For someone who grew up watching the Sri Lankan cricket team of the 2000’s, the dismal performance of the current team is nothing short of a nightmare. The flamboyant opening pair of Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana, the class and finesse of Jayawardene and Sangakkara, the impeccable seam and swing of Vaas, the pinpoint yorkers of Malinga and the deceptive off-spin of Muralitharan transformed Sri Lanka from a mediocre team into world beaters. At home, they built a fortress. Away, they were equally good. But then came their moment of awakening, the troika of pillars that they had built their team around, Sangakkara, Jayawerdene and Dilshan all decided to call it a day after the 2015 world cup.
The same problem had plagued Australia when 6-7 of their players were due to retire in a short span. But what Australia did was to create backups of those players who would eventually turn out to be good enough to carry their legacy forward. Matthew Hayden was replaced by David Warner, Justin Langer was replaced by Chris Rogers, Michael Hussey turned out to be a like for like replacement for Damien Martyn, Brad Haddin took over the gloves from Adam Gilchrist, Siddle, Harris, Johsnon etc took over from where McGrath and Brett Lee left and Michael Clarke was being slowly groomed for the coveted captaincy spot. Thus the transitional period did not have the same effect on Australia as it has had on Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s cricket board probably oversaw the fact that all good things must come to an end. The way that they kept relying on Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Dilshan and Herath without fielding any young blood was shocking to say the least. Sri Lanka, which made its test debut in 1982 always relied on natural flair and talent and it paid off at the international level despite their shambolic system back home. Since the past decade or so, the Sri Lankan cricket board has been marred with controversies. The board works in an undemocratic way and interferes in team matters ranging from choosing players or selecting a coach. Everything happens behind closed doors with no one being held accountable. When a group of players retire, it is natural for a team to go through a transitional phase but Sri Lanka seems to be stuck in it for eternity and they simply don’t know what to do next.
When Zimbabwe beat Sri Lanka in a 5 match series this July, it was considered more of Zimbabwe’s brilliance rather than Sri Lanka’s decline. Little did people know what was up next. When India arrived in the tiny island of Sri Lanka, they were expected to win all 3 formats easily but even the most ardent Indian fans wouldn’t have dreamed of whitewashing Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in all 3 formats with humiliating ease and grace.
From the first time Shikhar Dhawan got stuck into the Sri Lankan bowlers on the first day of the Galle test, only one result was possible: a dominant Indian victory. The Lankan bowlers were no match for the Indians and Kohli and co. feasted on their inexperience. A series which was meant to be a fiercely contested one soon turned into batting practice for Dhawan, Kohli and Pujara. Dhawan and Pujara scored 2 centuries in 4 innings with Kohli, Rahane and Pandya chipping in with a century apiece. Ashwin and Jadeja took the lion’s share of the wickets with 17 and 13 wickets each as Sri Lanka were whitewashed 3-0 in their own backyard, something which was inconceivable till a few years back.
Focus turned onto the ODI’s where Sri Lanka were expected to fare a bit better than the tests. The format changed, the jerseys changed but the results remained the same: another whitewash, this time, 5-0. The Indian batsmen kept feasting on the immature Lankan bowlers with Rohit Sharma and Kohli scoring 2 centuries each and Dhawan getting a century too. The fortunes didn’t change for Sri Lanka in the solitary T-20 as India, riding on King Kohli’s magnificent 80 routed them with 7 wickets to spare.
The ordeal was over, the misery that the Sri Lankans had gone through finally came to an end. India routed Sri Lanka 9-0 in all formats to complete an emphatic victory, a scoreline which was reminiscent of Pakistan’s tour to Australia in 2010 when they had.
Been similarly whitewashed in all formats, Sri Lanka went down without a fight. They failed to amass more than 400 runs in an innings in the test series and failed to restrict India under 480 in an innings and in the process, they lost 2 matches with an innings and 1 with over 300 runs. The Europa league final between Manchester United and Ajax earlier this year was labeled as an encounter between “men vs boys”. This series looked nothing short of that label too.
Growing up in the early 2000’s, one was accustomed to see Jayasuriya smashing the bowlers to all parts of the ground at the top of the order followed by Sangakkara and Jayawerdene who would bat on and on and eventually would bat the opposition out of the test match. Muralitharan and Herath would then run through batting line ups single-handedly and all would be good in the little island of Sri Lanka. But times have changed and so has international cricket, unfortunately Sri Lanka hasn’t really moved on which is disheartening to see for a neutral cricket fan. A strong and stable Sri Lankan team is good for cricket and all we can do is hope and pray that Sri Lankan cricket gets back to its glory days.
Written By Sannaan Siddique.