The focus up to now has been on the Sri Lanka National team, it’s up’s and downs and what the objective would be for India. But what about an equally challenging youth World Cup in New Zealand from the 15th January to the 30th January? This is where the young blood and talent of Sri Lanka will be up against the best of that age group in the world!
Sri Lanka has been drawn in the group comprising New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Canada. May not be a tough group on paper considering the level of cricket Zimbabwe and Canada may be playing. But let’s not forget that at the Youth level great cricketing upsets have been witnessed. Interestingly Sri Lanka once one of the strongest youth teams appears to have taken somewhat of a back seat with countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh ahead in the race.
Bhanuka Rajapakse who turned out for Royal in thelast schools season was one of the most productive batsmen on the tour. (Pic Ranjith Perera)
But the forthcoming World Cup in New Zealand despite the tough conditions appears to be the event the Sri Lankan outfit is ready to move ahead and try to better their best in Youth Cricket for sometime when they were the runner up to India in 2000 under Malintha Gajanayake. Interestingly that team was coached by the current Chairman of the Interim Committee D.S. de Silva, who seems to have taken the bull by the horns and got the correct management team together. M. Devaraj the former Sri Lanka all rounder a tremendously talented cricketer is the Manager with possibly Sri Lanka’s best batsman of the Test era Aravinda de Silva as the batting coach and Naveed Nawaz another proven personality in the field of playing and coaching as the head coach.
Speaking to some of the young batsmen on that tour it is extremely obvious that D.S. De Silva’s choices of the Management team are the correct ones. The manner the young batsmen speak with awe of the knowledge they have gained from the Master de Silva appears to be something that will definitely help them to overcome this challenge. Let’s also not forget that Aravinda in his prime has played some of the best cricket of his life in New Zealand and his presence will naturally ensure the great input and wisdom the youngsters require on a challenging tour such as this.
On the batting front Sri Lanka is blessed to have some great talent with young Bhanuka Rajapakse of Royal leading the way. Bhanuka being one of the most gifted and natural players in the school scene can be a devastating option the Lankans have at the top. Having watched him closely in the last Sirasa Schools T20 tournament young Rajapakse displayed not just power but tremendous maturity in pacing his innings and is definitely a player for the future and a sure one at that!
The other batsman that the Sri Lankan cricket fans are bound to be talking of in the near future is the Old Mahindian Rumesh Buddika, a very solid and a dependable player with sound technique. Contrasting in styles both Buddika and Rajapakse as left-handers, complimented each other in that run chase against Australia in the 2nd ODI game when Sri Lanka overhauled 250 plus with plenty of overs to spare. Another batsman who should be followed closely is Royalist Kithruwan Withanage a left hander of immense talent and potential and of course the Anandian Udara Jayasundara another success story of the tour.
The leadership of the all rounder and Peterite Chatura Peries too should be commended especially for the manner he led the side and played despite carrying an injury. Peries is sure to develop in to the all rounder Sri Lanka needs as he is a brisk left arm fast bowler who can surprise many batsmen with pace and is also a skiddy customer. Besides that he is also a very destructive left hander who can hit the ball extremely hard. Surely another product for the future for Sri Lanka! And on the subject of fast bowling Charith Jayampathi very much the modern Nuwan Zoysa initially from Sandalakawa and now D S Senanayake College and Kasun Madusanka of St. Servatius College Matara were simply outstanding and did lend great support to the skipper in the fast bowling department.
The emergence of such quality fast bowlers and of course Lahiru Jayaratne from Matale another bowler with pace and potential who played in only the final ODI game speaks volumes of the effort put in by the fast bowling Coach Anusha Samaranayake and his able deputy Prabath Nissanka. The countless hours of work and close study of each bowler by these coaches has paid great returns and will only get better as these young players progress through the ranks to the top level.
And as far as the spinners it appears that as much as Moratuwa was famous for some of the batting greats in the yesteryear Kandy seem to make spin its forte! With the arrival of the great Muttiah Muralitharan many top spinners such as Ruwan Kalpage and Piyal Wijethunga who represented Sri Lanka hailed from the hill country.
It was no surprise that Wijethunga another honest toiler for Sri Lanka in the capacity of its spin bowling coach had unearthed the spin combination Rushan Jaleel the off-spinner from Trinity College and Saranga Rajaguru from Nugawela Central hardly known for its cricket.
The team that toured down under had these young guys and more and their achievement of taming the Aussies in their own backyard speaks of what they are capable of. One hopes that the development of young cricketers will continue and the emergence of outstanding talent as witnessed amongst the U 19 players will surface further which will help keep the cricketing flame of Sri Lanka burning for a very long time to come.
Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading cricket promoter and an international cricket commentator