Unfit team adds to cricket Jokes | Sunday Observer

Unfit team adds to cricket Jokes

10 January, 2021

Regretfully we start the year by throwing barbs at most members that made up of the never before seen 21-member team and support staff for the two-Test series against South Africa in Protea Land.

When this is read the humiliating Tests defeats by an innings and 10 wickets with more than two days to spare would be history. To slam them all would be an exercise in futility. There is no point in flogging a dead horse

But not only the shameful defeats, but also the number of ‘hospital cases’ – the injured players - would be a laughing stock; a slur to Sri Lankan cricket since its entry to the elite league in 1982.

When a tour is on the cards, it is paramount that the best players are picked and trained to the maximum with physical fitness being the number one priority. But in this instance Sri Lanka Cricket was found badly wanting and a poor image to world cricket. Once in the big league excuses however good are unacceptable.

Firstly picking a plane load of cricketers numbering 21 along with the supporting staff to say the least was laughable considering that we were playing not four or five Tests but just two. So why all this excess baggage?

Other than for the efforts of Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya de Silva in the first Test, debutant right handed leg spinning all rounder Wanindu Hasaranga and Kusal Perera and excellent new ball bowling by Vishva Fernando and Asitha Fernando and the century by skipper Dimuth Karunaratne to comment on the performances, the others would be a waste of printing ink.

Before continuing our litany on the injury prone players, we would like to comment on the lovely exhibition of driving within the ‘V’ by Chandimal and De Silva in the first Test. They played the off-drive, the straight-drive and the on-drive as it was from the book.

Hasaranga made a memorable debut and it is hoped he continues in the same vein. Kusal Perera showed reminiscence of his previous tour when he batted Sri Lanka to victory in the first Test with an unbeaten blazing century and a half with a punishing half ton in the second innings

To the injuries sustained by the players, it was a black mark on all those concerned. Fitness is what sport is all about. When a cricketer is fully fit, all aspects of his talent come naturally. Catching, ground fielding, stroke play, timing and running between the wickets come naturally and easily.

The injuries on the players cannot be blamed on the physical trainers. They can show and tell. But it is essential that the player or players manage themselves. They are the ones who matter and if they can’t look after themselves, then they are not worth their place in the team however good they may be.

With this disgraceful showing the media had every right to question the poor showing by the Lankans and the injuries they often suffered. But while coach Arthur was allowed to reveal the truth to the foreign media when questioned, Sri Lanka Cricket it is alleged had gagged Chief Selector and Manager Ashantha de Mel from speaking to the media. SLC will do well to be open and transparent.

It must be remembered that De Mel is a man of standing and greatly respected by the cricketing fraternity here and abroad. His interventions and analysis would in fact have helped to calm nerves down.

When players got injured, it was amusing to watch coach Arthur showing his displeasure and frustration as shown on the Star Sports. He sure would have been an angry and disappointed coach.

Sri Lanka entered the elite league of big cricket in 1982. From then on never was a team seen that was so unfit, underprepared and at times showing little interest. When a player is injured he wriggles in pain and shows frustration when being stretchered or helped into the pavilion for treatment.

But what was amusing was that some of the injured were sporting their 32. The biggest mockery and joke was to see Kasun Rajitha being sent into bat when he could hardly walk.

It would be of interest to recall the Lankan team that took wing for the one off Test against England at Lord’s in 1984. This was a Test where we had to show our prowess in the game if we were to be granted more Tests than just one.

Once the squad was picked the then President of the Cricket Board Gamini Dissanayake called on his ever reliable and trusted Vice President Rajendren Rajamahendren who was a cricket promoter and handed over the tour party to him asking him to see that the team was at its fittest so that they can play better than England could and show the world that we could be better than the best known. The team had as coach the ‘wonder boy’ Sir Garfield Sobers.

In those early days teams did not carry with them physiotherapists. Rajamahendren saw to it that the team trained assiduously. Some players who were from the outstations were housed in hotels and all expenses paid by RR with no burden to the Cricket Board.

He showed the team many films that were inspiring, the best among them being – THOSE WHO DARE WIN - and ‘ROCKY’ - what the team achieved by bashing the England attack to make 491 for 7 with centuries from Lord Sid Wettimuny 190, skipper Duleep Mendis 111 and Amal Silva 102 in the second innings should be written in letters of gold. England with a strong batting line up were shot out for 370.

That humiliation of England paved the way for respect and recognition of Sri Lanka cricket. The present Chief Selector and Manager of the Sri Lanka team Ashantha de Mel was a member of that epoch making team bagging four wickets and will vouch for the hard work put in by Rajamahendren to make history on that tour of England in 1984.

When this is read the first of Two Tests against England will be on in Galle and it is hoped that the Lankan cricketers would have put their two shameful defeats against South Africa as bad dreams and play with more purpose and be worthy opponents at least playing at home.

erodrigopulle @gmail.com