Thursday: Although there was big hue and cry over the non-selection of Lasith Malinga from the one-day squad named for the upcoming five-match series against Pakistan, chief selector Graeme Labrooy said that the legendary fast bowler was being rested and that he would be selected for the three-match T20I series as well as for future ODI matches.
“We had a chat to some of the players who did not make this tour and we had long chats with them to understand what their thinking was. Then we shared what our thinking was,” said Labrooy who was here for the second Test against Pakistan.
“Some of them were feeling they were bowling all-rounders and from the support staff and selectors point of view we thought they were batting all-rounders. We tried to clear those areas and let the players know where they stand.
“On Lasith we rested him for the ODIs because he has been playing ODIs after a while and we gave him a break. We are looking forward to bringing him back for the T20Is. We still feel that he can contribute in the ODIs as long as he is on top of his fitness and match fitness. We still have him in our radar for the ODIs,” he said. What the new selection committee headed by Labrooy has brought in is the trust on the players that there would be consistency in selections so that everyone gets a fair chance to prove himself.
“Before the team came to the UAE we spoke only to the captain and vice-captain we didn’t have much time to speak to the rest of the team but we passed on the message that we are looking for continuity,” said Labrooy.
“We basically said that once you identify the players we will continue playing them and giving them that confidence rather than shoving them in and out. If they are selected to play in a Test match or ODI and they are good enough we will continue with the identified lot as long as possible and give them a fair chance of performing out in the middle rather than letting them play one or two innings and replacing them with somebody else. That’s one confidence we gave them,” he said.
“We also said that we will identify their skills and let them play in their areas where they are comfortable in. For example if someone wants to be an opener or bat at no. 3 we will let him play in that position. Just because we want to make the 11 we would not bring him back into the middle order.”
In that aspect that’s why players like Kaushal Silva and Chamara Kapugedera have been persisted with and Kusal Mendis asked to bat at number four.
“It is how we give them opportunities whether we give them about six innings at a stretch and pull them out and bring
them back again or to give them six innings continuously and then they’ve got to fight for their place in the team,” said Labrooy.
“Kaushal Silva or anybody else if somebody is a middle order batsman he
will remain in the middle order. Just because we want to strengthen the batting we won’t shuffle the players up and down the order.
“Kapugedera is another player who has been in and out of the squad. He has been given a lot of chances but again not on a continuous basis maybe as a stop gap or a person who has always been on standby. We also have Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews and Asela Gunaratne to come in, so it will be interesting going forward when they are 100 percent fit. All these players in the middle order will have to compete against each other.”
On Mendis’ batting position Labrooy said, “With Kusal Perera, Gunaratne and Mathews to come in we have been still discussing that. We feel that the best we can get out from Mendis is at no. 4. We have to see how we can fit in Mathews and Gunaratne in the middle order.”
Lahiru Thirimanne is another cricketer whose selection and appointment to the vice-captaain raised eyebrows.
“The success in our cricket goes back to the late seventies where lots of the captains and vice captains have worked out very well. We try to give them the experience and the confidence which they need. That’s one reason we gave Lahiru the vice-captaincy looking at the future 4-5 years down, who are our leaders and also that they need to work in pairs,” said Labrooy.
“We feel he is a good enough player to be in the side and he has been given that opportunity. He’s been scoring runs in the last two ODIs and based on that we are confident that he will basically make good on the longer version of the game. As Chandimal’s vice-captain they work together well and we want that partnership to build on the long term.”
One of the areas the new selection committee that also comprises Gamini Wickremasinghe, Jerry Woutersz, Sajith Fernando and Asanka Gurusinha, the cricket manager has emphasised is fitness which had been a core issue during the recent defeats suffered by the national team.
“We have stressed on the fitness and it goes back to where the Sports Minister laid down a fitness test where you need to get through a yoyo with a minimum standard and your skin falls has to be less. That’s one reason we are not rushing Mathews, we want him 100 percent fit. We have a long Indian tour coming up and we want most of them fit for that,” said Labrooy.
“There were lots of changes done by the previous selection committee but to be fair by them there were lots of injuries and they were forced to make changes. They had a tough job because there was lots of cricket played and players were getting injured.”
Labrooy 53, who holds a unique record of not playing any of his 9 Tests and 44 ODIs for his country at home said that he was glad for the boys they won the series against Pakistan.
“They needed the win very badly playing away from the pressure back at home also helped them. They stuck to their guns and they stuck to their plans and delivered that win. I hope they can build on that confidence and take it forward from here.”
Labrooy, a tall right-arm fast bowler who represented CCC in domestic club cricket and was later a match referee said that he undertook the job of head selector (after turning it down previously on four occasions) because he thought the time was right to give back something to cricket.
“I declined the post of selector four times because there were many people who were around who would take it and do it. This time I thought if I was to give back something to cricket I would put up my hand especially at a time when the team was going through a difficult period and the whole cricketing fraternity was against them. I thought I try and get Sri Lanka back to winning ways,” Labrooy said.(Daily News)