‘Discarded’ Sri Lankans teach the world a lesson to brag | Sunday Observer

‘Discarded’ Sri Lankans teach the world a lesson to brag

13 October, 2019
Country boy Dasun Shanaka the captain poses for the media with the prized trophy
Country boy Dasun Shanaka the captain poses for the media with the prized trophy

No million-dollar coach, no swashbuckling captain and no song to sing. But a band of sidelined cricketers turned the pundits on their heads

They were like the rest, made of flesh, bone and blood, but a determined bunch of cricketers, who were mere replacements for a chickened-out senior group, did what the pundits thought was the impossible as they dethroned the world’s best team Pakistan in their own den to complete a 3-0 whitewash.

For an unassumingly simple captain and country boy Dasun Shanaka, beating Pakistan three times in a row could not have come at a better time when Sri Lanka was hoping for miracles on the pitch after the pull-out of no less than ten so-called professional players while the rest of the global cricketing fraternity despised Pakistan as a breeding ground for jihadists.

The Sri Lankans not only savoured some of the best hospitality dished out to them, but could not avoid breaking the hearts of millions of fans many of whom stopped short of worshiping them from the spectator stands for paying them a flying visit.

Had not the ten players rebelled against Sri Lanka Cricket and turned their backs on the tour, the armchair pundits would have clung on to their books and the think tanks running the sport would still be sticking to their age old philosophy of playing safe with the tried and tested.

“We were up against a huge challenge and they (Sri Lankan players) performed beyond our imagination,” said coach Rumesh Ratnayake just minutes after the team returned home.

“Some of them we have not even seen, like Bhanuka Rajapaksa, but we knew they were talented and they stood up to the challenge.”

But Shanaka and his team had flung open the doors for the entry of what he called “smart thinking” in a changing world.

“I knew my players and how to use them and do the planning out in the middle,” said Shanaka.

Chief team selector and manager Ashantha de Mel dismissed the notion that the triumphant players, who were not selected in the first place, belonged to a stop-gap entity. “They have grabbed the opportunity with both hands. (Wicket-keeper batsman) Minod Bhanaku, I had not seen him before (at an International match). But he is someone who can hit those sixes. They have shown us who they are and we have enough bench (replacement) strength,” said De Mel.

The 3-0 result brought to light the fact that Sri Lanka became the first team going in as underdogs to make a clean-sweep of a series against a top ranked team in the T20 format.

Sri Lanka next take on Australia in a similar three-match series starting on October 27 down under where the team will have much to safeguard by way of their new found image.

Already there have been growing calls for Shanaka to be given an extended run as captain.