Sri Lanka Under-19 have completed a successful tour of Malaysia where they beat England in the final of a tri-nation tournament on February 11. The U-19 coach Roger Wijesuriya, however, has said that winning is not everything and he wants to groom his protégés to play for the national team.
"I am happy we won the U-19 tri-series in Malaysia but for me it doesn't stop with winning. We need to keep on improving our game so that we can be on par with countries like England and India," Wijesuriya told The Nation.
Sri Lanka played seven matches in the competition against England and Malaysia and two limited-over matches against India. Although Sri Lanka emerged champions beating England in the final, they lost both matches to India. "What I've noticed playing teams like England and India is the maturity the boys of this age group have," said Wijesuriya. "You can see clearly that they are streets ahead of us as most of them have been exposed to playing county cricket and Ranji Trophy cricket. In that aspect our boys are not mature enough.
"We are quite happy winning a tournament. But it doesn't prove a thing if we cannot produce any quality players. We need to assess individually whether the team we took to Malaysia has the proper ingredients to make it to the big league." In his opinion only six or seven players showed they had the ability to reach the top. As for the rest he said "they were not there really and have a long way to go".
It is nothing to get disheartened. They say seeing is believing. I am sure the boys themselves would have noticed individually that some of them were not up to the mark when compared with players from the other countries. We've got to be honest to ourselves and must not hide anybody. This is the first time I've seen these boys together on a tour and I realize where we stand. We have a lot of room to keep on improving."
One key area Wijesuriya said that needs to improve is the batting. "We are not short of anything. What we lack is the staying power. We have to adapt to pacing out an innings. This discipline in batting has to come from school level. I intend meeting with the provincial and district coaches of the various age groups and apprise them of the situation."
Ashley de Silva, the team manager, also shared the same view and said: "Talent wise we are far ahead of other countries. What we lack is maturity. The cricket sense is not there, the planning and thinking. Otherwise I think this was a very talented side compared to the ones in the past. Fifty percent of them have the potential to get into the national team.
"We need to drill these habits into our U-15 players. U-19 is a bit too late. By then they have got into a certain habit which cannot be changed overnight even if they make a conscious effort to change it. These boys need to unconsciously make it happen like when one is driving a car," said de Silva who has managed under 19 teams for the past three years. He gave full credit to the boys for beating England in the final. "The English bowlers were over six feet tall and they generated speeds between 135-140 kmh which our boys have never experienced at school level."
Of the bowling, Wijesuriya said: "When we bowled against Malaysia our bowlers looked pretty good, but when they came up against sides that put a lot of pressure on them like England and India they lacked the maturity to contain." Wijesuriya disclosed that Roshane Silva was the pick of the players with Lahiru Thirimanne, Tisara Perera and Isuru Udana not far behind.