New Zealand in Sri Lanka 2012-13 October 28, 2012

Time for Sri Lanka's youngsters to come of age

New Zealand seem the ideal opposition for youngsters like Angelo Mathews to take charge of the team, before the sterner challenge in Australia
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When Angelo Mathews strode to the crease in the World Twenty20 final, the Premadasa still believed. There were plenty of runs yet to make, and the required run rate was beginning to wrap its tendrils around the innings, but something about the new man in the middle inspired confidence. Mathews had scythed Sri Lanka out of thornier tangles before.

But this time it was his anxious dismissal that ushered in the panic that asphyxiated the middle order. When Darren Sammy brought fine leg in after bowling three consecutive dot balls to Mathews, the batsman should have become aware of the trickery that was afoot. Instead, he dove into the trap. Having goaded Mathews into playing the scoop, Sammy bowled an off cutter, and ball gripped on the dry surface, evaded Mathews' stroke, and clattered onto the stumps. Fifteen balls later, Thisara Perera and Jeevan Mendis had also lost their wickets, mindlessly. It was a dispiriting display from a middle order that forms the core of Sri Lanka's future.

Mathews is now officially a captain, perhaps in all formats from February, and he and Thisara Perera are now too experienced to claim youth as justification for their failures. Both men, and others like Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne have proved capable and have built encouraging reputations, but they haven't yet taken full ownership of a team that will soon be theirs. They are not yet thinking, planning or performing on the level their seniors operate on. A home tour against New Zealand is their chance to show how much they have grown, and crucially, that they are ready to shape the team they play in, rather than simply being shaped by it.

In many ways, New Zealand is an appropriate foe against whom Sri Lanka's youngsters can test themselves against. The visitors are not so soft that any battle scars earned will be of no value but they are also not so brilliant that every minor flaw in developing techniques will be exposed and exploited.

New Zealand have no bowlers that will frighten Sri Lanka's youngsters, but the hosts can be assured that on this tour, they will be worked over, analysed and plotted against. Tim Southee bowled one of the spells of the World Twenty20 to force a tie against Sri Lanka in their match in Pallekele and Jacob Oram has also had success in Sri Lanka recently. Adam Milne has pace, though his talent may be too raw to be classified as a major menace, and Doug Bracewell and Trent Boult will provide a robust challenge in the Tests. New Zealand's batsmen aren't flawless either, but they are good enough to scourge poor bowling, and Kane Williamson is one of the better players of spin from outside the subcontinent.

The stakes are slightly higher because the tour is played at home, and there are no ready excuses should Sri Lanka's younger crop fail. There is pressure to succeed, and familiar pitches and venues at which to perform. The stage is almost perfectly set for them to take the baton from the seniors and bring Sri Lanka's post-Murali transition phase to a close.

The youngsters are also better placed to help the team overcome the disappointment of another major-finals loss. Watching another team lift the trophy in Colombo would have hurt more than any of the other runners-up medals, and the loss would have been hardest on Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan, who for all their success, know that they are fast running out of chances to win a world title. When Sri Lanka lost their last final in 2011, the team couldn't shake their funk for eight months, when they seemed rudderless and listless in all three disciplines. Mathews and company can harbour better hopes for their own futures, and it may be upto them to provide the positivity and energy that will help Sri Lanka focus on a new challenge.

Beyond New Zealand, an Australian summer beckons. It is perhaps Sri Lanka's biggest tour in years given the enthusiasm most Sri Lankans have for seeing their side get the better of Australia, and the fact that they will play their first Boxing Day Test since 1995 - when Muttiah Muralitharan was no-balled by Darrell Hair. Some of the seniors may not have enjoyed previous tours there, but Mathews, Chandimal and Perera have already shown they are not daunted by a little extra pace and bounce. If they can emerge from the New Zealand tour with form behind them, Sri Lanka's hopes of a maiden Test win in Australia will be boosted significantly.

