2007-12-02

What is it about Sri Lankan cricket?

I'm rather confused about Sri Lankan cricket.

They lost to Australia just recently, rather badly. Yet they possess one of the best bowlers to play the game, along with a bevy of batsmen who are the best in that nation's history.

But there's a few things which make my brain hurt.

One of those brain-hurting problems is the existence of Kalupahena Liyanage Sajeewa Lassana Dias, or KLSL Dias as he appears on scorecards. KLSL has been playing cricket in Sri Lanka since 2001. As I type this, he is currently playing a one day match for Badureliya Sports Club vs The Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club whilst the Sri Lankan Test team battles England. KLSL is 27 years old. He has never once been picked to play for his country in any form of international cricket. He is a left-arm orthodox spinner.

Why am I discussing this bloke? Well, it's the simple fact that after 7 years of cricket he has managed to play 54 first class matches and take 181 wickets at 17.39.

That's right - his career bowling figures are 181 wickets at the frigging average of 17.39. Anywhere else in the world, RLSL would be selected on merit. But because the guy plays his cricket in Sri Lanka specifically and in Asia generally he doesn't get noticed. If the guy is as good as his figures indicate he is, then he should at least be given an extended run in the National team. Murali should be retiring soon, so he can easily fit in.

The second brain-hurting problem is the existence of Thilan Samaraweera. Samaraweera is a decent Test batsmen, having played 40 Tests and scored over 2000 runs at the rather decent average of 40.80. He's 31 years old and has just recently been dropped from the national side.

So, why am I discussing this bloke? Well, the guy's a decent batsman to be sure, though his Test and First Class batting records show that he's not exactly the greatest - but nor should he be ashamed of his batting ability. He's reasonably good.

No, the problem with Samaraweera is his bowling - at first class level the guy has taken 348 wickets at the frigging average of 23.36. His Test bowling figures aren't great - but that's probably because he hardly bowls at Test level. The guy is a top class all rounder at First Class level but when he gets picked he only bats. Imagine if Ian Botham only got selected for his batting? Well that's what they've done with Samaraweera. Had they given him more overs to bowl at Test level he would've developed into a very effective all-rounder - coming in at no.7 or no. 8 with a batting average of 40 odd and then bowling in tandem with Murali, giving Sri Lanka the option of having 5 bowlers or 4 bowlers and a strong batting lineup. As it was, his last Test was against Australia in Brisbane, where he scored 13 and 20 as a batsman, and, during Australia's mammoth first innings which took up 151 overs, he had the opportunity to bowl one over for eight runs. One measly over. He's a guy who at First class level is a dangerous spin bowler and here he is in Brisbane sitting in the field watching his bowling compatriots get torn apart by Jaques, Hussey and Clarke. Maybe his contribution wouldn't have been much - but who knows unless you try?

So, there we have it, Thilsan Samaraweera and KLSL Dias. Two great Sri Lankan players who haven't been given much opportunity to prove themselves at top level. Why aren't English counties courting them? Why aren't they being offered opportunities to play at least minor county cricket or second xi matches in England? Murali, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, Danish Kaneria, Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq have all shown that good spin bowling can succeed in English County Cricket - so where are the counties lining up to offer Samaraweera and Dias contracts?

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