Sri Lankan cricket has had precious little to celebrate over the last couple of years so it was only right and proper that they should make a big deal of the series win against South Africa. A very big deal.
It’s not just the victory which is getting everyone excited, it’s the vindication of a ‘fresh start’ policy which has seen stalwarts like former captain Angelo Mathews nudged into touch while six players in the starting XI which clinched the series so emphatically on Tuesday evening were 25-years-old or younger.
The clear-out was advanced by the radical, year-long suspensions of the ‘Durham Three’ - experienced trio Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunatilleke, who broke the team’s bio-secure bubble on the recent tour to England by nipping into the town centre for a quick beer. Apparently, their collective economy with the truth and attempts to cover up their unscheduled excursion resulted in the harsh penalty.
I have sympathy for their desire to ‘get out’. Perhaps even ‘need’ to get out. I’ve now spent two weeks idly pondering a ‘jail-break’ but, the reality is that ‘bubble breakers’ run the risk of stuffing things up for lots of people. Not just the rest of the production team but, in a worse case scenario, millions of people who might not be able to watch the series if cameramen and other ‘close contacts’ are forced to isolate. Never mind the million dollars or so it might cost. Just for a short stroll on a deserted beach-front. The conclusion: if you can’t handle bubble life, ask to be sent home.
It would appear that a few more cricket followers are slowly waking up to the reality that South Africa might have to endure the galling and humbling prospect of playing in the ICC’s secondary Qualifying Tournament in order to be at the 2023 World Cup. Even if they collect the 30 points on offer in a home series against the Netherlands later this year, they will almost certainly have to win two out of three series against India and Australia (away) and England at home.
If not they’ll be in Harare in early 2023 up against Scotland, Ireland, Papua New Guinea and a currently rampant Namibian team. If you haven’t noticed what fabulous cricket the Namibians are currently playing, have a closer look at recent results. They thrashed an ‘Emerging SA’ team and then dismissed champion Franchise, the Titans, for 43 in a pre-season T20. Pierre de Bruyn and Albie Morkel have formed a formidable coaching team. If there is to be an upset in the T20 World Cup next month, there’s a good chance it will come from Namibia.
As exciting as Sri Lanka’s future looks, there is reason to wonder about the Proteas, packed as they are with familiar 30-somethings with their umpteenth opportunity to prove their international credentials. Migael Pretorius, meanwhile, is playing for the Jamaica Tallawahs in the Caribbean Premier League.
Monsoon season in Sri Lanka always produces exciting weather. This evening, however, the build-up of clouds on the skyline were scowling. Couldn’t help thinking it was a Proteas’ metaphor.