Chairman of National Cricket Selectors Sanath Jayasuriya urged local cricket authorities to work out a long term strategy which will help players perform better outside their comfort zone.
Jayasuriya, a legendary Sri Lankan cricketer admitted that Sri Lankans have historically struggled in South African conditions but said he was disappointed by how tamely the players squandered their chances.
“We should be able to play under any conditions, not just at home. There’s no point giving excuses or blaming our domestic structure after we lose a series. It’s just that the players did not adjust to these conditions. Your success depend on how fast you adjust to these conditions but sadly we have taken too long to do that,” explained Jayasuriya.“We need to prepare ourselves better, not that we don’t, but we need to find out whether we need a longer period of preparations for tours like this. Whether we need to come here early and prepare is something that we should really look at,” he added.
Sri Lanka lost the Test series 0-3, four years after they won their first ever win in South African soil and now faces a 5-0 whitewash in the five-match one-day series.
Sri Lanka managed to win the T20 series but it came against a second -string South Africa side, after hosts decided to rest most of their big guns to keep them fresh for the ODI series.
“If we can do a player programme at least at the Under-19 level that will do a world of good for the players. We sent Kusal Mendis to England and we all know how well he performed in England last year,” he said.
“We have seen South African players being sent to India to get use to spin wickets. This is one area we could really look at in the future,” he added.
A similar sentiment was shared by Coach Graham Ford following the Test series defeat.
“Another option may be to try and get young lads on exchange programmes to these countries and give them time to develop,” Ford said.
Sri Lanka have done decently in English conditions and Jayasuriya believes, the county experience of Sri Lanka cricketers have played a major role in the success.
“Look we have done well in English conditions. We have won Test and ODI series there. This is because our cricketers are more accustomed to those conditions. Lot of our cricketers used to play in counties in the past and that experience has helped the team,” Jayasuriya said.
Sri Lanka’s top scorer in ODI cricket, Jayasuriya admitted that the results so far were a bitter pill to swallow and should need urgent attention.
“We really need to find a way to play outside of our comfort zone. We do better in our own conditions and win matches, but when we go out, we struggle. If we don’t change this situation fast, we will only be winning matches at home,” he further said.
Jayasuriya also admitted that Sri Lanka at present is short of cricketers with extra-ordinary talent which the islanders have regularly produced in the past.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a dearth of talent but we don’t produce those champion cricketers as much as we did in the past. I don’t think it’s a problem with the domestic structure or the school structure, because it’s the very system that produced all those champion cricketers in the past. So, we need to assess this situation and find out where the problem is and correct it,” he added.
“The problem I see here is not lack of talent but their inability to adjust quickly to situations and handle the pressure. You can’t play cricket, if you can’t absorb pressure.”
Jayasuriya also said that the selectors had kept high hopes on Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiri Thirimanne to make the transition smooth after several high profile retirements, but neither has established their positions.
Thirimanne has been dropped out of the National Team while Chandimal now faces a similar fate having gone through a miserable form with the bat in South Africa. He was dropped for the fourth ODI played yesterday after he had failed to score a single 50 plus score in 12 innings.
“We had lot of hopes on these two players but they are currently struggling. They have played enough cricket to establish themselves,” he explained.
Jayasuriya also complimented his former opening partner Upul Tharanga who is currently standing-in for the injured Skipper Angelo Mathews for his leadership qualities.
“Sadly he lost about two years of cricket but right now he is playing really well and also as a leader is getting the boys together. I am sure he has lot more to offer for the game,” he said.(Champika Fernando in Cape Town)