Can Sri Lanka return to its past glory?

India have yet again shown their cricketing prowess, annihilating Sri Lanka on the latter’s home grounds. The scoreline at the end of the tour was 9-0 in Virat Kohli led side’s favour, something which teams would only dream of doing some five-six  years ago in Sri Lanka. India complete dominance reiterated yet again that they are easily number one side across all three formats in Asia if not in world.

Sri Lanka have clearly looked a shadow of their past, forgetting habit of winning. For some reasons talent coming from the ranks isn’t as prodigious as it used to be when the likes of Arjuna Ranatunga, Arvinda De Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muthaih Muralitharan, Sangakarra and Mahela Jayawardena were playing. Sri Lanka were trend setters in many ways. They were the ones who changed the discourse or approach the way limited overs’ cricket should be played.

The sad state of affairs of Sri Lankan cricket is hard to watch for even neutral fans. The retirements of big guns like Sangakarra, Jayawardena and Murlitharan have left big voids to fill in. The upcoming players have failed to show skill level or perseverance to match the greats. A series lost to lowly ranked  Zimbabwe  followed by a disastrous show against India have just put things into perspective. 

Having said that,  there is a glimmer of hope. If one analyzes the performances of some of their current youngsters closely, one feels a transition is going on, and a spark of reemergence is there, and if handled properly, a fiery Sri Lankan side could well enthrall the cricket world again. The players like Niroshan Dickwella, Asela gunaratne, Danushka  Gunathalika, Mendis etc have time and again , though not with consistency , shown that they have got the talent and potential for the top level. Along with the likes of Angelo Mathews, Upul Tharanga and Thiramane, the relatively senior pros , they can form a decent side. Players like Dinesh Chandimal and Kraunaratne have already shown, they possess the temperament for test cricket as well. If given a persistent run by the selectors and groomed properly, they will surely evolve as decent  players in the years to come. The example is Bangladesh, they kept faith in the likes of Shakibs and Tameems, and the results have now started to come. Bowling depth has been a big issue with this side in the recent past. Spin bowling department was indeed affected by the retirement of Murali, but players like Rangana Herath and for a couple of years Ajantha Mendis as well, never made it look like a big effect. Both won so many matches for the Lions since Murli left, and then this team has a history of finding spinners from nowhere just like all the Asian sides. Fast bowling has been the area they have struggled the most with. With Malinga still delivering with the seemingly tired legs, and injuries to Suranga Lakmal, Lankans haven’t found any genuine wicket taking quickies. Though Nuwan Pradeep has shown some occasional glimpses, but again consistency has been the  issue. Injuries to Dushmantha Chameera, who brings in an extra yard of pace and Damika Prassad who hits a good line and length have also added to worries.  Also the dip in form of a match winning all-rounder Thisara Parera and injury affecting the bowling of Angelo Mathews have not helped.

 Overall it seems that there isn’t a total mess  that is being portrayed by some people. The side needs to be given some time to pass through this transition and the selectors and the people will have to show some patience and keep faith in these players. The only emergency is to find a couple of wicket taking fast bowlers from somewhere and no whole sale changes should be made.

India on the other hand is already a settled side, nearing to find their best combination with World Cup 2019 in mind. A batsman like Ajankya Rahane is not finding a place in eleven of an ODI side, which should give one an idea where the bench strength lies. Resting the spin combo of Ashwin and Jadeja is also an indication of selectors trying to find the new faces for future. Kuldeep Yadav, a left arm chinaman, has already impressed during India’s tour to West Indies in July. The likes of Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel have impressed one and all. Umesh Yadav has been improving with every match and then finding an all-rounder like Hardik Pandya, a genuine hitter down the order and a decent medium pacer, is always a great addition to any side. MS Dhoni who many thought was on hislast legs, has again found some form, and is unlikely that selectors now are going to drop him. Even then players like Dinesh Karthik and Wridhiman Saha are waiting in the wings, with plenty of international and IPL exposure.

As of now, for two great cricketing nations of world there are different priorities. India have too many quality players to choose from to strengthen their ascendency   in world cricket while Sri Lanka’s talent pool is shrinking and it would need common sense and behind the scenes work to bring Sri Lankan cricket back on its feet. 


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