Chandimal is no cheat


Umpire Aleem Dar checks the ball in the presence of Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal during third day’s play of the second Test against West Indies in St. Lucia. Chandimal missed his team’s final Test match after being found guilty of ball tampering.

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s Test skipper Dinesh Chandimal has copped it all the whole of last week. He has been handed a hefty fine, suspended from the last Test against West Indies and condemned as a downright cheat. The testing time is not over for the 28-year-old who will face another trial on the 10th of July as ICC’s Judicial Commissioner would investigate whether the captain along with coach Chandika Hathurusingha and Manager Asanka Gurusinha brought the game into disrepute after being charged by the ICC Chief Executive David Richardson.

A media release after ICC Match Referee Javagal Srinath found Chandimal guilty of ball tampering painted the Sri Lankan skipper in poor light. "During the hearing, Dinesh admitted to putting something in his mouth, but couldn’t remember what it was, which I found unconvincing as a defence and the fact remains it was an artificial substance," Srinath was quoted in the statement.

But what was the player trying to explain? As he sweats excessively, Chandimal has the habit of consuming sweets during cricket matches in order to regain the lost energy quickly. His diet during games include variety of Kandos chocolates, Delta toffees and other sweets.

On the questionable second day’s play, Chandimal also had been consuming almonds and strepsils apart from sweets. At the hearing, when asked what he was consuming in the footage that was videoed at 2:44 pm, Chandimal’s defence was that he couldn’t remember what he was eating at 2:44 pm – whether it was chocolates, toffees, almonds or strepsils. Inadvertently he was made to look a liar.

The fact that the umpires didn’t find fault with the condition of the ball when they took it into their custody at conclusion of day two has hardly received any attention. Srinath also faulted. Initially he agreed not to impose five penalty runs for changing the condition of the ball. This convinced the Sri Lankans to take the field but when the umpires did the opposite, play was held up again as Sri Lanka protested.

True the Sri Lankans didn’t cover themselves in glory by holding up play for two hours, but weren’t they pushed into that situation?

The Sri Lankan captain had a prolific 2017 scoring over 1000 runs in Test cricket. The others to complete the milestone last year were Steve Smith, Vriat Kohli, Dean Elgar Cheteshwar Pujara and Dimuth Karunaratne. This year too he has been impressive. In 2018, he is the eighth highest run getter in the world with a very impressive average of 57. He faces an uncertain future as he could be suspended for the entire Test series against South Africa at home that gets underway next month if he is found guilty at the hearing scheduled for 10th July.

Chandimal’s been an unblemished career so far. The ball tampering episode in St. Lucia has done much damage to his reputation

Sri Lanka came up with a remarkable effort to square the three match series against the West Indies by winning the final Test in Barbados. In recent times, the main match winners for Sri Lanka have been Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Rangana Herath and Dimuth Karunaratne. The fact that the team achieved the victory sans all four leading match winners talks volumes of the resolve of the young side and it augurs well moving forward.

No Asian team had won a Test match in Barbados and Sri Lanka became the first team to taste victory in what has been a fortress of West Indies cricket.

The win also ended the myth that fast bowlers can not lead the team. Sri Lankan selectors have been reluctant to hand the Test captaincy to fast bowlers and throughout the history no fast bowler had captained the country in Test cricket. It helps that a fast bowler is Chairman of Selectors. Lakmal was captain by default and he did a terrific job against many odds.

Sri Lanka were slow off the blocks in the Caribbean. After being blown away in the first Test in Trinidad, they did well to bounce back and should have won the St. Lucia game if not for rain.

Nevertheless, the fans would have expected the team to win a series against ninth ranked West Indies. Injuries and off the field issues didn’t help their cause. The tour of West Indies was an eye-opener on many counts. With a hectic season ahead, the lessons learnt in the Caribbean will stand them in good stead.

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