Prabath Jayasuriya has given us plenty to ponder!


Sri Lanka’s spinners had been given a real hiding in the first Test by the Aussies and to rub salt into the wounds, several players had to be withdrawn from the second Test after testing positive for COVID.

The rescue call went to 30-year-old left-arm spinner Prabath Jayasuriya and how well he has responded, claiming six wickets on debut becoming the sixth Sri Lankan to pick up five wickets or more on Men’s Test debut.

The manner in which Jayasuriya went about things was impressive. In the first Test, on a track that helped spin, what Sri Lanka’s spinners lacked was control. The pitch given for the second Test was much better for batting and this time around spinners were far more disciplined, picking up their lengths early and landing on the right spot. In such a scenario, the batsmen had to take bigger risks rather than merely throwing the kitchen sink, sweeping everything that was thrown at them. The spinners’ effort was good enough to bowl out the Aussies for 364 and more importantly knock off the last five wickets for 35 runs. The tail has worried Sri Lanka in recent times. Jayasuriya triggered the lower order collapse having dismissed Alex Carey.

Bowling from the Dutch Fort end, Jayasuriya had a lot going for him. Australia are quick to put pressure on bowlers who are yet to find their feet in international cricket. But here was a man who has featured in First Class cricket for a decade and he’s come across better batters of spin and so was able to hold his own.

Centurion Marnus Labuschagne was Jayasuriya’s first victim. He had got one to pitch on the rough and turn. The batsman was looking to defend and the ball went past the edge and Dickwella completed the stumping. Travis Head was bamboozled, expecting the ball to turn and he was cleaned up. Cameroon Green didn’t get the sweep right while Alex Carey got the reverse sweep wrong. Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon didn’t have much clue. It’s been pretty impressive stuff by the 30-year-old and if Sri Lanka get a decent first innings lead, watching Test cap number 159 would be interesting on the last two days.

Kudos to selectors for sticking to the experience of Jayasuriya although the popular choice to replace Lasith Embuldeniya was Dunith Wellalage given his success in the shorter formats of the game. They called it right in backing the veteran.

Jayasuriya was set to make his debut last year when Bangladesh were in town, filling the place of Embuldeniya. But his skinflods were over the limits and he was axed. As a result, Praveen Jayawickrama got a break and seized it with both hands, bowling Sri Lanka to a big win.

Had the team not been struck by COVID, Jayasuriya wouldn’t have got a call up. Not that he has done well to improve his fitness levels but desperate times call for desperate measures.

In any case, the demanding fitness regime that we had in place last year has been thrown out of window and players no longer become ineligible for selection when they fail fitness tests. Spare a thought for players like Dilruwan Perera and even Thisara Perera who were given raw deals on fitness grounds. They certainly had much more to offer the game at the highest level rather than being sidelined to domestic and franchise cricket.

It is true that the players needed a wakeup call with regards to fitness with our standards falling at alarming rates. But lack of consistency sends the wrong signals and in any case, the same fitness yardsticks can not be placed on all players.

Surely, the fitness standards that you expect from your quicks and spinners cannot be the same. The other point is that when a player is on the wrong side of 30s, it’s not fair for him to be given the same targets that are given for 20 year olds.

Moving back to Jayasuriya, he has given the team another spinning option to think of. Some believe that he should have succeeded Rangana Herath but somehow other left-armers leapfrogged him. Partially, the blame should be placed at his doorstep but we forget that against seasoned campaigners and good teams you need some experience to handle pressure.

That is exactly what Jayasuriya did. The partnership between Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne had helped Australia to set their sights beyond 400. He kept bowling in good areas and the batsmen couldn’t score freely. Again he was in the midst when Smith-Alex Carey partnership was blossoming and his efforts were largely instrumental in Sri Lanka being able to bowl out the tourists before lunch on day two.

It’s been a good fight back by Sri Lanka after the disappointment of the first Test. They may not be able to regain the Warne-Murali Trophy but at least now they are in with an opportunity to square the series.

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of