October 30, 2003

Fernando: 'We are not professional enough'

Ranjith Fernando, Sri Lanka A team manager in South Africa and Kenya, has criticised his young players for lacking professionalism. Fernando, speaking after the return of the team, worried about the future of Sri Lankan cricket unless the players accelerated their development by shouldering greater responsibility.

He reserved praise though for the captaincy of Russel Arnold and described the batting of Nuwan Zoysa, who scored runs as an opener in Kenya, as a revelation. Both players are expected to be recalled to the national squad later this week.

"It is no use trying to fool yourself on the success we achieved in Kenya and to some extent in South Africa. We have to look ahead and see whether we have players for the long term," said Fernando.

Sri Lanka A lost the three-match one-day series 2-1 and the two unofficial Tests series 1-0 in South Africa. They followed it up with a 5-0 thrashing of the Kenyan national team in the one-day series, providing some compensation for the Sri Lanka team's loss to Kenya in the 2003 World Cup.

"We have players as short-term replacements, but on the long term these players need definite improvement in their approach to the game. They must try to take decisions and do things on their own rather than wait for someone to push them or tell them what to do. This is what is lacking in our cricket culture," said Fernando.

"They are a fine bunch of cricketers who will develop with time. But the pace at which they are going now they will need at least another two years to get there. They'll need to accelerate their development," he said.

A good example Fernando gave was that when the fast bowlers came up against fast and bouncy pitches in South Africa, they were unable to decide on their own how to adjust to the proper line and length.

"The injury to Michael Vandort was the biggest drawback we faced in South Africa. He pulled a hamstring and was out of the two important four-day games," Fernando said. "Michael was in excellent form and we were looking to him to hold the batting together.

"Russell Arnold played very well in the one-dayers in Kenya. Although he did not get any big scores he showed a lot of potential as a leader," said Fernando.

"Nuwan Zoysa's batting was a revelation. He bowled well and his fitness has improved. But I think his potential as a batsman should be utilised to the full," he said.

Fernando also said that Jehan Mubarak, who scored centuries in South Africa as well as in Kenya, should be "ready to shoulder more responsibilities", that Lanka de Silva "played well within his limitations", Rangana Herath "bowled well in conditions that suited him", and that Prasanna Jayawardene kept wicket "brilliantly" but needed to improve his batting.

Apart from the injury to Vandort, the other opener, Avishka Gunawardena, was forced to return home with a fractured forearm that has put him out of action for at least 4-6 weeks. Fast bowler Omesh Wijesiriwardene suffered a shoulder injury while batting.

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