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Lakmal to shoulder the responsibility during SA Test series

2018-07-03 08:04:48
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It now goes down as one of the most infamous episodes in Sri Lanka’s cricketing history: national team skipper Dinesh Chandimal getting caught on camera while appearing to alter the condition of the ball, a charge he challenged unsuccessfully.

Chandimal now faces further reprimand for his role in holding up play for two hours during the second Test in Gros Islet, along with Manager Asanka Gurusinha and Coach Chandika Hathurusingha. The hearing takes place on July 10.

His first outing as Test skipper in the Caribbean was a success

The trio have been charged with a ‘level 3′ offence for conduct contrary to the spirit of the game and may face severe sanctions (despite all three pleading guilty) owing to the seriousness of the offence and the need to discourage un-cricket like conduct.

A level 3 offence carries with it a minimum ban of two Test matches up to a maximum of four; or four ODIs up to a maximum of eight. This means, in all probability, Chandimal will not be available for the two-match Test series against South Africa starting July 12, two days after the scheduled hearing.

Given the uncertainty surrounding his participation, selectors have placed their faith in seamer Suranga Lakmal to lead the side during the South African series in Sri Lanka. Lakmal helmed his team to victory in his maiden match as skipper and stands in good stead to lead the side from the front when the tourists arrive here in a week.

“We have relieved Angelo Mathews from the Test captaincy to help him concentrate on his batting,” said Chief Selector Graeme Labrooy, while commending Sri Lanka’s performance in the West Indies. “So it will most likely be Suranga Lakmal. Now that he has captained and taken on the responsibility from Dinesh Chandimal, we will ask him to lead the side if Chandimal is ruled out.”

But it’s not Chandimal the skipper that Sri Lanka will miss the most during the forthcoming tour. It’s Chandimal the middle-order batsman who has a knack for hitting big scores.

“Dinesh Chandimal’s captaincy is one thing, but it’s Chandimal the batsman we are going to miss the most if he is ruled out, because he is someone who will work at those crucial moments and get those big hundreds for us,” Labrooy explained.

Mathews was part of the original tour party to the Caribbean but returned at the end of the first Test for the birth of his second child. Dimuth Karunaratne, on the other hand, was not considered for selection as he was nursing a fractured finger.

While Mathews will have a ready place in the playing XI, his schoolmate Karunaratne will have to prove his worth to win a slot as team opener. Karunaratne is currently leading Sri Lanka A in Bangladesh.

The national selectors as well as the team’s think-tank–coach, manager and captain–have come in for harsh criticism over their tendency to experiment with Sri Lanka’s opening combinations in Test cricket in recent months.

When Karunaratne was ruled out, many expected Kaushal Silva to get the selectors’ nod. They opted, instead, for uncapped Mahela Udawatte. However, Udawatte made just 23 runs off his first four career Test innings with a top score of 19. This will force the selectors to favour Karunaratne.

“Let’s see how he (Dimuth) is going about in Bangladesh,” said Labrooy.

“Whether he plays in the XI or not, he will definitely be in the squad. When Dimuth got injured, we went ahead with the next in-form batsman who had a little bit of international experience (but not in Test cricket). So we wanted to have a decent look at him and we gave him a decent run, saying that; we must also remember that all the other top order batsmen except (Kusal) Mendis struggled during the series.”

There were only three centuries and eight half-centuries during the entire series; Sri Lanka scored two of them through Chandimal and Mendis.

“I think the West Indies had that element of surprise that worked against us,” Labrooy said, reflecting on the West Indies series. “Though we knew it was going to be fast and bouncy wickets, to be honest we didn’t anticipate so much bounce and pace in them.”

“But saying that, we unfortunately lost Angelo Mathews and, in the second game, we lost Chandimal,” he continued. “We also lost Rangana Herath and that doesn’t help a side, especially in the longer version of the game. Losing players, for whatever the reasons it may be, hampered the team’s chances.”

The batting looked threadbare in the must-win third Test with both Mathews and Chandimal out. However, the lesser-knowns impressed in the West Indies. Mendis was Sri Lanka’s top scorer (285 runs in six innings with a century and half century); Chandimal, who missed the third Test, scored 229 runs in four innings (including his 119 in the opening Test); and Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Gamage and Kasun Rajitha bowled nicely in the series on pacy and bouncy tracks, helping Sri Lanka end the series on a high.

“The positive side was the youngsters, Mendis and them, coming to the fore and taking responsibility,” Labrooy said.  “We showed lots of character, basically standing out and fighting.”

“If you look at the battle between batsmen, I think we won it, with Chandimal and Mendis scoring runs at the top of the order and, when it mattered, most guys like Dilruwan, the old guard, taking that odd crucial wicket and getting that 20 odd runs which made the difference between a victory, a draw and a loss,” Labrooy concluded.


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