Hasaranga dilemmas


Sri Lanka have been placed in a delicate position after their T-20 captain Wanindu Hasaranga was suspended twice inside a month. The all-rounder, who pleaded guilty after being charged for dissent in the third T-20 International against Afghanistan at Dambulla was charged again for the same offence in the third ODI against Bangladesh in Chittagong. He pleaded guilty for the second charge too. 

While the first offence saw him being suspended for two games and missed the first two T-20 Internationals against Bangladesh, the second offence would have seen him sitting out of four games. With Sri Lanka not scheduled to play any white ball games ahead of the World Cup, Hasaranga would have missed the entire first round games of the tournament in the US and West Indies. 

However, with the player being named in the Test squad, he is serving the sentence at the moment and that means he will be available for the entire World Cup, which is a huge relief for Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka have been accused of exploiting the loopholes of the system by naming Hasaranga in the Test squad so that he will not miss any World Cup games. But the fact remains that the player had written to SLC prior to being charged in Chittagong expressing his desire to come out of Test retirement. 

After being constantly overlooked from red ball cricket, Hasaranga announced his retirement from the longer format of the game last year. Now that he has expressed his desire to play Test cricket again, he has been included in the squad. However, the fact remains that Hasaranga has not played a First-Class game in more than a year and you wonder whether he would have been included in the Test squad soon after revoking his retirement if not for the suspension. 

Sri Lanka have used loopholes of the system previously as well forcing the ICC to address the issue by twisting playing conditions. The captaincy switch during the 2012 World T-20 is a case in point. A brainchild of then Team Manager Charith Senanayake, Sri Lanka handed the captaincy to Kumar Sangakkara with Mahela Jayawardene facing a suspension for slow over rate. MJ was back in the saddle once Sri Lanka were through to the knockouts with fears of suspension gone. Sri Lanka went on to reach the finals of that tournament before suffering a heart-breaking loss to West Indies at RPS. 

Making most of these escape clauses tend to be condemned by a few but by and large many appreciate such smart thinking. But the problem is when Sri Lanka have an axe to grind when other teams make use of these grey areas to the benefit of them. The Sri Lankan side should be able to take things on the chin when things go against them too rather than shedding crocodile tears with Spirit of Cricket suddenly coming to their minds. 

As for Hasaranga, it is time he gets his act together. These are early days in his captaincy and surely he doesn’t want to be a serial offender. Apart from being the captain, he is the team’s star player and there’s no point of being sitting out of key games. Missing the entire first round of the World Cup would have been a disaster. 

The leg-spinner is now walking on thin ice as another offence will see him serving a lengthy suspension. He needs to get his act together. 

You do feel for Hasaranga for on both instances the incident that paved way for his suspension hurt the team dearly. Given his competitive nature, it is understandable that he lost his cool. 

In the first instance, umpire Lyndon Hannibal failed to call a high full toss during the closing stages of a game and that mistake cost Sri Lanka a chance of completing a clean sweep in the T-20 series against Afghanistan. 

On the second instance, umpire Richard Kettleborough was unwell and was replaced by Tanvir Ahmed. With the series in line, having fought back well, Sri Lanka appealed for leg before wicket soon after Rishad Hossain came out to bat. The was turned down and Kusal Mendis reviewed but it turned out to be an umpire’s call. 

Hasaranga lost his cool at this point. Rishard went on to win the game and the series for his team. After the game, the umpires reported Hasaranga for dissent, allegedly after being told by Bangladesh Head Coach. 

In cricket, some umpiring decisions go your way and some against you. The Decision Review System is in place to minimize these errors. No doubt the system itself needs a review like the batters being able to review a high full toss. Until then, Hasaranga will do well to keep his calm and continue what he is best at, winning Sri Lanka games.