Before then though, there is plenty to achieve. Jayawardene and Sangakkara have shown no signs of slowing down yet, but they have repeatedly shown a desire to unburden themselves of leadership to focus on giving whatever they have left with the bat. Sri Lanka's youngsters must come into their own, before the reins are upon them.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Srini_Indian on October 30, 2012, 14:24 GMT

    @SL fans: I agree with you, SL won't be whitewashed 4-0 because its only a 3 match test series, lol. It is funny actually considering SL haven't won anything significant but still there fans have big mouth.

  • miles100 on October 30, 2012, 12:12 GMT

    Chandimal is the most consistent young batsmen that SL currently has. He in fact did not do well in recent matches and was kept away from the playing eleven without a delay. Back then Mubarak on the other hand messed up almost every match and they continue to keep him.The differences between Mubarak and Dinesh are, Mubarak came from an affluent family and chandimal came from a very poor family in the village. Dinesh has more courage to perform under pressure, Mubarak used to look like a mouse under pressure even though he seems like a friendly and calm character. if they can identify the braveness of a player blended with a little bit of talent, SL selectors will get the best youngsters to the side.

  • on October 30, 2012, 8:59 GMT

    Talent matters, but consistency matters most, that's what the Sri Lankan youngsters lack. Chandimal is not a consistent performer like Kohli is. Rahul Dravid didn't possess natural talent like Sachin but he was highly consistent.

  • anver777 on October 30, 2012, 6:10 GMT

    Youngster Dinesh Chandimal must be a regular player for SL in all formats.... he's so talented & one of the future stars of SL cricket !!!! strangely he warmed the bench during WCT20..... the selectors should have tried him at least in couple of games instead of Thirimanne or Jeewan mendis !!!!

  • yohandf1984 on October 30, 2012, 5:52 GMT

    Do we really need 5 ODI s here ? I d prefer to have 3 ODI s with 3 Tests .

  • miles100 on October 30, 2012, 0:22 GMT

    Correction from my last comment about SL fast bowlers should swing bowl from 135 to 145 KPH in slow wickets. I think swinging at 145KPH in slower wickets regularly can be difficult and not practical.I was meant to say they should have bowlers who can swing both ways at 130 to 140 KPH in slower wickets regularly with other variations. My fast wicket bowler's requirement for SL will stand.Also when I talked about young pinch hitters, I was also meaning technically correct young batsmen who can start career at age 18-19 and open till they become mature enough(24 -25) to be promoted to the middle order.Opening and No:7 are the best positions for young batsmen to start careers as there are less pressure in those positions However you not only need technically correct batsmen to face the new ball, but also batsmen who can take on bowlers over their heads or along the ground hard.

  • Rajesh_india_1990 on October 29, 2012, 19:04 GMT

    other teams should take a leaf out of randhiv and sanga's book for 'how to bowl a no ball when a batsman is on 99'..hahaha..lolz

  • on October 29, 2012, 18:36 GMT

    It is good that Mahela and Asantha de Mel have introduce two new under 19 spinners Akila Dhananjaya and Tharindu Kaushal to the SL squad. How about under 19 SL batsmen? I am quite sure that Indian under 19 batsman (Captain) Unmukt Chand will be in the Indian squad for the series against England. Virat Kholi has rapidly matured enough to be in all format of the game.Legend Tendulkar is reaching the age 40

  • Head_gear on October 29, 2012, 15:40 GMT

    I do agree with yoker and miles. Indeed Tisara should be give a chance to open and Kule to bat in middle order,Mathews does have such type of mind that he does implement new tactics in batting order.Sri Lanka Haven't produced a big hitter like Tisara after the departure of Sanath.If Tisara & Munaweera are given a chance to open it can be a new begining for SL. Chandimal to follow and Mathews to bat @4.Number 5 should have been Kapu I guess. Kapugedara had done reasonably well during the SLPL and according to me he should have been given a chance.But the best spot for him in the team is no.3 i guess so Chandimal will have to go for no.5 then.Here Tirimanne will bat @ 5 and Jeewan Mendis to follow him.5 & 6 may differ.Kule,Sachithra,Akila and eranga Malinga to follow. As miles did say there must have been someone who could bowl 145kmph consistantly.Pradeep is an example.& During SLPL a new comer called Dushyantha Chameera showed early signs for a strong paceman.they must be prepared.

