Why Sri Lanka are struggling for quality spinners | Daily News


Why Sri Lanka are struggling for quality spinners

Sri Lanka’s attempt to get spinners Akila Dananjaya and Tharindu Kaushal cleared by the ICC over their bowling actions which were reported to be illegal ahead of the 2019 World Cup only shows their desperation for wicket-taking bowlers which is affecting their performance as a one-day side.

The recently concluded ODI series in New Zealand starkly revealed the problem Sri Lanka has at hand. Whereas Sri Lanka’s spinner Lakshan Sandakan picked up only a solitary wicket in the three matches, New Zealand’s spinner Ish Sodhi took eight – the most by any bowler from either side.

Moreover Sri Lanka failed to bowl New Zealand out in any of the three ODIs and of the 18 wickets that fell, five were effected by run outs. On flat batting tracks which is what they will get for the World Cup in England Sri Lanka’s bowling was found to be wanting. After skipper Lasith Malinga had given the side the initial breakthroughs the rest of the bowling lacked the penetration and wicket-taking ability to pick up wickets in the middle overs. As a result the opposition went into the final 20 overs with wickets in hand and they simply made mincemeat of the bowling to notch up match-winning totals that was beyond the Lankan batters to chase down.

Why Sri Lanka are lacking in wicket-taking bowlers is two-fold. One is that the pitches prepared for domestic matches favour the spinners so much that they are hardly asked to work for their wickets. They get wickets simply on a platter and when confronted with flat tracks they lack the skill and the wherewithal to take wickets and become cannon fodder for batsmen.

Dananjaya until he was reported was doing the job for Sri Lanka in the middle overs by taking wickets which stopped the opposition from going helter-skelter at the bowling in the death overs as they did not have enough wickets in hand.

It was only the other day chairman of selectors Ashantha de Mel queried the rationality of Malinda Pushpakumara taking all ten wickets in an innings in a spell of 18.4 overs having opened the bowling from one end in a Major league first-class match between CCC and Saracens. In the same match another left-arm spinner Chamika Edirisinghe from the opposing camp picked up nine in an innings.

“If you can take all ten wickets in an innings you must be an exceptionally good spinner but against England he was struggling to get wickets on those turners,” said De Mel.

Left-arm spinner Pushpakumara who is being looked at as the successor to the legendary Rangana Herath finished as the third highest wicket-taking spinner in the series after Dilruwan Perera and Akila Dananjaya with nine wickets at an average of 31.33.

The core issue here is that unless Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) keeps a strict check on the pitches prepared for their first-class tournaments the home team will continue to make spin-oriented tracks assisting the spinners providing them with cheap wickets, which overall has a detrimental effect on the national team when they play at international level and especially overseas on flat batting tracks.

The school and club coaches too must take a share of the blame as they look for ways of winning at all cost to safeguard their positions.

The other problem that Sri Lanka cricket faced but now to a great extent has been arrested is the reluctance on the part of the umpires and match referees to call or report a bowler for throwing at school level. This had led to a plethora of bowlers coming through the system with suspect bowling actions. Although they managed to escape detection at domestic level due to the nonchalant attitude of match officials they are exposed very badly when they play at international level starting with the under 19 World Cup.

In an effort to curb this malady Sri Lanka Cricket in 2014 began a campaign by setting up a System Bowling Action Review Committee to weed out bowlers with suspect actions from the under 13 age group upwards creating an awareness for school coaches and umpires and encouraging them to report such bowlers. It was also expanded to the domestic club cricket as well. The drive it seems has been a success for from around 300-400 cases at the inception the figure has been drastically reduced to about 7-8 last year.

Over the years Sri Lanka lost potential off-spin bowlers like Rukshan Jaleel, Raveen Sayer and AK Tyron to name a few – all prolific wicket-takers in school cricket because of the lack of preventive measures being taken to correct their bowling actions at a younger age.

Now with the System Bowling Action Review Committee in place it is hoped the future will be bright for Sri Lanka and that it will pave the way for match-winning bowlers to make their mark in the national team.

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