“As captain, I would like to take the responsibility. I apologise for this performance, this has been the worst series ever.”
Dinesh Chandimal, all of three Tests young as Sri Lankan captain, looked the beaten man that he was at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Monday (August 14). His team had just been schooled by India, a crushing innings-and-171-run hammering rounding off the most lop-sided three Tests in a long, long time.
Chandimal missed the first game in Galle, a 304-run loss, through illness, but was powerless to stop the bleeding in the next two games. “I would say this is the toughest series without a doubt in my career,” Chandimal agreed. “The reason is that we were not able to take the games to five days. There have been four-day Tests and a three-day Test here. Worst series ever.
“I am apologising to the fans, yes, I am — to all Sri Lankan fans here and away from home. The fans have always supported us. They encourage us always. Today we saw that even though we were losing, people applauding us. That is what the team needs now. We cannot let the players be mentally down. We are doing the process right. We might not get the results soon, but we are confident that the future looks good.”
Chandimal admitted that Sri Lanka had been outclassed by the No. 1 Test team in the world. “Credit goes to India, they have played outstandingly well in the series. I am disappointed, though; if we could have dragged the game to a fifth day, we could have learned something. But losing inside two and a half days, you cannot give any excuses. As a player, when you have to go to the middle, you have to put plans into practice. That was what the batters were unable to do. As players, we had to stand up and do well, and we couldn’t.”
This time last year, Australia arrived here as the top Test team in the world, and were hammered 3-0. Asked what had gone wrong in the intervening 12 months, Chandimal replied, “I would say the main concern is injuries. During the Australia series, we had everyone fit, no injuries whatsoever. Everyone chipped in. This series, there are so many injuries starting from Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Rangana Herath and then Asela Gunaratne. All of them had played some really good cricket in the last six months. That’s the main issue. But I don’t want to give excuses. We have to perform better than this.”
One of the reasons for Sri Lanka’s capitulation was the inability of the senior group to lead the way. “Consistency has been a huge issue this series,” agreed Chandimal. “All players cannot perform well in every series. But as seniors, you have to do well. Then the youngsters will follow suit. I hope the seniors will come back strongly when we take on Pakistan.”
While Chandimal did battle it out in both innings in Pallekele, neither he nor Angelo Mathews, his predecessor, made big runs. And Upul Tharanga, the other experienced hand, had a torrid time as an opener. “That is a problem that we have,” he conceded. “As an opener, you should bat at least 15 to 20 overs. As I said, we gave some game plan for each and every player. They have to execute them when in the middle. We failed to do that in the series and that cost us dearly I would say.
“It was very disappointing that Angelo and I could not get among the runs. We take the blame. We tried hard, we worked hard at training. But it was just that all the seniors failed.”
Chandimal, however, has no designs of rethinking about the captaincy. “We have to be positive. I am not letting the team down at a tough time. We have to do a few things differently and rectify things. We have to put them right slowly,” he insisted. “I am very confident as captain that my players will be able to come back with good performances and get Sri Lankan cricket back to winning ways. I can see everyone trying hard, everyone is very enthusiastic. I am hopeful the future will be good for us.”