Island Cricket

Monday, September 8, 2008

Look left, look right, do nothing...

Bowled by DamithS

Sri Lankan cricket is at a cross road.

We could go left, keep picking players past their due date and hope that they deliver once every 2 years or so. Heap praise on them and how we cant go forward as a team without them.

We could go right, invest in youth in a full exodus of the current team. Lose a few matches and complain about how we should have never replaced the players from our golden age.

But what we do is neither. The selectors go neither here nor there. They are afraid of making those ‘big’ decisions. And even when they do, politicians will get involved to turn the clock back and undo the rare occasions when the selectors have the courage to make a tough decision.

The continued selection of Sanath Jayasuriya in ODI’s is shameful. It is as if we are afraid to try new players for fear of losing.

To be clear, this post is not a random melt down on my part on hindsight as we have now lost to India at home.

Sri Lankas flailing form in cricket is only too apparent if you look at their win loss record over the last 2 years

M W L Year

29 16 11

2007 view innings
22 9 11

2008 view innings

Compare that now with Australia

M W L Year
34 24 8

2007 view innings
18 13 4

2008 view innings

You will notice the clear difference in the amount of matches won vs the amount of matches played. That is the difference between what makes a great team and what makes just an average team as is Sri Lanka at the moment. Consistently winning matches home and away over a period of time.

Not long ago our cricket board envisaged a goal for our national team. To be the the Number 1 team in test cricket (and ODIs) by the year 2000. This was a bold statement on the back of our remarkable world cup win in 1996. It was a time when anything seemed possible with Aravinda, Arjuna, Sanath and Murali/Vass leading the charges. For a while it looked like an attainable target.

Then reality set in. Arjuna, Aravinda retired or left cricket. We invested heavily on Mahela and Sangakkara and it paid dividends.

Years on from that goal we are languishing at 4th in the test table and 7th in the ODI table. (Debates on the ranking system it self at this point is useless). We are where we are so to speak.

Are teams like England, New Zealand, Pakistan really better than us? Perhaps not, but the rankings show otherwise. And it tells a story.

We lost to England for the first time in our history last year in a ODI series. Now we have repeated the same against India. This lack of form, specially at home highly concerning. So what is the problem here.

As mentioned earlier on in this piece. When Arjuna and Aravinda were to leave we invested in Sangakkara and Mahela. Now it is time to do the same. Its time to prepare for the end of Murali, Sanath and Vass.

Ajatha Mendis has been a breath of fresh air for world cricket. But in my opinion, as a Sri Lankan fan, ‘a sigh of relief’ is what would describe Mendis’s rise to fame accurately. Ideally Murali should retire from ODI cricket within 2 years to focus alone in test cricket and target his 1000 wicket and possibly more overseas series wins for us. In 2 years Mendis will learn more from Murali than he would from anyone else and those 2 years transitional phase will give Mendis time to gain more confidence, play against more opposition (he has currently on destroyed India on a regular basis), in different conditions. And in 2 years, I believe he will be ready to lead our spin attack.

Sanath Jayasuriya; in my humble opinion, I believe he is past his sell by date. I felt that 2 years ago. I still feel it today. The Asia cup 100 was just a dent in that belief. It is time Sanath bowed out of cricket with honor. It is possibly a fear or never finding another Jayasuriya that causes us to fall back on him time and time again. And that in lies our mistake.

Expecting any upcoming opener in Sri Lanka to take up the mantle that Sanath did is asking the impossible. Australia did not replace Gilchrist with Hadding asking for the same results and the same contributions. They replaced him with the best man for the job. That job was wicket keeping. Hadding was the right man for that job. What Sri Lanka desperately needs now in an Opener.

No, not a plug-gap opener like Sanga is.

A real opener who pries his trade facing the new ball on a daily basis. Who footwork is assured and knows when to leave what.

Sri Lanka needs an Opener, Not another Sanath. I’d dearly love to see the day when we can put on 75-80 in the first 15 overs without losing 4-5 wickets . For that we need solid openers. Sanath was a one-off. There will be no other like him. Just like there will be no other Aravinda. Sanga is good. But is he in Aravindas class ?

The few youngsters who have stepped up to the mark showed relative promise. But its time to invest. Time to stop lingering on with players who can no longer contribute to a successful team effort. Nostalgia can play no part in selection policy.

It is time to rebuild the ‘core’ of the team. Right now the only people in my opinion who would fall into that category is Sangakkara and Mahela. A team cannot simply be built around 2 players it must consist of at least 4-5 like the 1996 team.