  • Mathu. on October 29, 2012, 15:03 GMT

    Hope physio has done his job and SL bawlers will not have early injuries in this series...

  • Srini_Indian on October 30, 2012, 14:24 GMT

    @SL fans: I agree with you, SL won't be whitewashed 4-0 because its only a 3 match test series, lol. It is funny actually considering SL haven't won anything significant but still there fans have big mouth.

  • miles100 on October 30, 2012, 12:12 GMT

    Chandimal is the most consistent young batsmen that SL currently has. He in fact did not do well in recent matches and was kept away from the playing eleven without a delay. Back then Mubarak on the other hand messed up almost every match and they continue to keep him.The differences between Mubarak and Dinesh are, Mubarak came from an affluent family and chandimal came from a very poor family in the village. Dinesh has more courage to perform under pressure, Mubarak used to look like a mouse under pressure even though he seems like a friendly and calm character. if they can identify the braveness of a player blended with a little bit of talent, SL selectors will get the best youngsters to the side.

  • on October 30, 2012, 8:59 GMT

    Talent matters, but consistency matters most, that's what the Sri Lankan youngsters lack. Chandimal is not a consistent performer like Kohli is. Rahul Dravid didn't possess natural talent like Sachin but he was highly consistent.

  • anver777 on October 30, 2012, 6:10 GMT

    Youngster Dinesh Chandimal must be a regular player for SL in all formats.... he's so talented & one of the future stars of SL cricket !!!! strangely he warmed the bench during WCT20..... the selectors should have tried him at least in couple of games instead of Thirimanne or Jeewan mendis !!!!

  • yohandf1984 on October 30, 2012, 5:52 GMT

    Do we really need 5 ODI s here ? I d prefer to have 3 ODI s with 3 Tests .

  • miles100 on October 30, 2012, 0:22 GMT

    Correction from my last comment about SL fast bowlers should swing bowl from 135 to 145 KPH in slow wickets. I think swinging at 145KPH in slower wickets regularly can be difficult and not practical.I was meant to say they should have bowlers who can swing both ways at 130 to 140 KPH in slower wickets regularly with other variations. My fast wicket bowler's requirement for SL will stand.Also when I talked about young pinch hitters, I was also meaning technically correct young batsmen who can start career at age 18-19 and open till they become mature enough(24 -25) to be promoted to the middle order.Opening and No:7 are the best positions for young batsmen to start careers as there are less pressure in those positions However you not only need technically correct batsmen to face the new ball, but also batsmen who can take on bowlers over their heads or along the ground hard.

  • Rajesh_india_1990 on October 29, 2012, 19:04 GMT

    other teams should take a leaf out of randhiv and sanga's book for 'how to bowl a no ball when a batsman is on 99'..hahaha..lolz

  • on October 29, 2012, 18:36 GMT

    It is good that Mahela and Asantha de Mel have introduce two new under 19 spinners Akila Dhananjaya and Tharindu Kaushal to the SL squad. How about under 19 SL batsmen? I am quite sure that Indian under 19 batsman (Captain) Unmukt Chand will be in the Indian squad for the series against England. Virat Kholi has rapidly matured enough to be in all format of the game.Legend Tendulkar is reaching the age 40

