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A rest stop for the Marauder
by Venu Palaparthi
Nov 11, 2005
The Sri Lankan cricket selectors did not wish to leave out Sanath Jayasuriya from the 15-man squad that will come back to India to play a three-Test series next month.

Local media reported that the national selection committee included Jayasuriya's name on the first list, but it was rejected by Jeewan Kumaratunga, the Sri Lankan Minister of Sports. So they went back to the drawing board and produced a list without his name.

It must be tough for any set of selectors to make a decision like that but they have bitten the bullet. After all, Lankan cricket without Jayasuriya is like 'pol sambol' without coconut!

Many saw Arjuna Ranatunga’s hand in overhauling the team. The former captain, now a Minister for Tourism, has been especially vociferous about his concerns that too few talented junior players are rising from the ranks.

In May 2005, days after his government sent armed officers to take over the administration of Sri Lankan cricket, he was among those that supported the move. "You can't expect seniors like Atapattu, Chaminda Vaas, Sanath Jayasuriya and Muralitharan to go on forever,” he said at that time.

Whatever Ranatunga's remote influence on the selection process, it is safe to assume that he had no evil designs in the dropping of Jayasuriya. Ranatunga, widely regarded as Jayasuriya's mentor, may not want to see Jayasuriya out of the game for too long. The selectors said as much. "You can say that he is not in the team because of the injury. The whole world can see that," insisted spokesman Samantha Algama.

A busy season lies ahead for Sri Lanka with tours to New Zealand, Australia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and England in the space of 8 months. With that much cricket being played, it is important for the team to ensure that the senior members don’t get burned out ahead of the World Cup.

On the Indian side, Chappell was right to exclude anyone with fitness issues from the playing eleven. Dropping Vikram Singh after announcing his name for the last two matches was a case in point. Chappell has also insisted that players prove their fitness (and form) in domestic matches before returning to the international arena. It is unfair to expect peak performance from a player when he is not 100% fit and ready.

Chappell has made no exceptions to this rule subjecting former captain Ganguly to the same standard as Vikram Singh or Mohammed Kaif.

Not only has Chappell done well to deploy only 100% capable resources, he has taken his fitness philosophy one step further by conserving (and thereby extending) the use of the available talent. A case in point is the resting of senior cricketers (even when they were fit and keen on playing). Sachin was rested from the 5th ODI and Rahul was rested in the sixth.

Of course, Chappell could avail of that luxury since their services were not 100% necessary but it cannot be denied that that periodic recharging of the batteries is definitely a good thing. The consequent openings give Chappell a chance to try out his long term strategies and player permutations ahead of World Cup 2007.

Although Sri Lanka may have been hopeful of a Jayasuriya resurgence against his favorite opponents, to include Jayasuriya when it was clear that he was struggling was never the right thing to do.

Batting failures apart - 85 runs at an average of 14 in the first six ODIs with a top score of 27, Jayasuriya, with his dislocated right shoulder, was not the most agile on the field and somewhat unproductive with the ball. He conceded 75 runs in 12.5 overs.

Let there be no doubt, the Matara Marauder is not done yet with his bat. The demolition man will be needed for the 2007 World Cup and the gentleman cricketer’s support base among the Sri Lankan cricketing establishment (and fans) appears to be very much intact unlike the former Indian captain who finds himself in a similar predicament but with eroding support.

After the Ahmedabad victory, Tom Moody said “this team management has enormous faith in Sanath and I can categorically state that his future in the team will be as an opener. That is the slot in which he is at his most devastating, and in which he can take a game away from a team inside the first 10 over.” He reiterated that Sanath Jayasuriya “is one of the crucial components of the team leading up to the World Cup. He may be getting on for 36, but he is one of the fittest 36-year-olds around. Our aim is to help him tide over this lean patch as quickly as possible.”

A period of rest and recovery is just what the 36 year old needs just as the game needs a revitalized Sanath.

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