Sri Lanka are flirting with an embarrassing series whitewash in the third Test against India from Saturday as they struggle with problems on and off the pitch which have thrown the team into turbulence.
A series of poor results, the early departure of their coach and accusations against players and the country’s cricket chief have made for a difficult few months for the former one-day world champions.
Sri Lanka, lampooned by fans and described as pot-bellied by their sports minister, can now ill afford a third loss to top-ranked India in Pallekele, following their crushing defeats in Galle and Colombo.
They have not been helped by a succession of injuries, capped by a back problem which has sidelined their number one bowler, Rangana Herath, for the third Test.
Paceman Nuwan Pradeep could bowl only 17.4 overs in Colombo before pulling out with a hamstring injury, and all-rounder Asela Gunaratne are already out of the series.
Sri Lanka failed to reach the semi-finals of the eight-team Champions Trophy in June, and then lost their coach when Graham Ford quit mid-contract.
Worse was to come when they humiliatingly went down 3-2 in a home one-day series to bottom-ranked Zimbabwe.
Former captain Arjuna Ranatunga, a government minister, told AFP that he blamed Sri Lanka’s losses on cricket chief Thilanga Sumathipala, and accused him of links to gambling — a claim Sumathipala denies.
There have also been reports of attempts to approach Sri Lankan players for alleged match-fixing.
Skipper Dinesh Chandimal, who missed the first Test with pneumonia, says a consolation victory over India would help put the smiles back on his players’ faces.
“If we can win even one match against a team like this (India), we will be able to really boost the mental state in the team. They are the number one team,” said Chandimal.
“We need to pick up the positives and look forward to the next game.”
There are no such problems for Virat Kohli, who became the only India captain to win two Test series in Sri Lanka as his side smashed first innings of 600 and more in the opening two Tests.
Cheteshwar Pujara leads India’s run-scorers with two centuries and an average of more than 100 in India’s three innings so far.
India’s bowlers have also shone with spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin topping the wicket-takers’ chart with 13 and 11 respectively.
Jadeja is suspended for the third Test for a dangerous throw, with Axar Patel brought in as his like-for-like replacement in the India squad.
Despite their form, wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha insists India are taking nothing for granted.
“We haven’t thought about 3-0. Our process is match by match,” he said.
“We are ahead by 2-0, so in the next match the aim is to give similar performance as last two matches as a team in batting, bowling and fielding. We will try to be consistent and if we do then we can win.”
Former Test wicketkeeper Brad Haddin has joined the Australian team support staff as fielding coach until the end of 2019, Cricket Australia said Thursday.
Haddin replaces former Australia batsman Greg Blewett, who has taken up a position with the South Australian Cricket Association.
Haddin, 39, has coached the Australia A side and was an assistant coach during Australia’s tour of New Zealand earlier this year.
He also had a stint with Islamabad in the Pakistan Premier League.
His first assignment will be Australia’s two-Test tour to Bangladesh later this month.
“I grew up in an era of players like Andrew Symonds and Ricky Ponting who gave Australian cricket a real identity in the standards of world-class fielding,” Haddin said in a statement.
“I want to hold this group accountable to that kind of standard and I believe we have the talent to do that and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Haddin played 66 Tests, taking 262 catches, and playing 126 one-day internationals, and 34 T20 Internationals for Australia before retiring in 2015.
Former Australia skipper Michael Clarke has advocated the recall of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell in the England bating lineup ahead of the eagerly anticipated Ashes series Down Under in the latter half of the year.
Clarke took to social media to voice his opinion after England beat South Africa by 177 runs in Manchester to claim the four-match Test series 3-1.
“England look to be playing some really good cricket. Still believe they have some questions about their top three batting,” Clarke wrote on his Twitter account.
“Is Ian Bell available for the Ashes? Perfect No.3 for that team.”
“He would find whatever was required if he was picked for the Ashes,” Clarke wrote about Pietersen. “One player does not make a team but I do believe he is a big loss.”
With just over three months to go for the Ashes, we look at the pros and cons of recalling England’s former batting stalwarts.
Despite what looks like a comprehensive 3-1 win on paper over the Proteas, the English batting lineup still has multiple holes after a series in which both sets of batsmen failed to completely assert themselves.
Questions still remain over the roles of Keaton Jennings, Tom Westley and Dawid Malan in the England setup.
The Cambridge born Westley scored a fine half-century at the Oval Test but has failed to convert his three other starts in the number three role. Bell could slip into his old familiar role as England’s number three.
Likewise, Pietersen remains a perfect foil for the number five spot in the lineup with Malan’s struggles in the role evident with his combined total of 35 runs in four innings till now.
Both Pietersen and Bell have over a 100 Tests to their credit and as such their vital experience, especially in Australia could have an important bearing on the performance of the English batting.
Both batsmen have scored four centuries each against the Aussies. Pietersen’s highest Test score of 227 was achieved in Adelaide in the Ashes 2010-11 series while he also scored a magnificent 158 in the same venue in 2006.
Bell had a fabulous series in 2013 when the Aussies visited England where he scored three tons and two half-centuries.
Pietersen’s last Test in the whites of England was over three years ago in January, 2014 while Bell’s last Test was over two years ago in October, 2015.
With such a long absence from the English Test setup, it would be difficult for the two to slot right back into the fold.
Bell, captaining Warwickshire in the County Championship, has managed just 345 runs at an average of 24.64 this season and would need to do a lot better to stake a reclaim to his England spot.
Pietersen meanwhile has become a Twenty20 specialist globetrotting around the world in the various leagues of the shorter format. With no first-class cricket under his belt lately, his inclusion in the Test lineup would be somewhat of a stretch.
With Pietersen remaining a divisive figure in the English dressing room, it would be counter-productive to recall the maverick batsman into the fold.
At 37 years of age, the right-handed batsman’s selection would be stop-gap arrangement for the Joe Root led England as they look to build for the future.
Similarly Bell, who is now 35 would only be a temporary fix for the English as they look to get a settled batting lineup.
With younger players like Alex Hales still waiting in the wings it would be one-step forward, two-steps back for Root and the English selectors.