Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, has admitted his side are finding it hard to deal with the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan and said it would take time for them to groom bowlers who could win them Tests. Dilshan also said he would continue batting at No. 5 in Tests, as he did in Colombo, since the additional responsibility of captaincy meant he had more to do in the field.
"We've gone 11 Tests without a win but we have lost only two Tests; the other nine were drawn. After Murali's retirement we are still trying to find a bowler to win matches for us," Dilshan said after the Colombo Test was drawn giving Australia a 1-0 win in the series. "These are hard times for Sri Lankan cricket. The bowlers we have are inexperienced; they have played just 5 to 10 Tests and we have to persist with them for some time and give them the experience before we can start winning again.
"If you take the last 10-15 years it was Murali and [Chaminda] Vaas who won Test matches for us. We need to groom bowlers who can at least get closer to that level. I am extremely happy that on this SSC wicket the young fast bowlers managed to dismiss a strong batting line-up for 316 and gave us an opportunity to press for a win."
Dilshan has opened the batting for Sri Lanka in Tests since the home series against New Zealand in August 2009, and averaged 47.20 at the top compared to the 41.75 he averages in the middle order. However, he struggled with the bat during the first two Tests against Australia and dropped down the order for the third, and said he would continue to bat in the middle order.
"I am considering batting at No. 5 because I have to do a lot of things in the middle apart from captaining the team [Dilshan bowled 63 overs of offspin in the series]. After just a ten minute break it's hard to open. I am going to stick to No. 5 in future Test matches. I have scored the majority of my runs in Test cricket as a middle-order batsman. I spoke with Marvan [Atapattu], the batting coach, and he told me that I had performed well with the bat in the middle order at no. 5 and 6. I thought I will bat lower down the order and give another batsman the opportunity to open."
One of the reasons for relinquishing the opening position could be that Dilshan foresees Sri Lanka going in to many of their Tests with just one specialist spinner, meaning he will have to bowl more. "We have spinners whom we can use like Suraj Randiv, Seekuge Prasanna and Ajantha Mendis but we need to give them more experience. Playing against a unit like Australia an inexperienced bowler cannot come and perform. If we are playing a 7-4 combination we can play only one spinner."
Dilshan coming down the order will mean it will be hard to find place for Thilan Samaraweera in the Test side, and 22-year-old Lahiru Thirimanne could become a permanent member of the XI, opening with Tharanga Paranavitana. "We have to discuss with Thilan and the selectors where he will fit in the batting order," Dilshan said.
After being outplayed for most of the first two Tests, Sri Lanka took a first-innings lead in the third, and Dilshan said they did have opportunities to level the series, pointing to the missed chance to run out Michael Clarke on the fifth day, when he was on just 13. Clarke got 112 in the end to help save the Test. "We missed a run out. If we had got that run out it would have been a different story today," Dilshan said.
While Clarke and Phillip Hughes scored centuries in the second innings in Colombo, Dilshan said it was Man-of-the-Series Michael Hussey who was the key man in Australia's line-up. "He batted in Galle with the tailenders and got 95 and changed the complexion of the match. He did the same in Pallakele and got a hundred and in the third Test he got another hundred. He is the main guy in their batting line-up. They are very strong with him in the middle. They bat around him."