ODI loss exposes Sanath Jayasuriya's highly questionable selection policies

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Some of Sanath Jayasuriya’s selection policies during the ODI series defies all logic. A man once known for his on-field exploits, has left fans wondering if his time as a politician had caused permanent damage to his cricket genius.

It’s not a case of him having made a couple of bad choices. It has been a series of inexplicable decisions. Poor judgment. Stubborn actions. Knee-jerk reactions prompting so many cutting and chopping of personnel. Perhaps symptoms of a man having spent just a little too much time in the Sri Lankan parliament and a lot more time around those still there?

The inclusion of Thisara Perera, against the advice of A-team coach Avishka Gunewardena was not just a very bad decision, but also a stubborn one that showed disregard and disrespect for the process. Thisara has had a very long run of poor form. His career averages; batting average of 17 at a strike rate of 108, 127 wickets in 114 matches at 31 runs a wicket, are acceptable enough to consider him a bowler who occasionally slogs for a few. However, his last 35 matches have yielded just 24 wickets at a costly average of 52 and a strike rate of 48.6. He has conceded over 6.5 runs an over in this period. His batting average in this period had dropped to 14.

Thisara was dropped from the England ODI’s for poor form and asked to play A-team cricket. His failures with the A-team prompted the coach to suggest that Thisara is performing at the level of an under 19 player and not someone with extensive international experience. Yet, Sanath Jayasuriya recalled Thisara straight in to the national team. Why, perhaps only a politician could understand.

Malinda Siriwardena’s destiny has taken a turn for the worse since Sanath Jayasuriya took over selections. At a time when Sri Lanka was struggling to find new players who can perform at the international level, Siriwardena’s start was a revelation. He had scored over 250 runs in his first four tests with an average of 35 and taken 10 wickets. Yet, as soon as Sanath Jayasuriya took over as chief selector, Siriwardena was dropped from the Test team (first Test against England) after scores of: 68:42, 35:29, 62:26 in his three previous Tests. Why? Apparently was deemed to be in poor form due to low scores in the World T20 event and a couple of practice matches leading up to that first Test in England. Dropped for whom? For Lahiru Thirimanne! Cricket fans have a good memory and do not need to be reminded of Thirimanne’s previous form, record and background coming in to that Test match. If the Test snub was not bad enough, Sanath dropped Siriwardena from the England ODI’s as well. His ODI start was as promising as his Test start, averaging closer to 30, batting in the lower middle order with a strike rate of over 110. Siriwardena was finally given an opportunity in the first ODI against Australia. Yet, he was dropped again after just one match. This time apparently because he did not bowl well enough. Only a politician could justify such decisions.  

Kusal Janith Perera has long been considered Sri Lanka’s brightest ODI opening batting prospect. He has proven to be a natural opening batsman and understandably has found his greatest success batting at the top. Yet, Sanath Jayasuriya has continued to persist with Kusal batting in the middle order, with limited success. His excuse is that the team needs experience in the middle. That explanation is as unacceptable as the injustice of leaving out Siriwardena, who has shown that he can provide stability to the middle order, if given a fair chance.

Sanath Jayasuriya’s handling of two young batsman, Avishka Fernando and Anjelo Perera, also raises serious concern. Avishka was selected after a sterling performance with the under 19 side. Anjelo had done all the hard work to earn a recall after almost three years. To drop both of these players after only one match goes to show the delusional thinking of selectors and no fault of the player! If a player is so unworthy because they demonstrated how bad they are after just one match, then whoever selected such players must be sacked at the same time.

Sri Lankan cricket fans are educated and sophisticated enough to accept that losing is part of sports, and that there is no shame in losing to a better team. What agonizes every Sri Lankan cricket fan is the fact that our cricketers forever seem to be battling against not just the opponent on the field, but also the enemy within as well. Sri Lanka Cricket bosses will hopefully recognize and demand answers from Sanath Jayasuriya, to these inexplicable actions of his committee. But wait! Aren’t his bosses all politicians too? Oh dear! Will our grievances end up just like another file carried to the FDIC by an opposition MP? 


