Player management, or the lack thereof, by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) over the last three years had contributed to the current injury crisis being faced by the national team, SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala said yesterday, on the eve of the team’s departure for a tour of Zimbabwe.
Captain Angelo Mathews was the latest player to be ruled out of action – sustaining a calf injury that will take him three to four weeks to recover from – joining a list of injured players, including a majority of Sri Lanka’s experienced fast bowlers – Dhammika Prasad, Dushmantha Chameera and Nuwan Pradeep.
“Since we have not managed over at least the last three years, we are experiencing good cricketers, who have come in line from under 19, 22, 23, who have played club cricket, played for the country, they go to the top level but they can’t sustain because they are badly managed. They have been badly managed because you (administrators) don’t know,” Sumapthipala said.
“Players now play an average of 12 Test matches, over 30 ODIs, and about 10 T20 plus other games. So I think the player demand has expanded. We have to scientifically look into the player management, which we are doing now,” Sumathipala said, adding that the soon-to-be-opened Brain Centre – where players will be bio-metrically assessed – would address this.
“It would take another eight to ten months to get the right results, because our cupboard is empty to replace, and there are injury prone players. We are very serious about it. We are working on it,” he said. “Once we are up and running with our Brain Centre we will address all this.”
Sumathipala singled out the captain as a prime example of why this is important.
“There are certain players, like Angelo, who have certain ways of getting about – weight transfer and the way they release pressure onto their body. He’s a world class all-rounder, so there is so much of demand, so much of pressure on the body. I don’t think it’s easy for a person like Angelo to be without an injury unless he takes a proper scientific approach. Angelo has played the highest number of matchdays amongst international cricketers during the last 18 months. He was forced to play, asked to play. So a player like him can’t go on. He has to pull out and take a genuine break for the body to recover,” Sumathipala said.
“We don’t have enough of a recovery plan. (First) we have to make an assessment of the player. Then based on the assessment you make a bio-mechanic reading of the player. And then you call it player management. We don’t have a player management programme or a player plan. That is why we appointed a high performance manager. Now we are studying every player, not only on the field, but practice sessions, and then we give them a programme,” he said.
Mathews will be replaced in the squad by opener turned middle-order batsman Upul Tharanga for the Zimbabwe tour, and with vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal also ruled out with a hand injury, Rangana Herath takes over as captain.
Herath will lead an inexperienced squad, especially in the bowling department, but was confident of a series winning performance from the players he had.
“The players in the squad have been playing in the mercantile tournament or for Sri Lanka ‘A’ side. Also confidence is on another level, after winning the Australian Test series,” he said.
Addressing the perceived contract impasse between SLC and the players Mathews said the media had done him and other national players injustice in how it reported the issue, saying there was no conflict and that they were glad to take a pay-cut if it meant other players were looked after.
“It was a little disappointing what was said in the media about the team, and not signing the contracts, saying that we were not signing the contracts over disagreements with the pay. We would also like to see Sri Lankan cricket moving forward, and as national cricketers we’d like to see other players being looked after as well. Not just the ‘A’ team, but even domestic players need to be looked after if we are to take Sri Lankan cricket forward. Even in 2013 we were willing to take a pay-cut from image rights because SLC faced a financial crisis. (The media) Must not do injustice to players by reporting without the correct facts,” he said.
Mathews said that he hoped to be fit for the crucial tour of South Africa which follows the Zimbabwe tour.
“In 2016, I got hit with quite a few injuries and it’s very frustrating to watch the team play, and not being able to take part. I had about a one and half month’s break to rest and prepare, and be fit for the Zimbabwean series, but unfortunately there was a crack so I had to take an MRI scan and it revealed that I had multiple strains in the same leg. So I had to pull out and the expert doctors’ panel advised me and SLC, not to send me on tour because it would jeopardize my South Africa series prospects as well. We are planning on taking a close look at why this is happening (recurrent injury). But hopefully I will be fit for the South African series,” he said.
Mathews also said Herath deserved the leadership role in Zimbabwe.
“…I must congratulate Rangana Herath. If anyone is deserving, if anyone is capable of leading the team, it had to definitely be Rangana Herath because he’s a great team man, and the whole team is behind him. And both of us (Dinesh Chandimal and Mathews) are going to support him 100 per cent,” the injured captain said.
Commenting on the incentive structured national contracts that were signed last week, Sumathipala said that the system would be beneficial to both the players and SLC.
“We allocate a certain amount of funds for the welfare of the players and would focus on their international ratings considering the expenditure and the revenue of SLC. We allocate certain percentages for contract money, and the monies which the team gets whenever it wins. We have increased the amount which the team gets when it wins. Then the players and the country both benefit. Debutants and the senior players are not equal and we needed to consider the experience. We have decided to see that the players get a higher revenue over the next few years. Those who perform are attracted internationally and to achieve this they should perform for the country. The new method which we have adopted would bring benefit to the country and the players. Players also made suggestions to see that the team goes up in the rankings and themselves suggested that their payments should be slashed if the team comes down in the rankings. A performance-based system is welcomed by the players and this is a neutral approach,” Sumathipala added. (Shehan Daniel)