Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney, 4th day

Hope in defeat, but Sri Lanka must act

Despite the defeat at the SCG, there were positives in Sri Lanka's performance in the third Test, especially the performances of some of the young talent

Andrew Fernando at the SCG

January 6, 2013

Comments: 21 | Text size: A | A

Dimuth Karunaratne plays an attacking stroke, Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney, 3rd day, January 5, 2013
Dimuth Karunaratne was one of the young Sri Lankans who made a good impression at the SCG © Getty Images
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When Bob Dylan penned the lyrics of Blowin' in the Wind, the west was approaching a season of social change. The "wind", it has been said since, represents that which is both ubiquitous and intangible, granting those qualities to the "answer" it carries. The solutions to social ills seemed plain, yet they appeared unattainable. There may not be so much riding on Sri Lanka's cricket, though the game has long united the island's people, and is proving an avenue for reconciliation after a 26-year civil war. But after the Sydney Test, the path to a brighter Test future seems clear. Only, in Sri Lanka, even the surest route to cricketing success is often waylaid by mismanagement and politics. Progress never comes easy. Sometimes not at all.

Sri Lanka have lost 3-0, yes, but in Sydney, at least there was spirit in patches, and moreover, three batting performances have created a buzz at home. Lahiru Thirimanne's 91 on the first day was crisp, measured and muscular. Russel Arnold has been barracking for Thirimanne for some time now, and Aravinda de Silva could hardly think more highly of him. He is still a limited batsman, but he did not settle for moving in Mahela Jayawardene's slipstream, and took the leadership of the innings upon himself instead. He batted to a plan, chose his moments with care, and was not outwitted until his demise, when nerves, perhaps, frayed his judgement. 

Dimuth Karunaratne's 85 on day three was more about self expression than responsibility. Carefree, yet clinical, he missed few opportunities for scoring on the leg side, and punished width and poor length with abandon as well. Sri Lanka have seen enough in his game to grant him a sustained run in Tests, and his two half-centuries so far have suggested he can be the opener who wrests substantial momentum for his side in a single knock. Perhaps alone among Sri Lanka's younger group as well, he is as confident in his thoughts and demeanour as he is on the field. 

Dinesh Chandimal's unbeaten 62 on the fourth morning was as selfless an innings as any he has played, and after a poor spell in 2012, he once again affirmed his class and showcased a robust technique against quality fast bowling. He has improved his stroke range too, and he now imparts more power into his strokes through timing, rather than the fierce bat speed with which he first emerged. Fans have been calling for his inclusion in the side for months now, and he has vindicated them. 

But as bright as their promise is, their futures are cloudy. They will all likely play for Angelo Mathews now, whose own career is no longer embryonic, but whose batting still has a way to go. There has been no softness in Mathews' cricket to suggest captaincy will greatly detriment his performance, but there is no doubt that leadership will come with considerable strain, particularly as he attempts to navigate the murky waters of Sri Lanka's cricket administration. Men as experienced and intelligent as Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara grew weary of locking horns with Sri Lanka Cricket all too quickly, and if Mathews is dodging as many obstacles as his predecessors did, he will find it difficult to foster an environment in which both he and his young charges can prosper. 

And they have plenty of flaws to iron out between them. Mathews' struggle with concentration is writ upon his poor conversion rate and the umpteen wasteful dismissals that have followed promising starts. His inability to rotate the strike early in his innings has got his teammates in unnecessary binds too, as well as piled pressure on himself. Chandimal has been poor in Asian conditions, strangely, and could also do with a greater zest for ones and twos when boundaries are not forthcoming. Karunaratne was targeted with the full ball outside off stump in Australia, and edged to the keeper thrice in six innings. Thirimanne meanwhile, did not handle the moving ball well in England, and though he is an opener by reputation, he has been moved into the middle order, perhaps for that reason. 

"Talent alone will not carry them forward," Jayawardene said of the young batsmen after the match. "They have to have much tougher thinking processes. You need to identify your weaknesses, know your game better and go out and see what the opposition is doing and build the innings and bat for longer. Guys like Thiri, Dimuth, Angelo and Chandi all have talent. That's why they are here. As long as they are willing to learn and work hard, they will make those big scores and they will be future of Sri lanka cricket. They themselves have to realize what they need to do and how they can become a complete player."

