The humming winds breathe draughts of a new aura for Sri Lanka Cricket flaunted on new blood driven by handpicked foreign expertise, thanks to the far sightedness of the SLC President, Thilanga Sumathipala and his able administrative machinery. Significantly, the Sumathipala administration has put Sri Lanka cricket on track from what was apparently tripped in no man’s land due to no cohesive management plan by several longtime interim administrations that had bungled the country’s cricket. That this new phase of the island nation’s cricket took off on all fours during the recent tour of Australia here is significant.
For, the assignment for Angelo Mathews and his charges was like getting past a massive iceberg when it came to the super cricket playing nation in the world. In both forms – test cricket and instant cricket Steve Smith’s team basked as the ICC No.1 team. Literally, it was a type of David versus Goliath challenge for the Sri Lankans. That the new look Sri Lankans got through one hurdle of registering a 3-nil clean sweep in creating a piece of history significantly marked a swift turn around in Sri Lankan cricket; a turn around that not only saw history made, but also marked the ushering of the new generation of cricketers the country’s establishment driving the game had been aspiring for.
This aspiration of new expectations several moons ago when the team was cast in a tightrope walk of having to play minus two of its senior most players was a tall order. The tour of England in May looked a foregone conclusion given that Sri Lanka was playing the English in their own backyard. What is more, the first two test matches had been scheduled in the most wintry chilly conditions at Cardiff and Trent Bridge; and England was in their element in all forms of the game as the ultimate results proved in a clean sweep of the islanders.
Given the terrible odds that an under strength Sri Lanka faced coming on a rebuilding curve, the dethroning of the Australians in undoubtedly the game’s toughest lane of the longer version was indeed out of this world. Lose they did the ODI series badly 1-4, but Mathews’ young bucks had bled the world’s best Test team in emphatically brazen style; of taking the Kangaroos by the scuff of their necks.
As the 29-year old 5ft 8 ins tall burly dark complexioned Sri Lanka skipper stood on the trophy podium and beamed ‘how delighted me and the team are’ to have done it,’ it was a historically defining moment to all Sri Lanka. There as he literally towered larger than his opposite number Steve Smith in seizing the chunk of gold in the Murali-Warne Trophy series, indeed, the occasion fittingly reechoed the popular Sri Lankan ‘One Team; One Nation’ slogan that has endeared the cricket loving public at large to its cricketers and the game. Sure enough, it was a critical new voyaging phase of Sri Lanka cricket that the man, who took over the crown, a few years ago in a heated captaincy crisis moment of the game, and had he not performed the impossible was leading his country against the world’s super power in Test cricket.
Australia had boasted of several new discoveries including their young skipper in Steve Smith who had in a short time stamped his name as a wonder boy with the bat. It was a pertinent phase of the country’s cricket in search of a new order in the wake of the retirements of veterans Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, and injuries to some. It was a search for the Holy Grail for a anointment for the future. Mathews had worn the cap of importantly restoring lost pride and had come out with flying colours against the Aussies whose pace bowling armoury is roundly feared by the rest of the world.
Thus, the post- Australia scenario sees Sri Lanka well ingrained in its rebuilding drive which has found a tremendous boost by lifting the biggest chunk of gold off the Aussies.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-