There are 3 year old babies who have never known a Sri Lankan test series win. And its finally come. Mahela is posting on Cricinfo about it. Posing with trophies. The whole proverbial nine yards. But something is still amiss.
When Kumar Sangakkara started shaking hands with Misbah and the end of the 5th day, with 10 overs to go, we were in shock. When Mahela plodded around for 11 off 43 balls we were not amused. Angry even. That Misbah agreed to call of the game knowing, how improbable it may have seemed, that they needed to win to square the series was unbelievable. It was a bit dire to say the least.
Samir Chopra picked apart Mahelas recent article on cricinfo regarding how he will not engage with armchair critics (ehem) about what he essentially deems is playing 2020 cricket and throwing the kitchen sink and whatever else is in the room to go for a win. When Sri Lanka went to tea they needed roughly around 5 runs per over for a win. That sort of equation is not even considered scary in modern ODIs much less 2020 cricket. Yes, Pakistan did go on the negative by spreading the field. But Sangakkara and Jayawardene together have shown that they are not adverse to picking up the odd single or two when batting together. With Perera, Mathews, PJ and even Kulesekara in the bank the decision to pull out was the latest in a string of conflicting PR and actual execution.
But lets instead look at the rest of Mahelas statement. About not sacrificing the hard work put over 6 months. About bringing back a winning mentality. About playing and being positive – as he so often is heard uttering.
Hard work – indeed, there has been a lot of it. And Mahela has been instrumental in turning around a sinking ship. Sri Lanka are always better under him. Focused and dynamic. Mahela gets credit for that. People like Perera are showing the fruits of their labor. Dilshan, Sangakkara are back to their best. Kulesekara earned a test cap.
But Shouldn’t the reward for all that effort and sacrifice be bigger and better than snoozing over the finish line? Is this the sort of foundation you want to lay for ‘young’ side as Mahela calls it?
Was it risk aversion or lack of self belief?
Winning mentality – this is usually instilled by winning a lot. By not going for a win when the opportunity presents and the risks are in your favor does it not achieve the polar opposite of what he is trying to embed.
Positivity – Is this a one off from the positive attitude he preaches? Not enforcing the follow on, bowling first at the SSC, sitting back at the start of day 5 at Pallekele might suggest otherwise.
These aren’t just issues with Jayawardene. The Sri Lankan cricketing culture has always been a safety first approach. That isn’t the worst principle to adopt. But it can be the separator between being a great side and an average side test side. And Sri Lanka have never been a great test side.
Sri Lanka always shows promise and offers hope being a pretty decent test unit. Often they have had issues with personnel and skill levels. But those gaps are slowly closing. Very slowly, mind. Cricket, as they say, is also played a lot in the head. And its whether Sri Lanka can adopt and evolve from their timid and unsure selves to be something they’ve never really been that will eventually set them apart from being average or great.
What do we know though, We are just an armchair critic