Sri Lanka’s 282-run second Test defeat to South Africa at Cape Town in handing the 3-match series to the hosts last week does raise questions as to the preparedness of Angelo Mathews’ team. They lost the first test at Port Elizabeth by 206 runs with the huge margins does comparatively reflect a marked difference between the two sides.
Between the batting and the bowling, the Sri Lankan bowlers fared better than the batsmen restricting the opposition to 286 in the first innings of the first test taking first lease though wilting in the second essay conceding 406 for 6 wickets. But the Sri Lanka’s first innings dismissal for 205 was a factor that undermined the efforts of their bowling counterparts on the back of a 5-wicket haul by Suranga Lakmal. Of course, the second Test was wrested their way by the South African batsmen in a pendulum swaying century by opener Dean Elgar despite some frontline early firing by Lakmal with two wickets and debutant Lahiru Kumara one scalp up there with the latter going on to pick up 6 wickets though proving expensive conceding 122 runs in a spell of 25 overs. That it was the Lankan batsmen who roundly failed to build up sizable totals in a departure from the past where the team reliance weighed much on the batsmen marked by indiscriminate stroke play in an apparent show of indiscipline and of not having done their homework. Still worse, there has been an apparent lameness as well within with a pointed example being the second test second innings LBW decision that went against Dhananjaya De Silva where on his failing to ask for a referral, one wondered as to why his captain Angelo Mathews, who was the non striker, did not draw his attention to the need; more so considering the dire straits Sri Lanka was in and where De Silva’s wicket was crucial to Sri Lanka’s cause.
Given the two debacles, the apparent lack of a game plan is a lead up post mortem pondering as to the Sri Lankan camp’s steering wheels where the importance of the player motivation role of the expert coaching apparatus, and particularly of the Head Coach in the South African born Graham Ford does surface in the final analysis. While no coach can do the job for his charges in the harsh rigours of the playing field, certainly the coaches influence in steeling the players mentally is modern cricket’s most demanding chore in that ultimate pep talk before they take the field for all the physical high tech spade work the head coach is the bottom line to his chore; a task in whipping up a match winning component.
Here, it is significant to dip in to the past when such coaches like Dav Whatmore and Tom Moody proved to be two tough taskmasters in attuning the players in a thorough process that saw a surge in the island nation’s cricket as far as winning combinations went. In this instance, with Sri Lanka playing in Ford’s homeland indeed the team could benefit a mite more by his in depth knowledge of South African conditions and still more importantly, the opponents strengths and weaknesses has been the fervent hope of all Sri Lankan cricket lovers.
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-
By Srian Obeyesekere