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Clementine, Fernando and Jayasuriya’s Thoughts on the Sri Lankan Squad and England Tour

May 4, 2016

I. Rex Clementine: “United Sri Lanka geared up for bigger challenges,” in Island, 3 May 2016

Aftermath of the national cricket team’s disastrous World T-20 campaign in India, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has taken several measures to help the team get back to winning ways and although there’s not much optimism, an improved performance is expected as Angelo Mathews’ side take wings to England today. Under new Chairman of Selectors Sanath Jayasuriya and Team Manager Charith Senanayake, certain initiatives were taken with the supervision of Head Coach Graham Ford to help the team raise their game in England and authorities are hopeful that the team will come up with an improved performance.

Sri Lanka's captain Angelo Mathews (R) speaks as cricket coach Marvan Atapattu (C) and chief cricket selector Sanath Jayasuriya look on during a press conference in Colombo on March 27, 2015. Chief Selector Sanath Jayasuriya said they will draw up new standards to ensure better fitness and take "hard decisions" about players who were below par. AFP PHOTO / ISHARA S. KODIKARA (Photo credit should read Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lanka’s captain Angelo Mathews (R) speaks as cricket coach Marvan Atapattu (C) and chief cricket selector Sanath Jayasuriya look on during a press conference in Colombo –one year previously – on March 27, 2015. Chief Selector Sanath Jayasuriya said they will draw up new standards to ensure better fitness and take “hard decisions” about players who were below par. AFP PHOTO / ISHARA S. KODIKARA (Photo credit should read Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

Leading up to the World T-20, there were infighting between senior players and captain Lasith Malinga had allegedly stopped talking to Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne. One of the things that the new management has worked on is to help the players gel together and although a lot is left to be done, several good initiatives have been made.

Another thing that the team has worked fiercely on is fitness. Even yesterday, the day before the team’s departure to England, captain Angelo Mathews and deputy Chandimal and several others were involved in hectic gym sessions. This is a new trend as the national cricket team usually received about three days off before a long tour. The change of attitude could be just what Sri Lankan cricket needed.

Sri Lanka will play two three day warm-up games against Essex and Leicester in Chelmsford and Grace Road respectively prior to the opening Test Match at Headingley on the 19th of May. Headingley brings happy memories to Sri Lankans as they recorded a come from behind win here two years ago to win their first ever Test series in England. However, nothing much has gone right for Sri Lankans since then as they have struggled in all formats of the game and are ranked seventh in Test cricket. England are ranked fourth.

Sri Lanka are thin on experience following the retirements of stalwarts Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Sangakkara, in particular, played a key role in the series win in England in 2014 as he scored a big century at Lord’s in the drawn first Test and then came up with scores of 79 and 55 at Headingley.

One good thing is that all leading fast bowlers are back in the squad having gained full fitness. Dhammika Prasad, Shaminda Eranga and Nuwan Pradeep all return to the side after recovering from injuries. The brightest prospect in the bowling department, however, is Dushmantha Chameera and his effectiveness will be key for Sri Lanka’s fortunes in England.

II. Andrew Fidel Fernando: “Selectors will ‘have to start from the bottom’ – Jayasuriya,” in ESPNCricinfo

Sri Lanka’s new selectors will have to “start from the bottom”, chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya has said, after selection strategy between his two stints had set the team back.  Jayasuriya was chief selector from February 2013 to March 2015, before his panel was succeeded by one headed by Kapila Wijegunawardene. After that committee was ousted, Jayasuriya helped select the Test squad to England and is now back as chief selector, since May 1.

“I did everything 100% for Sri Lankan cricket,” Jayasuriya told BBC Sinhala. “But if even a little was detracted from that work, then we would have had substantial setbacks because of that. Now what we have to do is start from the bottom. There is a bigger responsibility for me in this stint, than there was when I was first a selector.”

Sri Lanka have defeated a Full-Member side only once this year, beating India in a T20I in Pune. During Jayasuriya’s first tenure, the team had won the 2014 World T20 and a Test series in England, before losing in New Zealand, and making a quarter-final exit in the 2015 World Cup. Jayasuriya said he accepted part of the “responsibility” for a poor showing in the World Cup, but suggested the situation had only worsened since then.

“First we need to look at which players had been chosen in the past,” he said. “Sometimes you pick young players and then later, these players are dropped and fresh players are brought in. When fresh players are brought in, it takes them a while to succeed, and the players you had been investing in are ignored. That is what happened there.”

Jayasuriya did not specify which players he believes should have been given a consistent run in the team. In the Test side, Kaushal Silva and Niroshan Dickwella fell out of favour during Wijegunawardene’s tenure, while legspinning allrounder Seekkuge Prasanna was largely left out of the limited-overs teams.

However, Wijegunawardene’s committee had also handed debuts to players such as Milinda Siriwardana, Kusal Mendis, Dasun Shanaka and Dhananjaya de Silva, each of whom are currently in the Test squad Jayasuriya helped pick.

“When a new selection committee comes, they should talk with the old committee and discuss the good things that we did. If we did good things for Sri Lankan cricket, those policies should be taken forward. That must not have happened at the time, for us to be in this position.”  The Sri Lanka squad departs for the three-Test series in England, on Wednesday.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

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