Sri Lankan Test Cricket is on the verge of meltdown. Only winning 4 of the last 12 Test series, over a dozen (and more…)debutants and a lot of experienced faces departing the International scene. Gone of the days where Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara leading the team with the bat and in the field and Murali Muralitharan, Rangana Herath and Chaminda Vaas destroyed batting line ups at ease with Murali’s indispensable 795 wickets imperative to Sri Lankan success.
Now, Angelo Matthews leads a side with his 80 ,experienced but still young caps, with increasing debutants coming and going with a settled side seemingly lost at the selection policy. The recent Australian series saw plenty of debutants as the depth of Sri Lanka cricket was tested right to the bottom including a seam attack full of debut players and Kasun Rajitha in the final test.
Consistency seems to be at the heart of the issues in a non stop cycle. Injuries have also been a major problem in finding the right test players. Roshen Silva had been having an impressive summer for the Sri Lankans with important knocks against England and New Zealand but had been side lined with an injury from the conclusion of the Black Caps tour and then surprisingly dropped for the Proteas.
Schedule has been gruelling on the Test front with England visiting and then subsequent Oceania tours against New Zealand and Australia and then the upcoming visit to South Africa. On the field form has been an issue but off the field drama has captivated and engulfed the side with disgruntled and unhappy players, coaches and selectors of late with the team manager changing regularly.
South African Squad Analysis
- 8 of the 17 man squad selected have played five tests or fewer
- The surprise axing of Dinesh Chandimal as captain comes after taking charge in 2017 and despite team performances, his form has been above most other batsmen.
- Four players selected are uncapped.
- Ireland A matches and Premier League form seems to be at precedence to Test players
- A pace attack containing an overall caps of just 8 caps (added to when Lakmal returns in the second test)
- Angelo Matthews remains a key player missing through injury
- Dilruwan Perera has 38 caps and has been a mainstay of the squad as spinners have drifted in and out of the squad but he has been axed
- Wholesale changes indicate a more youthful look at the future.
Malinda Pushpakumara and Asela Gunaratne will surely be disappointed to miss out as Pushpakumara was touted as an experienced head to take the mantle of left arm spin from Herath and Gunaratne has an average of 56.87 in only 6 tests and a high score of 116.
Instead Lasith Embuldeniya takes the spinning mantle with other left arm spinner Lakshan Sandakan whilst batsmen Angelo Perera and Oshada Fernando take the batting spots. Some players have experience in age with Milinda Siriwanda returning from a 3 year hiatus and Kashual Silva returning from big scores in the Premier League. The tried and tested method has been chucked firmly out of the equation with chopping and changing the incentive for Sri Lanka’s demise but could be their turn around if the selected players perform against a potent South African attack and batting line up in foreign conditions.
On paper, it looks a comfortable victory for the Proteas in home conditions where the seamers create lively bounce and threatening pace whilst their batsman bat with poise and patience but don’t underestimate the Sri Lankans who all have an incentive to play for their spots.
A recipe for disaster or a recipe for success!