By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews did not mince his words when he blamed his batsmen for letting the side down and subsequently losing the three-match Test series to India 1-2 at the SSC grounds.
It was by the same margin that Sri Lanka also lost to Pakistan and even on that occasion it was the batters who were at fault.
Mathews played a lone hand in trying to stave off defeat for his team with a fighting century but apart from a 70 from debutant Kusal Perera the rest of the batting flopped for Sri Lanka to be all out for 268 chasing a target of 386.
“Not scoring runs has been a problem for us in the last two series. We have been talking about it a lot in the dressing room, but nothing seems to be happening,” said Mathews at the post-match press conference,
“The cause for our defeat is our first innings batting. After winning a crucial toss and putting them in the bowlers bowled well. We could have kept them below 250. But we should have batted well earlier on. But we flopped,” he said.
“We needed our top order to fire. Chasing 385 we could have done it had we wickets in hands. We lost three wickets for 20 runs which was bit too many. The middle order players you can’t expect to score that many runs.”
“It’s very disappointing. The bowlers have done a really good job throughout both series. The problem is with our batting. We didn’t want to change because of that. We were backing them thinking that they will fire at some point. We have about two to three weeks to address these issues and come up with solutions. We have lot of confidence on the batsmen and they need to back us for the faith we have kept.”
Mathews said that despite the loss there were a lot of positives like the emergence of Kusal Perera as a Test batsman.
“Kusal Perera batted positively. I thought he grabbed his opportunity. He looks a tremendous player. Whatever the situation is he wants to be positive,” said Mathews.
“He batted brilliantly and he has earned his place especially in the ‘A’ team where he has been prolific. Even in ODIs he has been in good nick. As I always say you can’t pick and choose a time to represent in a Test match. I am glad that he grabbed the opportunity given to him.”
About his own innings which couldn’t save his team Mathews said, “We (Kusal and I) just wanted to play positive cricket. I had to change my gears a bit. Build partnerships from the other end. It was difficult and hot and humid and quite draining. Kusal batted well and that partnership gave us a little chance.
“It doesn’t really matter whether you score a hundred or not. You need to win. Even if you score a duck and if your team wins that’s what you want.
Looking ahead at the team’s future, Mathews said, “We haven’t got that many seniors in the side. We will take lot of time and we need to get the processes right. It will be tough when you are playing quality oppositions.
“We have played six games and lost four. It’s going to be tough no doubt, but we will fight hard and plan things out for the future. When it comes to batting we need to approach it in a positive way.
“I have played a few games now. I have played about 52 Tests. Little bit experienced than some of the other guys in the team. Now its past Sanga and Mahela era and others need to step up. It has to be a collective effort. It won’t be a case of one individual or two individuals scoring runs all the time. Those who get starts need to go on. We don’t have Sangas and Mahelas anymore.”
Defending the decision to promote Upul Tharanga to open instead of the settled combination of Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva, Mathews said, “We discussed a lot about our batting order and we needed someone who will score runs quickly in the middle order and that’s why we brought in Kusal at number seven instead of Jehan. Upul had scored two 40s in the previous Test. We thought him opening is better with Kaushal Silva and Dimuth coming at number three. Wherever you are playing you have to score runs. We haven’t played around the guys positions too much. We haven’t changed many guys in both series.”
Tharanga made 4 and 0 opening the batting and the failure of the openers put extra pressure on the middle-order batting.