Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews

Skipper Angelo Mathews and coach Graham Ford have made the right inputs to a side where youngsters are nurtured to face the challenges in international cricket

With Sri Lanka’s tour of England still being kept alive with the first ODI finishing in a tie, what has happened till now is more of an experience that one gets at an examination hall.
Students who sit for examinations don’t really gain any new experience in this environment, but what happens is that when you attempt questions you know where you really stand academically. During the tour of England, especially during the Tests, the Sri Lankans knew where they were as a team, how good their technique was and who was good and who needed to improve.

Coach Graham Ford has played the role that an examiner plays in an examination hall. Such people can’t stand behind and watch from the sidelines. They have to be seen in the front. And that’s what Ford has done throughout this tour of England. Ford believes Sri Lanka needs to improve in all departments of the game. He has made this statement to ESPN Cricinfo and what that means is that the ‘Lions’ are still a work-in-progress.
The good thing when you have an expatriate as head coach is that he sets the pace and a work culture for others to follow. Ford is doing just that. He has served SLC before and what’s inspiring is that the players have warmed up to him.

What’s important in cricket at this level is that Sri Lanka needs to work as hard as other teams vying for honours in the international scene. For reasons that can be termed positive, we have a chief selector in Sanath Jayasuriya who seems to know the players’ inside out. There are enough youngsters in the side and it’s the responsibility of the coach, senior players and selectors not to give them roles which can break them.

Right now we can safely assume that the members in the present squad have taken a lot of responsibility as individuals. There aren’t any night club or late party incidents to be leaked to the press and the players seem to be concentrating on cricket. Since the team is in a transition period the players are on their toes. Each individual knows that a lack, even an ounce, in commitment would mean that the direction shown to such players would be the exit door.

This tour of England is a hard and long one. These players will be away from their loved ones at home for over a month. They need to be mentally tough on two counts; one is regarding what they are missing at home and the other is the attitude they display on the field. We still see Sri Lanka giving it away after getting to good starts. The islanders need to learn the art of building on solid starts. In this Buddhist dominant country, Lord Buddha’s teachings regarding right effort, still surface from time to time in the minds of its citizens. The Buddha taught about a stage identified as ‘Sotapanna’, the first solid step towards enlightenment. Nothing is certain till you get to this first stage leading to enlightenment. In cricket too, Sri Lankans need to get to a stage where their future in international cricket is certain.

Skipper Angelo Mathews is loved by the press. The guy gives you solid quotes for your stories, reads the game well and has earned the respect of his own players and the opposition. Mahela Jayawardane and Kumar Sangakkara have left the scene, but we still have Mathews. But Sri Lankan cricket fans are somewhat concerned by their national cricket captain’s comments that he likes to see responsibility as T20 captain being relinquished. If so, Mathews should play a role in grooming the next captain. He carries so much knowledge in cricket and he has a responsibility in passing some of that to the next ‘generation’ T20 captain. Who could that be?