Frustratingly, is difficult to see all four batsmen playing in the Test side when the injured seniors return for the next series. SLC has already postponed a home series against South Africa, which would have presented a thorny, but worthwhile challenge for the fledgling group, and even if South Africa had been touring, the tough calls that give an eye to the future are unlikely to be made. It is fine for young players to show talent, but in Sri Lanka they do not arrive in Test quality, and if they are only drip-fed opportunities, their growth will be slow and stunted. 

When Sam Cooke heard Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind, he was inspired to write a song of his own on the Civil Rights Movement, only with a more hopeful tone.

Oh there been times that I thought I couldn't last for long,
But now I think I'm able to carry on. 
It's been a long time coming, 
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.

There is reason for Sri Lanka to be hopeful despite the drubbing, but only if they let the lessons of Sydney wash over them. Young blood boiled at the SCG, and the men under 25 nipped at Australia with the spunk the old hands could not muster in Melbourne. It is time for change in Sri Lanka, but the powers that be must help ensure it is for the better.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Sinhaya on (January 8, 2013, 13:51 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster, thanks a lot. We have depended too much on MJ, KS and TD by not giving much chances for youngsters. We have been foolish to stop our home cricket or any other away cricket for IPL sake. Look at West Indies, they have a pool full of depth by testing young batsmen like Powell, Braithwaite and Deonarine etc at home when Pollard, Bravo, Narine go for IPL. Sad fact is that only 4 of our players are regular IPL players, but our crazy cricket board just does not want to follow how West Indies continues their cricket in spite of being quite IPL dependent too. Anyway, Chandimal is well set and no need to challenge. But Karunaratne and Thirimanne must do a bit more. We lost to Australia 3-0 before at home in 2004 so this is not the first time. Losing 3-0 at home is a bigger worry than losing away.

Posted by Sinhaya on (January 7, 2013, 16:41 GMT)

There is no shortage of talent at all in Sri Lanka. Main flaw in our approach to test cricket is the lack of mental toughness as shown in this test series in Australia.

Posted by Sinhaya on (January 7, 2013, 16:39 GMT)

@ex-Srilankan, actually many Sri Lankans did not come to watch the SCG test was mainly due to the MCG debacle. If you recall the ODIs of the CB series last year, Sri Lanka had lots of support.

Posted by MelbourneMiracle on (January 7, 2013, 5:08 GMT)

@Test-is-the-best and other Mathews bashers: I would like to suggest you gentlemen to go through the tour stats and then talk about Mathews. He's the 2nd Sri Lankan leading run scorer of this series next to Dilshan. He also claimed 2 wickets where even our so-called genuine fast bowlers struggled to take wickets. He was the leading run scorer against NZ also in the recently concluded test series just before the AUS series. When you talk ill about Mathews please always make sure that you talk about a better player with better performance than him so then we could accept your argument. Please don't talk like traditional sub-continent bashers where one day you worship the so called-gods and the very next day you make them dogs. Come on gentlemen! This is year 2013! Be wiser than before!

Posted by 9ST9 on (January 7, 2013, 4:43 GMT)

I remember even in 2011-12 Thirimanna and Chandimal batted well in Aussie/SA conditions I think SL should really give them an extended run and not ax them for maybe underperforming at home. What SL needed for so long were players who could bat well against pace - not spin. In these two they have such players.

Posted by Stranger_in_a_Strange_Land on (January 7, 2013, 3:30 GMT)

good article - but whilst praising the 3 young fellows, i don't think its coincidence that all 3 managed a decent score in Sydney - which is by far the slowest Aus pitch with subcontinent-like conditions....i will reserve judjment on all 3 until they hv scored on swinging/bouncy tracks in Aus/Eng/NZ/SAf......but then again even Mahela has averaged only like 35 in these 4 countries so cant expect too much from these 3!

