

Frankly, the three Pakistan players – Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Amir can count themselves lucky they were given such lenient sentences. Shaharyar Khan, a former PCB chairman, however, agreed the sentences handed out by the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption tribunal were too light. How right he is.


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