Rebuilding is something every side goes through at some point of the time or the other. Usually, an older player is replaced by someone who has actually been groomed in his place either in international cricket for a few years or on the domestic circuit. Virat Kohli, in a sense, has taken over from Sachin Tendulkar as the best batsman in the Indian team while Australia found a suitable replacement in Adam Gilchrist as Ian Healy neared the end of his illustrious career. Australia, unlike some of the other sides, have found it easier tide over re-buildings, thanks to their overall domestic structure.
Looking at Sri Lanka’s performance in the just-concluded series against Pakistan, one wonders whether the Lankans might be in for a tough time ahead. Lanka, who are usually very tough to beat at home, lost all the three contests, in almost unexpected fashion, against Pakistan, who are known to struggle against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. And, while the recent results point to an improvement in the Pakistan’s performance, it is also a clear indication of the fact that Lanka’s rebuilding phase has begun in right earnest.
A hugely disappointing aspect of Sri Lanka’s performance in the series against Pakistan was the fact that a number of their players, who were expected to put their hands up, did not. Upul Tharanga has been in and out of the side for the past decade, with the openers slot being occupied by more experienced or aggressive players over the yeas. He was recalled during the Lanka series, and was given a chance to prove himself at various position. But, despite a long run, he failed to cement his place in the side. Tharanga got many starts, but ended up continuing with his mediocre ways.
Jehan Mubarak is another man, who will also rue his missed opportunities. He was recalled to the national side after many many years following an impressive domestic season. As such, Mubarak would have been confident of doing well in his second coming. But, despite the bank of domestic runs behind him, he once again proved that success at the domestic level may not always lead to runs in international cricket. Lahiru Thirimanne, of whom plenty has been expected, was also hugely disappointing. The Lankans suffered in a big way as these men faltered.
What would worry Sri Lanka most is that what would happen when Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan retire from Tests and ODIs respectively. The situation is not far away. Sangakkara has only two Tests two go and Dilshan, possibly a handful of one-dayers. And, even as Sri Lanka would be pondering upon their impending retirement, their best bowler Lasith Malinga also seems to have lost his mojo. At this stage, it seems unlikely that he will be back to his best. When Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga were on their way out, Lanka discovered Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. An encore seems nowhere in store.
-- By A Cricket Analyst