By Michael Roberts –
In presenting my preferences I have been informed both by my limited observations and by the comments of friends
For my part the first consideration is the need for a wicket-keeper. While Chandimal, the two Kusals and Dickwella can all keep, if memory serves me right Ranjit Fernando indicated that Dickwella was the sharpest, so he is one of my first choices.
We need another bowler (especially if Angelo Mathews is restricted from bowling). So Dhananjaya de Silva is another must because he is a useful ‘insert’ in the bowling department and has been fielding at slip recently to the mainline spin bowler — apparently first choice in that role.
Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal are my final choices – pipping Oshada Fernando to the post (reluctantly in my mind because I take Mike Tissera’s appraisal seriously). Mendis seems to be an excellent slip fielder and has served up some long match-winning (Pallekele) or match saving (in New Zealand) innings.
Both Mendis and Chandimal have got themselves out via awful strokes in recent innings and require sharp raps on the knuckles in appropriate environments.
In making these assessments I looked over the batting statistics of those in the pipeline – even though I am not one who is wedded to the numerical slide-rule. One problem here is the different duration of the statistics for the players under review. Chandimal’s average of 41.86 in 53 Tests may not be quite the same over the last two years – one needs a breakdown divided into short two-year time-slots.
But for the record let me list the Test averages in order of ‘excellence’
Kusal Mendis 35.76
Roshen Silva 35.10
Oshada F’do 28.00
Samarasinghe 5.62 (in just 4 tests)
The problem of a statistical slide rule is demonstrated when one lists the Test averages of those three who have been deemed certainties in the present ‘state of the market’: namely, Angelo Mathews (44.73), Dimuth Karunaratne (36.37) and Kusal Perera (35.60).
Further complicating the yardstick is the picture of batting averages derived from the domestic first-class scene together with the Test figures –for I presume that is what is encompassed by the term “first class” in ESPN statistical tables. This measuring rod provides an interesting order of merit and brings Angelo Perera, Roshen Silva and Sadeera Samarasinghe into better focus.
The ‘order of merit’ here works out as follows
Roshen Silva 48.92
Angelo Perera 47.54
Dimuth Karunaratne 45.87
Dinesh Chandimal 45.80
Angelo Mathews 44.79
Kusal Perera 43.98
Lahiru Thirimanne 40.35
Oshada Fernando 36.73
Sadeera Samarasinghe 35.83
Kusal Mendis 35.78
Dhananjaya de Silva 35.33
These figures do not modify my selection. I opt for Karunaratna, Mendis, Chandimal, Perera, Mathews, Dickwella and Dhananjaya de Silva as my SEVEN, with the opening slot filled by Mendis or whoever puts his hand up—as I believe that every one of them other than Angelo Mathews has opened batting at some point.
It is pleasing to have Oshada Fernando, Roshen Silva and Angelo Perera in the wings. Whatever the grouping, Sri Lanka will always face the problem of batsmen bred on slow turning pitches at home which discourage pacemen adjusting to pitches abroad which generate bounce and/or pace and/or swing.
The other conundrum is this: how did such batsmen as Sidath Wettimuny, Amal Silva, Duleep, Aravinda, Arjuna and Sanath, and, thereafter, Mahela and Sanga make successful adjustments with greater success than the present cohort of batsmen?
PS: A late ‘entry’ in the Comments from Others, a friend identified as an aficianados, has highlighted Roshen Silva’s skills and unfortunate history – underlining the statistical picture. He is clearly comfortable on Sri Lankan turf. The issue will be his adjustment and temperament in foreign climes. So: he must be seriously considered for a middle-order slot and must defontely be part of the wider squads.