Sri Lankan cricketers are poor students of the game

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Awhile back, I recall hearing Tony Greig on commentary talking about a conversation he had with a Sri Lankan batsman. To summarise what he said, Greig had asked the player what a Googly was and the batsman found it difficult to explain.

“How can you pick it, if you don’t know what it is,” Greig asked.

Stuart LawIn Sri Lanka, at the school cricket level, very few coaches themselves know much about the technical aspects of the game, let alone the history of this sport. Recently, Sri Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan admitted that he had no clue who Sir Gary Sobers was!

The majority of Sri Lanka’s upcoming cricketers have very little understanding of the science involved in the sport, and on occasions even the rules and etiquette of the sport. There have been instances in the past where a Sri Lankan fast bowler accidentally delivered a beamer, but was unaware that he was supposed to apologise to the batsman.

When Suranga Lakmal took the new ball in the first Test against England, although he attacked the ‘corridor of uncertainty’, he allowed both English openers the luxury of leaving the ball often. Every new-ball bowler should know enough to make the batsman play at the new ball, and not waste it.

Furthermore, when comparing the release and the seam position of the English fast bowlers with Sri Lankan bowlers, the contrast in the basic skills of fast bowling become evident. England’s bowlers can move the ball both ways at will. It is unlikely that any of the Sri Lankan bowlers on show during the first Test in Cardiff can do the same.

Bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake has been a boon to upcoming bowlers in Sri Lanka, but his fast bowling unit, in English conditions, resembled a pace attack bowling on a flat track in India. This was, after all, England; they could have made the lives of the English batsmen a little more difficult?

One also has to question the merit of having a bowling coach who is a former fast bowler, when Sri Lanka’s replacements for Muttiah Muralitharan – Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis – lacked the ability to take wickets. It is understood that the conditions did not favour the spinners, but how much does a former fast bowler know about spin bowling to strategise and formulate a plan with the spinners, when things don’t always go in their favour?

Sri Lanka should contemplate on either having two bowling coaches – one for spinners and another for the seamers - or not have one at all, allowing the head coach to be in charge of all aspects the game.

Muralitharan could spin the ball on any surface, while Sri Lanka’s current crop of spinners are dependent on a spin-friendly track to provide them turn. But, there are other ways of deceiving a batsman; variations in flight and pace have proven to be deadly in the hands of a thinking bowler. However, in order to initiate that thinking process, a bowler must know what he is doing wrong, which requires the individual to be a good student of the game.

The Sky Sports commentary crew pondered over several replays of Thilan Samaraweera – an experienced Test batsman with an average of over 50 – sparring at deliveries outside the off stump, attempting to guide it in the direction of third-man. With the ball moving around, and your side requiring you to hunker down and graft due to the fall of wickets, seeing Samaraweera even attempting the shot was baffling.

But, if you’ve played cricket at any level, you know that all batsman attempt to compensate and adjust, when they have been beaten off the pitch outside off-stump, in order to avoid edging it – it is a reflex action.

However, a simple adjustment in the stance can go a along way in giving a batsman that extra second to leave the ball, instead of following it. As a result of Samaraweera’s wide stance, he finds himself in an awkward position – neither forward nor back - when he makes contact with the ball. This is fine on slow tracks, but will expose you on quicker surfaces.

Some of the best Test batsmen, who have flourished on tracks that haven’t been ideal for batting, are upright in their stance, with their feet nowhere as wide as Samaraweera’s. Such a correction in technique, however, would never be suggested to a Test player in the Sri Lankan camp these days.

“I don’t want to change anyone’s technique,” coach Stuart Law told the Daily Mail in an interview last month.

“If you want to do that you might as well coach nine-year-olds. Sri Lankans are natural players and you let them go. You might give them an idea so they have a plan, but once they get out there their natural instinct takes over...”

With a far from ideal school coaching structure, where in some cases cricket coaches are cricket enthusiast and not qualified coaches, coupled with the fact that many young cricketers come from rural surroundings, it is important that even at the national level coaches continue to work on the basics of the game.

© Island Cricket


Almaas Ikram's picture

Why didn't SRI LANKA CRICKET kept "Farveez Mahroof" a side till England tour.

Almaas Ikram's picture

SRI LANKA CRICKET is the Best Cricket team in the world. We can proove it as SRI LANKAN'S. Next time the cup is for us. Because political problems every things goes wrong.

Anonymous's picture

im sure mr. ramanayake did a great service to sl cricket as a player.. but i certainly don't see him doing much with the raw talent (suranga lakmal).. as the article points out he just kept bowling outside the off stump right from ball one... another mistake was he wasn't hitting the deck at all... what were the so called bowling coaches doing while seeing all this?? those 2 pointers are emphasized to fast bowlers even at school level.. if he just hit the deck hard and bowled wicket to wicket he would've been effective just like the england bowlers were... after all there isn't any difference between our bowlers and the english ones when it comes to pace...i think it's high time we had the help of an aussie or an english fast bowler to brush up the young talent...

Deiyo Sakki's picture

One bowling coach is not the answer to this. Ohter countries have seen their acedemies produce the pipeline of new players. Aussies started it and after the thrashing that England suffered they copied it now housed in Loughborough. These are not just a small building with just a nameboard but proper training facilies. SL has a long way to go and has to rise above selfish games the administrators play.

Stormy's picture
Member since:
15 January 2011
Last activity:
17 hours 4 min

Interesting point that some of SL's most successfull players have been somewhat unorthodox. Not even the great Aravinda had a perfect technique but along with Sanath, Murali and Malinga have placed SL on the map with unorthodox talent. But the point is well made that at the end of the day you need to know the basics and get them right to succeed at the highest level. A few will get by being unorthodox but not the majority.

Your point about the SL batters sparing at the ball outside the line and SL bowlers bowling the same line while the English comfortably left is alone says it all I guess.

prasana1's picture

Good points in this article but i think samaraweera, jayawardene and sangakkara no longer deserve to be automatically selected. They are senior batsman who had to make a century in this Test series but have been terrible.

Marcian's picture
Member since:
8 December 2010
Last activity:
35 weeks 4 days

True, our cricketers are poor students of the game!

Even in the third Test our famed batters – Sanga, Mahela and Samaraweera – with their inflated batting averages in the mid 50s, could not cope with swing and seam movement...failing to battle it in five Test innings so far.

I understand that the conditions were ideal for seam bowling - in all three tests - but surely, one of them could have fought it out and posted at least one or two 50 plus scores, if not a hundred.

I wonder how they – Sanga, Mahela, Samaraweera - would have fared in the 70s and 80s with genuine swing merchants like John Snow, Richard Hadlee, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham, Terry Alderman, and the great West Indian quicks of that time? Rather poorly is my guess!

I think it's better to deduct 10-runs from their bloated batting averages to get a true picture of their batting ability. In addition, I have concluded that Samaraweera is a sub-continental specialist, period.

Not having played outside the subcontinent for three years cannot be an excuse!

Peter Gunaratne's picture

The 3rd ODI when Chandmal and Mathews put Chandimal's century before team victory taking the match down to the wire is an example of what poor students of the game our young cricketers are.

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