  • Head_gear on October 29, 2012, 15:40 GMT

    I do agree with yoker and miles. Indeed Tisara should be give a chance to open and Kule to bat in middle order,Mathews does have such type of mind that he does implement new tactics in batting order.Sri Lanka Haven't produced a big hitter like Tisara after the departure of Sanath.If Tisara & Munaweera are given a chance to open it can be a new begining for SL. Chandimal to follow and Mathews to bat @4.Number 5 should have been Kapu I guess. Kapugedara had done reasonably well during the SLPL and according to me he should have been given a chance.But the best spot for him in the team is no.3 i guess so Chandimal will have to go for no.5 then.Here Tirimanne will bat @ 5 and Jeewan Mendis to follow him.5 & 6 may differ.Kule,Sachithra,Akila and eranga Malinga to follow. As miles did say there must have been someone who could bowl 145kmph consistantly.Pradeep is an example.& During SLPL a new comer called Dushyantha Chameera showed early signs for a strong paceman.they must be prepared.

  • Mathu. on October 29, 2012, 15:03 GMT

    Hope physio has done his job and SL bawlers will not have early injuries in this series...

  • PadMarley on October 29, 2012, 13:03 GMT

    Three era's of Sri Lankan cricket had long term dependancy over pairs of batsmen. Duleep Mendis with Roy Dias, Arjuna with Aravinda, Sanga with Mahela... I guess its time for a new pair .. AT LEAST!

  • CricketMaan on October 29, 2012, 13:02 GMT

    @ SL Fans - at least a couple of those that commented on India. For heaven sake this is a tour between NZ and SL, why bother about India. And for my friend that spoke about India being whitewashed in Aus, SL lost 1-0 in Aus in 2004 and 2-0 in Aus in 2007, lost 3-0 at home and in the last home series but for rain you would've lost 2-0. Let me tell there is more to Cricket than just India bashing. Leave your hatred and rally around SL and enjoy the game. Good Luck Angelo and co.

  • miles100 on October 29, 2012, 11:04 GMT

    SL needs some young opening pinch hitters like in the mid 90's,not senior players opening the batting the whole career.Debutante batsmen must come at age 18/19 not at age 24/25.SL needs a mature middle order that can play long innings & hit 4's & 6's at the end.At least No:3,5 & 6 batting positions should have successful seniors as these are that positions that consolidate innings.SL also needs to train/bring young fast bowlers to ball up to the chest height of batsmen accurately at 135-145 KPH regularly in fast wickets or train/bring bowlers who can swing both ways at 135-145 KPH on slower wickets.These are physically demanding tasks monitored at young age.I believe Angelo will be a good captain but he needs some confident, power hitting & reliable middle order batsmen & fast bowlers with above capabilities & young reliable opening pinch hitters.These can make SL win every series/every final even without luck because no doubt already SL is the most talented cricket team in the world.

  • Yoker111 on October 29, 2012, 10:38 GMT

    Thsara Perera should be given the chance to open. I'm not a loyal supporter of him although i feel he would prevail opening the batting for SL. SL needs to give someone strong as him the chance feed him the jayasuriya treatment just like Arajuna did. This is why Arajuna is one of the best captains because he choosed his team and batting and bowling order not the mindless selectors.

  • on October 29, 2012, 8:30 GMT

    agree with sadukate - Chandi and Thirimanne have the talent to be 2 of the best batsman we ve ever produced..They just have to bat up the order,,Chandi should bat at not 3 and Thirimanne at no 4 or 5..Sanga and Mahela next and then Mathews..Arjuna and Aravinda did this an thats why Sanga and Mahela is at this level today

  • on October 29, 2012, 4:39 GMT

    Mark Jacobson ,Edd Oliver hats off to you people :) this is what indians need to learn for these great honest men "respect the talent "

  • on October 29, 2012, 2:11 GMT

    I still believe that Kapugedera a vital role in playing 11. if the selectors handled him correctly he is the ideal player to take over captaincy from mahela.so better have him top of the order,ideal for mahela replace ment.he has the capability adopt to the situation like mahela. But still this team has enough talent to beat anytime,players like thissara,chandimal and thrimanne should develop their skills to play under pressure..We have a good future in cricket than any other country.friends dont forget without murali,vass and sana wewere runners up in 4 main tournaments..It will be the same after When current big 4 (Mahela, Sangakkara and Dilshan+ Malinga retires...All the best Sri Lanka!!

