Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day July 18, 2014

Chandimal, Thirimanne continue to test patience

The blow-hot-blow-cold performances by Sri Lanka's young batsmen must be frustrating the selectors who had invested in them. And Chandimal, worryingly, has yet to sort out his short-ball weakness

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Arnold: SL batsmen didn't maintain discipline

When Sri Lanka chose to heavily invest in youth in 2013, they might not have expected for it to become an exercise in parenting. But 18 months down that road, seniors in the team, coaches and selectors, may still be giving lectures, having heart-to-heart talks, and setting down firm boundaries. When it comes to Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne, they must be close to collectively banging their heads against a brick wall, in frustration.

To lump Chandimal and Thirimanne together is expedient, but perhaps a little glib. Chandimal is bubbly and excitable, never lacking for effort or good intent, but at times thoughtless and immature. Take his dismissal on Friday. He was facing the best bowler on the planet, in the midst of a ferocious spell of reverse swing. No one wants to walk in and take guard against a Dale Steyn with hellfire in his eyes, facial veins bulging so big, you could read his pulse from space. But as a No.7, Chandimal's job is to protect the tail, and support the man at the other end, no matter what is being rained down upon him.

As a right-hander, he also had a slight advantage against Steyn, who was largely swinging it in. He dug out six curling yorkers dutifully - even admirably - although he had driven at a full delivery second ball and edged it past the slips. Then the bouncer came. Everyone had expected it.

Since Junaid Khan had him caught hooking compulsively twice in the UAE, Chandimal has been tested with the short ball at each subsequent series. As soon as he arrived at the crease in his most recent international innings at Headingley, two men were deployed in the deep, square on the legside, and the bowlers began to pitch it short. With Sri Lanka only 169 runs ahead in the second innings, five wickets down, and a tail known to be comically inept to come, Chandimal folded neatly into England's leg trap, top-edging Liam Plunkett to deep square leg.

Over the past six months his coaches will have hurled hundreds of bouncers at him in the nets. Senior team-mates might have had a word : "Less is more, sometimes Chandi. You can play the hook, but maybe get yourself in first." But like a teenager whose parents trust with the car, only to have him repeatedly drive it into the lake, Chandimal has hooked on instinct and came back sodden and apologetic.

Given the thorough analysis of opposition players that now abounds in the sport, Chandimal must know that the South Africa attack was completely aware of this common mode of dismissal. He may as well have arrived at the crease with a banner above his head reading "Bounce Me". He has also played enough cricket to know that balls at the throat often follow a series of yorkers. Apart from outswing, outswing, outswing, in, this is the oldest trick in the fast bowlers' manual.

But 11th ball, Steyn pitches it short and Chandimal rocks back to play a full-blooded hook, with no thought to keeping the stroke down. He mistimes it to short midwicket. In the 74th over, on a dry Galle surface, with your side in trouble, it is no time to be getting out playing the hook, even against Steyn. This was not so much driving into the lake, than staying strapped to your seat while someone puts a garden hose through the window and fills the car with water.

That he has a yearning to learn, and a terrific attitude towards his cricket is a valid defense, because he has played vital innings for the team in the past. But there are still missing components from his game. All that talent, energy and enthusiasm could be married to better sense.

In contrast to Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne is even-tempered, reflective and reserved. Those qualities have served him well in patches of his career, but now, the team needs him to fight through his awkward adolescent phase and become a consistent wellspring of good scores. When Mahela Jayawardene leaves the Test side, Thirimanne is the frontrunner to replace him at No.4. Steyn was beastly in his post-tea burst, but when an opponent is in the middle of a searing streak, perhaps the expansive cover drives can be temporarily shelved.

It is difficult not to feel sympathy for Chandimal and Thirimanne, and easy to make huge allowances for the vastness of their challenge; that of bridging the chasm between Sri Lanka's domestic competitions and international cricket. It is also too early to let them go. Almost every Sri Lanka batsman is a slow starter at this level. But like couples who look enviously at the neighbour's kids, Sri Lanka's selectors must be, by now, casting an eye at the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara or Quinton de Kock, and wondering what they can do to change things at home. "These are the kids we have," they might conclude. "We just have to stick by them and hope for the best."

