Young Sri Lanka charting a new course in Test cricket

This is a young Sri Lankan team and there will be lots of tough challenges ahead in the coming months, especially in South Africa over Christmas. But any team that can dominate Australia so emphatically clearly has a lot of talent. Make no mistake; this was an amazing result and probably our greatest Test series result in history.

Dhananjaya de Silva was a bedrock for Sri Lankan batting in the Test series against Australia.   -  AP

It’s been a difficult year for Sri Lanka but the recent Test series win against Australia, the No. 1 team in the world before the series started, has turned things around in dramatic fashion. A young team has captured the attention of its nation’s cricket fans and suddenly the passion is back. It’s wonderful to see and I hope it’s the start of further growth and development.

 

Sri Lanka, unapologetically, played to their strengths and there is no shame in that. They were up against the leading team in the world and they knew their best chance was to attack with spin on slow turning tracks. The conditions were meant to favour the home team and there is no doubt that this presented Australia with a huge challenge.

What is surprising though is how poorly Australia responded. They would have obviously anticipated the conditions and Sri Lanka’s tactics, with a trio of spinners licking their lips. You don’t travel to Brisbane in November expecting a dustbowl and you don’t pitch-up in Galle expecting a green, seaming track.

But for some reason, Australia looked unprepared as they failed to adapt to the conditions. The limited-overs team, perhaps benefiting from the hindsight of the Test series, were far more street-smart in the way they played. The batsmen, for example, were more aggressive and they also used the sweep well to rotate the strike and put the pressure back on the bowlers.

During the Test series, though, their batsmen lacked the confidence to play with the necessary positive intent and Sri Lanka’s spinners were allowed to dominate. Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera both bowled exceptionally and they were also well-supported by the talented but raw Sandakan.

Whereas Australia’s spinners are used to imparting spin over the top of the ball trying to gain extra bounce, Rangana and Dilruwan imparted a huge amount of side spin. The advantage of this on spinning pitches is that you are then able to exploit natural variations in the amount of turn. If the ball turns a lot all the time you can cope as a batsman, but if the spin is unpredictable it becomes very difficult.

While Australia’s batsmen struggled to rotate the strike, Sri Lanka’s batsmen really impressed me, especially the young guns — Kushal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva. Their emergence at No. 3 and No. 6 was critical to the team’s success. They played with natural aggression, but also a sound temperament and it was fantastic to see.

International cricket is all about confidence and this series will have done wonders for the likes of Kusal and Dhanajaya. They have learnt a huge amount during the tour and as long as they continue to work hard and remain mentally strong then I can see them achieving sustained success.

Winning at home is obviously a first step for a young team, but it is an essential step. You need to be strong at home and know that you can dominate any opponent in your own backyard. That gives you the confidence to then start going to the next level and being competitive overseas in conditions that are less favourable.

This is a young Sri Lankan team and there will be lots of tough challenges ahead in the coming months, especially in South Africa over Christmas. But any team that can dominate Australia so emphatically clearly has a lot of talent. Make no mistake; this was an amazing result and probably our greatest Test series result in history.

Everyone in the Sri Lankan system, including our fans, needs to now stand behind them. We need to be realistic that many of the players remain very inexperienced and there will be bad days ahead. But if we are patient, offering encouragement and support throughout, then I think you will see the emergence of a very strong Sri Lankan Test team.