  • sadukate on October 29, 2012, 1:23 GMT

    sanga,Mayiya yes they are the best.our youngsters are good but thirmanna and chandimaal should play up in the batting order.in odi sanganeedgo down little and chandi will bat at no 3 then you can have more from himhe isa great talent he can clear the rows pretty easily..so snga should bat no 4 in odis.mahela should open the innings in odis.in test chandimaal should open with dilshanthirimanna need to go out in t20 and kapugedara should be in...................................

  • on October 29, 2012, 1:08 GMT

    SL will not be whitewashed in Australia, unlike Team India. Good luck Mahela and Co.

  • on October 28, 2012, 23:54 GMT

    Mark Jacobson : You obviously share kind f stuff it to the big neighbor rivalry with Australia as we do with India.

  • on October 28, 2012, 21:29 GMT

    I'm quite looking forward to see Chandimal hopefully doing well against us in the next few weeks, looks very talented just needs abit of refining then I think he could be around for a long time. obviously I still want the Kiwis to win but tight games with lots of runs, get the Sri-lankan's into form so they can stuff it to the Aussies!

  • on October 28, 2012, 20:08 GMT

    With Malinga's retirement from tests, where are Sri Lanka's seam bowlers that will win them a test in Australia? Kulasekera is a canny medium pacer but I can't see him bowling them to many test victories in or outside the subcontinent. Would be nice to see Herath and Ajantha Mendis bowling in tandem but again 2 spinners probably won't be nearly as effective in Oz.

    They're also no closer to finding a reliable test opener to go with Dilshan, Thirimanne was a walking wicket against England, and they need to get Chandimal in the test side somehow, without breaking up their established hardcore of Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Samaraweera and Mathews.

  • KingOwl on October 28, 2012, 19:39 GMT

    Good article. "Jayawardene and Sangakkara have shown no signs of slowing down yet, but they have repeatedly shown a desire to unburden themselves of leadership to focus on giving whatever they have left with the bat."

    I thought Andrew was going to say .... to focus on the IPL! But I am perhaps too cynical!

  • on October 28, 2012, 18:55 GMT

    yes we have to find replacements fast. Replacing likes of Sanga,Mahela and even Dilshan won't be easy for any team

  • Cpt.Meanster on October 28, 2012, 18:52 GMT

    Sri Lanka is also going the Indian way. They rely too much on Mahela and Sanga's experience for stability. Sooner or later, it's going to bite them. Their youngsters are inconsistent which is a shame because SL usually produce 'miracle' cricketers out of nowhere. Appointing Angelo Mathews as captain is a first step towards redemption. And also, Mahela and Sanga should not go the Tendulkar way and get confused on when to retire. Both are 35 years old and should seriously plan when to exit the team so that the youngsters can step on at the right time. The planning begins now.

  • DilumSL on October 28, 2012, 18:24 GMT

    youngsters ehh... there are only four new youngsters Akila, Munaweera, Sachithra and Eranga(mind you that Eranga is 26 year old). all the others can't be recognize as youngsters. Lahiru, Chandimal and Thissara are young by their age but they have played plenty of cricket in the recent past. Jeewan And Upul They are in their late thewenties and had played plenty of cricket as well. are we considering them as youngsters as well??? really disappointed with the selectors. A Perea, K J Perera, C Pieris, C Kumara, K Withanage etc.. they are the real youngsters who deserves an importunaty.

  • johnathonjosephs on October 28, 2012, 18:05 GMT

    Sri Lanka may lose in Australia later this year, but there is no way they will be whitewashed 4-0.

