Friday, April 9, 2010
All time Srilankan team
Just like cricinfo, I also thought of picking an all time Srilankan team. I have always been fascinated by the flair that Lankan players bring to cricket and they are no doubt one of the few teams who I would pay to watch. It has been only about 28 years since they gained test status, so most fans would pick similar all time teams, though it has to be said that they have produced some really good cricketers over the years.
S. Desilva/ De Mel
If I think about openers, it is hard to look beyond Jayasurya and Attapatu. Jayasuirya and Marvan formed a good partnership at top of the order in the 90's and in early 2000's. Compared to one-day cricket, Jayasuriya may not have been that good in test cricket yet, when one thinks of knocks like his double hundred in England at Oval in 1998, his blistering knock against Australia in 1995/96 at Adelaide, when for the first time he was given the chance to open the innings in test cricket and his swashbuckling century against Australia in 2003 at home, it can be safely said that he has been good for the Lankan team in test cricket. Attapatu had a dreadful start to his test career as he got lots of zeroes. It really speaks volumes for that guy as he made a comeback and did well in test cricket. It requires very good temperament to make a comeback after having such a dreadful start to one's career. I picked Attapatu for his ability to get big scores which can be seen by the fact that he has four double hundreds and an 185 to his name. He was technically good and more importantly he and Jayasuriya opened the innings for Lanka for a considerable period of time.
I did consider Whittemuny, Mahanamma, Dilshan and Hyne. Whittemuny was said to be a fine player, but wasn't consistent enough as a opener and strangely struggled more in home conditions. Mahannama had his moments in test cricket as no Srilankan fan can forget his exemplary knock of 225 against India in 1997, when he and Jayausirya put together the highest ever partnership for any wicket. It has to be said that his knock of 225 came at number 3. The factors that go against him are, he was inconsistent and ended his career with an average of below 30. I also thought that his biggest problem was his fitness. He had the tendency to get dehydrated and I haven't see any batsman, who got retired hurt more than Mahanamma. He was no doubt a fine player through the on-side and his wrist work was always a delight to watch. He also had the patience and determination to play long innings, but just wasn't consistent enough and was hampered by fitness problems to get into an all time team. I'm sure that aggressive Dilshan would get into an all time team in a few year time. It is just that I would like to see him continue to perform well as an opener for another couple of years before, I pick him in an all time team. I have to mention Heyn as well. I didn't pick him as he didn't play test cricket, but some knowledgeable cricket fans do agree that he was quite good, but unfortunately for him, Lanka got test status only in 1982 and Heyn at that time had retired from cricket.
If I look at the middle-order, the player who is missing is of course Ranatunga. Yes, he was a fine captain as he led Srilanka when they stunned the cricketing world by lifting the world cup in 1996 and was a gutsy batsman, but Dias was said to be a very elegant player. I always have a soft coroner for elegant players and that is why I went for Dias. I have seen a few saying that Greg Chappell once opined Dias was the best batsman going around. Added to it, Jayawerdena was a very good captain as one can remember the fact that Mahela captained the side well in the 2007 world cup and they did reach the finals in that tournament. I think he is a very underrated captain and it is a shame that he isn't leading the side at present. So, in my view Jayawerdena can also do a fine job as a captain. I don't think there can be question marks regarding the selections of Sanga, Desilva and of course Mahela himself. I always thought that De Silva in his prime had a great technique against the quicker bowlers. For instance, he played some fine knocks against both Donald and the fiery Schultz in 1993 and that is why I selected him to bat at the crucial number 3 position. Both Sanga and Mahela have great records and it is interesting to see that Sanga has a very good record away from home as well. Both are no doubt world class players.
I also have to mention the names of D. Mendis, Tennekon, Gurusinha and Samaraweera. The general feeling is Tennekon was a very fine player, but just like Heyn, he retired from cricket before Lanka got test status. Mendis was another fine player, and was known for being a brave batsman against the quicker bowlers. Both Dias and Mendis were the pillars of the Lankan batting in the 80's and both mesmerized the Indian attack in 1982/83 with their masterful strokeplay. It came to be famously known as Roy and Duleep show. Samaraweera has a very good record in test cricket, but I'm not yet convinced that he can be good when playing away from home. The left-handed Gurusinha was a fine batsman too, but unfortunately everyone can't be selected.
Most may go for Sangakkara as a wicketkeeper, but if one looks at his stats it can be easily seen that he plays so much better when he isn't the wicketkeeper. As a wicketkeeper he averages 40.48 which is quite good, but has a stunning record when he just plays as a batsman as he averages 73.86! I would surely like to maximise his batting potential especially, when one can thinks of the fact that Lanka have produced some fine wicketkeepers like Goonatilleke, P. Jayawerdena, little Kalu and Alwis. The general feeling is Goonatilleke was the best wicketkeeper Srilanka has ever produced, though I have to say that P. Jayawerdena has impressed me as a keeper.
Among the bowlers, One can easily pick the world record holder Murali and the ever reliable left arm medium pacer and maybe a touch underrated Vaas, but the problem comes when one has to pick the other two. Ratnayake and De Mel at best were said to be more of stock bowlers, Malinga hasn't yet proved himself at the test level and has had fitness issues, Zoysa looked promising but couldn't do well, Fernando too hasn't made his mark, S. Desilva was said to ok as a spinner, A. Desilva is rated highly as a leg spinner by a few Lankan fans but only played four tests, Dharmasena was at best a steady bowler, Warnaweera and Anurasiri( I do hope I have got their names right lol) wrecked Kiwis and England's batting line up in the early 90's, but I do remember there was some suspicion regarding the action of Warnaweera and both disappeared from the scene very soon. Mendis seems to have been found out and Herath shows some promise, but has a long way to go before he can get into an all time team. I also have to mention DLS Desilva, and I got to know about him from my Srilankan friend and knowledgeable cricket fan Bath maruwa, but unfortunately he died in a motor bike accident. The rest like Wickremasinghe, Kalpage, Ravi Ratanayake, J. Silva, Sujeewa. Desilva, R. Perreira, S.Perreira and co. weren't any good.
In the end I picked De Mel and if the track offers assistance to the spinners I would go for S. Desilva or if it helps the medium pacers Ratnayake. I know that Ratnayake could bat a bit, but the general feeling is De Mel was a marginally better bowler. I did consider Malinga, but hasn't been playing test cricket in recent times and I'm not convinced about his fitness. I do hope Malinga with that unique round arm action can succeed in test cricket as he has some potential with his pace and those toe crushing yorkers. He is unique and exciting to watch. Both Tushara and Walegadara have been impressive, but I would like to see both of them perform well for a considerable period of time. A. Mendis started with a bang and if I was picking the team couple of years ago I would have likely picked him, but recently the batsmen seem to have worked him out and that can be seen by the fact that even the Kiwis played him reasonably well and that spells a bit of trouble as one expects the inexperienced Kiwi batsmen to roll over on those Lankan wickets. In fact he has been out bowled by Herath in recent times. In my opinion, the he jury is still out on both Herath and Mendis. For Lanka's sake I do hope that Malinga, Mendis, Tushara, Welegedara,and Herath can come good as Murali can't play forever
The team may depend too much on Murali and Vaas for wickets, but I don't see much doubt about the fact that they have been great for cricket as Lanka play with so much flair and enthusiasm. I do hope that Srilanka can continue to produce cricketers who can make cricket a pleasure to watch.