Some Food For Thought For Sri Lankan Cricket
In The Wake Of The Recent ODI Losses To India.

Commentary by Mario Perera, Kadawata

I thank Suni for his very judicious comments regarding the debacle of the national cricket team. That these losses are very disappointing to the nation at large is an understatement. The two fronts on which the nation expects victories especially at this point of time, are the battle field and the cricket field. The battle field has no grand stands and spectators as does the cricket field. For a nation carrying heavy burdens on its mind, heart and especially body, the only tangible solace probably comes from the cricket field. So losses of the type we have been witnessing over the last few weeks should not be viewed mildly. At the end of the match the captain comes out with the very same ludicrous jargon…that the team played ‘really well’, that ‘the top order (or the middle order) failed’, that the new comers must ‘put their hands up and be counted’, that they ‘must regroup and come back strongly’ and such nonsense. Today the final ODI will be played. TV commentators say the local team must win for pride. Whatever be the ‘pride’, any victory today will not dispel the ‘prejudice’. Any victory toast today will be drunk in bare hands with the liquid spilling through the fingers, because the cup is already in the hands of the Indians. Winning today is like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. Self deception is the greatest of deceptions.

What went wrong? It is true the captain is enjoying a flash of form. How long this flash will last is anybody’s guess. Some new names have made their mark. To use the captain’s own stereotype comment; they have put their hands up and have been counted’. They are Ajantha Mendis and Thilan Thushara. Murali is the same old work horse but unfortunately, as Suni points out, relegated to the shadow of Ajantha. The bowlers are alright but not so the fielders. The throwing was going astray most of the time. Hardly anyone can strike the wicket for a run out. The wicket keeper ‘Sanga’, our own commentators say is ‘not a natural wicket keeper’.He has trained himself to be one.Yet the lacuna are obvious. In the 3rd ODI Raina was dropped very early with Sanga standing up to Vaas. Raina later played a winning role with Doni. Murali too has a big problem with catches being dropped off his bowling.

Now what about the batting? A pure catastrophe. We have one opener going on 40. True enough the man is a cricket legend who after several dismal performances comes up with a good score. No undermining the fact that his century won the Asia cup for us. Yet, for god’s sake…The man is nearing 40. It is said, not age but it is performance that matters. But how many bad ones should be tolerated while expecting a good one. The gentleman himself says; I let the bat speak for me. Now in four ODI’s his bat spoke once. May be Chamara Silva might himself have clicked on the fourth occasion had he been retained. The point is that we should be looking towards the future, which we are NOT. What we gleefully do, as in all other fields is to look towards names and their glittering past. A name whoever that may be, whether a Jayasuriya or a Sangakkara or other without performance is a dead letter, a dead weight.

The tragedy about our batting is that the big guns (just think of Sanga who bats so well in his TV commercials and so badly when it matters) have fallen apart. The big ones are like models on a cat walk going up and coming back while the young uns are doing the same! Judging from the performances of both young and old I sometimes wonder whether our cricket has a stable present and a foreseeable stable future. They all begin with a bang and end with a whimper. Tharanga did so, and so is Van Dort doing now and Kapugedara too. Name anyone and that is the case. We might call our team the ‘bang and whimper’ show. Everyone likes to find consolation in great names that were out of form at certain times of their careers. The point about our cricketers is that no one knows ‘when and where and how’ the ‘out of form’ label will dangle from their caps.

In my humble opinion, in addition to the various managers who direct the destinies of our team, we should absolutely have the services of a permanent psychologist. I personally think what we are seeing here is a ‘mind’ problem. Listen to great sportsmen and sportswomen speak. They repeatedly say they train themselves to be ‘mentally strong’. Let us face the fact; our cricketers are NOT mentally strong. In more direct terms they are mentally weak. To turn the tide, engage the services of a good sports psychologist who will study the psychology of each individual cricketer. We have to turn the tide. With its massive revenue, the cricket board could try this option as well. Otherwise we will eternally hear the captains lament about the top order (himself included) and the middle failing ‘not coming to the party’ or that the new ones are ‘not putting up their hands to be counted….’

Mario Perera

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