By Madushka Balasuriya
Angelo Mathews will be fit for Sri Lanka’s tour of India in November, Sri Lanka Cricket has confirmed, while Kusal Perera and Asela Gunaratne are also expected to make their returns to the national setup.
All three were unavailable for the recently concluded Pakistan tour, but will be welcomed back warmly following Sri Lanka’s recent struggles in limited overs contests. Sri Lanka have now lost their last 16 ODIs - their worst ever streak - including a 5-0 whitewash against Pakistan - the third such result this year. The team also lost all three T20Is.
Sri Lanka’s interim head coach Nic Pothas, who was speaking alongside Sri Lanka’s three captains for the Pakistan tour, a day removed from their return to the island, has hinted that after a string of such negative results a change in personnel might be the best way forward.
“It’s pretty obvious what the mood will be like when you’ve lost 16 ODI games. With respect to new faces, that’s a conversation that we need to have with the selectors. But I think it stands to reason that in any walk of life, when you’ve had negative results for a period of time you need to see some change somewhere.”
While Sri Lanka ended the series with eight straight defeats, they had started it on a much more promising note, becoming the first team to register a series win against Pakistan in the UAE. Pothas was keen to point this out as he stressed the other positives derived from the tour.
“On the Test series, let me remind you that we made history. We did something that no other nation has ever done in the UAE. It tends to have been forgotten due to the fact that ODIs follow the Tests. But we have to give huge credit to the team and to the captain.
“Overall, across the whole tour we can certainly glean a lot of positives. The fielding has improved out of sight and certainly was one of the shining lights throughout the month that we were out there. And the bowling as well was of a very high standard; the execution of the plans was very pleasing.”
“Obviously some of the batting didn’t go according to plan, but that’s the cricket world and other teams are allowed to play well. It was also one of the best bowling attacks in the world so it’s always going to be tough, but I think on the whole the series started off very well with that Test win. Certainly the attitude, the character and the fight shown by that team was very, very pleasing.”
The tour also saw the Sri Lankan team return to Pakistan for the first time since 2009, when their team bus was attacked by armed gunman in Lahore. The decision to play a match in Lahore resulted in several players pulling out of the game, but also provided opportunities for several fringe players.
Sri Lanka’s limited overs captain Upul Tharanga was among those that pulled out, which gave Thisara Perera the opportunity to captain the T20 side. Despite losing all three matches, Perera was full of praise for his young charges.
“In truth when speaking about the Lahore visit, it was a much changed team to the one we initially expected to take part. Even though it was a young side, when captaining them I realised that they were much more mature than I had thought. The support they gave, their attitude, as a captain it was a great help in terms of handling the team,” said Perera.
“The team didn’t have many players with international experience. Most were inexperienced, including me as captain. Nevertheless, the players had the drive to play and win. Although it was a youthful side, a lot of them had experience playing domestic cricket. Their attitude was also right. That’s the attitude we need in the team. Although we didn’t perform as we would have liked with the bat, the bowlers did us proud.
“The second match, we had the match in our hands till the last ball. I think we lost the victory as we didn’t have the experience to handle it. If these players are given a chance they can do a lot more for Sri Lanka cricket.”
SL to name head coach by end of the year
Sri Lanka Cricket expects to announce a new head coach by the end of the year, though it is unlikely to happen prior to Sri Lanka’s upcoming tour of India in November.
SLC confirmed that they were in conversation with a couple of coaches about the vacant position, but refused to divulge any further details. Interim coach Nic Pothas, who has been in charge since the abrupt departure of Graham Ford in June, is also in the running.
“We are discussing with about three of four coaches, including Nic Pothas. We hope to finalise the decision by the end of the year,” said SLC CEO Ashley De Silva.
“When it comes to recruiting a new coach we have be sure to select the right one, therefore it takes some time. As for the names, some of them are still working in other places so if it gets leaked they won’t be happy. We’ll reveal it when the time is right.”
The news means that Sri Lanka will head into arguably their toughest tour this year without a permanent head coach. De Silva though refused to confirm if Pothas would retain his role as interim coach for the tour of India.