It was the year 1996. Sri Lanka lead by captain Arjuna Ranatunga put out one of the most fiercest displays of excellence in cricket and went on to win the World Cup. This team had players such as Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas who went on to be called legends in the future. A couple of years later, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath took this team to further heights. With contributions from each of these four, this small island nation in Asia won the T20 World Cup in 2014.Embed from Getty Images
This was a growth that could have been termed legendary, and the entire cricket world was looking at Sri Lanka for inspiration. The Sri Lankan cricket fans never knew that the 2014 World Cup would be the last time they would celebrate. In the forthcoming World Cup, T20 World Cup, Asia Cup and the latest World Test Championship, their performance kept on dipping. So, what caused such a rapid decline in Sri Lankan cricket? Let’s see:
1. Poor Transition Phase
Every team goes through an inevitable transition phase in which senior cricketers retire and pass the mantle to the junior cricketers. India had a great transition phase with Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma taking the reigns from Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. Even Australia had a great transition phase with Steve Smith and David Warner taking the reigns from Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist. In fact, many top teams had great transition phases. Generally, in such a phase, the junior players play along with the senior players in international games to learn from them. A country’s cricket board sends upcoming players to tours against lower-ranked teams such as Zimbabwe or Afghanistan to get some exposure in a few cases.
Sri Lanka had a disastrous transition phase. No upcoming talents were identified to play along with senior players. Even towards the end of their careers, Sangakkara, Dilshan, Jayawardene, and Malinga played against teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Had the Sri Lankan Board identified a few upcoming players to play in such series, they too would have had a good transition phase.Embed from Getty Images
2. Poor Domestic Structure
The four most successful cricket teams today, India, Australia, New Zealand and England are known for great domestic cricket structure. Sri Lankan cricket has never been able to build one which has exposed them completely. Most of the talented players are being seen in foreign leagues ignoring the country’s domestic tournaments. Even the few spotted talents have faded away due to lack of proper coaching and mentorship.
Muralitharan speaking about this issue said,
Sri Lanka of late hasn’t produced enough talent. In the last three to four years, the talent is lacking. Even when the talent is spotted, they don’t know how to play. Coaches don’t make cricketers. Coaches can only tell you the basics. It then boils down to the effort of an individual and his desire to succeed.
Corruption is perhaps the biggest enemy of cricket. We have seen how corruption destroyed the promising team of Zimbabwe. Sri Lankan cricket is treading in a similar path. The Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), known to be money-hungry and vote-hungry has eaten the progress from inside. In 2019, ICC rated SLC as the most corrupt cricket board. Over the past few years, Sri Lankan cricket has been rocked with controversies including match-fixing, sting operations and corruption scandals. Its President, Thilanga Sumathipala, was himself connected to a gambling and betting. Players like Jayasuriya and Nuwan Zoysa were also muddled in these controversies.
The SLCB needs a complete revamp to dust off the corruption. As long as corruption persists, Sri Lankan cricket is bound to go nowhere.
4. Poor Player-Board Relation
They say never to wash your dirty laundry in the public. Yet, the Sri Lankan Board has done this many times ultimately defaming its own players. One such famous incident is when Sangakkara had to choose to play between the Sri Lankan domestic team Kandurata Maroons and the IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 2013 Champions League. Though Sangakkara chose to play from Kandurata and ended up losing $140,000, the SLC secretary went on to publicly question Sangakkara’s loyalty towards the nation. Even recently, SLC’s poor handling of the covid crisis for the players went public.
Looking at all this, undoubtedly, Sri Lankan cricket needs a major revamp. Untill then, it is not a pretty sight for a Sri Lankan fan.
Featured Image: Sri Lanka Cricket | Twitter
I am a developer by profession, a passionate Cricket fan and have contributed with articles about this sport on various blogs and knowledge sharing platforms. I have been awarded the Top Writer Award on Quora for 2018 and have over 25 million views and 10 thousand followers on Quora.