Former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga blamed Sri Lanka’s cricket board Tuesday for the squad’s crushing three-Test series whitewash on home soil against India.
Ranatunga said Sri Lanka’s XI could not be faulted for the humiliating 3-0 drubbing described by skipper Dinesh Chandimal as the worst series of his career, but squared the blame entirely with management.
“Sri Lanka cricket is going through the worst period,” Ranatunga told reporters in Colombo.
“You can’t blame only the players, they are demoralised. It is the fault of the management.”
The comprehensive series defeat compounded woes for a side beset by injury woes and leadership changes.
Ranatunga renewed calls for Sri Lanka Cricket chief Thilanga Sumathipala to be sacked, and urged the International Cricket Council to investigate management at the board.
Last week, Ranatunga, 53, told AFP there was no “proper discipline” in the national side, which has suffered a string of humiliating home defeats in recent months.
“We don’t have selectors with a backbone,” Ranatunga said, referring to the panel headed by Sanath Jayasuriya, a former teammate of Ranatunga’s 1996 World Cup-winning side.
Ranatunga has accused Sumathipala of involvement in gambling — a charge which would preclude him from a board position at Sri Lanka Cricket — and urged the ICC to investigate. Sumathipala has vehemently denied the allegations.
Sumathipala told the media last week that Ranatunga was leading a smear campaign against him in a bid to wrest leadership of the board for himself.
“Every time the game is affected at the middle, Sri Lanka cricketers are not performing to the expectation, we hear this kind of noise coming from the same quarter,” Sumathipala said.
Since retiring from the game, Ranatunga has entered politics and was an unelected cricket administrator in 2008.
Last month he demanded an investigation into Sri Lanka’s 2011 World Cup loss to India, which was marred by allegations of match-fixing.
Ravichandran Ashwin grabbed four wickets on Monday as India crushed Sri Lanka by an innings and 171 runs inside three days to complete their first three-Test series sweep on foreign soil.
Ashwin and paceman Mohammed Shami shared seven wickets as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 181 during their follow-on in an extended second session in Pallekele.
Sri Lanka had crumbled for 135 in response to India’s 487 in the first innings, putting the world’s top Test team in firm control as early as day two.
All-rounder Hardik Pandya set up the win with his blistering, 96-ball 108, cracking his maiden Test century in just his third game.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav turned up the heat with four wickets in Sri Lanka’s first innings as the islanders conceded a 352-run first innings lead.
And Ashwin kept up the pressure on the beleaguered hosts, striking the first blow of the morning session by sending back opener Dimuth Karunaratne for 16.
Skipper Dinesh Chandimal, who made 36, provided some resistence during his 65-run fifth-wicket stand with Angelo Mathews.
Kuldeep, playing just his second Test, broke the partnership with Chandimal’s wicket just after lunch, and Ashwin soon got Mathews for 35 as Sri Lanka slipped further.
Shami combined with Ashwin to mop up the tail as beleaguered Sri Lanka suffered their second successive innings loss after the Colombo Test.
Where is Sri Lankan cricket headed? At the end of the second day’s play in Pallekele, Sunil Gavaskar didn’t mince his words.
“This isn’t Test cricket. India haven’t been tested at all. Sri Lanka will struggle to beat a decent Ranji Trophy side,” he said on air with the official broadcaster.
The legendary cricketer-turner-commentator always speaks his mind but very rarely crosses over onto the blunt side. And he isn’t wrong, for it is tough to recall a single phase of play in three Tests this series wherein India might have been in a spot of bother. This potentially could be the drabbest Test series ever played.
You don’t even need to look back at the first two Tests. Just consider what transpired at Pallekele over two sessions – post-tea on day one and pre-lunch on day two. After 188/0 at one stage, India were restricted to 329/6 at stumps. For the first time, the world No1 Test team was feeling uneasy. Sri Lanka seemed to have built on their second-innings fight-back in Colombo. Yet, on this second morning, unable to get out Hardik Pandya and restrict India to 350-odd, the hosts simply fizzled out.
Pandya smacked a maiden Test hundred off 86 balls, including 26 runs off one over, and India reached 487. Lanka were then bowled out for 135 in their first innings, a ghastly batting performance. Even the normally reliable Angelo Mathews (below) is struggling. In reality, it was a microcosm of the series. India haven’t moved out of second gear, Lanka have given up without a fight. It is almost as if the visitors have taken pity and not landed the final knockout blow in each round.
Everywhere you go, from Galle to Colombo to Kandy, there is so much history. This is the land of Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Chaminda Vaas, Mahela Jayawardene and Muttiah Muralitharan. When they left, one by one, it left a gaping hole. But all countries go through a transition phase. Just how has Lankan cricket come down to this?
“A performance like this hurts but we are playing the No1 side in the world,” said batting coach Hashan Tillakaratne. Bowling coach Vaas also offered similar thoughts. This isn’t the answer to the aforementioned question, and the harsher truth is that there is no easy answer.
You look at the cross-batted shots on day two, and wonder where the momentary resolve shown in Colombo has gone.
Could it be a mental issue, when facing a demoralising total? It was certainly the case in Kandy, as Pandya’s onslaught would have flattened any team. But performances such as Pandya’s cannot justify this shocking downward curve.
Shoddy batting is no excuse with grass shaved off the pitch before the start of this game, under the watchful eyes of chief selector Jayasuriya. Even a flat wicket cannot be considered their best shot to salvage a draw, particularly when the batting was on thin ice against a Zimbabwean spin attack (before the India series) as well. Is this classified under plain nonchalance on the part of the batsmen, then?
At least lack of experience was a genuine excuse for their pacers in this Test – Vishwa Fernando and Lahiru Kumara have played 10 Tests between them – as they came up short on day one with the new ball.
Anyone looking for answers needs to go deep into the malaise. There has been an upheaval, in Lankan selection policy, stemming right from the lower levels to the very top. The first-class structure has totally been ripped apart, and the school/club structure is unable to support the top-tier of domestic cricket in this country as a consequence. And all of this has been done to find the natural successors to the likes of Sangakkara and Jayawardene.
Clubs form the core of designated first-class cricket in Sri Lanka, and for the best part of two years now there has been absolute confusion as to what exactly is going on. Sri Lanka Cricket expanded the number of clubs from a select, quality handful and this has had a varying effect on both the quality and quantity of the matches.
Then there is the small matter of pitches. Once a haven for mixed wickets, ranging from green tops to slow turners, domestic cricket is moving towards flat tracks to boost batsmen’s confidence. It hasn’t helped the bowlers at all, with pacers and spinners suffering in equal measure.
“We talk a lot about what ails first class cricket, but no matter how much we talk, the issue hasn’t moved forward. If we want to develop our cricket, we need to make pitches better suited for our bowlers, both pacers and spinners. It will only serve our players better,” said Vaas in Kandy.
First-class cricket is utterly disorganised in Sri Lanka. Those who are aware of the problem can only express their thoughts in public but do little else.
Meanwhile, India are still piling on the runs.