Rex Clementine reporting from Dubai
A proud cricketing nation has been brought to its knees twice inside three days here in the Arabian desert as Sri Lanka crashed out of the Asia Cup in such an embarrassing way. Defeat to Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi Monday night was perhaps the lowest point in the history of Sri Lankan cricket. It remains to be seen whether it is a point of no return?
The current side has no depth in batting, their bowling is toothless while fielding remains the worst in the world. Less said about the team’s running between the wickets the better.
On Saturday, Sri Lanka scored their lowest total against Bangladesh and two days later the lowest against Afghanistan. Given that it was the Sri Lankan batsmen who changed the way One-Day cricket was played, it was painful to watch the current team struggling to post 150. Glad that the Sri Lankans don’t play Hong Kong or Nepal anytime sooner.
The moment Sri Lanka announced their squad you knew that they were asking for trouble. The current team contains at least five below average fielders – Angelo Mathews, Upul Tharanga, Lasith Malinga, Kusal Perera and Amila Aponso. To add a 36-year-old Dilruwan Perera into the group was asking for trouble. Musfiqur Rahim was on ten when Dilruwan put down a straight chance at square leg. He went onto post 144, the second best individual score by a Bangladeshi.
Playing three half-baked all-rounders and just five specialist batsmen was a bad call. Some pundits in our cricket who think that they know everything have eaten humble pie for their selections. They need to come to terms with reality and look how other teams are rebuilding.
We Sri Lankans are very good at two things. We boast about our past and then give excuses about our current status. Cricket is no different. Sri Lanka’s fielding has been well below par for quite some time. There has been zero effort made to address this burning issue. All what the national cricket team does in the pretext of fielding drills is just an eye-wash.
Our cricket team avoids fielding practice like the plague. We can assure our readers that Sri Lanka’s highly paid cricketers spend more time playing football than the time they spend fine tuning their fielding skills. We challenge Sri Lanka Cricket to deny our statement.
The excuses the players and the management give for poor fielding standards are hilarious. Sometimes they talk of too many wicketkeepers in the side. Sometimes they talk of lights at international grounds being of poor quality. Mostly they say that our fielding is not bad but it lacks consistency. All that is crap. The true story is that we Sri Lankans dodge fielding practice. And we have paid a heavy price.
The Fielding Coach Manoj Abeywickrama has to be sacked. Rumesh Ratnayake the Fast Bowling Coach and Piyal Wijetunga, the Spin Bowling Coach also need to go. Tilan Samaraweera is a good coach when it comes to teaching the finer points of defence and playing long innings but acceleration and improvisation in shorter formats of the game don’t seem to be his forte. The role of Batting Coach has to be split into two with Samaraweera only handling Test cricket.
Upul Tharanga needs to be dropped as well. His best days are gone and he is a liability on the field. He has been always that and never made an effort to improve. In his last 21 innings in international cricket, Tharanga has managed just one half-century.
There were big hopes when Angelo Mathews decided to take up captaincy again. But he has failed to learn from his failures and he is making a joke of himself while running between the wickets.
There’s so much that Sri Lanka can learn from Pakistan. Fitness and fielding excellence is not something that we associated with Pakistan cricket over the years. But Mickey Arthur has pushed his team and today Pakistan are one of the best fielding sides in the world. The average age of Pakistan team is 24 and it is time to back some young talents.