  • Dhutugemunu on October 28, 2012, 15:54 GMT

    Players like Mahela and Sangakkara showed that they are thinking cricketers when they were young. Unfortunately the young players in SL cricket team now are not showing any signs like that, which is not good for future SL cricket. Still we are unable to find replacements for Mavan, Sanath, Vass and Murali. When current big 3 (Mahela, Sangakkara and Dilshan) + Malinga retires it's gonna be very hard to find replacements.

  • GerrardLK on October 28, 2012, 15:20 GMT

    Maiya & Sanga are living Legends

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • GerrardLK on October 28, 2012, 15:20 GMT

    Maiya & Sanga are living Legends

  • Dhutugemunu on October 28, 2012, 15:54 GMT

    Players like Mahela and Sangakkara showed that they are thinking cricketers when they were young. Unfortunately the young players in SL cricket team now are not showing any signs like that, which is not good for future SL cricket. Still we are unable to find replacements for Mavan, Sanath, Vass and Murali. When current big 3 (Mahela, Sangakkara and Dilshan) + Malinga retires it's gonna be very hard to find replacements.

  • johnathonjosephs on October 28, 2012, 18:05 GMT

    Sri Lanka may lose in Australia later this year, but there is no way they will be whitewashed 4-0.

  • DilumSL on October 28, 2012, 18:24 GMT

    youngsters ehh... there are only four new youngsters Akila, Munaweera, Sachithra and Eranga(mind you that Eranga is 26 year old). all the others can't be recognize as youngsters. Lahiru, Chandimal and Thissara are young by their age but they have played plenty of cricket in the recent past. Jeewan And Upul They are in their late thewenties and had played plenty of cricket as well. are we considering them as youngsters as well??? really disappointed with the selectors. A Perea, K J Perera, C Pieris, C Kumara, K Withanage etc.. they are the real youngsters who deserves an importunaty.

  • Cpt.Meanster on October 28, 2012, 18:52 GMT

    Sri Lanka is also going the Indian way. They rely too much on Mahela and Sanga's experience for stability. Sooner or later, it's going to bite them. Their youngsters are inconsistent which is a shame because SL usually produce 'miracle' cricketers out of nowhere. Appointing Angelo Mathews as captain is a first step towards redemption. And also, Mahela and Sanga should not go the Tendulkar way and get confused on when to retire. Both are 35 years old and should seriously plan when to exit the team so that the youngsters can step on at the right time. The planning begins now.

  • on October 28, 2012, 18:55 GMT

    yes we have to find replacements fast. Replacing likes of Sanga,Mahela and even Dilshan won't be easy for any team

  • KingOwl on October 28, 2012, 19:39 GMT

    Good article. "Jayawardene and Sangakkara have shown no signs of slowing down yet, but they have repeatedly shown a desire to unburden themselves of leadership to focus on giving whatever they have left with the bat."

    I thought Andrew was going to say .... to focus on the IPL! But I am perhaps too cynical!

  • on October 28, 2012, 20:08 GMT

    With Malinga's retirement from tests, where are Sri Lanka's seam bowlers that will win them a test in Australia? Kulasekera is a canny medium pacer but I can't see him bowling them to many test victories in or outside the subcontinent. Would be nice to see Herath and Ajantha Mendis bowling in tandem but again 2 spinners probably won't be nearly as effective in Oz.

    They're also no closer to finding a reliable test opener to go with Dilshan, Thirimanne was a walking wicket against England, and they need to get Chandimal in the test side somehow, without breaking up their established hardcore of Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Samaraweera and Mathews.

  • on October 28, 2012, 21:29 GMT

    I'm quite looking forward to see Chandimal hopefully doing well against us in the next few weeks, looks very talented just needs abit of refining then I think he could be around for a long time. obviously I still want the Kiwis to win but tight games with lots of runs, get the Sri-lankan's into form so they can stuff it to the Aussies!

  • on October 28, 2012, 23:54 GMT

    Mark Jacobson : You obviously share kind f stuff it to the big neighbor rivalry with Australia as we do with India.