Sri Lankan cricket saw yet another beginning in the form of new captains for Test, One Day Internationals, and T-20 matches.
The changes came soon after the team’s dismal performance against the Zimbabweans in the recent ODI series.
The debacle raised several concerns, pertaining to the state of cricket in addition to speculations of problems within the administrative body, the team, and the management. Nevertheless, the game is now in a bad wicket, and the move to change captains is quite welcome. Whether the move would work is something that the fans would have to wait and watch out for.
Once upon a time, cricket was Sri Lanka’s saving grace when the country was divided with war. The 1996 will be etched in the hearts of all Sri Lankans for the historic World Cup victory over Australia.
Sri Lanka was fighting its own battle in the form of the ethnic strife. On the other hand, the Sri Lankan cricket team had a dreadful period before the World Cup, due to the controversy surrounding Muttiah Muralitharan’s action. The times were tough. But Sri Lanka was not bogged down by the pressure that was exerted. Murali’s action was cleared.
He did face a similar situation in 1998, but that, too, was cleared and today Murali remains the highest wicket taken in Test cricket with 800 scalps.
Sri Lanka’s cricket played a major role in reconciling the broken communities during the war.
It was cricket that brought the Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims and the Burghers together. People stood outside TV shops regardless of race and nationality to back the 11 men who were in the field.
Cricket was, and still is Sri Lanka’s pride. Unfortunately, the recent developments have turned things around for Sri Lanka’s cricket. The exit from the ICC Champions Trophy, followed by the dismal performance against the weak Zimbabwe team has put the team in a soup.
Then there are issues in the administrative level as well. Issues within Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and cold wars between various individuals have not helped the situation in any way.
However, his contribution for the country and the game is immense and cannot be ignored. He took over as captain in all formats of the game from February 2013. He was 25 at the time.
It is not easy to lead a side when you’re young. But he had a young team which backed him at all times. Despite seeing quite a few losses, we could also see the team’s bonding and their camaraderie especially during tough times.
Even the great Sachin Tendulkar, who took over as captain when he was 25 did not succeed as a skipper. The other name which comes to mind is that of Stephen Fleming of New Zealand.
He too was given the task of leading his team when he was in his mid-twenties. In fact, he took over as captain when he was 23 years old, thus becoming the youngest skipper for New Zealand.
He captained the team until 2007.
Mathews captained the team over the past four years during which the team went through some tumultuous times.
He had on occasions brought the team out of trouble through his responsible, yet flamboyant batting. Who would forget the encounter with Australia way back in 2010? Sri Lanka needing 240 to win were reeling at 107 for the loss of eight wickets. All seemed lost until Mathews played a match of his life along with fast bowler Lasith Malinga to put on a record 132 runs for the ninth wicket.
Mathews scored an unbeaten 77 while Malinga scored a gritty 56 until he was dismissed when the scores were level.
His contributions as a middle-order batsman is immense. Batting in the middle order is hard. More often than not, you come to the crease when there are few overs remaining or when you need runs in quick succession where you have no time to get set. His records may not be impressive as the captains of the past.
But, one cannot deny the fact that he gave it all for his country, and the team.
The shortcomings and the issues at administrative level should be addressed immediately if players are to take the field without additional burden.
The new captains, Dinesh Chandimal and Upul Tharanga, are not new to the scene. They have seen the highs and lows of the game over the years and know the mindset of the players.The changes are welcome. But one should not expect immediate results. Cricketers need time in the field if they are to perform well. Give them the time and space and wait for the results.
Published in the Nation on July 16, 2017