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Sunday, 25 December 2011





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Sri Lankans must turn a new page

Before going on to deliver my Sunday homily, we wish all readers of this column a Merry Xmas and the blessings in this season of goodwill and cheer.

Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas and a holiday the world over, will see Two Test cricket matches starting tomorrow between Australia and India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and South Africa versus Sri Lanka at Kingsmead Cricket Ground in Durban.

First to the Second Test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka.

If the mauling that the rampaging South Africans slapped on us at the Centurion by dumping us by an innings and 81 runs with more than two days to spare, is a yardstick, then cricket fans would not be faulted if they settle for a repeat.

From that defeat what was obvious was that the Sri Lankan game is in jeopardy. To get beaten by innings and with over two days to spare is incomprehensible and embarrassing for a team that occupied, in the not too distant past, the top echelons of the international game.

Ruthless display

Following the ruthless display by the South Africans, it would be best for the Sri Lankan team to simply turn a new page and erase from their minds the trauma of the defeat inflicted on them, and start afresh. The situation calls for a complete change in approach and the need for a renewed and invigorated spirit.

At this level the Sri Lankan team will need to be psyched up in spirit.

This can best be done by a psychologist. Skipper Tilakaratne Dilshan when questioned about having a psychologist with the team at the Pallekelle Test against Australia, welcomed the idea. But that idea began and ended at Pallekelle.

Now that the South Africans drew first blood on a green top which favoured their pace bowlers, they are sure to go in with a similar wicket in the Second Test in Durban too in an endeavour to win and wrap up the Three Test series.

Unwritten law

Preparing any kind of wicket is the home team's prerogative. It is an unwritten law and there's no challenging or contesting that prerogative. The South Africans will continue to make the best use of it and allow their pace bowlers to run riot.

Instead of making excuses, the Lankans must understand that whatever wicket is prepared, it is the same for both teams. In the First Test the Lankans faltered and were sadly out of depth in all aspects of the game.

This is the time that the Lankan cricketers to wake up from their downward spiral and perform the way we know they can. They need to believe in themselves. It's only then that disjointed pieces of this jig-saw will fall into place.

They must shed the inferiority complex and front up to the South Africans, remembering that their opponents are not entirely invincible; that they have their own weaknesses and these need to be tactically exploited.

The Lankan team, particularly the batsmen should refresh themselves with a "can do" attitude and make the grade.

Make batsmen play

The bowlers must use the wicket and the conditions and pitch the ball up and make the batsmen play. They were guilty of doing the opposite in the First Test. At this level the fielders must cling on to the half chances.

Dilshan as captain must perform with responsibility in all aspects. He should not bat recklessly, throw away his wicket and allow his team to sink or swim and take refuge in the excuse that hitting recklessly is his style of play, which defies meaning.

There are many things that are best forgotten, but one can be excused for remembering some moments of levity.

Laughter was provided by 10 and Jack, Chanaka Welegedera and Dilhara Fernando who seemed to suffer funkitis running away from Dale Steyns thunderbolts and having their stumps sent cart wheeling. It was as a sad reflection of their ability, and no less that of the batting coach.

Also it was intriguing to watch Mahela Jayawardena forgetting to cover the wicket at the non-striker's end when scampering a needless single and allowing Jacques Kallis an open wicket to aim at and strike.

Anyway here's hoping that the Lankan cricketers will rally, show resilience and end the year on a happy note.

Tendulkar the cynosure

From Durban we take a flight and touch down in Melbourne and the MCG where thunder down under will strike when Australia hosts India in the First of Four Tests beginning tomorrow. Sachin Tendulkar will be the cynosure of all eyes.

The previous tour down under between the two teams ended in acrimony which also led to one of the best umpires of that era Steve Bucknor quitting, after the Indians did not appreciate his decisions.

That is history now and the First of Four Tests beginning today will be chockfull of interest and special interest will be centred on India's cricketing demigod Tendulkar, and whether he will be able to tot up his 100th, 100 in the game.

Perched on 99 100s

He is now perched on 99 hundreds and the 100 that he is looking to rewrite the record books eluded him in matches against England and the West Indies. He will surely be determined to get it over with in this series.

And if and when he reaches that land mark, his legion of fans all over the world and his country will go crazy and celebrate for days and months on end with gifts flooding his way and with his club in Bombay promising to gift him with 100 gold coins to mark the landmark.

That apart the Aussies will be looking to erase that humiliating defeat against New Zealand in the Final Test in Hobart and pocket this series in a endeavour to regain their lost glory in the game.


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