Forget Mubarak and focus on youth

By Theviyanthan Krishnamohan | June 23, 2015

Jehan Mubarak's re-inclusion in the Sri Lankan squad has some fans seething. © AFP

As Adam Voges, the 35 year old Australian, raised his bat in jubilance after scoring a century on debut, I worried if it would help give another opportunity to Jehan Mubarak.

Mubarak last played a Test for Sri Lanka in 2007. Almost a decade has since passed. Sri Lanka have tested several youngsters in that time. Mubarak, despite being talented and possessing immense potential, became a failure, to the dismay of many. It's a poignant story, yet it could not have been any different.

Mubarak was handled poorly. He was largely given chances based on potential and was overlooked when in form. He deserved more opportunities and a lot of tolerance. Previous selectors played musical chairs with him and Mubarak too played a major role in engineering his own demise. Now, it is too late to go back and rectify those mistakes.

Sri Lanka can't worry about Mubarak's career or Mubarak the individual. Sri Lanka needs to blood its inexperienced players to beget the next Mahelas and Sangas, instead of attempting short-term measures to supplant the vacuum the senior duo's adieu will create.

Ian Chappell was cynical about Australia's decision to resort to the 35-year-old Voges, and Chappell alluded to it as an omen of a system that is failing to produce Test-quality batsmen.

"A commentator on the West Indies-Australia Test series cited the success of Adam Voges, with his debut Test ton at age 35, as an example of the strength of Australia's cricket. I'd argue the opposite," Chappell wrote on ESPNCricinfo.

"Australia's need to turn to an advanced-aged cricketer in Voges - and others like him previously - is an indication the system is failing to produce enough 'Test-match ready' young batsmen."

Chappell was vociferous about the 'pick 'em young and watch 'em flourish' theory. He also praised India's enormous faith in its young blood. This is something that is very much relevant to Sri Lanka, given the way the sport in the island is heading.

The SSC batsman Tharanga Paranavithana was axed mainly due to his age. During his career, where he constantly travelled overseas, Paranavithana fared reasonably well, but with Dimuth Karunaratne's arrival, the team understood the need to blood a youngster, and hence, prematurely terminated a decent career. It was a bold move wreathed in wisdom. At times, you need to sacrifice individuals for the sake of the team and the team is always bigger than any player.

Kumar Sangakkara, despite being the best Test batsman in the world, has decided to call it a day so that Sri Lanka cricket will have enough time to groom another youngster. He is fit and in a better form than any young player, but he clearly understands the need to look ahead at the future. But if an old horse like Mubarak is going to be given a chance to supersede Sangakkara, would it not then make a mockery of Sangakkara's retirement?

If experience is the major concern, then won't the 37-year-old Sangakkara, who is the best Test batsman in the world currently, a better choice than the 34-year-old Mubarak? What Sri Lanka needs is a youngster to replace Sangakkara.

Even if Mubarak is given a chance, he will play at the most for another three years. Sri Lanka will have to then begin another quest for a replacement. Sri Lanka need to show patience and maybe a few fruitless years will pass by, but then the young brigade will mature and produce more wins.

The good domestic seasons Mubarak has had should not force his comeback. How well he would fare overseas is still an enigmatic question.

Angelo Mathews is the captain now only because he was handed a Test match debut at the age of 22. Many criticized the move and Mathews failed to silence his critics initially, but six years on he is the only established young Test batsman in the side. As the adage goes: patience is bitter but the fruit is sweet. Australia's Steven Smith averaged just 23.37 in his first year in Tests and 37.42 in his third (he played only one Test in his second year). Now, he is the top-ranked Test batsman.

At the moment, most of the Sri Lankan youngsters are around the age of 25, and none of them have a guaranteed place in the side. Sri Lanka failed to groom youngsters when Sangakkara and Jayawardene were around, as the then selectors were playing roulette with the youth. Only a few places were up for grabs, and the younger breed jostled for places, which resulted in none getting a longer run with team. The outcome of that is now plain to see. Sri Lanka don't have a batsman ready to replace retiring seniors.

Mistakes were made and they must not be repeated, but two wrongs don't make a right either. Give youngsters more time to establish themselves and let's focus less on Mubarak's career.

