Good opportunity for Sri Lanka’s under-19 cricketers

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SLC

This summer, three Sri Lankan teams have toured England. The development squad toured UK earlier in the summer while the Under-19 team is here currently to play two unofficial Tests and three one-dayers.

In between, the women’s team played in the Commonwealth Games at Edgbaston. The experience will stand in good stead for young Sri Lankans who are knocking on the doors to represent the senior side.  Someone  like Dunith Wellalage, who toured England earlier this year has already gone onto play Test cricket and there are other promising players who have come on this trip.

The Sri Lanka Under-19 side that toured England in 2016 comprised several stars who are forming the nucleus of the senior side at the moment like Wanindu Hasaranga, Pathum Nissanka, Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando, Praveen Jayawickrama and many more. The team on that occasion won both the Test and limited overs series, blanking England 3-0 in the one-dayers.

Roy Dias coached the side to series wins on that occasion while the team this time around is in the safe hands of Jehan Mubarak. He himself graduated to the Sri Lankan side after success in the Under-19 World Cup in 2000 when the nation hosted the event. That team coached by D.S. de Silva had lot of things going right for them as they reached the finals and  one of the highlights was the successful opening combination of Mubarak and Ian Daniel.

Guy de Alwis, who was Chairman of Selectors at that point had identified Mubarak as a future Test captain and  was willing to give him the long rope. A technically sound top order batsman, the hallmarks of Mubarak were his discipline and intelligence. However, soon after de Alwis vacated his post, patience ran thin and he was axed from the side. Although he did make several comebacks, Mubarak was under tremendous pressure needing to prove himself.

A man of principals you can not ask for a better coach than Mubarak to nurture the young players. The modern day game involves quite a lot of technology and it requires a coach who is able to move on with times and Mubarak’s appointment is an excellent one.

Charith Asalanka skippered the side in 2016 when Sri Lanka won, while on this occasion, Nalanda College’s Raveen de Silva has been named as captain. Raveen is riding a high wave of success having ended a 69 year drought to win the Dr.  N.M. Perera Trophy in the 92nd Battle of the Maroons. Nalanda College had not won a Big Match since 1953 when they did it under the captaincy of Chandrasiri Weerasinghe.

The under-19 team in UK comprises several players who represented the country during this year’s Youth World Cup in the Caribbean. Left-handed bat Shevon Daniel of St. Joseph’s is one of the players to look out for having impressed in recent seasons.

There is a school of thought that rather than playing individuals who will not feature in the next Under-19 World Cup, Sri Lanka will be better off playing those who will be available for selection in 18 months time.

Sri Lanka Cricket needs to be commended for arranging these bilateral series and they will do well to organize home series as well against stronger opponents. Time was when SLC hosted international sides like Kenya against the ‘A’ team and several players benefited. On one hand while the ‘A’ team was an opportunity for players to stake claims to the senior side on the other hand it was a vehicle for those players who had been knocked out of the  Test team to rediscover their form and earn their place.

Nobody used ‘A’ team cricket better than Tilan Samaraweera. He was the captain of the ‘A’ team for quite a while before earning his Test cap in 2001 and eventually when he was dropped from the side in 2006, he fought his way back with the sheer weight of runs. When he made a comeback, he was a totally different player. It helped that the ‘A’ team those days was coached by proven individuals like Owen Mottau and Chandika Hathurusinghe.

The advantage of touring places like England is that the conditions that you find are entirely different to what’s at home. A players’ temperament will be tested and those who lack resolve or the technique will be found out.

The Under-19 tours have always nurtured up and coming players. If you remember the 1984 tour of Australia, the Sri Lankan side on that occasion comprised Aravinda de Silva, Roshan Mahanama and Asanka Gurusinha, the backbone of the Test team’s middle order several years later. The Aussies in their ranks had the Waugh twins and Mark Taylor.

Similarly, the team that took part in the first ever Youth World Cup included the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya, Rumesh Kaluwitharana and Hathurusinghe. Other stars to take part in that tournament were Brian Lara, Mike Atherton, Chris Cairns and Inzamam-ul-Haq.