Where is Sri Lankan Test cricket heading?
As the new year dawns many of you will look ahead to the year with renewed optimism and determination .But if you are a sri lanka cricket fan I feel sorry for you. The current team, like a good movie con artist gives you just enough evidence and hope to drag you along and ultimately leaves you shattered and confused in the end. The biggest problem we have at the moment is we are miles behind other top teams in every aspect of the game from fitness to in - game decision making. So let’s look at some areas the team can improve upon.
For us who still follow test cricket it is guaranteed that one of the openers will be gone before the first hour is over in the SL batting innings that’s a guarantee you can take to the bank . It’s fair to say the Lankans opening pair has failed individually and as a partnership. Every bowling attack knows that karunarathna can’t drive because he play s too far away from the body and he tends to fall over when balls are on the stumps so that’s plan A and B and karunarathna falls for the trap every time .Silva is more compact in his technique but the problem is silva’s strike rate is so low that while watching him bat sometimes it feels like time has stopped altogether . If he gets out without getting at least 70+ runs SL will be stuck with a low run rate and will hand the opposition the advantage. It is also important to remember that these two don’t play ODI cricket so they have a lot of time to prepare, one has to wonder why there is no improvement .Both these guys have now played 30 plus test matches and have struggled for consistency. The problem for the selectors is good openers are a endangered species in the domestic level, currently no one is putting their hands up for selection .The selectors need to be brave here and pick two guys they believe in and back them to perform .
Another problem area for the batting is no 3 it seems SL has no idea who to play at 3 the kusal janith experiment was the proof of them having no clue. Usually no 3 is where your best batsmen plays currently our best batsmen is Anjelo Matthews and he should be batting at 3.It will do well for sri lanka if their leader, leads from a position where he can dictate terms. Chandimal should bat at 4 and give up keeping in tests. The best example for chandimal should be sanga who moved to another level after giving up keeping. I always believe your best players should handle the tough moments currently these two are hiding at 5,6. It will do a world of difference to the team if their two most experienced players start performing at the level expected of them.5,6 should be mendis and de silva both guys still finding their way in test cricket both players have a good technique and all the shots to dominate bowling attacks. Currently they lack the know how to build an innings especially in mendis case he tries to dominate without establishing a platform .Both these guys will benefit greatly from talking to someone like mahela jayawardena abot constructing and test innings .At 7 SL should play the best wicket keeper batsmen they have in domestic cricket which they will have no problem finding due to the sangakkara effect.
As a whole SL has a good batting unit the failure of the batsmen is mainly down to mentality and poor shot selection. You can see that every time the opposition bowlers built up pressure the answer is to attack and get out of trouble . This is a strategy with a low percentage of success as SL has found out repeatedly over the last two years .Surely if the batsmen learned to rotate the strike picking up singles on offer, they can break the opposition bowlers game plans. It seems like the current team is looking for superficial answers to their problems sometimes the easiest answer is the best answer.
SL bowling unit has done well even though most of them break down more often than an old car. It always amazes that most SL bowlers cannot seam or swing the ball given the pitch conditions in SL you would think the fast bowlers would develop this skill just for the sake of surviving. Look at how well chaminda vaas did and how well Dhammika Prasad does when he’s fit.Suranga Lakmal reaped the benefits of developing this skill against SA imagine what chameera would do if he ever bowled with an upright seam.
MENTALITY AND FITNESS
There’s been lots of criticism about Matthews captaincy, in a sense you could sort of sympathize with him. Sometimes SL players look so amateurish that it would drive any sane cricket watcher crazy. But the problem is he’s the on field leader and the decisions he makes and the body language he portrays has a ripple effect on the entire playing 11.Matthews needs to be more optimistic with his field settings rather than waiting for things to happen he needs set attacking fields gamble on his players ability. A general positive attitude from the captain will go a long way into moving SL forward.
And finally the biggest flaw in our system the fitness the aspect everyone talks about but never takes seriously .It’s a big concern that we can’t keep our fast bowlers fit if they play continuously in tests and odi’s they quickly pick up injuries .Our fielding is far below the current international levels it’s amazing that players don’t understand the link between fitness and fielding.
In conclusion sri lanka has a lot of hard work ahead of them to atleast become competitive in test cricket let’s hope the players can turn the corner in the coming year.