Lankan team only lacks experience - Former Observer Schoolboy
Cricketer Kumar Dharmasena
Observer Schoolboy Cricketer turned ICC elite panel international
umpire Kumar Dharmasena does not see any crisis situation in the Sri
Lanka national team. In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer
during his short visit to Colombo for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year,
Dharmasena said he does not see any crisis or an alarming situation in
the Sri Lanka team.
The former Sri Lanka all-rounder who was a member of the 1996 World
Cup-winning team, attributed the recent dismal performance of the
national team due to lack of experience and international exposure and
expressed confidence that the team would be able to bounce back in near
Dharmasena said winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year
title in 1989 was the turning point in his cricket career and paid a
tribute to the Sunday Observer and the present sponsor SLT Mobitel for
keeping the mega awards ceremony going, identifying it is a great source
of encouragement to thousands of schoolboy cricketers across the island.
The excerpts from the exclusive interview Dhramasena had with the
Sunday Observer in his shot visit to Colombo during the Indian Premier
League tournament in which he is officiating at present.
When you compare with the present day school cricket and that of your
era, what are the differences you see?
Firstly, there is a drastic drop in spectator interest. When I was
playing for Nalanda in the late 80s, we saw good crowds at most of the
inter-school matches. But it does not happen now. That may be due to
various factors Ė too much of cricket and the spectatorsí preference to
watch the television coverage under home comforts.
Secondly and the most importantly, present day schoolboy cricketers
are being groomed more on T20 games and limited over cricket, rather
than the conventional two-day matches. During our time, we were mainly
focused on outright wins in schools two-day matches. Our coaches always
told us to earn wickets with quality bowling. But now, itís a matter of
the bowlers trying to contain the batsmen to go through the overs or
batsmen going for unconventional strokes to maintain their run rate in
limited over games. That kills the established game.
How did you feel when you were adjudged the proud recipient of the
prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year some 27 years ago?
It was the biggest turning point in my cricket career. In fact it was
a big blessing to my school career when I stepped in to club cricket and
international arena after representing Nalanda in school cricket.
When you win such award, you are always a step ahead. It was the most
rewarding thing that a schoolboy cricketer could ever dream of, after
all the hard work during a strenuous season of over seven months. The
Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award was a source of
encouragement for me to go places in international cricket.
How could Sri Lanka national team get out of its present crisis
situation? What are your suggestions to build another world champion
I donít see it as a crisis but a situation that they have encountered
due to lack of experience and international exposure. Everyone concerned
will have to take the blame. There is enormous talent to feed the
national pool. We always had rich talent. But the problem was that we
have not set the right retirement plans for the top cricketers and
allowed them to retire whenever they wish. When most top players quit in
the same era, a big vacuum develops in the team.
In other countries, players are given optional retirement plans at
the right time, in the best interests of their teams. For an example, a
top player like Shane Watson had to call it a day as his team wanted to
groom a prospective player to establish in that position in the next few
years. Unfortunately we have not implemented such retirement plans for
the past eight to ten years.
In the past we have seen some top schoolboy cricketers marching
directly to the national team from school level and cement their places
in next to no time, for an example you and some of the other star
players in the same era, such as Muttiah Muralitharan and Marvan
Atapapptu. Why donít we experience that now?
There again, it is a problem that could be attributed to present they
strategies of school cricket coaches and officials who pay undue
attention on limited over cricket and T20s.
The present day schoolboy cricketers are not focused enough on the
longer version of the game. During our time, almost every top team had
players who have captured over 80 wickets or scored over 800 to 1,000
runs. But we donít experience that now. They only try to contain the
batsmen and donít work hard to earn wickets. This is the scenario we
experience not only at Under-19 level but in other age groups in school
cricket as well.
Your vigil eye during the recent ICC T20 World Cup found the ultimate
anchorman in the champion West Indies team Marlon Samuels a fair deal
the final against England. Samuels appeared to have edged a Liam
Plunkett delivery to England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler. Samuels started
his long walk back to the pavilion. It looked to the naked eye as if the
ball had landed right into the gloves of Buttler. How do you recall that
I was standing as the square leg umpire and felt as if there was
something amiss about what had happened. We, in the umpiresí panel,
always work as a team and when I expressed my views, it was decided to
consult to the TV umpire who ultimately ruled Samuels not out.
Television replays showed that the ball had clearly bounced before
entering Buttlerís gloves. (Samuels went on to play a match-winning
innings of 85 not out)
Now that you have achieved great heights as a cricketer, what are
your future goals as an international umpire? Which level of umpiring
you enjoy the most - Tests, ODI or T20s?
Honestly, I enjoy the most as a Test umpire. Officiating as an umpire
in the Ashes series or a Test at the Lordís is greater than any other
level in the limited over games.
There is no doubt about that! I wish to complete 50 Tests as an ICC
umpire and see how it goes thereafter.