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  Sports   Cricket  06 Aug 2017  Lanka going downhill is worrying

Lanka going downhill is worrying

Published : Aug 6, 2017, 2:33 am IST
Updated : Aug 6, 2017, 2:33 am IST

The team is in the process of rebuilding and it can’t be easy replacing extraordinary players like Jayawardene, Sangakarra and Dilshan.

Indian players celebrate the fall of a Sri Lankan wicket. (Photo: AP)
 Indian players celebrate the fall of a Sri Lankan wicket. (Photo: AP)

It had been a cakewalk for India till the second innings of the second Test in the series against Sri Lanka. The first Test was won by plenty and the second seems headed the same way till the stirring partnership between Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis posted a string of questions for the Indian bowlers.

From India’s point of view, it’s been a clockwork performance so far in the series. Every batsman and every bowler has looked in good form. Indeed, some have been outstanding. If one has to pick a bone, it would be about giving Hardik Pandya’s role sharper definition.

If he is seen as a batsman who bowls, he should bat higher than number eight and if he is a bowler who can bat, he should surely be getting many more overs. But that’s a minor quibble in the context of how the team’s been playing overall.

Where this Test is concerned, India are obviously still hot favourites. After grabbing a first innings lead of 439, there could only be one likely winner — and it is highly unlikely that this can be Sri Lanka. But for the sake of some competitive interest, I am rooting for them to at least wipe out the deficit and make India bat again.

Sri Lanka’s poor current form has been in stark contrast to how they were playing at home just about a year back when they whipped Australia 3-0 in the Test series. The Aussies, then no.1 ranked side, were flummoxed by spin as well as the panache of the home batsmen.

Since then, it’s gone suddenly downhill for Sri Lanka. Indeed, the decline has been so steep that they barely managed to keep their heads above water even against lowly Zimbabwe. Not to take away anything from the spirited Zimbabweans, but the Lankans looked rudderless and lost.

True, they are in the process of rebuilding and it can’t be easy replacing extraordinary players like Jayawardena, Sangakarra and Dilshan. A series of poor performances have clearly the affected morale of players and caused Angelo Mathew to surrender the captaincy.

Yet every country faces such tribulation at some stage. The lament can’t be eternal. Instead, solutions have to be found. This is where a country’s cricket administration and the domestic structure for the sport come into play.

From the gripes and complaints flying around — especially from former players — Sri Lankan cricket seems to be in the throes of a crisis: domestic tournaments aren’t robust enough, the talent pool isn’t growing and the Board is mired in internecine politicking.

These are symptoms of a failing administration which can cause long-term damage. The example of West Indies in the recent past and Pakistan not too long back show not only how quickly things can deteriorate, but also how difficult it is to get back on the rails again.

I’ve been a long-standing fan of Sri Lankan cricket. Like people of all island countries, exposed to the sun and sea at all times, they have a free-spiritedness that is endearing. This encroaches their performance in the field.

There is a charm and lilt to their cricket. And spice. And in batting and bowling alike, which makes for compelling viewing. The skills quotient is high. Nuances of the game come to players (and followers) as a matter of routine

Sri Lanka have produced compelling cricketers since full ICC membership almost four decades back. Apart from the three players mentioned earlier, Duleep Mendis, Roy Dias, Arjuna Ranatunga, Arjuna Ranatunga, Rangana Herath, Angelo Mathew and Muttiah Muralitharan (to name some) would find a place in any international side in any era.

This rich legacy needs to be nurtured: for Sri Lanka as well as Test cricket. While it is heartening to see Ireland and Afghanistan get Test status, fact is that barring India, England, Australia and South Africa, the five-day format is struggling elsewhere.

Zimbabwe and Bangladesh haven’t really taken off, West Indies is all messed up, Pakistan’s engagement are truncated since nobody tours that country and even New Zealand remains iffy.

In the circumstances, Sri Lanka becomes even crucial for the sustenance of Test cricket.

Tags: sri lanka vs india, dimuth karunaratne, kusal mendis, hardik pandya