Kusal Perera is fresh from scoring a spree of centuries. Kithuruwan Vithanage already has a Test century. There is a lot of promise in the form of Roshen Silva and Madawa Warnapura. When are we going to give them a platform to show what they have in their tank? Mubarak was given chances on potential and was ignored when in form. The same mistake should not be made with the younger players.

Perera is in blazing form. If Sri Lanka help him continue that in Test cricket, the confidence that he would gain would translate into ODI cricket. Sri Lanka will have a reliable batsman across all formats.

David Warner averaged in the early 20s in ODIs before he made his Test debut. The lessons Test cricket taught him made him value his wicket more in ODIs. His ability to play longer innings, coupled with his natural aggression, made him a dangerous opener in ODIs. If Perera is given a chance to play Test cricket, who knows? He might be able to resolve his problem of getting out after getting a start.

The left-handed opening batsman has already earned accolades from Ian Healey for his meticulousness behind the stumps and club with that his penchant for aggression, don't you see the Sri Lankan version of Gilchrist in him in Tests?

As far as Sri Lanka's bowling is concerned, Dilruwan Perera is a decent off spinner but there is menace in young Tharindu Kaushal's off spin. Now is a perfect opportunity to groom our next Test spinner under Rangana Herath's wings. Would the selectors take a safety-first approach, or would they be bold and take Sri Lankan cricket forward?

The current management is not ready to trust their own it seems. They appear reluctant to give youngsters more opportunities. Sri Lankan newcomers have not performed too badly to be reckoned as failures. How can the management feel they are incapable without allowing them to show what they are capable of? Any success has an element of risk associated with it, and any kind of risk has an element of faith associated with it. You don't get to live a trial life with your partner before you begin your marriage life (in the case of a typical Sri Lankan). The most influential phase of your life is forged on sheer trust and pristine faith.

Marvan Atpattu is the head coach despite having no prior experience because he was trusted. The current selection committee is incumbent because we invested a lot of faith in them. They need to show faith in our youth players and start trusting our own, if Sri Lanka are to have any ambitions of rising as a major force in cricket.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's. Click here to submit your own opinion articles.

© Island Cricket


Anonymous's picture

Kusal Perera is in "blazing form" on domestic circuit flat tracks against mostly substandard bowlers in clubs & A teams not up to international mark. Didn't he prove that he can't survive 10 balls against such venomous attacks, over 50% of his 40+ consecutive Odi innings given during past couple years ? Those chances were more than anyone in history (equal to Mubarak) got in SL cricket & his Av 22 itself tells the long story in short. If capable enough, any player would have bloomed by now! after all, 40+ guaranteed chances (despite repeated failures) during 2 years had well exceeded the limits allowed to gauge any potential.

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

I have to agree with everything this is saying. We did have the Mubarak discussion and there were issues of age descrimination etc raised but I agree - we need to give the youngsters a shot and great examples for Smith and Warner.

I have said this before, guys like Kusal dont come around everyday and for once get past his failures at the top of the order. What he brings is the potential of a real matchwinner in all forms of cricket and for a us this is like a god send - so what is he doing on the bench? And what is Mubarak going to do at best - scratch around for a few years and we are back to square one.

We need to seriously consider using Kusal now (as in right now) while he is in top form. If he comes through - he could reach a new level. Put it this way I would much rather take that shot and see what happens rather take a chance on Mubarak as I know what will happen. Not much for a start and will only last a couple of years at best.

I remember when I first saw Gilly. He couldnt get in to the NSW side and had to change to WA! He made an epic 160 in the Sheffild shield final and Aus still stuck with Healy who was already a legend. I think we all realize now had Gilly been given a chance earlier he would have broken a few batting records. When something average comes along that's great but when someone potentially great comes along we must grab it and give it the opportunity. No one is great at 21 but its important to recongnise the potential early.

Siri Sirisena's picture

If Mubarak is not International quality, and the selectors and captain have concluded that, tell him. Do not tantalise and build up his hopes by selecting him to representative squads and teams. If performance in the domestic circuit is the benchmark for selection, Mubarak is one of the top performers. He has had his chances and has not delivered as expected. Front up to him and spell out why he is not in future plans.Also, explain to him why those younger than him will be selected even though they are no better than him at International level, and worse than him at the domestic level, simply because they are younger!

