Player mind set is all wrong, says chief selector | Daily News
Critical of individuals sitting on their laurels

Player mind set is all wrong, says chief selector

Dhananjaya de Silva
Dhananjaya de Silva

Chief selector Ashantha de Mel was critical of the batting performance of Sri Lanka in the recently concluded two-Test series against Pakistan and said that the seniors have been sitting too much in their comfort zones and need to contribute.

Sri Lanka lost the series 0-1 drawing the rain-affected first Test at Rawalpindi and losing the second Test played at Karachi by 263 runs with a day to spare.

Sri Lanka had the second Test under their control when they dismissed Pakistan for 191 on the first day, but frittered away that advantage when they managed only a first innings lead of 80 which was wiped away in next to no time by the Pakistani openers Abid Ali and Shan Masood who figured in a double century partnership. Pakistan built on that stand to post a massive 555-3 declared in their second innings leaving Sri Lanka to chase 476 for victory in one and a half days.

“When you bowl a side out for 191 you can’t get 270 you must put up something like 450 plus on the board. We could have easily batted that 1½ days. I didn’t see anything wrong with the pitch. For the time they had on their hands I actually thought we could chase the target of 476,” was how De Mel assessed the team’s poor second innings response as they were dismissed for 212.

“If you look at the way we got out we just didn’t have the application on a good batting track. The problem is we are not consistent. Against New Zealand even in the second Test we had a terrible last innings. We were all out for 122. If Oshada (Fernando) who is playing only his fourth Test could score a hundred and didn’t look like getting beaten all these players with 50-60 Test matches experience going and succumbing the way they did is unpardonable,” said De Mel.

“Look at the way (Niroshan) Dickwella got out. I told him you have 35 Test matches under your belt and you have never scored a hundred. He goes and plays a reverse sweep after scoring 65. At least make a fight and take the match till the end. If he scored a double hundred on that day we might have had a chance to win. How many shots he was playing,” he said.

“When did Angelo (Mathews) score his last hundred - in New Zealand in December 2018 and when did (Dinesh) Chandimal score his last hundred in West Indies in June 2018. He batted well in the first innings, but scoring 74 in these kind of games is not going to serve the purpose, unless you bat and put runs on the board you can’t defend. We don’t have a world beating bowling side.

“A person like Dhananjaya (de Silva) scored a hundred. He gives a catch to the previous ball and next ball he plays a loose shot and gets out. You have to be tight in your defence and have a good defence to play good Test cricket. You are vulnerable mostly in the first 25-30 balls but once you get in and score 15-20 runs you are up and running. Once you get a start you can’t throw it away. Sometimes you can get out in the first over that can happen.

“It’s the mindset, it’s all wrong. They’ve got to know how to build an innings and have patience. Test cricket has a lot of aspects not only your talent, how to apply yourself. See how the Pakistani batsmen batted. During difficult times they hung in and they ran well and rotated the strike,” De Mel said.

“We had a good meeting with the coach (Mickey Arthur) and the players. What the coach wants is excellence. You can’t have these performance of scoring in one game and going on that laurel for the rest of the series. They are comfortable just cruising along with mediocre performances and the coach has emphasized that very strongly. They have to be told if you are mediocre you will not play. That kind of message must go through.

“We have invested in younger players. (Lasith) Embuldeniya bowled well he took four wickets, Oshada came and scored a hundred and there are so many younger players. What the coach told me is, ‘I don’t expect anything other than excellence, mediocre performance is something I cannot accept’. “

From the bowling aspect De Mel said, “They must understand if the wicket is flat you’ve got to create pressure by not giving them runs - bowl a good line to a very tight field and at least go for less than 2½ runs an over. So if they bat 90 overs maximum the batting side can make in a day is about 220-230 but here in one session we gave 160. “If you can’t get wickets then you must be able to bowl tightly. The Pakistan batsmen just sit on a length and wait for the loose balls whereas our guys are impatient and they flash at balls outside the stumps. It is a learning process so let the coach work with them and use the Zimbabwe tour as a starting point to change things around.”

Speaking on the constant batting failures of the highly talented Kusal Mendis, De Mel said that he had a flaw in his batting that needs to be corrected.

“Kusal has a technical problem, when he is playing he is opening his back foot and playing at balls that are just outside the off stump which he can leave. It’s a very small thing to correct. He is a good player and he is out of form because he is getting out caught in the slips,” said De Mel.

“There is a small flaw in his technique. He will work with the batting coach Grant Flower. We need to get him back to form. He is one player we need. He has got a lot of potential and talent, it’s a case of a small technical flaw. Even Angelo Mathews is also opening out. The coach showed him he was more weight forward but now he is more weight back that’s why he is finding himself squared up because he is going back instead of coming forward.”{

De Mel said that the coaches are going to work with these players and put it right. “We are on the right path but we need a bit of time to get these players on track. It’s gradually falling into place. I am sure you will see that in the next Test series against Zimbabwe.”

Overall De Mel described the security offered by Pakistan as ‘superb’ and added, “This time the players went out to malls and food parlours, they went out with security protection” unlike on their last tour for the limited-over series where the players were confined to their hotel.


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