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News Room : Let the selectors not fool us


by Rex Clementine

Are you not surprised that after Danushka Gunathilaka’s arrest in Sydney no one has resigned. Ideally, the National Selection Committee and Team Manager should have stepped down, but they are hanging on as if nothing happened. The team management clearly lost control of the players during the World Cup and it remains to be seen the outcome of the probe that has been launched.

There is a wide difference between an independent probe and an in-house probe. Afterall, when an independent probe was launched last time, the judge had recommended a two-year suspension on Danushka Gunathilaka. But it was reduced to six months. By sparing the rod the authorities spoilt the child.

Danushka was injured having played just one game. That was on the 16th of October. The physiotherapist had told the team management that he should be fine in five days’ time but even when they were in Perth ten days later, he had not recovered. Anyway, a decision had been taken to replace Danushka with Ashen Bandara. The team management at least at this point should have sent him home especially with additional replacements arriving from Colombo to be standby just in case there were further injuries.

With Danushka the team is always flirting with danger. Watching the team train from the sidelines in Sydney where you get a first-hand glimpse of how players go about things; you know his focus is not on cricket. So, how people who see him day in and day out failed to detect the same is mind-blowing.

 Had Danuhska been in good form the selectors had ground to argue. His form was horrendous, just one double figure score in the last five innings and the last half-century coming in May 2021, that is 20 innings without a half-century, strange for a top order batter.

The other strange selection was that of Jeffrey Vandersay. The leg-spinner was a mere passenger not even playing a warm-up game in Australia. With Sri Lanka’s chances of going through to the semi-finals over, you at least thought that he would be given a break for the dead-rubber against England in Sydney. It was a track tailor-made for spin. However, they brought in Chamika Karunaratne, who had been dropped for the earlier game. Then, Chamika did not even get to bowl. It was a comedy of errors. The national cricket team deserves better than what’s been happening now. There’s lack of clarity and transparency in selections. What is worse is that there has been little communication on the decisions that have been taken.

Having come in with a highly publicized fitness regime, the selectors convinced the public that they will kick out anyone who failed to meet minimum fitness standards. It has turned out to be a publicity stunt. Part of the problem why so many players broke down during the World Cup was because they had dodged fitness tests. It now emerges that since the Asia Cup, fitness tests were not done on the requests of certain players. Players dictating terms and selection criteria is recipe for disaster. That’s what we witnessed during the World Cup.

Danushka’s incident took attention from Sri Lanka’s World Cup campaign. Effectively, the team managed just four wins and failed to beat any of the top billed teams. In fact, they suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Namibia.

Sri Lanka’s top order clicked but the middle order was a flop. Had the middle order fired, the team could have beaten England which means they wouldn’t have gone onto win the World Cup. Sri Lanka could have also given Australia a closer run had the middle order clicked.

We are on the verge of a three-match limited overs series at Pallekele against Afghanistan and it is crucial for the team to gain automatic qualification for The World Cup. The selectors need to tell us as to why they think that the team is better off without someone like Angelo Mathews.

You have just finished a tournament where your middle order had been found wanting, should you not set your pride aside and be pragmatic and recall your senior-most batter?

One thing that you expect when selectors back young blood is that fielding to be top class. However, the current team’s fielding has been a letdown and the presence of a senior player is not going to adversely affect the team.

Sidath Wettimuny is the prime example of managing players when he was Chairman of Selectors. He introduced a similar aggressive youth policy after a poor World Cup campaign in 1999. However, he did not burn bridges. He kept the doors open for the seniors to bounce back and when the need arose they were accommodated. There were no grudges between him and players. As a result, Aravinda de Silva and Hashan Thilakaratne, who were both axed after the 1999 World Cup, were back in the team for the 2003 World Cup and Aravinda bowed off with his head held high.