Sri Lanka’s cricketers appear to be going down memory lane bringing back the past when batsman merely crumbled under pace bowling or what some experts call the short-pitched ball.
The current trend only undermines a system that Sri Lanka Cricket has strived to put in place, like installing high velocity bowling machines, or may be a pompous show by officials running the affairs of the sport has been confirmed. Either way the bottom line is that the Sri Lankan Test team will for some time live on borrowed time unable to come to grips with the traditional format of the game.
Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena and Tillekaratne Dilshan retired some time ago, and the new crop of players had enough time to focus on their roles and prepare for tours like in South Africa. The only bright spark for Sri Lanka on the current tour of South Africa is that a teenage fast bowler, Lahiru Kumara, has shown he has the makings to be a future bet for Sri Lanka provided he comes under the right tutelage or is able to steer clear of injury worries.
It is also time that veteran spinner Rangana Herath takes stock of what is left in him or realize that he is just good to play Test cricket at home where the pitches suit him or are made conducive to his trade.
An examination of the second Test against South Africa could show many drawbacks in the current Sri Lanka and raise some questions over the captaincy of Angelo Mathews if not is he forced to follow instructions of the many backstage ‘players’ seated in the comforts of the dressing room.
One of the questions that have to be asked is, was it Mathews’ desire to take the new ball into his slow paced hands instead of tossing it to the fastest bowler in the current ranks, Lahiru Kumara, or was he merely following the coach’s fancy of holding back Kumara until the ball gets a bit old.
If holding back Kumara until the ball gets old (whether it was the captain’s wish or coach’s assessment) was the case then the question must be asked why find or groom fast bowlers who can bowl at 140 km. It appears as the old saying goes, that too many cooks are spoiling the soup and Sri Lanka’s back stage team has many cooks, name them and they are there.
During the first innings of both teams, Kumara was the most impressive and plucked five of his six wickets through sheer pace and movement which are hallmarks of a genuine fast bowler. They way he bowled even overshadowed the likes of South African bowlers Vernon Philander, Abbott and Rabada who were helped in the first innings by some rash and substandard batting by Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal.
But Philander, Abbott and Rabada are not expected to depend on the mistakes of batsmen to pluck their scalps. The trio are no doubt top shelf fast bowlers and the top six Sri Lankan batsmen have gone back in time struggling to come to grips on green-top pitches and the ability of the South African bowlers to collectively exploit the surface.
It is no doubt unfathomable how batsmen can be made to pick up the pieces in the middle of a series and make a rousing comeback in a Test series against a team like South Africa on their hunting ground. But at least the Sri Lankan batsmen should learn to adjust to a variety of bowling away from home and just do the basics of playing what some experts call the ‘waiting game’ in Test cricket.
After all, the men running cricket in the island have categorized players as Test, ODI and T20 exponents and pay them enough to concentrate on their job or what is expected of them.