Sword of Damocles hanging over Dasun’s head-by Rex Clementine
Dasun Shanaka pictured leaving BIA yesterday. Sri Lanka will play two T-20 Internationals in Oman and then will travel to Abu Dhabi to begin preparations for the ICC T-20 World Cup
Given his brilliant oratory skills, you expected much more from Kumar Sangakkara when he entered the commentary box. A sharp brain; well-read on any subject be it history, economics, politics, geography, or art, his press conferences were like blockbuster movies; a huge hit, be it at RPS, Lord’s, MCG, Wankhede, or Newlands.
Ahead of the Asia Cup final between Sri Lanka and India at Dambulla, the Editor of this newspaper wanted the Sports Desk to get a comment from the Sri Lankan captain on the discolouring of Sigiriya frescoes. The Sports Desk felt that it was a bad idea, but our Editor had studied the captain well.
Sanga spoke so well giving several theories for the discolouring and eventually pinned it down to the chemicals used to chase the wasps away as the contributory factor. This news item received wide publicity. Not just in Sri Lanka, but Hindustan Times, Times of India, The Hindu, and Indian Express carried it on page one.
One of Sanga’s best press conferences was when he spoke on selectors. He said, ‘Like God, selectors move about in mysterious ways.’ This was when Sir Richard Hadlee had overlooked him as the wicketkeeper for the ICC Super Test between World XI and Australia in 2005 and instead given the gloves to his compatriot Brendon McCullum.
It would be very interesting to hear Sanga’s frank opinion on selections in his own backyard at the moment. One is reminded of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s assessment of Ajith Nivad Cabraal when he was first appointed as Governor of Central Bank. The then Opposition Leader said that it was like appointing ‘a donkey to run in a Derby.’
Ironically, the same Central Bank appointment ten years later crashed Ranil’s Yahapalana government leaving him a political refugee.
As the Sri Lankan cricket team left for Oman yesterday, you felt that skipper Dasun Shanka was not breathing easy. A string of low scores has brought enormous amount of pressure on him; no half-century in his last 18 international innings.
Either way, failure over the next six weeks be it as a batsman or captain will result in the selectors pressing the panic button. You feel that Sword of Damocles hanging over Dasun’s head. For every defeat, the selectors need a scapegoat. In their short tenure so far, they have found plenty of them; Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Thisara Perera, Kusal Perera, Dimuth Karunaratne and the list goes on.
When you groom a side, you need to show a lot of patience. Everyone in cricket circles believes that Dasun has exhibited exceptional leadership qualities. But he has to fire with the bat, now that he hardly bowls his full quota of overs.
Irrespective of the outcome of the T-20 World Cup and whether Dasun fires or not, he needs to be backed and the authorities must have the conviction that he will be able to turn things around for the team.
Not all captains need to be exceptional players. Did you know that Mike Brearley never scored a Test match hundred? He averaged a mere 22 in Test cricket. But he was the ideal man to bring the best out of a host of England stars. The dressing room is not an easy place to manage when you have the likes of maverick Botham, selfish Boycott, overweight Gatting, flamboyant Gower, and laconic Willis. Brearley was there for one specific reason; to put a messy house in order.
Now then, Dasun Shanaka is no Mike Brearley. He is actually a poor man’s Darren Sammy. Dasun and Sammy are similar type of players. But they know the art of captaincy. After all, Sammy won two ICC T-20 World Cups despite limited credentials as a batsman and towards the end hardly bowled.
Sammy’s success did not happen overnight. It took time. West Indies selectors had the patience to persevere with Sammy although he was a disaster at the start. A similar ploy could put our cricket back on track. Forget scapegoats. Let’s live in hope.