Frequent injuries the bane of our cricket


Lakshan Sandakan

by Mahinda Wijesinghe

As the Palace guard, Marcellus said, when he saw the ghost of Hamlet walking over the palace walls in Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

Similarly, players in the national team are subject to suffering from injuries far too frequently. Are they playing too much cricket or are the fitness regime not being handled by competent staff? Other Test-playing nations do not seem to be plagued with such a plethora of injuries. Obviously this situation prevents proper team-building.

Last casualties being Asela Gunaratne, Shehan Madushanka, Nuwan Pradeep, Kusal Janith Perera and of course Angelo Mathews, who for the past 18 months or so has been on the bench more than the occasions he has been on the field; mind you with the very same injury. Naturally, Coach Hathurusinghe and the support staff will have to take a serious view of this situation. It is disconcerting for team-planning for a player, and an important one at that, to be in and out of a side at regular intervals with a World Cup in the not too distant future. A decision has to be made – and fast. An injury-free Mathews can be an asset as a much needed batsman and a bowler provided he can perform his duties especially in the latter context to the maximum.

Then there is paceman Dhammika Prasad, who is also nursing a long-term shoulder injury though I understand he is now undergoing rehabilitation.

After the recent successful Bangladesh tour, coach Hathurusinghe believes the "best is yet to come." Can a squad riddled with injuries, on and off, enable his plans to be a reality? 2017 was a horror year best forgotten – winning just 14 of the 57 matches played across all three formats of the game.

It is apparent that the environment now seems to have changed for the better. After all, success begets success, and a new broom always sweeps better.

Confidence especially in the batting department has gained a notch or two but of course it still remains to be seen how they fare against more formidable bowling attacks. On the other hand what about our bowling department? Paceman Suranga Lakmal has improved by leaps and bounds. Let us hope that the bane of injury does not plague him.

Where the spin department is concerned Akila Danajaya with his wide armoury will be an asset to any captain while Dilruwan Perera too can keep an end going. Left-arm spinner Amila Aponso too can be a handful given the right conditions while old war horse, Rangana Herath still seems to be the anchor – but for how long?

This leaves out left-armer and mystery bowler Lakshan Sandakan. Any team whether it be a school, club or an international team must possess a leg-spinner for eventual success. For instance Pakistan has Yasir Shah, and Afghanistan is reaping quite a bit of success with Rashid Khan. Our own Vandersay is striving to gain a regular place in the team. The principle of leg-spin bowling being that the ball leaves the batsman (usually a right-hand batsman being at the crease) away after pitching. This is a more difficult delivery for a batsman to cope with than the one coming in to the batsman.

It is natural for a spinner to be able to spin the ball as much as a paceman must be able to bowl fast and/or swing/seam the deliveries.

There is no question the most effective spinner Sri Lanka possess is Sandakan. In the sense as the saying goes, like our legendary Muralitharan, he can spin a yard on any surface. What he requires is confidence in himself and for his skipper to feel the same about the spinner. Of course, he is bound to bowl a few loose deliveries in an over but, at the same time, he will bowl a couple of balls that could well be match-winners. However, the only manner the loose deliveries can be reduced is when and if the Selectors can give Sandakan an "open ticket" to play a few games without interruption. Playing with a feeling that the sword of Damocles is hanging over his head does not breed confidence, in fact, this applies to a batsman too.

There is no leg-spinner in the history of the game at any level who kept on bowling each over without a full toss and/or a half-pitched delivery. Sandakan should be bowling in the nets for hours on end to sharpen/polish his trade – just as Australian Test leg-spin bowler Clarrie Grimmett, who played under Bradman used to bowl for hours on end in his backyard and trained his dog to return the ball to him and be ready to bowl the next one!

Grimmett played in 37 Test matches and was the first to claim 200 Test wickets. He is credited having "invented" the flipper delivery and yet bowled only one no-ball in his entire Test career. Grimmett and his leg-spinning partner Bill O’Reilly were the scourge of batsmen in that era

So take a cue Sandakan. It is practice, practice AND practice and you will be a match-winner.

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