Posted by   on (January 7, 2013, 2:41 GMT)

With Karunarathna, Thirimanna, Chandimal & Thisara we have 4 players to look forward to in the future. Though they still have areas to improve all of them have so far shown good skill and maturity when it comes to playing against tough oppositions. Unfortunately we lack a good pace attack and even though the current crop show promise it looks more like a mirage than a desert oasis. Feel sorry for Samare who uncharacteristically got out in Sydney. If he had stuck around a bit more that pitch would have better suited his batting style. He is definitely looking to retire from cricket in 2013 however the questions is who is most likely to replace him Thiri or Chandi? I'd like to see Chandi play as a batsman but in the end he may need to come in to the side as the wicket keeper before he warrants selection as a batsman.

Posted by ex-Srilankan on (January 7, 2013, 1:52 GMT)

Although Sri Lanka's test critcket future is probably not as bleak as the 3 - 0 whipping indicates, I disagree with Andrew Fernando's assertion that cricket is proving an avenue for reconciliation for Sri Lanka post-civil war. The near complete lack of support for Sri Lanka in the Sydney test where there are tens of thousands of Sri Lankan-born people living is evidence that many are not happy with post-civil war Sri Lanka and are demonstrating it with apathy towards the team they once supported. This of course is no fault of the Sri Lankan cricket team but the hardline regime back home which has a complete disregard for reconciliation. In such a scenario, even cricket struggles to unite.

Posted by trav696 on (January 7, 2013, 1:51 GMT)

I meant to say "11. Weledegera. Karunaratne, Thirimanne, Chandimal, Mathews..."

Posted by trav696 on (January 7, 2013, 1:03 GMT)

Sri Lanka's performance in the 3rd Test was pretty good against a 4 man pace attack. Sri Lanka have got the team line up wrong for a while when many young players are performing. Samaraweera definitely should retire because his poor decision making is showing signs really bad form. It's because of him that Sri Lanka slumped from 1-131 to 6-178. He needs to go and give chances to more talented and energetic young players. P Jayawardene is a really good keeper but Chandimal can do his job really well; is young and a much better batsman so he should take his place. The test line up should be: 1. Dilshan, 2. Karunaratne, 3. Sangakkara, 4. Thirimanne, 5, M Jayawardene, 6. Mathews, 7. Chandimal, 8. T Perera/Kulasekera, 9. Herath, 10. Eranga/Prasad, 11. Weledegera Karunaratne, Thirimanne, Chandimal, Mathews are all players that look like they can perform just as well away from home and need to be in the team. They need to play more test matches if they want young talent to improve.

Posted by here2rock on (January 7, 2013, 0:14 GMT)

It was the most boring test series, too much one sided affair. Australia were just too good. The result highlight the problems faced by the Asian countries in the longer form of the game. Sri Lanka are facing the same problems as India, overdose of T20 cricket. The side effects of T20 are showing on their test performance. None of their batman had the consistency or patience to bat for long periods of time. Pity this series followed a brilliant South Africa and Australia series. The future of Test Cricket in Asia does look bleak.

Posted by Test-is-the-best on (January 7, 2013, 0:11 GMT)

The fast bowling department of Sri Lankan team is apparently poor than that of Australia. However thses guys did a decent job and record would have been much better had the fielders took sharp catches. Fielders like Matthews, Thirmanne, Prasad , Samaraweera & Sangakkara as a wicket keeper dropped vital chances and the overall fielding is very poor compared with Australia. Welagedara & Kulasekara bowled well although Kule could not take any wickets ( Thanks for Nigel Llong & Tony Hill turning down several LBW appeals). Eranga, Nuwan Pradeep & Lakmal needed to have more experience and guidence to fine tune their bowling to produce more control and accurate bowling .

