Sri Lanka s Chairman of Cricket Selectors Ashantha de Mel made a stinging attack on the national cricketers at a media briefing yesterday when he questioned the top cricketers commitment to the national team. Since ending as runners-up of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2007, Sri Lanka has been a pale shadow of the side that was a year ago, having won only four of their last 16 games. Addressing the media at the cricket board headquarters yesterday, the former fast bowler, flanked by his co-selectors said country s top cricketers have lost focus.
`If our players play like they play in the IPL, there s no doubt why we can t win the next World Cup,` de Mel said sarcastically yesterday. `There s a general decline in the team whether it be running between the wickets, fielding or whatever. I feel there are too many distractions.`
`When you put on that blue cap, you have to give 101 percent. The main reason for the decline is that the players have lost focus,` he added.
De Mel said that money was the root cause for the general decline in performance. `When you earn too much money you get too comfy. The focus of our cricketers has certainly come down. In IPL, the money that they are paid is huge. If you don t perform you are out and you don t get paid,` de Mel said blaming the players.
He said that in awarding players new contracts SLC will request them to play more than 75 percent of the games of the domestic tournament. `Through the contract we want the players to give us a commitment that they will play 75 percent of the domestic matches. Their obligation to Sri Lanka Cricket should be far greater and players can t be selfish.`
Questions were asked on former captain Sanath Jayasuriya s inclusion in the national side after the selectors had initially not selected him for the upcoming Asia Cup. It has been revealed that intervention by Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge made the selectors make a complete U turn.
`We selected the team on a Wednesday. Sanath hadn t scored a lot in the IPL at that stage. But that night after we selected the team he made a superb hundred. Although we had selected Upul, he wasn t in top form and with Sanath batting so well we wanted to use him for the tournament. One of our major worries was that our standard in international cricket was dropping. We are placed at seventh position currently and we want to try and improve the standings,` he explained.
`The Minister of Sports asked us to clarify our position on selection. We explained our position and we were very much in agreement with the Minster s thinking that Sanath needed to be reinstated. When a player like Sanath is around, we have to make the maximum use of him. If he can compete with a 25-year-old and be still competitive, there s no reason why he should not be selected,` he said.
De Mel also denied rumours that some selectors were against the inclusion of the veteran. `The selectors unanimously decided to bring him back to the side. We have long and short term policies. While having an eye at the 2011 World Cup, we also want to make sure that we play the players who are in best form. It s up to the individual to decide when to quit. The main criterion for us is his fitness and performance.