Sri Lanka’s regeneration has begun quicker than he had expected, coach Graham Ford said, in light of several encouraging individual performances. Ford had taken up the role at a particularly low ebb for a rebuilding Sri Lanka team, and has since overseen a poor World T20 campaign, and a woeful tour of England.
However, having now defeated the top-ranked Test team at home, Sri Lanka believe they have unearthed talented prospects. With Kusal Mendis and left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan having impressed earlier in the tour, middle-order batsman Dhananjaya de Silva has also made a mark in Test cricket, with a stylish maiden hundred on Saturday. All three players are 25 years old or younger.
“In one of the first press conferences that I had when I took over again, I said that you just can’t put a time frame on how long the rebuilding process will take,” Ford said. “But the way some of the young guys are starting to put in high-quality performances – I wasn’t expecting that to happen as quickly as it has, against such high quality opposition.
“One of the beauties of selecting young guys is that even if they fail, you’ll get some return. If you make the investment you will get something back down the line. Older guys, who are perhaps past their best – when they fail, you’re not going to get much back. I think that’s been a view of the selection panel as well. It’s been exciting to see and I’m a little bit surprised to see them doing as well as quick they have. But we’ve still got a long, long way to go. They will still disappoint us from time to time. But with the attitude that they’ve got and the work ethic, we’ve seen some exciting signs for the future.”
Ford was also impressed with the responsibility assumed by Dinesh Chandimal in the first innings of the current Test. He had arrived with the score on 24 for 4, and quickly saw it slip to 26 for 5, before forging a 211-run stand with de Silva. Chandimal’s innings was notable for its length. Often an attacking batsman, he faced 356 balls for his 132, stitching important stands with Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath after de Silva had been dismissed.
“Chandi’s probably enjoyed the other fine innings that he’s played, but this was probably the most valuable innings he’s played,” Ford said. “I know he played a blinder against India sometime back, but this one for temperament and fight in difficult conditions goes down as his best hundred.
“Chandi’s certainly showed a lot of maturity and he helped Dhananjaya through that big innings of his. Batting in those circumstances is not fun at all. I think Chandi took on the hard work, which shows great maturity. It’s something that the team are talking a lot about – about doing the hard work for the rest of the team, doing the hard work for their mates. Chandi showed a real example of that, digging in and fighting really hard.”
Sri Lanka have experimented with their batting order over the past three months, first batting Chandimal at No. 4, before moving Mendis there. Kusal Perera has also had a promotion to No. 3, and Ford said the changes may not end there. De Silva has been talked about as an opener, since he has fulfilled that role for his first-class club successfully.
“I think the batting order is still a work in progress. Some of these young guys that are batting in the lower order are top-order players. They may in time be moved up the order. That’s something that we’ll have to think long and hard about.” (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)