After a quiet period it’s now time to move on again and gather momentum in Sri Lanka’s quest to be the best. The Sri Lankans headed home in mid-January having had enough of India, but with smiles on their faces. Of course, the rest and the opportunity to regroup and attend to any niggles, as well as time with the families and friends, was something to look forward to. But the real joy was wining in Bangladesh and the promise shown during what was two very tough months.
I watched the Under 19 World Cup and now the provincial tournament in progress with lot of interest. This is where the bar should be raised if we are to back up the promise shown and kick on. It’s not in the international stage that the guys should be learning the finer points, but at the domestic level. So bridging the gap between the two levels is important.
Sri Lanka were hot and cold down in New Zealand. On their day they would take anyone apart, but sadly they did falter often too. Bhanuka Rajapakse was the one who caught my eye. He bats with so much ease and flair, reminding me of a young Mahela. What was most pleasing, even though they went down, was the fight in the semi final.
With not much to defend and in good batting conditions they made life very difficult for the Aussies. Indeed, if they’d been a little smarter in the field they might have even sneaked home. The missed run out of Mitch Marsh, the son Geoff and brother of Shaun, was crucial.
Back at home it was now time for the Provincial tournament to kick off. All the big guns were available, except for Dilshan who had injured a finger. There have been a few performances to take note of in the 50 over version, but no real consistency from any player. No chance of cart wheel’s at this stage on the performances. MAS Kandurata, the team with the most consistent performers in all positions, walked away with the cup in the limited overs version. Kaushalya Weeraratne’s role at the top of the order did make a difference and he did not do any harm to his chances by showing that he could do a different job if needed to. Still, it needed Kumar (Sangakkara) to dig deep to seal the deal. Credit to his motivational skills considering all that’s going on around him for clearly being so up for this one. The message is clear from the National Captain though.
The young guns like the Chandimal’s and Thirimanne’s failed to put any great pressure on the selectors. The same was true of Sanath Jayasuriya. There were a couple of good knocks along the way, but I am afraid he has not taken the matter out of the selectors hands. Chandimal, of course, seems to be enjoying himself in the 20/20 version though and is up there in the list of performers. Jeewantha Kulathunga who was my team mate in the Sri Lanka Under 19’s way back in 1993 too has been in good form for Wayamba scoring a hundred in both forms and leading the assault.MAS Kandurata crashed in the semi-final as their attempt to be unpredictable all the time back fired. Kaushalya Weeraratne not opening in the T20’s after his good run at the top was strange to me.Malinga Bandara and Janaka Gunaratne have also been very steady performers.
Though Sri Lanka might be a fair way away from putting a team out on the park it definitely is time the guys did shine as this would be the last real opportunity. The IPL and then the World Twenty20 are next, but at home a place in the coveted Champions League has once again been snapped up by Wayamba with Mahela saving the best for the last and Ajantha Mendis ripping through Ruhuna who were always up against it once the runs were on the board, but for Mendis his figures would be just what he needed to get that sting into his game again.
Sri Lankan players of late have been in demand and first choice in various competitions around the world. Most states in Australia had lined up players for the Big Bash in early 2010 but national duties took them away. Dilshan, who decided to go to New Zealand, has been the most sought after with almost all states in Australia lining up for him for 2011. It will be interesting to see if he will be available with the World Cup around the corner. Player managers or agents who play a big role in sport these days are useful to take the pressure off the player and let him focus on playing. They have many things to consider when helping players, including securing the best commercial deal, the player’s own brand image, his development as a player and the long-term future. Sadly, most agents only consider the “money” column.
Elsewhere the 200 run mark by an individual batsman was reached. After 20 years in international cricket, it is remarkable that Sachin still has the stamina and desire. I would have thought it would be a Sehwag or Jayasuriya-style player to be first to make a double ODI ton because of their high scoring rates, but it’s been achieved by the best in the business and it just keeps getting better and better for Sachin.
Down Under Australia were never tested by Pakistan and the West Indies and it was quite a boring summer with the only highlights being how Pakistan lost the Second Test in Sydney and Afridi trying to eat the leather. Afridi of late has shown greater maturity and is more valuable as a bowler. In fact, a very good bowler. The boom-boom part of it we rarely see and I fail to understand the tag “Boom boom” .Watching him as captain, he had just started to impress with his energy and leadership when he bit the leather. Many blame the Dinner at The WACA for his reaction.
West Indies were certainly let down by Chris Gayle who struggled to get going, especially against Bollinger. This took my thoughts to the past and realised that Sri Lanka hardly suffered at the hands of Gayle and the bowler who dismissed him most was Vaas.
At last with New Zealand in the past few days we’ve seen a team hell-bent on being positive were able to put Australia under pressure. McCullum’s innovation and the power of White was extraordinary while Shaun Tait, who not so long ago delivered the 2nd fastest ball ever recorded, was very poor under pressure.The contests between the two rivals have always been very competitive and probably the more you put Australia under pressure the more you will see reactions similar to that of Johnson too. The next team to test Australia at home will be the Lankans in October.