It can no longer include Sanath or Murali. It’s a time that calls for patience from the fans as well. Once a dramatic change is made we must give it due time to respond and adapt to that change. The team needs to grow together. Dealing with the loss of gigantic losses and assigning responsibility to new shoulders is not an easy task. Its time consuming.

But the signs are good. The rest of the year in terms of the quality of cricket Sri Lanka face is not that competitive. It’s a prime chance for us to give these youngster the chance to find their feet in the international game.

Its time to look right, look left and finally decide to cross the road.


Anonymous said...

How many players past their due date do we have? Are you referring to just the one? The one who won us a Asia Cup final?

Short term memory loss is what this is called..especially after 5 odi's.. In that case Brian Lara would not have played much

Hilal said...

Damith Sanath has scored 11 ODI centuries past the age of 35..That's in the last 4 years he has made 11 centuries. Try run a comparison with other batsman for the same period.

Damith S. said...

Annon> Let me get the list out
Murali (2 years as mentioned)

Im talking about ODIs for Vass and Murali

Hilal> I know the stats.No need for a statsguru visit. But I think I have mentioned this on slc for over two years. If we had replaced him sooner it would be those player maybe Udawatte or UT or XXX scoring those runs.


Damith S. said...

Annon> You have a slight case of an over indulgence on ze 'nostalgia'

WI dint/dont have anyone to replace Lara. When Chanders goes in a bout 2 years time, lord help the WI.

GP said...

Udwatte is not getting a chance because of Sangakarra not because Sanath mate.

Hilal said...

Damith the point about Sanath being past his sell by date - is wrong according to the stats, like I said he has scored 11 centuries after the age of 35, his contribution of eleven hundreds in the last four years has acheived more for us than what any other batsman who you think should remain has accomplished. He is clearly better with age.

Where then does that lead us?

None of the replacement batsman can justify inclusion there domestic records and current form is nothing that should warrant inclusion into the current team.

The batting has failed us and that's why we don't have results similiar to Australia, why then should we remove elder statesmen who have taken wickets for us, ie: Murali and Vaas?

Anonymous said...

Udawatte won't have an amazing strike rate but he can get runs in the power plays against the new ball without losing his wicket in some foolish manner. Vaas has been great for us over the years and we have numerous suitable replacements for him; Malinga and Kulasekara should share the new ball and Thushara or Maharoof should back them up. Murali has said and will almost certainly play until the next World Cup but they should preserve him in unimportant ODIs and try and let the side manage without him. Although he is aging he is still a threat, bowls tight and still takes wickets just not as many. We have too many young, solid fast bowlers to let Vaas continue from this point on and he and Sanath should step down before the Champions Trophy.

Damith S. said...

GP> Yes, Another thing I dont agree on is with Sangakkara opening. Which is really a wrong move. He would serve us much better in the middle order and would bring solidity to it.

Hilal>Im well aware of his stats. My point is that if we had replaced Sanath at the right time another star could have been discovered.

Sanath has served us well and its time for the new generation to take over.

Going by your selection policy of including players on domestic form and records half the Sri Lankan team would not be in existence.

Although the SL domestic offers a good chance for player to develop their game its hardly a yardstick to use to judge whether they should be in the national team or not.

All our players learn on their feet in international cricket thats how things work for us.

Replacing Murali and Vass from ODIs is necessary for the continued growth of the team. Perhaps they can support from the back room but we clearly have the ammo to replace those two giants now with Mendis and a string of fast/medium pacers who now need to be given the responsibility instead of always hiding them behind Vass. When he came on no one supported him from the other end. But now we have so many bowlers who can do this job. And do it well.

Your comments dont do justice to the talent that is in SL.

This is not about targeting player. If that is how your perceived it then you have missed the bus so to speak. Its about the development of our cricket and the future.

Annon> Exactly ! We need solid players who can score consistent runs. Sanath was a one off. Time to look to the future.

doctordeath said...

"if we had replaced Sanath at the right time another star could have been discovered"

Totally agreed!

Sanath has been great for SLC over the years,but itz now time for us to look at the future..and build a team that is ready for 2011..
Im not takin anything away from sanath..he iz a legend of the game,.but in terms of the future of the team,itz best that he take his for vaas and Murali,we are lucky to have found players who are stepping up in the bowling attack..
We now need an opener..and like damith said,we're not lookin for another S.J, we're lookin for an opener..

doctordeath said...

And one point i disagree with you on damith is about sanga not being up to mark with aravinda..he's gettin there..and soon enough,hez gonna be even better than aravinda..

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