A tough challenge ahead for Sri Lanka…..
If being 0-1 down in the three-match Test series was not enough, Sri Lanka now have to find a way to draw level at Barbados without their captain Dinesh Chandimal. Not only that, after their loss in the first Test at Port of Spain, Sri Lanka suffered a huge setback, losing their senior pro-Angelo Mathews for the rest of the series. Not to forget, opener Dimuth Karunaratne, who scored 1,000-plus runs last year was not named in the series due to injury. West Indies might be a side that has not tasted too much success in the last couple of years, but they aren’t that bad a team to not capitalise on this and register a thumping series win. Yes, 1-0 is great, but 2-0 is sweeter.
On the flipside, if Sri Lanka manage to pull this off, it will be a huge morale booster for them. However, regardless of what happens in this match, a series win in the Caribbean still eludes in the island nation.
The heart of the matter, however, remains Chandimal’s involvement in changing the condition of the ball. There are video evidence which shows that he put something in his mouth and used his saliva thereafter to shine the ball. In November 2016, South Africa captain Faf du Plessis too was charged with something similar at Hobart. Du Plessis used the residue from the mint to shine the ball was slapped with three demerit points and also 100-percent of his match fee. However, he was not banned.
After what happened at Cape Town, which led to lengthy bans of Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, the ICC will not doubt have to be more vigilant and in this case, they are offering no sympathy to Chandimal or the Sri Lankan support staff, who refused to take the field after being slapped with 5 penalty points. While coach Chandika Hathurusingha, manager Asanka Gurusinha can continue with their roles at Barbados, they are far from being above watrer. If they did hold the game to hostage, the ICC will hand them a hefty punishment for not upholding the spirit of the game.
However, in the historic day-night Test at Barbados, it will be the real test of Sri Lanka’s character. Their morale is already low. They will have a first-time captain in Suranga Lakmal, who in his first game in charge has to save Sri Lanka from giving West Indies their first series win since 2009 (In 3 or more Tests).
Also, West Indies have a good record at Barbados, winning their three out of their four Tests, while this will be the first time Sri Lanka will be playing at this venue. The real challenge will, however, be to see how Sri Lanka bowl with the pink ball, under the lights. Windies have played a day-night Test twice – against Pakistan and England. They might not have tasted success in either, but do possess an edge over their opponents in this Test. Given the form their fast bowlers, especially Shannon Gabriel have been, it will be a daunting task for the Sri Lankan batsmen to survive. However, one cannot discount what Lahiru Kumara and Lakmal himself might bring to the table.
With Chandimal also set to miss the home Test series against South Africa next month, this could be a good opportunity for Lakmal to take charge as captain. Leading in this match could be a sliver lining for him and his team afterall. South Africa will be tough opponents and with the state of the current Sri Lankan team, it will not be much of a surprise if the Proteas manage to clinch the series. However, the return of Karunaratne and Mathews might be a bit of a bost for them.
The golden era which consisted the likes of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are gone and it is time for the new set of cricketers to emulate them by playing the game in the right way. Chandimal, being one of the senior members of the side has also led from the front on many occasions, including in the second Test at Gros Islet, where he scored a fighting ton. But in the same Test, he stooped to a new low by indulging in tampering with the ball.
Chandimal’s absence gives someone else a chance to prove his credentials. The depth of the squad has thoroughly been tested already. However, at the end of the three Tests, Sri Lanka are still to find their best XI – something they hoped would be sorted out before the South Africa Tests. Instead, they have found themselves in a new hole. The question is: Will they come out of this stronger?