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It’s introspection time folks…

As they landed in Mumbai on 18th October 2005, an echo rebounded from all corners of India and Sri Lanka alike, on them taking home the Videocon Cup, the India Vs Sri Lanka ODI Series. But, things changed from potential delight to a virtual misery, as they lost their practice match to a second-rung Mumbai Cricket Association XI. From likely conquerors to the conquered, Sri Lanka’s plight in their recent loss to India is truly worth a write.
 A keen follower of Sri Lankan cricket that I am, this series should first be an eye-opener into the selection policy. Perhaps they can surely take a leaf out of the Indian book of introducing rookies into the side and blood them in first-up. With reluctance being the keyword, mainly due to their obsession in retaining the winning combination, the selectors have opted for results rather than future. This very series proved to be an eye-opener about the mentality of the two sides – one trying to put its past behind and build a new future, and the other harping upon its past glories by ignoring the tomorrow. The result should not be read into very much, but from the Sri Lankan perspective, it was time to end the year on a high – a series win in India is surely something worth success. Introspection is the keyword out here and its time Sri Lanka try and stare reality on its face rather than escape it. While Tom Moody might have enjoyed success against relatively weaker nations like West Indies and Bangladesh, a loss against India will surely put him on guard.
 Another factor that eludes this cricketing team is homesickness. Maybe not so literally homesick, success is something they prefer leaving at home. Apart from successes in Zimbabwe and Pakistan in 2004, Sri Lanka has nothing much to write home about in their overseas matches. To be frank, Sri Lanka are the toughest team to beat at home (Australia and India included). When they are in their own den, God only knows what makes them such a different unit as opposed to when they are on their flight somewhere else. If conditions is something to brood about, then I feel sorry for them as Sri Lanka is hardly 55 minutes away from the Indian mainland. It seems rather surprising that such a superior outfit like Sri Lanka just could not compete in this series. As the Indian coach said “I think they’ve only played as well as we’ve allowed them to play”, it seems true that the real Lions were at a prowl somewhere else. The lack of youth clearly showed in this unit, which has an average age of about 30. To put it straight, there is no lack of talent in the Emerald Island, but a clear sense of apprehension as to their belonging in the International Arena. The time has come for Sri Lanka to ask itself questions like “What next after Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Muralitharan and Vaas ?”. Deep down its own conscience, the answer will take its own time. Youngsters like Upul Tharanga, Malinga Bandara, Pradeep Srijayaprakashdaran Champaka Kapudegara (the 19-year old middle order bat), Sanjeewa Weerakoon, Ian Daniel etc. should be given fair chances before their adaptability at the highest level is judged. It’s really unfortunate that these guys almost in every tournament end up carrying drinks or being passengers and clear spectators. Talent is in no shortage in Sri Lanka… just that it is not coming through at the right time, which is my only concern.
 It’s sad to see the stooping levels of the much-talked about school cricket structure. A Royal-Thomas battle, which has a history of 126-years has more aura attached to it than the actual performance – something the administrators really need to look into. Kumar Sangakkara in an interview to an Indian news channel stated “We have one of the best base structures in cricket in the world”, but sadly as I observe, the days are getting gloomier than ever. No doubt there is still some heart and passion in those matches, but the results are far and few to be worth a notice. Among the current crop of youngsters, Farveez Maharoof comes up as a guy who has really roughed it in all levels, right from his Wesley College days. One of the main reasons this school cricket issue is being raised is to point to the bench strength or the lack of it in Sri Lanka as of now. Another reason it is in the downswing is simply because they are used to playing on flat, dull and slow wickets, that even the slightest movement in the air or off the pitch can deter the defences of the batsmen – a fact in itself that has come in way of Sri Lanka’s overseas performances. Rather than sulking to harsh realities, a remedial solution would do wonders to boost the future of the Sri Lankan team.
 Its time to don the thinking cap on for the likes of Tom Moody and Co. A leadership change would be a workable solution for Sri Lanka, as Marvan is slowly experiencing the law of diminishing returns. Kumar Sangakkara would surely come across as the likeliest candidate, as he is the more in-form batsman, who has the tendency to lead from the front as a player more often than not. All’s well that ends well – maybe the slogan Sri Lanka might just be using to console themselves and recover from this big slump. Perhaps a defeat was all they needed to get their acts together and take a fresh plunge into the pool called “International Cricket”. I hope Sri Lanka takes fresh guard for the Test Series after this defeat and re-establish themselves in this red-hot arena.