New Zealand A in Sri Lanka, 2005

Sri Lanka A players face final chance

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

September 29, 2005

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Malinga Bandara has been one of the finds from the Sri Lankan A system this year © Getty Images
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The three four-day unofficial Tests against the touring New Zealand A team, next month, will provide the Sri Lanka A players with their final chance to catch the eye of the national selectors before their performances during 2005 are evaluated.

The chairman of selectors, Lalith Kaluperuma, said that at the end of the New Zealand series the national selection committee would sit down, along with the head coach Tom Moody and the Sri Lanka A coach Stan Nel, and start evaluating the performances of the players before restructuring the A squad for 2006.

Kaluperuma said: "I think we have given the players who we thought have potential for the future a fair chance to prove themselves, in matches against the A sides of England, Pakistan, West Indies, South Africa and New Zealand.

"They have played together for almost the entire year. We can't just go on continuing with this squad forever. We will have to restructure it so that fresh players with potential are brought in and given a similar chance to display their talents."

Kaluperuma said this message had been conveyed to the players currently involved in the South Africa and New Zealand series.

The worrying factor for Kaluperuma is the batting; none of the players have been able to make substantial contributions, let alone score a century. By the time the selectors sit down to assess the performances of the players, they would have played a fair number of matches against all kinds of opposition in both the longer and shorter versions of the game.

"I am quite happy the way the fast bowling and spin departments have responded - batting is the worry," said Kaluperuma. "We will have to come up with a solution as to why our top order batsmen are not getting those big runs on the board and then take a decision."

Kaluperuma said he was pleased with the performances of the left-arm spinner Sajeewa Weerakoon and the legspinner Malinga Bandara. While Weerakoon has been taunting the opposition at home, Bandara has excelled on English wickets. He took 45 wickets in eight matches for Gloucestershire; not only did they choose him as the most outstanding cricketer of the year, but they also presented him with the county cap.

The fast bowling department also has a number of youngsters in Farveez Maharoof, Dilhara Lokuhettige, and Gayan Wijekoon. Kaluperuma said the return of Dilhara Fernando from injury has given the national team more depth in their bowling. There is also Nuwan Zoysa on the sidelines recovering from injury. From the batting point of view, however, only opener Upul Tharanga has forced himself into the full team.

Kaluperuma said that, after a discussion with the two coaches and the rest of the selection committee, they would collectively put up a paper to the Sri Lanka Cricket interim committee. This would include certain proposals that will have to be implemented if Sri Lanka is to move forward and have a strong reserve bank of players to act as a feeder to the senior team.

He added that winning matches was not the criterion but potential players for the future were essential. He also spoke of the possibility of having a batting coach appointed to the squad and getting a sports psychologist to speak to the players, especially the batsmen. Such a move had proved very effective with players of the senior team.

Sandy Gordon, a noted sports psychologist, was used on the recommendation of Moody to talk to the senior players before the start of the West Indies series. By the end of the Bangladesh Test series, Marvan Atapattu said his team's success over both countries, and over India in the Indian Oil Cup, was down to the few sessions they had with Gordon. Atapattu said: "Sandy came out with a couple of suggestions and our minds were refreshed after that."

So far the national selectors have given exposure to 30 players in the Sri Lanka A squad against the five Test-playing nations who have toured the country during the year.

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