- First Test starts in Galle on Sunday
- Bad weather hampers preparations
By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Following an overdose of white ball cricket especially in the T20 format, Sri Lanka will be trying to get to grips playing the more conventional Test format when they take on West Indies in two Tests starting at the Galle International Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
The current inclement weather conditions have not made preparations any easier, especially for the Test specialists who have been with no competitive cricket since 3 May when Sri Lanka’s last Test series ended against Bangladesh.
Since that series, Sri Lanka has had a surfeit of white ball cricket playing 12 ODIs and 17 T20Is.
The commencement of the Major Limited Overs inter-club tournament was the only competitive cricket these players had to prepare themselves for the rigours of a five-day Test match, but that too has been affected due to bad weather, resulting in little or no play in the majority of matches.
Test Captain Dimuth Karunaratne, who captains SSC, has played three matches and spent time in the middle for only 65 balls, whereas his teammate Roshen Silva, who now plays for SSC, has done slightly better facing 95 balls in the three matches he has appeared in.
Former captain Angelo Mathews, another key figure in the Test line up has played only two matches for Colts but stayed 88 balls at the wicket, while Suranga Lakmal, Sri Lanka’s Test spearhead and the captain of Tamil Union has bowled 23 overs in the four matches he has played.
Seven of the players named in the Test squad of 22 (that is currently awaiting Sports Ministry approval) – Oshada Fernando, Lasith Embuldeniya, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Kamil Mishara, Suminda Lakshan and Chamika Gunasekara – have had some sort of first-class cricket action, turning out for Sri Lanka ‘A’ against Pakistan ‘A’ in the two-match four-day unofficial test series in Pallekele, which was also affected by bad weather.
A further eight were involved in the recently concluded T20 World Cup, namely Dinesh Chandimal, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Pathum Nissanka, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara and Praveen Jayawickrama.
Players like Minod Bhanuka have not appeared in a match since the two ODIs he played against South Africa in September, while Ramesh Mendis’ one appearance for Moors SC in the Major Limited Over tournament ended without a ball bowled and Lakshan Sandakan has not had any cricket since the SLC Invitational T20 League in August.
Overall, the players selected for the Test series are wholly short of red ball cricket, which demands a lot of time spent in the middle for the batsmen especially in building their innings and for the bowlers to be able hit a consistent line and length and bowl several overs in a day – probably twice as much as they would in white ball cricket.
With barely five days to go before the commencement of the first Test, the players will be hard pressed not having spent sufficient time in the middle in red ball cricket.
The other question is with the weather being what it is at the moment whether five days of play can be guaranteed at Galle.
Even the pitch preparations we understand are taking a beating from the weather with the curator struggling to make the customary spin-friendly tracks that Galle is renowned for.
Meanwhile the West Indies have also had their preparations for the series hampered by the weather. Their four-day warm-up game against an SLC President’s XI was washed out without a ball being bowled for the third successive day at the SSC grounds yesterday, leaving them with hardly any cricket since they arrived in Sri Lanka.
Prior to coming to Sri Lanka, the West Indies had played a couple of Best v Best matches to select the team for the tour and chief selector Roger Harper said: “The Best v Best matches provided the opportunity for the players to spend some time in the middle honing their skills for this tour. The aim was to simulate as much as possible the conditions that the team would likely face in Sri Lanka, so it was good to see the batsmen spending time at the crease while putting some scores together and the bowlers looking to build pressure and create wicket-taking opportunities.”
West Indies’ last Test series was against Pakistan in the Caribbean in August where they drew the two Tests one-all.