DIMUTH – captain of promise | Sunday Observer

DIMUTH – captain of promise

Those who dare win. That was the spirit with which the Sri Lanka selectors led by former Sri Lanka bowling all rounder Ashantha de Mel worked out their strategy, following the beating the Sri Lankan cricketers took in New Zealand and Australia.

Unable to gulp down the shame that was New Zealand and Australia the selectors dared changing the captain, installed a new one Dimuth Karunaratne. They were convinced Dimuth had captaincy blood in his DNA. So they put in some fresh blood in the team combined by his leadership. And the new team delivered in South Africa, rewriting history in the process.

The calamity that has befallen Chandimal is very unfortunate. Highly talented as a batsman and with some outstanding efforts that promised more, maybe the responsibility of captaincy and other distractions has cost him dearly. It is hoped that he would not be lost to the game, but believe in the adage that ‘failures are the pillars of success’ and pad up again with a vengeance and serve the country with great distinction.

As a sportsman, this is a challenge that Chandimal will surely take and without the trappings of captaincy, he may well not get trapped under pressure and play the game as he did before. The ‘new kid on the block’ captain Dimuth Karunaratne was refreshing. To win the first two Tests he was not overawed by the pressure. The trappings sat lightly on this young lad. The selectors were spot on. Unlike in the good old days when cricket was a sport played by gentlemen with the great attributes and virtues associated with ‘cricket luver’ly cricket’ like Lord Flea calypsoed at Lord’s when West Indies won their first ever Test beating England, has now become a blood sport thanks to the filthy lucre introduced to the game and with match-fixers also dangling big money.

Karunaratne sports a winsome smile on the field and that signifies the all important self belief and confidence that is so important in a captain and which attributes seemed to have rubbed off on all team mates who were smiling not bothered or overawed by the formidable opposition warriors were. They took on the Proteas on equal terms shedding any complex and inside a smiling face Karunaratne injected the formula for success.

He allowed his batsmen, bowlers and fielders a free hand and there was team spirit that seemed to be lacking and his mates obliged. Success had to come and it came in two victories that shamed the more formidable home team who were left licking their wounds.

All-round, his captaincy was promising and if he continues in the same vein he could sport the captaincy cap for a long time. With Karunaratne leading them, the players seemed relaxed, body language was better, team spirit was obvious and above all the will to win was written on their faces which was missing in the past. The selectors have now played a different stroke, bringing down players who were red ball artistes replacing them with players who they think will excel in the white ball game which is a different ball game which games against South Africa would be on show when this is read. The cricketers on show will have to play from out of their skins, because how they perform will depend on their selection to the prestigious World Cup in May/June in England and Wales.

The selectors will be watching hawk-eyed. I know I will be rocking the cricket boat by saying this. But now that Lasith Malinga has been appointed captain for the World Cup and with no malice to him and wishing him well, I would have continued with Dimuth Karunaratne as captain for the WC asking him to show a bit more aggression in his batting. Having said that we now move on to the South Africans. We will start with captain Faf du Plessis. As for us he certainly is not Test match captaincy material. We say this after closely watching his actions in the two Tests. He did not seem to have the attributes of a captain. His bowling changes lacked imagination and were not wicket taking ones.

Field placings left much to be desired. When attack would have been the best form of defence, it was vice versa with him. Accepted that he scored runs. But what was unacceptable and inexplicable was his approach when batting in the second innings of the Second Test. When wickets were falling around him in that sensational collapse, instead of farming the strike and protecting nine, ten and jack, he was always taking a single off the first ball and throwing the tail-enders to the wolves.We need not tell him that he should have followed the example of Sri Lanka’s hero Kusal Janith Perera.

Perera gave a lesson on how to shield the last man in Vishwa Fernando, and put on an unbroken and winning 78 run stand. Du Plessis was utterly irresponsible and coach Otis Gibson would have let off steam. Also it was unbelievable to see the poor technique of some of the leading South African batsmen, especially the batsman with loads of experience Hashim Amla unable to read a straight ball from an off spinner. Dhananjaya de Silva was only a part time off spinner. But the SA batsmen not being able to read him were a sad indictment on their batting. They were gifting catches to the slip fielder unable to read an off spinner from a straight ball. How poor! It is time for former South African and captain Hashim Amla who has scored a lot of runs in all formats of the game to finally doff his cap and hang up all his cricketing equipment and give a younger player a go. His poor batting which contributed to his country losing a Test series to an Asian team for the first time demands it.

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