Wednesday, 12 December 2012

From credentials to selections - Cont.

Now, moving on to this Sri Lanka's tour of Australia. I'll discuss the Hobart game later tonight, but for now, let's discuss the series. Sri Lanka are playing 3 tests in Australia for the first time since 1995, that being the only other time we played in the MCG on boxing day. Sri Lanka lost 3-0 that time around. A century each for Gurusinghe, Tilakaratne and Jayasuriya. Murali no balled by Hair at the MCG. Ugly scenes. Pathetic tour for the Lankans, but this tour, this tour was what really laid the foundation for that 1996 World Cup victory. Like a blessing in disguise.

There's nothing of that sort waiting for the Sri Lankans at the other end of this tour. Probably a series of retirements, and a captaincy shift, at most. So this is it. Dilshan has already said this would be his last Test tour to Australia. Samaraweera and Mahela don't even have to say it. By the time the next tour down under comes by, they would be sitting on a couch with their family, enjoying a home cooked meal. Sangakkara, who knows, the man's performances have already seemed too good to be true. Maybe he can pull a rabbit out of the hat before his retirement as well.

But what it all comes down to is, Sri Lanka WANT to win in Australia. They've essentially got nothing to lose either and they've got 3 tests to do it. One in Hobart, where Sri Lanka came closest to winning one in 2007, before Rudi Kortzen thought it would be funny to give a man on 192 batting with number 10, out caught behind off his shoulder. One in Melbourne, where there are more Sri Lankans than 3rd generation Australians. Where there is 600 times more crowd support for the Sri Lankan team than there is at the SSC on the 3rd day of a Test match. The last one in Sydney, Australia's version of a rank turner, although probably it turns less on the 5th day than it does on the 1st morning at Galle, with the new ball. But then again, this game might not even go on to the 5th day. Cricket Australia have given 3 venues where Sri Lanka have realistic chances of winning. why? Because they want to beat us where we at least have a chance, to show that they are brutal.

Such are the chances for victory for the Lankans. More dim than the dimmed lights one uses while driving around Petta without license, trying to keep away from cops. Specially with a team that has excluded Thirimanne, Thisara Perera and Ajantha Mendis in the squad, but instead has swear-at-will Prasad and all-over-the-place Pradeep. I see what they are trying to do, expose our mediocre pacemen to the Australian pitches at every opportunity. It's a good plan for the future, but don't we also want to WIN that one series we get once in TWO blue moons? Investment at the cost of players who would have a direct impact on the result of a game isn't the wisest thing to do. It's unfair on the rest of the team, for the other players who expect to go out and win. For us, who expect the best XI to take the field.

Specially for players like Mahela, Sanga, Dilshan and Samaraweera. Can you believe that in a 15 year career for Mahela, he has only played 4 tests in Australia? Sangakkara only Three! Samare Three. Dilshan Two! Prasanna Jayawardane has played two though, making him one of the most experienced test players in these conditions in the squad, only 2 behind his namesake, Mahela. He's played only one match less in Oz than Sangakkara, who would have thought? No one in the squad has even played a test at the MCG or at the SCG. And this would be their one last chance at playing and winning in the land which has almost been forbidden, looking at the minute amount of matches they've played there.

Would you believe that Prasanna Jayawardane has played almost an equal number of tests in Australia as Sangakkara?  Don't worry, Sanga and PJ probably won't believe it either.

Yet, this IS Australia. Arguably the mentally strongest side in the world. They don't just beat you. They crush you when they do. Australia lost the ashes 3-1 in 2010/11 but that one win was by an innings and 250+ runs. That's how ruthless Australia are, even when they aren't doing too well. And after this South Africa series, they will be hungry, and a 3-0 defeat for the Lankans looms in the vicinity.

With a bowling attack that averages as high as the age of the team, around the high 30s, Sri Lanka's chances of winning a test, let alone a series seem pretty slim. To expect anything other than a 3-0 drubbing would be silly. But then again, this is the same team that played 3 in England and drew 2. The one that was lost, was lost in a session, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I don't even want to know. But this is the same line up that didn't go 3-0 down to South Africa. In fact, this same bowling line up conjured a win at the Green Mamba in Durban, also handing Jaques Kallis his first pair in test cricket. To completely write them off wouldn't be the smartest thing to do either. If it is needed, let's do so on the 3rd morning of the 2nd test in MCG, when Sri Lanka have lost the 1st test by an innings and 168 runs, and are currently 73/6 after the Aussies declared at 603/4 on the last session on the 2nd day.

I saw a lot of pundit comments by Sri Lankan fans on cricket websites after India lost 4-0 last summer. Let's hope for their sake that Mahela, Sanga, Herath and Co. and string together some sort of miracle to save their throats from being shoved down with humble pie. If I were one of them, I'd already have a serviette tied around my neck, expecting nothing less from the Aussies other than being served from the same spoon.

So, there ends my beginning for this cricket blog and I'm already smiling. And that is why I write about cricket. Two things that make me smile the most. Cricket and writing. I don't think anyone needs more credentials than that to start their own blog. I've been deprived of cricket for a quite a while, and this is my escape to a place where I get to enjoy cricket again. No matter what has changed, cricket seems to find a place, here at my fingertips, in the freezing cold big red north. As they say in Colombo; "You can take the boy away from cricket, but you cannot take the cricket away from the boy".

I'll do my match preview for the 1st test tonight. Until then,


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