A website giving information about what tourists can do in the English summer ranges from surfing frothy waves, spotting dolphins and building sand castles on the beach. But all what a touring Sri Lankan national cricket team in England has built, as dreams, might come down like a sand castle hit by wave if they are not mentally prepared.
Sentiments similar to these were expressed to the media (Last Wednesday) by officials of the national cricket team before its members left the island for a long and challenging tour of England which will officially begin on May 19 (1st Test) and conclude with a T20 International on July 5.
The talk about the national team is that it’s a team in transition. Former Selection Committee Chairman Aravinda de Silva, who was present at the press conference, called for patience when viewing the performances of new players. This is all good and encouraging and there are classic examples of such instances regarding players like Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya, now the Chairman of the selection committee.
But what we should take serious note of is that English wickets are bouncy and pretty fast which means these conditions can leave the young ‘Lions’ dry in the mouth if unprepared. Coach Graham Ford wants his chargers to fire all cylinders from day one. He said the Sri Lankans are up to the challenge and added, “It’s important to be absolutely ready and make an impact on day one itself”.
Sri Lankans will go with seven batters and four bowlers and skipper Angelo Mathews underscored the fact that there are nine in the line-up who can bat. There is a lot of hope on Lahiru Thirimanne to deliver with the bat. Sri Lanka’s chances with the willow are carried by top order batsmen like Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella and skipper Mathews himself. The final XI for the first Test in Headingly (May 19-23) will be picked going by the performances of the team against the two side games which are against Essex and Leics.
Sri Lankans are expected to maintain consistency during this long tour which will comprise three Tests, five One Day Internationals and the solitary T20 international. As much as Sri Lanka is a team in transition and needs exposure, so does England given that their coach Trevor Bayliss wants his chargers to play too many rather than too less, in terms of cricket. For the record, Bayliss is expected to tour the country in search of players.
James Taylor’s career, cut short due to a defective heart, has opened the doors for promising players to get in. James Vince, Garry Balance, Ian Bell, Nick Compton, Alex Hales, Sam Robson, Adam Lyth and Daniel Drummond are eying slots to be in the team led by Alastair Cook.
Chief selector Jayasuriya stressed the fact that the players must give 100% to the country. This statement is immensely important during this tour because England have begun to think about the country with the two coaches Bayliss and his assistant, Paul Farbrace, inviting coaches handling county sides to come and offer input.
Mathews can come good with both bat and ball, but he has been warned that England will do all they can to target the Sri Lankan captain, a move which is akin to getting the big man in a street fight which ensures the rest cave in. Coach Ford’s words at the press briefing had meat when he said, “England are going to come hard at us”.
The importance of including a seasoned spinner in the likes of Rangana Herath carries so much importance when one sees the word ‘inexperienced’ best describes the majority of members in this 17 member squad that has been ratified by the sports minister.
Sri Lanka just finished celebrating its New Year in April and the smiles that lit up the faces of its citizens have still not faded away. Let’s hope that the cricket played in England keeps these smiles warm.