Posted by Test-is-the-best on (January 6, 2013, 23:38 GMT)

I have a doubt whether the best successor for captaincy after Mahela Jayawardene is Angelo Matthews . He hasn't shown capability to consider him as a allrounder like Sanath Jayasuriya who played as No 6 for some time or as batsmen like Hashan Tillakaratne who can stay in the wicket and repair the inning with tail enders. He is not good fielder either who dropped few sharp catches at slip during the recently conculded test series. The selection committee need to rethink stability of his role in the test line up before handing over the captaincy. I prefer to see Chandimal as a batsmen and Prasanna J to stay behind the wicket to reduce the burden of youngster. He should be played at No 3 in the future . Thirimaanne too can be considered as the replacement for No 5 as Thilan Samaraweeras career is reaching its end. Niroshan Dickwella, Angelo Perera & Sachithra Serasinghe too needed to be tested in the forth coming test series as future replacements.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2013, 21:53 GMT)

The administration is to blame. they mentally battered Mahela and his team during an already tough tour with issues that could have waited till Mahela got home. Thilan has been a fortress at home but I cannot remember a good innings out of the subcontinent. Therefore, he should have been left behind and Chandimal who has shown he prefers faster wickets than the slow low turners at home should have played. Nuwan Pradeep is the only out and out quick in the line up and Prasad much like siddle is very accurate, but SL missed a trick not playing a spinner at the SCG. After the first test it was evident that only Clarke and Hussey (maybe warner) could play spin. A front line spinner would have posed plenty of questions to the 6 aussie left handers. Pity that SL went with a 3 pace attack.

Posted by KingOwl on (January 6, 2013, 21:13 GMT)

@stormy16 - I disagree. There is no problem of talent in Sri Lanka. The problem is whether they have the mental fortitude to be committed to, and be competitive in the longer version of the game. In test cricket, mental side is so critical. Even more than talent. And comparing Paranavithana to Chandimal does not make any sense. I am not a big fan of Para either - but he is an OPENER, not a middle order batsman like Chandimal! What is the point of comparing apples to oranges? Sure, Chandimal and the rest need a lot more chances. But your solution does not make any sense.

Posted by Viraj_Hewage on (January 6, 2013, 20:50 GMT)

how many years can a team live in hope ? before they would play to win ! The answer my friend is blowing in the wind , the answer is bowing in the wind.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2013, 20:25 GMT)

Chandimal , Thirmanne and Dimuth should play every game in both formats ,but Sri Lanka is against these young players..seniors preffer their older colllegues..bowling is a problem..Lakmal , eranga and Pradeep have talent but we need a proper bowling coach..Sri Lanka have the BEST young batsmen brigade in the world imo in Dimuth , Chandi , Lahiru and Mathews but seniors and selectors aren`t proffecional so we nevr know what`ll happen..

Posted by   on (January 6, 2013, 19:34 GMT)

I agree with stormy16.

I know all our senior batsmen had done so much to our previous successes and so,we should be grateful to all of them for making our tiny cricket nation proud. However, I am sorry to point out the fact that if we loose test matches even with such quality experienced players why the heck we keep playing all of them without trying talented youngsters instead of few senior batsmen.

I think the time has come for any unbiased think tanks to conclude and make sure all three young players stated above( Dumuthu,Tirimanna and Chandimal) will be playing in all test matches in future even at the expense of one of the top most senior players ( Samare and Dilshan should go first then Mahela ) and Sanga for his awesome records even on fast and bouncy wickets away should retail a slot in the test team until youngsters groomed .

Our pacers were no where near the test class perhaps with the exception of Welagedara. Until we find another Vassy and Malinga who are fit to play.

Posted by stormy16 on (January 6, 2013, 17:26 GMT)

Lack of talent is a problem for SL as is the quality of the talent that's comes out of the first class cricket but THE biggest problem for SL is administration related. The three players noted in the artiicle have been around for a while now and Chandimal has 4 fifties in 5 tests including twin fifties on debut against Steyn and Morkel and one again a quality Pakistan attack but doesnt get an opportunity. Instead the tried, tested and failed Paranavitharan played again Eng and NZ and failed AND got selected for Aus. The other point is the inability of Mahela, Sanga and Thilan to be flexible to accomodate the younger players. Mathews should bat up the order allowing him time to bat with experienced guys. Chandimal for example at the SCG should have batted up the order with Thilan at #7.

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