Its time to move again – Russel Arnold

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.

  • Nizam

    Its a pathetic situation in Sri Lanka Cricket. The players are selected in not on merit for 20 WC. The personal affiliations and politics counts a lot in selection criteria. Just look at the 20-20 domestic tournament averages. Best performed players have been omitted from the squad. So, why you keep tournaments of this nature. Its sheer waste of money and time. Just select the people and send. Nobody gets justice in this country, if you are not from the ruling alliance. Whole country is heading towards disaster and in two years time, the results would be seen in every sphere of life.

  • Amrit

    While Russel may not have the flair (hopefully he will get this and become very successful) I think he’s one of the best Sri Lankan commentators going around. Definitely make pertinent and valuable points and his analysis on players and games is spot on unlike others we have had in the past.

  • sri lankan

    Hi Russel,

    Sorry to say this mate but you article is very boring. While your own words echo in the background, you have no flair for writing nor commentating. The reason for my statement is not your language skills nor your ability to communicate but rather your ability break that Sri Lankan mould of talking and writing safe. Break the mould and get out of the comfort zone … be critical where you can be also where you cant be and create a little spice in an article so when someone reads it they get intrigued for your opinion. This opinion should pursue the goal of entertaining the reader not try to confirm to the norm that you should get all the facts right.

    I have heard you commentaries and today I read your article and I regret to tell you that you need to start thinking differently if you want to be a successfull sports journalist. The day you realise that you need to differentiate your style such that you stand out and put more heart into your statement rather than more brain then you will succeed. Good luck old chap ….. wish you well.

    Sean

  • Sameera

    Kulatunga was an opener in T20. Currently we have Dilshan, Upul, Mahela & Sanga who can perform the same job along with Sanath. It is the only thing I can think of. But atleast he should have been included in the squad, if not the final 15.

  • http://WWW.YAHOO.COM TISHAN

    SRI LANKEN CRICKET IS SO CORRUPTED LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE AND IF SRI LANKA NEED ANY MOMENTOM GET RID OF LOKUGE AND HENCHMEN FIRST.OTHERVICE SRI LANKA WILL NOT REACH SEMI FINALS IN ANY TOURNAMENT WHICH HAS SIX PARTICIPANT COUNTRIES.

  • Q

    Domestic Twenty-20 cricket championship player of the tournament; Jeewantha Kulatunga ignored by selectors for the Sri Lanka 30-member squad for the T-20 World Cup in the West Indies – YOU PERSONAL OPINION ON THIS RUSSEL and how come things like this happen in our system and who is responsible for decisions like these ?