Sunny's picture

Agree with most of this: Thisara should haven't been selected, Siriwardena shouldn't have been dropped and KJP is better off at the top.

What I don't agree with is that Angelo Perera deserves another chance. Did you see the shot he played? He was batting perfectly fine till that momentX and then he choose a reckless shot when what he needed to be doing was building a partnership. We were four (effectively five with Mathews retired hurt) down, and him and KJP needed to ressurect the innings. He has been selected before, and he's been dropped too.

His selection was also quite strange. He scored 168 runs in the A team series, at a strike rate of 85 I think. But Dickwella scored just four or five runs less at a strike of 130+, and he gets selected second. If we're looking for aggressive players, why wasn't Dickwella selected?

If it were up to me, Angelo Perera wouldn't get selected again. Avishka is still young and I can understand why they dropped him- they wanted to win the last game. And it turned out to be a pretty good decision because we got our best opening stand of the entire tour, by some margin. Hopefully, Avishka gets some domestic or A team experience and gets another shot.

Jeewantha's picture
Member since:
7 March 2016
Last activity:
3 hours 18 min

Sanath has to go

Anonymous's picture

Just reading all these comments i wanna give my opinion about these selection blunders. First i will talk about Thisara Perera. If someone analyis the 1st n 2nd ODI`S i think TP has done a reasonable job with the bat and bowl taking into consideration the match situation. Just wanna go back to IPL and if someone watched the whole IPL would agree with me how Dhoni used TP ahead of Mitch marsh.. Dhoni was able to suck the best out of TP.. So why cant SLC cant do that.. I mean Angelo and the team cant do that? Next why we have so many openers in the squad? Dont we have any middle order batters?
Enough said Sanath.. Stop your excusess.. Accept it and fix the issue ASAP. we love sri lanka cricket.

Stormy's picture
Member since:
15 January 2011
Last activity:
1 day 13 hours

I have to agree with the writer, this is plain crazy and self inflicted damage. I would also add when we desperately needed an aggressive batter in the team and an opportunity came when Anji got injured and we recalled Dickwalle and Tharanga but played Tharanga when it was a chance to check out Dickwalle, the more aggressive of the two.

Sanjeev Bernard Fernando's picture
Member since:
25 January 2013
Last activity:
8 weeks 3 days

Stormy - Perhaps Tharanga was preferred as the more stable option since Angie was lost and that left a huge hole in the middle.

Another huge problem we have is 'looking for that all-rounder who does not exist'. We cannot effort to play guys like TP or Shanaka below #7, as one of our four bowlers.

Rather than looking for the non-existent exotic creature, we should just build a team around 7 front line batsman and 4 front line bowlers. We will always get 10 overs from the 7 batsman, specially if Angelo is playing and also from Dhananjaya and the likes of Siriwardena.

For as long as we keep relying on bits and pieces cricketers to do the job of bowling 50 overs, we will never win!

Great Bat's picture

Sanjeev, you will find most of us in agreement with your analysis. I don't need to tell you all the points you made about Sanath is very valid. I would even go further by saying bad selection cost us being competitive in one dayers. It's hard to say if we would have won but When we had the Aussie's under the pump after they were black washed by us, since we are upbeat it clearly would have transcended us to go for hard and landed a killer punch by thrashing them. The reason being we always played better in the shorter format and we had the measure of Aussie's because they were down in confidence.

But selecting out of form player like Thissara and players who are not effective wicket taking bowlers like Seekuge, Lakmal is something only Sanath can justify.

I want him moved on and someone like Roshan Mahanama take over as chairman of selectors. But with Sumathipala on his side it is just a pipe dream.

DS's picture

May be Angelo wants his school buddy in Sri Lanka team as well... otherwise it is fair enough , Thisara rarely delivers ...

kusal janith next U.S president's picture

greatest opener who got 10 ducks in 60 mtches. what a power sh**ting

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