Back with a vengeance
If Marvan Atapattu was given a day off at Lashings CC and was able watch the opening day of this series then it might not have been easy viewing. According to Jayanda Dharmadasa, Sri Lanka Cricket's chairman, Atapattu has requested more time to overcome the "trauma" of his difficult World Cup on the sidelines. Michael Vandort, meanwhile, a opener that has been overlooked so much in his career that he might be forgiven for seeking professional trauma counseling, was, not for the first time in his stop-start career, grabbing an opportunity with a typically solid 87 not out.
The first day at the near-empty Sinhalese Sports Club was dominated by the bowling of Muttiah Muralitharan, who wreaked havoc with his devilish doosra, and the most sublime batting came from Mahela Jayawardene, who was in regal form until a calf strain interrupted his fluency. But it was the naked hunger and opportunism of Vandort that was the most compelling story of the day. With Atapattu taking a mental break in England, Sanath Jayasuriya "resting" with Lancashire and Upul Tharanga nursing a broken bone in his left foot, Vandort once again laid out his credentials.
Atapattu's controversial decision to sit-out the series could have serious repercussions. Whether he really is recovering from trauma or not, when senior players try to pick and choose tours then selectors and coaches are naturally suspicious. Trevor Bayliss may yet be convinced that Atapattu, now aged 36, still has a role to play, especially in tough series against Australia and England at the end of the year, but if Vandort keeps showing this commitment, composure and stickiness at the crease then it will be brutally unfair for him to be unceremoniously unseated later in the year.
|He is organised in approach, well aware of his strengths and weakness, and quite prepared to graft hard for his runs. In a team of strokeplayers his adhesiveness could be a great asset. Atapattu should be ruing his incredibly short-sighted decision to opt-out of the tour|
It is true that Vandort has a long way to go before he can claim to be equal to Atappatu, a classical batsman with a marvelous record. It is true, as well, that this is Bangladesh, the weakest Test team in the world. But you can't knock the ability to score runs when under personal pressure. He did this when he was selected back in 2002, scoring a century against Bangladesh only to then spend three-and-a- half years on the sidelines. He did it again when picked for the England tour in 2006, scoring an obdurate 105 on a tricky pitch at Edgbaston. Surprise, surprise...he seized his chance today too.
The experts seem to be in two minds about his ability to produce the goods against top-class bowlers. His fielding has also been highlighted as a weakness. But having now passed fifty in seven Test matches spread over six years, he surely deserves a proper chance to disprove his doubters. He is organised in approach, well aware of his strengths and weakness, and quite prepared to graft hard for his runs. In a team of strokeplayers his adhesiveness could be a great asset. Atapattu should be ruing his incredibly short-sighted decision to opt-out of the tour.
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent