Sri Lanka’s resurgence – Frontline


Magician Muralitharan’s off-spin leads the checklist of things that specify Sri Lanka’s exceptional cricketing surge.

NIRGUNAN TIRUCHELVAM

THE complete victory that Sri Lanka has achieved over Pakistan in each the one-day sequence and the Take a look at sequence might be the signal of a brand new world order in Take a look at cricket. By repeating its 1995-96 overcome Pakistan, Sri Lanka reminded the cricket worl d that it might not be far behind the 2 main Take a look at nations, Australia and South Africa. The LG Sequence victory marked its sixth sequence triumph since January 1998, an excellent consequence for a nation whose temporary Take a look at historical past has been marred by periodic is olation and the staid reluctance on the a part of the older Take a look at nations to grant it common Take a look at matches.

Murali’s magic

No superlatives are enough to explain the important thing function that Muttiah Muralitharan has performed in Sri Lanka’s Take a look at resurgence. An off-spinner with indefatigable vitality and boundless enthusiasm, Muralitharan has starred in all of Sri Lanka’s latest Take a look at tri umphs. With 246 wickets in 50 Take a look at matches, Muralitharan is second solely to Lance Gibbs within the all-time checklist of off-spinners. He’s alone amongst modern Take a look at bowlers in that he will be efficient on any floor. As Ranjit Fernando memorably put it in th e summer season of 1998: “Murali can spin the ball on the M4,” (the reference being to a freeway in England).

Chief Government of Pakistan Gen. Pervez Musharraf greets Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya on February 26 on the Rawalpindi stadium.-

The famously prodigious flip together with the extra just lately acquired variation had been on full show within the Rawalpindi and Faisalabad Exams. The Pakistani batting line-up was torn between dogged defence and indulgent strokeplay as a response to the genius from Kandy.

Murali’s spectacular success towards a rustic adept at taking part in spin-bowling in its personal situations makes us overlook that it was not way back that he was considered a spinner with lower than a full bag of tips. In his early profession, Murali delivered almos t completely massive looping off-breaks. Regardless of his unerring line and the massive flip he was in a position to extract, a predictable Murali was handled as a poor relation within the Warne-Kumble-Mushtaq pantheon of spin bowlers. His colleagues and the coaches rued his incapacity to bowl the straight ball. Though he was profitable in his early profession, facile gamers of spin equivalent to Navjot Singh Sidhu and Mohammed Azharuddin punished his predictability. In his new avatar as an ESPN professional commentator, Sidhu argues that the important thing to taking part in Murali is to maneuver one’s toes down the pitch as late as potential as a result of Murali releases the ball on the final second. He ought to know. Sidhu, a savage hitter of spin bowlers, lifted Murali for a document eight sixes within the Lucknow Tes t of 1994 the place Sri Lanka, then the whipping boys of world cricket, succumbed meekly by an innings.

In the previous few years, Murali has developed a number of variations, together with the much-vaunted straighter ball. He may flip the ball away from the right-hander in a well-concealed method. He can range the trajectory of the supply very successfully.

Murali’s performances within the Faisalabad and Peshawar Exams amply demonstrated three features of his armoury that made the distinction between the 2 sides.

First, the quantity of spin that Murali generates means this. He cannot solely flip the ball but in addition extract extra bounce than a bowler of his 5 toes 6 inches body can be anticipated to. Therefore on placid, low surfaces equivalent to Peshawar, Murali was in a position to sur prise the batsman together with his sharp bounce, which helped the catches to hold to the close-in fielders. Secondly, there may be the bowler’s ever-improving accuracy. Murali hardly bowls a brief ball, which suggests he forces the batsman to play ahead on a regular basis . If one performs again to Murali, the batsman is nearly immediately in hassle as Yousuf Yohanna found within the second innings at Peshawar.

Lastly, Murali’s temperament and enthusiasm assist the group tide over disaster conditions. Actually, John Crawley, the captain of Lancashire the place Murali took 66 wickets at 11 apiece final season, was struck by his boundless willingness to bowl marathon spell s. In Faisalabad, when a courageous fightback from Wasim Akram and the debutant Younis Khan threatened to take the sport away from Sri Lanka, Murali’s confidence by no means wilted. He continued to flight the ball and entice the batsmen into taking part in their photographs. In Peshawar, when a gutsy, aggressive partnership between Yousuf Yohanna and Atiq-Uz-Zaman turned the match in Pakistan’s favour, Murali’s calm and picked up method was in distinction to the response of his excitable team-mates. As the stress mounted on the f ourth day within the capital of the Frontier province, Murali’s attribute decorum with officialdom was maintained. Given his calmness and perseverance, one is at a loss to elucidate the reluctance of the Sri Lankan selectors to raise their most prized b owling asset to the publish of vice-captain.

De Silva thrives within the winter of his profession

Murali’s efficiency shouldn’t take the lustre away from the self-discipline and the tenacity of Aravinda de Silva’s century, which was the cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s triumph in Rawalpindi. When de Silva hit an award-winning hundred for Kent towards Lancashi re within the 1995 Benson & Hedges closing, Mark Nicholas stated that de Silva had the aggression of Gordon Greenidge with the construct of Sunil Gavaskar. As soon as dismissively referred to as ‘Mad Max’ for his extravagant strokeplay, de Silva batted nicely inside himself. He pun ctuated painstaking defence with the ruthless punishment of unfastened deliveries, a lot in order that he could have extra in frequent with Gavaskar than their shortness of stature. De Silva’s certainty of placement and shot choice had been extra paying homage to the Litt le Grasp than the West Indian opener.

With the best of elbows and the nimblest of footwork, the 34-year-old Aravinda de Silva notched up his eighth Take a look at century towards Pakistan and his fourth on Pakistani soil. No batsman, previous or current, has hit as many centuries towards Pakistan, poss ibly the perfect assault within the sport — very similar to Gavaskar hit the document variety of lots of (13) towards the West Indies, essentially the most feared assault of his period.

Sanath Jayasuriya congratulates Muttiah Muralitharan on dismissing Pakistan’s opener Shahid Afridi on March eight on the Niaz stadium in Peshawar.-B.Okay. BANGASH/AP

New regime reaps success

The Whatmore-Jayasu-riya mixture has had a lot to do with Sri Lanka’s resurgence. Ranatunga, Sri Lanka’s Napoleonic chief for nearly a decade, met his Waterloo with Sri Lanka’s humiliating exit from the World Cup. The heavy defeat within the league match towards India at Taunton was a nadir in a six-month interval throughout which Ranatunga appeared to have misplaced the plot. In his dotage, Ranatunga was dictatorial and, in line with former coach Bruce Yardley, handled the gamers like “servants”.

The return of Dave Whatmore, an architect of the 1996 World Cup triumph, and the appointment of the mild-mannered Sanath Jayasuriya have dramatically turned the group’s fortunes round. The Aiwa Cup win and the 1-Zero victory within the rain-marred sequence agains t the world champions, Australia, confirmed that the vicissitudes of world cricket flip sharply.

The success of the Whatmore-Jayasuriya mixture has a lot to do with Whatmore’s use of contemporary teaching strategies and Jayasuriya’s mild method. Whatmore offers with every participant on a person foundation, discussing match situations in a case-study format. At any time when a Pakistani revival passed off, the detailing planning on the a part of the Sri Lankans ensured that the pendulum swing was solely non permanent.

Aravinda de Silva (left) and Arjun Ranatunga run between the wickets on February 27 at Rawalpindi. De Silva notched up his eighth Take a look at century towards Pakistan.-B.Okay. BANGASH/AP

The opposite side of the Whatmore regime has been the emphasis on fielding, a side of the Sri Lankan sport that was abysmal through the World Cup debacle. Every one of many group members was given intensive coaching in specialist fielding positions.

Ranatunga’s calmness

Ranatunga’s heroic partnership with Kaluwitharana in Rawalpindi will lengthy be a part of Sri Lankan cricket’s folklore. The previous captain’s calmness beneath stress and his acquainted deft contact lead one to imagine that ‘there may be nonetheless some petrol left within the tank’. Nevertheless tempting the proposition, the 36-year-old shouldn’t delay his profession for much longer. He has silenced his critics. Maybe it’s higher for the injured warhorse to name it a day with the sound of bugles sound and recent.

Rising expertise

The introduction of latest expertise in a group the place the principle batsmen had been round for greater than a decade was lengthy overdue. As a result of lengthy worldwide careers of gamers equivalent to Aravinda de Silva, Arjuna Ranatunga, Hashan Tillekeratne and Roshan Mahanama (derisively referred to as the ‘gang of 4’), many younger batsmen had been languishing on the doorsteps of world cricket. Essentially the most celebrated and gifted of those batsmen is the 22-year-old Mahela Jayawardene, who underlined his wealthy promise by scoring a memorabl e 242 towards India final 12 months. He has been prematurely and inexplicably elevated to the publish of vice-captain. Jayawardene’s latest kind has been patchy and his method impetuous, though his place within the aspect appears safe.

Tillekeratne Dilshan, 23, who controversially modified his title from Tuan Mohammed Dilshan final 12 months, is one other member of the younger brigade. His success within the A tour to England paved the way in which for his Take a look at profession. His 163 towards Zimbabwe in solely his seco nd Take a look at reveals that he’s clearly a person with the temperament for the lengthy sport. His fielding has been a revelation.

Russel Arnold, 26, is a top-order batsman whose worldwide profession started a lot later than he deserved owing to the myopia of the Sri Lankan selectors. The Sri Lankan selectors entrusted the important thing No. three place to Roshan Mahanama, a participant with a Take a look at mat ch batting common under 30, for a number of seasons. Arnold is an excellent fielder and his fastish off-breaks give Jayasuriya extra choices together with his bowling.

Indika de Saram is one other success of the Zimbabwe tour. The 26 year-old is an outdated boy of the identical college that Sanath Jayasuriya attended in Matara, a small city in Sri Lanka’s south coast. Like his schoolmate, he’s an aggressive hitter.

No assist for Murali

Though the group is within the midst of a purple patch, some severe weaknesses have to be ironed out. The outstanding success of Murali has distracted cricket followers from the truth that Sri Lanka has produced neither a daily leg-spinner nor a daily le ft-arm spinner prior to now decade. This reality was painfully delivered to gentle when the administration selected to depart out Rangana Herath, a younger left-arm spinner, on a gradual turning pitch in Peshawar. Herath is a 22-year-old whose profitable A tour of England i n 1999 put him in place for a call-up to the senior aspect.

Herath performed a component in Sri Lanka’s 1-Zero triumph within the residence sequence towards Australia final 12 months. The Australians had been shocked by his uncanny means to show the odd ball in to the right-hander. His thriller ball confused the Australians. Endurance and an enthusiasm to show the ball aggressively are his belongings. Sadly, he has not figured in a Take a look at match abroad, being confined to the reserve benches on the excursions of Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

Since assuming the captaincy, Jayasuriya has been a pale shadow of the dashing batsman who tormented worldwide bowlers throughout 1996-98. He continues to flash perilously exterior the off-stump. Though Whatmore has refined his approach to chop out the lofted photographs, his Take a look at kind has been poor. It’s felt that he ought to defend himself from the brand new ball and bat down the order. Arnold, a left-handed specialist opener, is a perfect associate for the trendy Marvan Attapattu.

Regardless of Sri Lanka’s Take a look at match success, the islanders proceed to be ignored by the older Take a look at taking part in nations. England has condescended to grant Sri Lanka solely six Exams (all one-off) within the 18 years since Sri Lanka achieved Take a look at standing. Even the ne west Take a look at-playing nation, Zimbabwe, has performed a Take a look at sequence towards England. The West Indies have been even worse, granting Sri Lanka solely three Exams. Hopefully, Sri Lanka’s new rise in world cricket will finish this step-motherly therapy.

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