There was caution in Sri Lanka’s camp even before the islanders began their tour of England when former chief cricket selector Aravinda de Silva told the media at a press briefing that he would give advice, but it was up to the new selection committee to take it. Contrary to these words we must consider thoughts aired by former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardena who has said that the England cricketers are willing to listen and are working towards constantly elevating their game. Do we see different attitudes in these two sides which are getting ready to play their first Test match, scheduled to commence in Headingley on May 19?
Jayawardena worked closely with the England players as their batting consultant. One point of interest in this upcoming Test series is that both Sri Lanka and England are fielding young players. The scales might tilt in favour of the Englishmen because of the cold British weather and the skill their pace bowlers have in swinging the ball. England will choose from Steven Fling, Jimmy Anderson, Keith Barker and schoolboy Aaron Beard to handle the new ball and have a go at the Sri Lankan front line batsmen.
How you play the game also describes what sort of personality each individual has. When Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara played international cricket, they not only entertained, but also won respect from all players. Present skipper Angelo Mathews is beginning to show signs of being an astute leader. He knows he is the man for Sri Lanka. The lofty place he enjoys in the side is going to make England target him. Sri Lanka’s bowling is strong, but all eyes are on the batsmen who, critics believe, will struggle on English wickets.
Mathews has batted doggedly as captain and much is expected of the rest, failing which the skipper could be seen carrying far too much of a burden. Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella performed creditably in the side-match against Essex where the duo scored half centuries. The Sri Lankan batting line-up has meat with players in the likes of Dimuth Karunaratne, Milinda Siriwardana, Kaushal Silva, Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne.
Sri Lanka are likely to go with seven batters and four bowlers in their quest to expose any little shortcoming England have in this long tour which will conclude on July 5.
Playing Test cricket for ones country is a great honour and also a luxury. This writer doesn’t have to mention the financial gains these cricketers make in their association with SLC. All these monitory benefits come the cricketers’ way because they are willing to commit themselves to the sport as professionals. As much as the majority of these players carry the island’s hopes as the ‘future of Sri Lanka cricket’, tours of this nature to countries, which provide bouncy tracks, provide the young cricketers with an opportunity to create a solid future for themselves.
A point that must be underscored is that tours of this nature call for a lion-hearted display from the youngsters who have been warned that focus and mental toughness are essential ingredients in cricket akin to good butter and mustard when making English style sandwiches.
At the time of writing, the condition of pace bowler Dhammika Prasad’s shoulder is being assessed. His absence, by any chance, would be a huge blow to the Sri Lankan pace battery which also includes Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep and the promising Dushmantha Chameera.
Spinner Rangana Herath will be one of the main weapons in the islander’s bowling armoury. His worth in the side can be measured in gold and the spinner has already accumulated 297 wickets from 67 Tests.
Sri Lanka didn’t quite really well read the line and length of teenage sensation Beard in the tour opener against Essex. Sri Lanka managed a score of 254 all out to which Essex replied with 412 for 4 in a rain shortened side game. Sri Lanka’s next side match, against Leicestershire, will hold so much importance given that the selectors are struggling to pick their seven batsmen for the upcoming first Test.