In my last column dwelling on the first Test match and at a very early stage of the game my poser was, has Sri Lanka turned the corner? Writing after just one day’s play in the second Test, it appears that way. True Pakistan is the sixth ranked team in the world of Test cricket which is one place above the Lankans, but it’s about the penetration of the fortress of their cricket and that’s the UAE.
Pakistan has been untouched in these parts of the world and Sri Lanka’s efforts so far have simply caused panic and to some extend confusion in the Pakistan camp. To start with, their strategy of turning tracks seemed to have backfired. The Herath special and good and true tracks too, have been utilized better by the Lankans.
As for the team itself, one of the biggest pluses has been Dimuth Karunaratne who has taken a massive role upon himself. In the past, considered more a second innings player, Karunaratne needed to step up with his efforts in the first inning too, that was lacking and wanting. In the UAE, the world has seen a different Karunaratne in the first innings. Pacing his innings with more determination and also showing a lot of positive intent Karunaratne appeared to have shrugged off his hoodoo and looks a far more relaxed and a confident player in this series.
Skipper Chandimal who was almost like a marathon man in Abu Dhabi seems to enjoy the extra load as batsman captain. It has definitely made him a more assured player who has cut out the frills in his batting. Looking at his innings’ constructed so far in the series, it is definitely very mature and of quality.
The brightest out of the batting though brief was Sadeera Samarawickrama. Starting the tour with an outside chance of featuring in the playing eleven, the youngster would have been most surprised to see vice-captain Thirimanne being ruled out with a back injury.
To start with though he is not arrogant as a personality, he is certainly one with the bat in hand. The manner he tucked in to the bowling of Yasir Shah not allowing him to settle in was beyond a Test debutant as young as he was.
His inside out shot over extra cover and his loft for six stood out besides the many drives and pulls that were in the range of his innings. He definitely has the potential to be the most special player amongst the youngsters we have seen in the last five years which includes, Chandimal, Thirimanne, Mendis and Dhananjaya. He looks more exciting than all of them from what was on show.
As for the second Test match, it’s far too early to predict any result especially when one considers the manner the last day the Abu Dhabi pitch played. It just came from nowhere and it’s not clear what surprises Dubai could throw up. But going forward Sri Lanka seems to be getting healthier with their cricket. Look at options outside the squad of batsmen. Mathews, Gunaratne, Dhananjaya are quality and are in the options range for the selectors.
Prasad when fit, Chameera and Lahiru Kumara are bowling options that will compete amongst the quicks. It was heartening to see the recall of Vandersey and the inclusion of Aponso in the A team which gives more teeth to the spin department.
Over all one can say that the picture which looked bleak and also hopeless not so long ago is suddenly looking brighter for Sri Lanka Cricket. The key here is to utilize the available resources unlike in the past and maximize its benefits.
The inclusion of Samarawickrama and Roshen Silva seems to be a confirmation of that policy where the selectors will pay more emphasis to current form and performance than potential or history. This would mean greater opportunities for the quality players who kept missing out for some inexplicable reason in the past. It appears that Sri Lanka Cricket is in for some exciting times days ahead.