Sri Lanka v India, 4th ODI, Colombo July 30, 2012

Gruelling schedule takes toll on Sri Lanka

Seventeen Tests and 43 ODIs since the World Cup has meant the injuries are starting to pile up for Mahela Jayawardene's side

The Indian Ocean at the famous Galle Face promenade in Colombo, right across the road from the teams' hotel, is relentless, as all oceans are. Wave after powerful wave keeps pounding the shore - a bit like the current international cricket schedule, where match after match keeps arriving, with no break in sight and no regard for spent bodies and weary minds. Sri Lanka are a telling example: their players have, since the 2011 World Cup, moved from series to series and country to country, and the strain has started to show.

The most important victories, the series ones, have just not come, though matches have been won. Having won just one of their previous eight ODI series, against Pakistan, Sri Lanka are now one game away from losing another one, to India.

And the injuries are piling up now. Kumar Sangakkara, easily their best batsman of late, is out for at least four weeks with a broken finger. Nuwan Kulasekara, whose importance in ODIs is next only to Lasith Malinga, is already out, having hurt his groin in the first game. Graham Ford, Sri Lanka's coach, said Kulasekara was the sixth fast bowler he had lost to injury. Suranga Lakmal, Chanaka Welegedara, Shaminda Eranga, Dhammika Prasad, Dilhara Fernando - all have been, or are, on the injured list recently.

The madness deserves to be put down in words. Since the World Cup last April, Sri Lanka's players have gone to India for the IPL, then to England, back home to play Australia, to the UAE to play Pakistan, to South Africa, to Australia, to Bangladesh, back home to play England, to India for another IPL, back home to play Pakistan and now India. Forget international cricketers, airplanes will have to be grounded after logging so many miles so quickly. Seventeen Tests - joint-highest in the period. Forty-three ODIs, easily the highest in the period, trumping even usual leaders India, who are second with 34. Oh, and the Sri Lanka Premier League is waiting, as is the World Twenty20.

Ford acknowledged the obvious - the need for a rotation and workload management plan. "We find ourselves in a situation very different from the Indian team," Ford said. "They are really getting themselves back in [after a two-month break]. Some [of our] players have had a very busy time and fatigue management for some of them has become quite high priority. We have to handle players slightly differently. Keeping them nice and fresh is very important. We are in discussion to try to put something in place."

The immediate task before Sri Lanka is to win Tuesday's game without Sangakkara's batting and wicketkeeping and Kulasekara's bowling, else the series is gone. "It is a tough ask," Ford said. "We have to come back from 2-1 down. Two important players not available, but it's an opportunity for others to step up. It's an opportunity for us to find out more about others."

Sangakkara's absence is a double blow. Starting from the fourth ODI against Pakistan last month, this is his run of scores - 97, 40, 199*and 1, 192 and 24*, 0 and 74*, 133 and 73. Mahela Jayawardene has not only lost his star batsman, he has also lost the advice and insight he gets from the former captain from his position behind the stumps. With Dinesh Chandimal usually playing as a specialist batsman, Sri Lanka even toyed with the idea of calling up Test keeper Prasanna Jayawardene, the last of whose six ODIs was in May 2007.

"That was a consideration," Ford said. "Prasanna creates a lot of pressure in all forms of the game with his wicketkeeping skills. But we also looking into the future and Dinesh becomes a candidate for us to do the job. It's an opportunity for us to see how he goes with that duty behind the stumps."

Kulasekara's 39 wickets in 33 matches against India are magnified by his replacement Isuru Udana's struggles in the previous two games. "Kulasekara is a hugely skillful and an outstanding one-day bowler," Ford said. "To lose him is a big blow, but it's an opportunity for someone else to do what they can do. With six bowlers out it is pretty tough at the moment. He has been a star for Sri Lankan cricket for a long time particularly in the one-day format. He has created some problems for the Indian batsmen in recent times, particularly in Australia. I guess they are pretty glad to see that he is not involved."

Sri Lanka beat South Africa in the Durban Test last December when no one expected them to, and Ford spoke about the character of his side. "One thing that I have known about the Sri Lankan team is that they are great fighters. Very often when times are tough, that's when they produce their best performances." Will tomorrow be another such time?

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harmon on July 31, 2012, 16:13 GMT

    @fineprint: Fantastic point man. Anyone can see about which individual you are talking about and also about the general tendency some people have of writing off the performance of some other players. I recall that when Viru had scored his 219 vs WI some months back someone had commented on Cricinfo that the reason why it happened is that Indians tend to play lot more matches than other teams. I would love to see them commenting on this article.

