‘Numero Uno’: Back to basics and drilling discipline is coach Arthur’s remit | Sunday Observer

‘Numero Uno’: Back to basics and drilling discipline is coach Arthur’s remit

5 January, 2020

It’s a Herculean task. To carry the heavy weight of a failing national team and the huge hopes of the country’s cricket fan base is no mean challenge. There were similar expectations of the weight-lifters who came before him. All of them tried their best but when the team itself gets floppy and sloppy and does not move as a synchronized self reinforcing unit it loses its bearings and balance, the result is predictable.

The fall from World Cup winners to the abyss where our cricket is now can well continue unless a fundamental change in approach, in rigor and indiscipline and psychological rein orientation is brought about.

Enter: handpicked Head Coach Arthur. He has many young players in the team already and those practicing in the nets waiting to be called in to do his bidding. He should be given the freedom and the support to build ‘humpty dumpty’ again. Effective communication from him of his strategy, patience on the part of the SLC authorities, non-interference by other powers are essential requirements. But most of all, the squads he chooses should know that he means business. Adapt and comply or know that you’ll be run-out.

Arthur has a strong support staff. Batting Coach Grant Flower, Fast Bowling Coach, David Sekarar, Fielding Coach Shane McDermott, Chief Cricket Operations Officer Jerome Jayaratne. They will have to individually and collectively play as a team to get the Lankans to perform as a team and relate well as mentors and role models to the squad.

Arthur was amazed at the country’s cricketing talent. That’s a good start. He made special mention of batsman Kusal Mendis and speed man Lahiru Kumara who had good promise.

However, he had a red card shown with the early disaster and the spineless effort that led to the shameless defeat to Pakistan by 263 runs in the Second Test at the Karachi National Cricket Stadium recently. Frankly that is a good early alert to him that he and his support team demic have a huge task ahead, that this was not a fluke defeat on a off day, but there is an endemic issue that they need to address by way of welding together cricketers who have their own agendas or no agendas at all but simply playing for their glory and not for that of team.

It is reported that Arthur spoke his mind out and laid it to the team. That too is a good start. Nonsense has zero tolerance.

A comment on the two players Arthur made special mention of Mendis and Kumara. Mendis’ main problem is that he is unable to get in line with the moving ball. More often than not he lobs catches to slip and departs early. That will require fixing.

There are rumblings that the more Mendis falters the more he is being persisted with thus depriving other talent available of filling the number 3 batting slot. But Arthur can be the best judge of this and motivation combined with correction can address the issue and give this fine player a lease of new life.

As for Kumara he is strongly built and has tremendous pace to trouble batsmen. But he needs to bowl line and length and get the batsmen to play and not waste the new ball spraying it all over. Skipper Karunaratne handled him poorly in the Pakistani second innings.

It was on display in the two innings which led to defeat in Pakistan, that the approach in chasing a big score to win was not planned. In a situation like that the first thing that the batsmen should have remembered was that if you cannot win, then you must endeavour not to lose.

So may be the lesson ‘numero uno’ is return to basics. Drill discipline and skill in. After all the post-election mood in the country too is a refocus on discipline!

That basic was sadly lacking and put on show the lackadaisical manner in which the batsmen hung out limp bats. But one must give credit to the Pakistan pacemen Shaheen Afridi, Mohammed Abbas and Naseem Shah for their exhibition of classic pace bowling with the new and old ball that found the batsmen clueless with Oshada Fernando being the only exception.

The basics should have been taught to our cricketers at school level. That this has not been done is a sad indictment on their coaches. At this level you cannot be teaching them strokes, taking catches and bowling line and length and many other aspects that they are still found wanting.

To start with fielding and especially wicket keeping. The present wicket keeper Niroshan Dickwella other than for shouting ‘aiyo’ every time a batsman is beaten has apparently not been taught what is expected of him.

Coach McDermott quite rightly spoke on the importance of a good wicket keeper. Our coaches used to lecture to the wicket keeper that he is the best man to watch how the wicket is behaving and advice his captain the type of bowler or bowlers to bring on in addition to being competent with his glove work. But our current crop of wicket keepers seem to be ignorant of this basic and golden rule.

Most of the batsmen seem to lack the ability to get in line with ball before executing. Foot work in getting to the pitch of the ball is poor. They don’t watch the bowler’s hand and follow what he is bowling. They blindly push their bats out. The bowlers lack consistency in bowling line and length and working on a batsman’s weakness. They just bowl and wait for the batsmen to make mistakes. And they also don’t bowl to the fields set. The pacemen don’t seem to understand that they must make the batsmen play the new ball and not spray the ball out of the batsmen’s reach. Our pacemen more often than not are inaccurate and bowl all over the pace. No control.

The spinners bowl too full or too short, thereby not giving the ball the space to spin. A spin bowler must flight and get the ball to spin. Over pitching or pitching short takes away the sting and his value is lost because the batsmen will have no trouble in facing.

The fielding is disastrous. Not watching the ball nestle into the hands allows catches to be spilled and the ground fielding leaves a lot of room for improvement. One hopes fielding coach McDermott can do a Trevor Chappell and make our fielding world class again.

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