A Sri Lankan Team that left England losing a 3 Test series 1 nil. The defeat facilitated by inexplicably getting rolled for 82 in the fourth innings of the 1st Test. Made worse when they only had to bat for 4 hours to survive. Truthfully though, condemnation was justified, but reasons could be given for it being a freak result. The base of this was how hard it is to acclimatise for the Sri Lankan players in all regards. For Sri Lanka and England in terms of pitches, conditions and weather are about as different as you can get on Planet Earth.
Just think of a May day spent in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka and then one in Cardiff at the same time of year.................
Im sure as take this comparison on board and its effect on ones being, reasoning behind the 1st Test implosion can be found.
Though using this series as a guide, lets delve a little deeper into the current state of Sri Lankan cricket
We could touch on the effect of politics on the prospects of the Team, but in truth this is irrelevant, for it exists in every Nation and will never be eradicated. So well just breath in a deep frustrating sigh and focus on the aspects of the team that promise much reward in the future.
|Tillikaratne Dilshan-Promising Leader|
Watching the new Sri Lankan skipper Tillekeratne Dilshan in England was a bit like viewing a man lending characteristics from two great Asian's. Firstly the hatred of losing and steely resolve to fight no matter what the situation from Javed Miandad and then the presence of the iconic Arjuna Ranatunga.
You saw this after the Cardiff disaster, where many expected Sri Lanka to sink without a trace. Especially after England racked up a huge first innings total. When Dilshan walked out opening in the reply, you saw that glint in his eyes from all the great ones. that he was going to land a few blows on the English and gain some ascendency back for the tourists. Then how he did with a brutal 193 where he flayed England everywhere.
Ruffling English feathers like we haven't seen in a good long while and providing inspiration for his Team to fight...and fight...and fight some more.
Ultimately the game ended in a draw highlighted by English frustration (Matt Prior smashing a window) and restored pride for Sri Lanka.
Again this resolve was seen again in the third Test, where Sri Lanka were distinctly under the pump, but still gained a draw.
Throughout he showed that Arjuna quality to bind his men together to give their best performance for Sri Lanka
The onfield persona aside and keeping in mind the Teams prospects were seriously undermined by a very weak bowling unit. He still went into every game with 5 bowlers. Showing that in an era of ridiculously defensive mindsets in leaders. He is a beacon of hope in an attacking sense.
All augurs well for Sri Lanka with Dilshan leading.
Hidden Gems Found
The series opened eyes in regards to Sri Lanka's immediate present and future. For me four names stood out prominently for the Team and offered great hope for a bright future.
|Nuwan Pradeep- Great Promise|
The one who looked brilliant and offered a long term fix for Sri Lanka's greatest need was fast man Nuwan Pradeep. Sadly injured in a Lions game before the first Test, where he impressed everyone with his pace, swing and real venom. Hopefully he regains fitness and turns into the lethal quick that his promise indicates
On the batting side of things the resolve and skill in the conditions shown by opener Tharanga Paranavitana showed he could be a long term opener for the Team. Then in the third Test and the Odi series we saw a glimpse of Sri Lanka's precocious batting talents for the future. Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal showed they have the pedigree to be the main stays of the Sri Lankan middle order.
Then Sri Lankan keeper/batsman Prasanna Jayawardene showed that all this talk about Matt Prior being the premier player in this role is indeed justified but he is not alone. For the Sri Lankan gloveman deserves similar recognition. The balance he gives to the side can't be underplayed and in any conditions. He is a huge ace up Sri Lanka's sleeve allowing 5 bowlers to be played without the batting being undermined because of Prasanna's pedigree in this respect
The Teams Youth:
We have already touched on young batting prodigies like Thirimanne and Chandimal. Then I still have high hopes for a young batsman I think is precociously talented in Chamara Kapugedera. He has been a source of eternal frustration, but the boy has the goods and should be persisted with. Also young attacking opener Bhanuka Rajapaksa offers a bright prospect for the future
The batting aside, the bowling is the key cause of concern for Sri Lanka living in the post Vaas and Muralidar era. I think Nuwan Pradeep will develop into a fine spear head for the pace side of things. Then in spin, I can't go past a bowler who ran through the lethal Indian top order like a hot knife through butter in Suraj Randiv. A spinner that turns the ball big and also keeps his accuracy and honestly has all the tricks to be a very fine test bowler.
The rest of the bowling unit will come from these names:
A fast medium bowler that showed enough in England to know he has a future. He displayed and ability to swing the ball and a good amount of stamina. It will take a bit to hone him into a fine Test bowler, but he has that potential
A young fast bowler of fine pedigree. He has that Malinga quality of pace, swing and real threat that has seen him reap rewards in his young career. Also a useful lower order batsman. It be good to see him in the Test team.
A smart and tricky little left arm spinner, who in Asian conditions could be lethal. He has a good grasp of his craft and bowls in a traditional manner
Very promising off spin bowler that has impressed in all levels he has played. Hishlighted by some very impressive performances with the Sri Lanka A Team
Prospects In The Australian Series:
As this series approaches, it pits a Sri Lankan Team that is very difficult to beat at home against a vastly diminished Australian team in all aspects of the game. You can see the hosts making batting friendly pitches that favour spin. To favour their main strength in batting and spin and to victimise Australia's weakness against spin. Then also their very fragile bowling department that will struggle to get 20 wickets in any conditions.
On the Sri Lankan Team front. The series will see Angelo Mathews return to the all rounders position at 6 in the line up. Thus Prasana reverting back to 7 and 4 specialist bowlers being employed. On this basis this would be my team.
Dilshan (C), Paranavitana, Sangakkara, Mahela, Samaraweera, Mathews, Prasanna, Eranga, Randiv, Herath, Pradeep (if fit)/ Lakmal (if Pradeep isn't fit)
Looking at the three Test series that starts on 31st August now. I'd think that Sri Lanka would win it easily 2 nil