Youth first is an excellent policy if the talent pool is there. Nobody has yet made a silk purse out of a sow's ear. If you ain't got it, you ain't got it!As we go through the next couple of years the Sri Lankan team of necessity has to include a combination of experience and youth. Throwing stardust at a few players because they are young is not going to make them world beaters. The team is in a transitional phase and and nothing will happen overnight. Generational change will come, but, it cannot be rushed. We need to hasten slowly.

Cricket StatsGuru's picture
Member since:
9 February 2015
Last activity:
1 hour 40 min

We need Kusal Perera to come back into the team and fire if Sri Lanka have any chance of winning the test series now. He is the most talented young cricketer in the SL team. Still it is unbelievable to think he haven't played any test cricket yet. It is a crime.

I don't mind Kithuruwan Vithanage also playing in the team. Thirimanne, Chandimal and Dimuth has got several chances in the last few series without any substantial scores and one of them should replace with Kusal in the 3rd test match.

But agree we don't need Mubarak in the team one more time. Not because he is a bad player but it is better if we give chances to young players like Kusal, Kithuruwan and nurtured them.

SLCricket1's picture
Member since:
12 June 2014
Last activity:
2 years 14 weeks

i dunno what so interesting about this article for IC as they pointed out in their fb page ? this is a same old topic circling around IC for so many months , nothing new & nothing interesting .. in fact the only new thing i saw in this article is a big lie saying "Marvan Atpattu is the head coach despite having no prior experience because he was trusted." .. IC should stop getting high as soon as somebody just put some words nicely in place . do not post lies IC & call them interesting.

SB's picture
Member since:
23 June 2015
Last activity:
3 years 13 weeks

I would definitely agree with the author! Yes Mubarak ruined himself with the help of irresponsible selectors/SLC. Now the history should not be repeated. At least when opportunity is there, give consistent chances to young players. As the author said Angi is the only consistent player we got because he was lucky enough to enter international arena at the age of 22 and luckily Sanga, Mahela and Dili backed him when people criticize the lad. Chandimal was good but he was again used very foolishly by selectors and SLC - otherwise SL would have had another reliable companion to Angi. So without own agendas and preferences its a must to give youngsters consistent exposures at least by now. That's why Aus, SA are doing well while south Asian countries struggle

(Last edited by SB on June 23, 2015 - 13:08)
Anonymous's picture

Test squad for future;

1.Koushal Silva
2.Dimuth Karunarathna
3.Lahiru Thirimanne
4.Anjelo Mathews
5.Kithruwan Vithanage
6.Dinesh Chandimal
7.Kusal Janith Perera
8.PHT Koushal
9.Malinda Pushpakumara
10.Dushmantha Chameera
11.Binura Feranado

12.Lakshan Sandakan/Jeffrey Vandersay
13.Roshen Silva
14.Suranga Lakmal
15.Shaminda Eranga

Shankster's picture
Member since:
25 March 2011
Last activity:
3 years 4 weeks

If he has performed in the domestic league, has passed the fitness test in flying colors he deserves to play in the team!!! there in plenty of youth in the team having mubarak is not going to hurt us!!! chris rogers is 30+ when he got capped for test and he bought great stability to the australian top order!!! give some credit where its due.

The main reason our youngsters are not performing is because we have a VER VERY VERY UNDER QUALIFIED BAD COACH in MARVAN!!! He has FAILED Badly in bringing the team up but atleast hes contract ends in AUG Thank God for that because with That Loser We Will Never Bring up a Good Young Outfit Marvan just doesnt know how to do that...

A good coach can turn a team around: Example: After Australia was failing they bought in Darren Lehman and he lifted the Team Back Up in No Time, Hathurusinghe is another example in how he is building the team in Bangladesh!!!!

Nick White's picture

The SL selectors ignored Kusal Perera's blazing recent form for SL A and gave Vithanage first chance at Galle. After an ignominious 10-wicket defeat, time for a squad reshuffle, with both Kusal and Tharindu given chances at P Sara. Surprising too, that left-armer Binura Fernando (in SLs squad last time against Pakistan at SSC) misses out this time round. Binura swings the ball both ways and his awkward bounce would unsettle the formidable Pakistan top 7. Tharanga too, nowhere to be seen, after scores of 92 and 45 vs Pakistan at SSC last year, a match-winning contribution that ensured a 2-0 series win. The SL selectors dance to the rhythm of their own drum.

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