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SL turnaround a matter of team dynamics - Wijegunawardene

The Sri Lankans celebrate Dhammika Prasad's strike AFP

Sri Lanka's chief selector Kapila Wijegunawardene has said that the Test side's turnaround from recent defeats will depend on getting the team dynamic right and on players fulfilling the roles assigned to them. Sri Lanka lost consecutive Test series at home to Pakistan and India, both by a 2-1 margin, but Wijegunawardene stressed there was no need to be "unduly concerned" with the results yet.

With the side gearing for a home series against West Indies, comprising two Tests, three ODIs and two T20Is, Wijegunawardene was convinced the team had the resources it needed to bring the results back on track.

"We don't need to be unduly concerned because we know that the talent is there, it's just a matter of getting all the team dynamics right and getting it together as a unit," Wijegunawardene said. "I am convinced we have the resources that we need. The team environment with all the members fulfilling their roles is a vital thing.

"Not everybody was able to deliver those objectives. There were gaps and it was very clearly reflected in the end results. There were naturally shortcomings in the delivery of one's role. Those are things we need to work out and ensure that every member of the team fits into the role he plays in the larger scheme of things."

When asked why players failed to fulfill roles assigned to them, Wijegunawardene put it down to a combination of factors. He pointed out that the gaps were in the batting, which has been in a transition phase over the last couple of years.

"It could be inexperience and players being a little over eager, lots of things that one can sight but you can't really pinpoint and say this was the reason," he said.
 "From the bowling side they really performed creditably, the gaps were in the batting. The six or seven batters we had in the side were not able to chip in. In all the games, if all the batters had chipped in with 25-30 runs we would have met those shortfalls, which was the winning margin for the opposition. The fact that we had those shortcomings is generally not a concern but those are little areas we need to improve on."

Wijegunawardene said the series against West Indies would be another chance to identify the right batting combination for the side and the team management and selectors could experiment with the line-up.

"Every series we strategise to win whilst working towards that objective," he said. "There is some element of experimentation also that we are compelled to carry out in order to identify the best combination with the resources at our disposal and to come up with a more sustainable long-term plan."

One of the places that needs to be filled is the No. 3 spot left vacant by Kumar Sangakkara's retirement. Sri Lanka have tried Lahiru Thirimanne, Upul Tharanga and Dimuth Karunaratne at No. 3 in 2015, but the trio have played only match each in that position and haven't succeeded.


"We are convinced that Thirimanne's got the talent. In fairness to him he's hit a rough patch, which can happen to any player," Wijegunawardene said. "Being the talented player he is, I am sure he can work his way out of the rough. Now that Kumar is no longer in the equation those are the things that we are working on."

Kusal Perera was given a chance as a wicketkeeper after a string of consistent performances for Sri Lanka A and he responded with a fifty in each innings on debut in the third Test against India at the SSC. Wijegunawardene said Kusal is an exciting prospect for Sri Lanka but would have work on his wicketkeeping skills.

"If you analyse our team composition in the last 15-20 years we've always had batsmen who deputised as keepers, because whether we can afford to have a genuine keeper is questionable, " he said. "It's a vital position no doubt but working out the batsmen we need to balance the side.

"Kusal missed one chance but you cannot hang somebody for a mistake. He can naturally improve on his wicket-keeping. He has been a little bit rusty not keeping regularly. It has been clearly spelt out to him that he needs to work on his 'keeping which he is doing. We all know if he had survived a few more overs we would have won that game at SSC. He is going to be a very exciting prospect for Sri Lanka in that position."

While stating that the selectors were keen on giving Kusal a more stable run, Wijegunawardene said they had also taken note of 22-year-old Niroshan Dickwella, who played four Tests last year.

"Dickwella is on the 'A' tour to NZ. He is definitely one of the strong candidates we are looking at and he is keeping very well at the moment, but we don't want to tinker around too much," he said. "We will keep an open mind on how things pan out, but right now we are looking at a more stable run for Kusal in that role."

Wijegunawardene also said that the selectors would like Dinesh Chandimal to bat higher up the order. Chandimal impressed last month with counter-attacking 162 not out that lifted Sri Lanka to a win in the first Test against India in Galle.

"Given Chandimal's talent we would like him to bat higher up in the order, that is the role we have identified for him. We know that he has got the talent to do it."