Peter Roebuck has gone into one of his flowerly discourses about Sri Lankan cricket again. The article is generally a lot of doom and gloom. It questions Geoff Marsh’s ability to get Sri Lankan back on track and talks about the civil war which has become every writers muse these days.
For all the poetry, it doesn’t really offer too much in terms of constructive options about how Sri Lanka can get out of their current rut. Yes Peter, most Sri Lankan fans know we are on the brink. Do you have any ideas about what can be done about it instead ?
The way we see it. The Sri Lankan problem is two fold.
On one hand we have a captain who, as Roebuck points out, is not the best leader or men in the country and not even in the 11 that take the field these days. So what exactly is Dilshans problem. He is a nervy character by default. He can’t help it. It is in his blood. When things don’t go his way, he fidgets, looses focus and so does the team. A clear example of this is his recent announcement that he wants to bat in the middle order now. Which may or may not have ended Thilans career. The Aus tour started with Dilshan trying to repeat his 2020 innings against the red ball. He failed and SL were caught with their pants down when Ryan Harris arrived. Then he tried to slow it down which didn’t suit his style and got all muddled up in his head. Then he came down to the order and got an 80 against a tired Aussie attack. In 3 games he tried 3 different approaches and now thinks that the one that worked must be the one he should stick with.
Where is the self belief he had just over a year or 2 ago. When Dilshan is batting well Sri Lanka is in control of the game. That is how important it is for him to open. This – try everything and stick with whatever gets the most runs is – Balls. It is the same when he captains on the field. Put faith in the bowlers, give them a field, be aggressive. This is how Dilshan should lead. Trust his instincts – because someone in the team should.
The other problem also stems from Dilshan – which is a team that has no direction. There is Sangakkara and Mahela. What should their role in the team be ? How about the two who take responsibility. If they are to be the back bone then act like it. Score when it matters. Dont score a 50 and throw it away.
Sri Lankas openers need to be counted. While blocking and scoring slowly isn’t a bad thing – Paranavitana needs to learn the value of taking a single. As do all Sri Lankan batsmen. It is a basic principle that Sri Lanka does well they are on top but forgets easily when they are in a corner.
The bowlers aren’t too bad. They kept us within reach during most of the tour. So how gutting must it feel to hear your Captain say that they lack experience and need to improve ? Sri Lanka don’t have match winners anymore. Malinga only shows up for 10 and 4 over spells these days. But the people who do show up with a red ball in hand fail at the same obstacle that the batsmen do. The basics. Whenever Sri Lanka built up pressure in the last series they let it go with poor bowling. Herath looks like the most unlikeliest of attack leaders but this is where Sri Lanka are now.
So where does Marsh fit into all this ? No one really noticed Marsh’s influence on the late 90s side. Yes they had some great players in that time but what that Australian side did better than every other country at that time was pretty simple.
They picked the right side.
They believed in their captain.
When they batted – they did so with purpose and discipline.
When they bowled – they were accurate and worked as a unit to build pressure.
When they fielded – they made sure they held their chances and created half ones.
And they worked hard. And was proud to play for their country.
These are the same principles that Marsh used in the early 2000 Zimbabwe side and that made them a competitive team in that time. And this is what Marsh hopefully brings to the SL table. Hard work. Basics. Direction. Respect.
Marsh comes from an era in Australian cricket where they didn’t take a backward step and SL needs this more than ever. The political strife at the SLC is always going to be there. It is a given. Until the country roots out corruption how can a cricket board ? SL fans knows this, hate it, but we hope for the best inspite of it. This is Marsh’s task. Work the board but get what you want. As long as the team does well. No one will care who is on who’s payroll.