Welcome Aravinda & Company

Before welcoming the new cricket selection committee headed by former Sri Lanka batting supremo Aravinda de Silva, one must first congratulate the new Sports Minister Chandrasiri Bandara Ratnayake for having the courage to replace the former set of selectors who had a rather unusually extended run which eventually led to them losing faith with the cricket loving public.

To say that the Sanath Jayasuriya selection played a part in the sacking of the previous selection committee headed by former Sri Lanka fast bowler Ashantha de Mel would be more to the point, although there were other issues as well that contributed to their removal from office (De Mel and Don Anurasiri having served the longest for more than five years). Two members Chaminda Mendis and Vinothen John served in the committee only for a very short time having been appointed early this year.

The continuous selection of Jayasuriya who is now a Member of Parliament became a thorny issue and following his dismal batting failures in the recently concluded ICC World Twenty20 in West Indies only intensified the criticism on the selectors who picked him. To make matters worse the chairman of selectors was also on tour when Jayasuriya was being constantly picked in the team following one failure after another.
The need for a change in the selection committee was very much overdue and now that it has come it is like a breath of fresh air. It is not an easy task trying to pick teams to everyone’s satisfaction and in that aspect we should be thankful to De Mel and Co for sticking it out during difficult times and picking teams to the best of their ability.

The selection committee that De Silva has been handed to carry forward Sri Lanka cricket to the future looks a level-headed one where there would be more input brought into selections because of the amount of knowledge, experience and weight it carries.
De Silva alone qualifies easily on all three aspects. His presence alone exudes enough of confidence on the rest of the committee members who are the evergreen Ranjit Fernando, Amal Silva and Shabbir Asgerally.
De Silva is still arguably the best international batsman produced by Sri Lanka and his exploits with the bat in a career spanning 93 Tests and 308 ODIs culminating with his contribution to help his country win the World Cup in 1996 are legendary. Till recently he was consultant coach to the Sri Lanka under 19 World Cup team that reached the semi-finals in New Zealand.

Fernando, a former Sri Lanka wicket-keeper and opening batsman has served his country in several administrative capacities including the role of selector and presently is manager of the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team that is due to tour Australia next month. Having been involved in the game for almost four decades the experience and knowledge he brings having been associated with the players in the capacity of manager, coach and selector and also his experience as a long standing international cricket commentator would be priceless. As the senior of the four members Fernando is more or less likely to play the role of a fatherly figure at selections.

Silva and Asgerally were former members of the selection committee headed by De Mel before they were replaced. When Aravinda de Silva was making his Test debut against England at Lord’s in 1984, Amal Silva (also a wicket-keeper and opening bat) along with his captain Duleep Mendis were setting the hallowed venue alight with their outstanding stroke play that produced centuries from each of them. He is a real tough nut to crack and his no-nonsense attitude would make selections all the more cleaner.

Bespectacled Asgerally is the third wicket-keeper and opening batsman in the committee. Although he did not go to the extent of representing his country Asgerally nevertheless was a prolific batsman for Bloomfield in the eighties and a former captain of the club who helped raise its stature with his inspired leadership. The fact that the other three members of the committee are from the same club NCC would bring a lot of understanding in decision-making.

One of the foremost decisions the committee must take is to lay down clear guidelines on selection so that every aspiring cricketer knows what is required of him to reach the top. There shouldn’t be any selectors’ favourites and old school or club ties should not stand in the way of selection.
The most important aspect of it all is that one hopes the selectors and the national captain are allowed a free hand to select the team they think is best without any political interference which has been the bane of previous selection committees. If that can be achieved we should shortly see some positive results on the Sri Lankan cricket front.