Sri Lanka now fight to save a Test in which they are usually chasing victory, by this stage. That they avoided the follow-on is thanks largely to Angelo Mathews, who has scored runs enough for himself, and the vice-captain, whoever he is on that given tour. He will hope the young men in his batting order make better choices in the second dig.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2014, 14:07 GMT

    what i cant really understand is why the SLC is always giving chances for these two guys.there are instances even a very top caliber players cannot perform as they may go through bad periods.when players like thiri or chandi are not among runs just try another like kithruwan and check how he fair instead of relying only with these two players.that way they also learn a lesson and learn their game.see and experiment players so that you can find class players like anjelo mathews who can absorb very fast. We as spectators feel so frustration to see these two fellows playing so irresponsibly and getting out all the time.

  • shane on July 19, 2014, 9:37 GMT

    Simple question? Take out sanga & herath from test team and assume SL is playing with Bangladesh or ZIM, whom will u bet To win the match? Answer will give u better completion where SL young talent sits in world cricket!

  • Arun on July 19, 2014, 9:24 GMT

    Sad to see SL struggling to find batsmen of caliber; a country that has given cricket amazing batsmen like De Silva, Ranatunga, Jayasuriya, Jayawardene (just to name a few). It is clearly evident (for non Srilankans of course) that Thirimane and Chandimal are not top class batsmen, they may come good in one out of 5 matches but that is not the kind of consistency you'd expect in the test level. But Srilanka have always persisted with players who they think can succeed at the highest level, by giving them many opportunities, like they did with Atapattu. It did work for Atapattu but then his class was apparent to anyone who watched him bat, even when he was failing to perform. Unfortunately, these two are not in that class and it is time for SL to invest and persist with other available talents.

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2014, 6:28 GMT

    It is understandable frustration the selectors and cricket loving public having with these 02 guys. I think this series should be last for one of them. More than anything what is the contribution of Marvan Atapattu as he was the batting coach for long time and should have corrected these faults. Besides other than big 03 and Angelo , from the younger brigade he has not produced any consistent batter.

  • Parthiban on July 19, 2014, 4:58 GMT

    Thank god for Upul Tharanga.

  • Sidath on July 19, 2014, 3:58 GMT

    Thirimanne and Chandimal are surely two very frustrating players. There is more talent in this country but no one is interested in giving them a chance. Once in a blue moon, they'll score a half century. A brilliant youngster I always saw was in Angelo Mathews. Ever he since he started, he never looked like he was a kid who needed constant coaching. He looked solid and now he's a fantastic captain at a young age. He doesn't allow the pressure get to him. Honestly, if Chandi and Thiri continue like this, they should be kicked out and other youngsters should be looked into. They've got so many chances yet they perform like they don't care.

  • Prabath on July 19, 2014, 3:29 GMT

    DreamCricketer: Chandimal will be there even he scores a 0 in every match not sure how is he still in the team with the most pathetic batsman who survived so long in the team. As I alway say watch them bowled out in the 2015 world cup.The guy cannot even score ten runs in there own backyard. 2015 world cup they will not even reach the semis's. Take my word!

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2014, 3:26 GMT

    The most suitable bats for no 3 and no 4 are your best batsman in the team. So at the current rate it is Sanga and Angelo. Angelo should at at no 4 as long as Sanga is playing. Thirimanne is tempted outside the off stump and it is known universally and Dinesh is a compulsive hooker. Sometime back this same writer wrote highly about Chandimal and Thiri stating Mathews captaincy is at stake. May be Andrew was part of the reason for Mathew's Brandman like performance. Also he may be responsible for the undue pressure on the gems in Chandi and Thiri,writing about them every 3 days when there was a captain who has played for SL under 19 from the age of 16 or so and made unbelievable innings as a junior in England, Australia, WI and SA which the writer did not know. Also match saving innings he has played for his Alma Mater were numerous which the writer not aware of. Angelo was the Leader like Mahela of the team that won the most no matches in a school season. At least learn now AF!

  • Jeewaka on July 19, 2014, 2:31 GMT

    These 2 get lot of chances. But they hvn't shown their selection is worth. SL selectors hv forgotten Roshen Silva these days. He may be batsman who has highest first class average among current players. Average 51.00 after 60 first class matches. This poor guy didn't even get a place in current SL A side. Do our selectors expect 100 first class average from this one before being selected to National team..

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2014, 2:17 GMT

    our team is in this pathetic position beccause failure players like chandimal,thirimanne have been persisted with despite chronic poor performance,if they were dropped earlier and some other young players were given chance this might not have happened,surely its not because there is no other young batsmen in our country other than these couple of people..and look at mahela he is a persitent failure..with these three occupying the batting line up our tail starts virtually after the fall of the first wicket..

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