  • Saliya on July 31, 2012, 10:13 GMT

    Sri lanka giving games away just due to openers , See Upul Tharanga's style of batting putting pressure on the rest eat up so many balls at the top, survive due Jayasurya but now the show is over. they have good players such a waste. At latter stage they want Parera to come n save the world. Rest of the players roles are not known.

  • Vivek on July 31, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    "Gruelling schedule takes toll" . . everyone seems to be agreeing, because its a neutral comment, in favour of all the cricketers. Now let me put this question: If more cricket played by a team takes its 'toll' on a TEAM why the same logic does not seem to figure (with some people) when one is discussing 'who is a better player/cricketer/batsman ?' why do some people seem to be very sure about their assertion that more matches played would mean more runs scored by a batsman? why should players who have played more games should, for that matter alone, not be rated higher than those who have played less ? Some may have guesses what I am talking about. Only at a neutral discussion can this point be highlighted more effectively.

  • saumitra on July 31, 2012, 8:33 GMT

    @Daran9, what i said is a fact ! IND getting bundled for a petty138 in the second match despite the fact that this is the same team that dismantled the SL team in the first and third match convincingly and has been doing so very very frequently in the recent past including the WC'11 final is a proof that it was the IND batting which imploded rather than the so called brilliance of SL bowlers in the 2nd ODI, and any way IND leads the ODI head to head with SL 73-52 so this speaks volumes about the fact that who's more talented, dosent it?

  • Satish on July 31, 2012, 8:10 GMT

    @Harmony111 : Yes the injuries are not a part of too much cricket.. But the fact is that SL are playing too much cricket non-stop sometime now..

  • Dru on July 31, 2012, 6:05 GMT

    I think all teams have to do their part of non-stop cricket and this is SL's turn. I am sure there was another nation saying the same story not long ago and another will be in the future. Guess its almost impossible to have a smooth workload - that's why they are played so much money! Injuries of course will follow but this is where SL struggles with depth of talent or the lack of. SL talent pool is limited but they do alot with that little - the porblem is when you take a key player or two out the challenge is huge. Having said that as Ford says, its an opportunity for someone else.

  • Harmon on July 31, 2012, 6:00 GMT

    I have to say that this article suffers from the fallacy of co-relation necessarily causation. The players SL have lost in this ODI series viz Sanga and Kula did not have any stress related injuries or any cramps or any muscle tears. They suffered injuries that took place cos of direct actions on the filed which could happen to even a debutante. Sanga has a fractured finger which is by no means connected to playing too much cricket. Kula has a groin injury as a result of falling wrongly on the ground. Someone prove to me that these two injuries are cos of too much or non stop cricket. As for the other injured SL players mentioned, I am sure non of them played too much cricket. I certainly don't remember seeing them in the CB series. How are their injuries related to too much cricket then? It is like India saying Aaron or Pujara being injured due to too much cricket when they have hardly played for India. Finally, if SL play so much cricket then why blame IPL but plan for SLPL?

  • shantiratnam on July 31, 2012, 4:25 GMT

    shall we always not blame on schdule and workload please? isnt there some people paid to create the pool of players available and ready play at the internationa level? All countires except SL NZ and WI have a 2nd team of 11 players who are good as 1st set of 11 players. this is why you see those countires rotate players and everyone is fit and fresh always. In SL we don't have much more than 15 cricketers who are good enough to play at that level. so the coach must focus on expanding the pool. there are players outside they must be grouped, groomed and given the oppurtunity.

  • Dummy4 on July 31, 2012, 3:03 GMT

    @Leggie: Did the Sri Lankan board clear all the players due on time? They didnt. The players have the right to earn their living and hence they did the right thing by playing in IPL. I am an India and I do have high regards for the Sri Lankan players for the standards they set in and out of the field.

  • Satish on July 31, 2012, 2:31 GMT

    Yes.. SL is the ONLY team which is playing cricket as much as India in world cricket.. I don't understand why some teams keep on playing whole year whereas, teams like NZ and SA hardly play games for almost half of an year.. Just because SC people are cricket crazy, they are overkilling some good players.. SC folks love cricket in any form.. We do watch NZ-WI or a Ashes too.. Better if cricket is evenly spread across the nations./.

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