Island Cricket

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

'Young Sri Lankans' more experienced than appears

Caribbean Net News: Upon his arrival to the Caribbean, when asked about his team’s batting relying heavily on himself and senior team mate Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene agreed but said that his team includes “some exciting youngsters who have come through the system”.

It was a comment that was taken by the gathered media on face value but scrutiny of the Sri Lanka squad leads one to believe that in ‘young players’ Jayawardene did not necessarily mean players who are now crawling out of the Under 19 leagues. Neither did he mean players who have a handful of First Class matches under their belt. So who exactly are these ‘youngsters’ Jayawardene is referring to?

The 15 man squad’s youngest player is 25 year old fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara. There is also a 26 year old (Chanaka Welegedara), a 27 year old (Thilan Thushara) and four 28 year olds (Chamara Silva, Michael Vandort, Prasanna Jayawardene and Malinda Warnapura).

Left arm spinner Rangana Herath who turns 30 three days before the first Test joins seven others in the squad who are 30 years old or older. The average age of the Sri Lanka Test squad is 29 years.

Contrast that to the average age of the West Indies squad for the first Test being 26 years. There is only one player (Shivnarine Chanderpaul) in the home side’s squad who is over 30. Of the other 13 there are two 23 year olds (Denesh Ramdin and Jerome Taylor), two 24 year olds (Dwayne Bravo and Amit Jaggernauth) and four 26 year olds (Fidel Edwards, Devon Smith, Sewnarine Chattergoon and Sulieman Benn).

Four of the Sri Lankans are yet to play 100 first class matches. Four of the West Indians have played in 100 first class matches or more. They are Shivnarine Chanderpaul (214), Ramnaresh Sarwan (166), Chris Gayle (144) and Devon Smith (100).

Apart from Jayawardene and Sangakkara the newer cadre of Sri Lankan batsmen have a total of 863 First Class matches and a staggering 42,818 First Class runs. That includes 88 centuries and 211 fifties among them.

It speaks to the emerging culture of Sri Lankan cricket when the captain refers to players who have such First Class stats as the young ones. It is a particularly stark contrast in the West Indies where the newer batsmen in the current Test squad (obviously excluding Chanderpaul, Sarwan and Gayle) have put together 24,158 runs from 473 matches.

This does not necessarily expose the quality of the various batsmen but the figures do show that the Sri Lankans are more experienced both in number of matches played and runs scored.

While the current crop of ‘young’ Sri Lankan batsmen, following the retirement of long serving batsmen Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Attapattu, may now be fighting to establish themselves in international cricket, they are coming into the fray with solid First Class records. And it is not that they are now arriving either, Tillakaratne Dilshan made his Test debut since 1999, wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene in 2000 and Thilan Samaraweera and Michael Vandort in 2001.

Despite initial appearances the Digicel Test Series will be quite a bit of the experienced Sri Lankans versus the youthful and exuberant West Indians but with the home boys playing in familiar stadiums with the advantage of local crowd support. The mix should make for a competitive series as the West Indies seeks to prevent the visitors from racking up their first win in this part of the world.


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