Are our selectors in a quandry to select a fit side?



MAHINDA WIJESINGHE


The 50-over cricket World Cup is round the corner and there are many aspiring to get on the bandwagon. What about the criteria to do so? Firstly, each of these potential players must be fully fit to go through this grueling tournament – unless of course Sri Lanka expects to get knocked out in the early rounds. Secondly, the players must be able to withstand the immense pressure a tournament of this nature would exert. Finally it is their skills – over their opposition - that would ensure ultimate success.


Let us recall the outstanding success Sri Lanka enjoyed when we trounced all opposition and won the World Cup in 1996. The team led by Captain Cool also had players who were as cool! Their collective experience in the game far surpassed that of all the players in the opposing teams in the entire tournament. For instance Ranatunga had played more games, merely as a captain in the 50-over format of the game than skipper of the Australian team Mark Taylor had played in his entire career in 50-over cricket! Remember Sri Lanka had to cross swords with Australia in the finals and, as expected, cantered to a facile seven-wicket victory. Arjuna Ranatunga, as a captain, led his troops with skill and as the saying goes was "always on the ball." Of course, Ranatunga was not the fittest of players but his mere presence on the field was a source of inspiration to the team. One cannot forget how Ranatunga handled the Muralitharan affair in Australia and ensured Murali’s career advanced from strength to strength.


Let’s look at the all-important question of fitness of the current players. There are two questionable players in the frame regarding this issue - namely, captain Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga. Have their expiry dates passed? For instance, only the other day it was reported that, although Mathews was named as the captain of the Team Kandy in the Provincial T20 tournament he missed a couple of games since – according to a media release from SLC - he had to leave for Australia for some injections. Was it to alleviate his long suffering leg? Although listed as an all-rounder, his absence at the bowling crease has been a big question mark for quite some time. Also, as a captain, his presence in a more pivotal position in the field is required. Although as an all-rounder there is no question that at his best he had proved himself without doubt as one of the best Sri Lanka had produced. The question is what inspiration does he provide to the side now? Indeed similar thoughts (not as a captain) revolve around Lasith Malinga. Especially in the shorter format of the game when fleet-footed fielders are a sine qua non, can either of these players fit ( pun intended) into the side?


Can they be faster/quicker by the next year?


This brings to mind, an apocryphal story which typifies the above situation.


The brilliant left-handed West Indian batting star of yesteryear, Brian Lara, had scored 501 not out (including 62 fours and 10 sixes) during the 1994 English summer for Warwickshire against the lowly attack of Durham. This innings surpassed the 35-year old previous mark of 499 (run out!) held by the Pakistani legend Hanif Mohammed. Now comes the crux of the story. It seems a reporter had gone up to Sir Donald Bradman: "Sir, if you had to face the same bowling attack how much do you think you could have made?" The old man pondered a bit and with a twinkle in his eye, replied: "Maybe I could have got about 40-50 runs." The reporter did not expect such a reply and countered: "Surely Sir, if Lara could have scored 500 runs……." Bradman’s immediate reply was: "But remember young man I am now 86 years of age…..!


Current media reports are all about some bookies (Indian?) have been hovering around and had been ejected from the field by our anti-corruption unit. Naturally our first thoughts would be that is part of excellent administration. Then a few questions arise to a simple mind. How or who were able to identify these characters as bookies? Surely they were not carrying placards saying who they were? What particular actions by these bookies alerted our anti-corruption unit?


Or is it that birds of a feather can always recognize their own kind?


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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