Paucity of quality fast bowlers a growing worry

Friday, 6 May 2022 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The experience of Sri Lanka’s fast bowling unit to Bangladesh of Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha and Asitha Fernando is a total of 28 Tests and 72 wickets 

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

One of the core issues the Sri Lanka cricket team to Bangladesh is facing in red ball cricket is the paucity of match-winning fast bowlers. 

The absence of bowlers in the calibre of Suranga Lakmal (retired), Dushmantha Chameera (rested from red ball cricket) and Lahiru Kumara (hamstring injury) has only further compounded the problem.

Of the five fast bowlers Sri Lanka are taking to Bangladesh Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha and Asitha Fernando have played a total of 28 Tests and captured 72 wickets while Chamika Karunaratne’s solitary appearance for one wicket was way back in 2019 and Dilshan Madushanka has yet to break into the Test circuit.   

The inexperience in the fast bowling unit was raised with the new head coach of Sri Lanka cricket, Chris Silverwood during his maiden press conference with local journalists. Being a fast bowler himself having represented England in six Tests and seven ODIs, Silverwood replied, “From my point of view, the fact that they're young means that they will take on information more quickly, and maybe try new things as well.  I've specifically challenged the Test bowlers to be hot on their first 12 balls, because as we all know the first 12 balls can make a real impact on your spell as well as put pressure back on the batters. It'll be a gradual process, but if you sow the seed and let it grow, over a period of time you will find that people can do it.”

Sri Lanka finds itself in this predicament today because there has been a whole lot wrong in their coaching as well as their domestic cricket structure. There does not seem to be any co-ordination between the coaching unit and the national selection committee. When the fast bowling coaches attached to the High Performance Centre at Khettarama groom a bowler for the future he is not given the consistent exposure at international level to instil confidence in his bowling. 

Clear examples are of Asitha Fernando who has not been given a consistent run and Vishwa Fernando who has got a raw deal on several occasions after performing well overseas only to be dropped from home Tests. Uncapped Shiran Fernando is another bowler who has gone on several tours without being given a single match. When such things happen it only instils fear in the mind of the bowler when he is suddenly asked to play for he has lost all confidence in himself and the fear of failure only brings added pressure on himself.

There does not seem to be any control over the type of pitches one should prepare for domestic cricket. What we find today are batting spin friendly pitches that do not encourage fast bowling at all. In most domestic matches a fast bowler may bowl a maximum of 10-12 overs before giving way to the spinners. This approach has contributed largely towards the lack of quality fast bowlers in the country. There is no encouragement for fast bowlers at all. Only one or two bowlers with skill and who are smart come through successfully like Suranga Lakmal who was able to achieve so much by continuing to play on such surfaces. His type of bowlers are only few and far between.

Even the spinners are not made to work hard for their wickets. That is why they struggle to come to terms with the pitches when they go overseas. What we are made to understand is that the grass is not cut from the top but from under and that allows any spinner to turn the ball. That is why spinners who come from abroad like Graeme Swann, Moeen Ali and Nathan Lyon for example improve their records when they play in Sri Lanka. They spin the ball from the top whereas our spinners do not. We have issues with our wicket preparations and unless good wickets are produced to suit fast bowlers and spinners alike the struggle for quality bowlers will continue.

With Sri Lanka lined-up to play several Test matches during the course of the year which are part of the ICC Test Championship, it has become a growing concern at the scarcity of quality fast bowlers in their line-up to fill the shoes of anyone retiring. Lakmal’s retirement is a case in point.