By Hiran Liyanage
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is at crossroads. Cricket is a game that unite all Sri Lankans and very dear to every Sri Lankan’s heart. This transition period should be handled carefully. Mature able men with an eye on the future should be at the helm of things.
Looking at ICC Future Tours Program, SL’s engagements for the next 12 months are as follows: England, Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, and Bangladesh. Except for the Bangladesh tour, it’s a grueling test of skills.
SLC should not waste any time in making appointments. First and foremost, it’s the hope of all cricket-loving public Aravinda could be persuaded for a second stint as the head of selection committee. His Team did a tremendous job, and now some tough decisions have to be made with future in mind.
Angelo Matthews is seen as a future leader. Yet he needs more exposure in all conditions. He is yet to make his maiden ton and hasn’t fully established himself in the Test Team. He need time to fully develop his own game and be comfortable in it.
Dilshan Samaraweera are the front-runners as the stop-gap Test captain for a year or two. Out of the two, Dilshan would be the one to quickly switch off from original plans and make decisions based on “gut feel” when pre-match plans are not working. But again, Dilshan will have to keep his cool in pressure situations and master the art of showing least emotions.
Whoever is appointed as Sri Lanka’s Test captain, he will have the misfortune SL captains since Ranatunga never had to endure: not having SL’s main wicket taking bowler Murali, in turn getting those 20 Test wickets needed to win a Test match.
With Malinga certain to miss more Test matches, SL will have to recognize our two main strike bowlers in Test match cricket (at least for the next 12months will be), Dilhara Fernando Rangana Herath. These two men will form the “bowling pack leaders” and come up with crucial breakthroughs if we are to win Test matches.
In return SLC should take great care of these two bowlers. Give them adequate rest, not play them in meaningless ODIs and T20’s, and most importantly give them continuity and confidence while being patient when results are not coming immediately.
Suranga Lakmal is another hot Test material. From the last time he was seen on TV, he needs to “muscle up” to support his tall frame and lower back. Wonder why Nuwan Pradeep is not brought in? He’s got real pace with a slingy action and with the depleted bowling attack, SL cannot afford to hide him anymore.
With next World cup in Australia/NZ, and the thereafter to be held in England and then in South Africa (based on the assumption, ICC gives every region its due share), fast men will play a crucial role than spinners. SL should concentrate on forming a pool of young, fit fast bowlers with genuine pace.
Long-term recognition from the world Cricketing fraternity does not come by winning a World cup, but by winning Test series both away and at home on a consistent basis. Next twelve months will go a long way in deciding where our Cricket stand in post-Murali era.