Achy, breaky heart for the Lankan cricketers | Sunday Observer

Achy, breaky heart for the Lankan cricketers

The end of 2018 saw a surfeit of Test cricket – Sri Lanka playing New Zealand in Kiwi land, Australia taking on India ‘down under’ and Pakistan fronting up to South Africa in Protea land.

The results show New Zealand winning the second and final Test at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch, after Sri Lanka’s great escape in Wellington in the first Test, India going 2-1 up beating Australia on the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the South Africans crushing Pakistan at the Centurion.

First to the Sri Lankan defeat and before going on to describe the action that led to the defeat, our sympathies are with that great doughty all-round cricketer ANGELO MATHEWS who was again struck by that dreaded hamstring injury.

MATHEWS who was batting in grand style and self belief like he did in the first Test when he made a polished unbeaten hundred, going for a third run, suddenly pulled up, suffering what was later proved by scans to be a strained hamstring muscle.

This strain cruelly cut short his innings that promised a lot of runs with Sri Lanka chasing a massive 660 for victory set by the home team and losing by a big 423 margin. After losing early wickets victory was only a dream, but saving the game like they did in Wellington a lot rested on the broad shouldered MATHEWS who was motoring well.

MATHEWS with the bat against England at home and in New Zealand was a revelation. Plagued with injuries, having to face the wrath of his detractors who were levelling flimsy excuses to keep him out of the picture, was mounting a determined and confident batting challenge and display.

He was the rock on which the Lankan batting was leaning on to build a solid batting line for the future of the game, not only in the established game, but also the all-important World Cup in England in May/June.

MATHEWS with the willow in hand was exuding confidence on the youngsters, especially the young and the promising Kusal Mendis who he guided like a father figure to make a match saving unbeaten hundred in Wellington. With Mendis, MATHEWS stood tall, undaunted and showed young Mendis how to counter the Black Caps pace and spin.

That the duo batted the whole day, to deprive the push by the Kiwis and a damaging defeat was acclaimed by all Sri Lankans, not only domiciled in Kiwi land, but also back home in Sri Lanka as well.

That misfortune had to strike the sturdily built West Indian-like batsman was not only a calamity, but a tragedy that will have far reaching repercussions, not only in the Lankan batting line, but in all other aspects.

Although deprived of his job that was his as captain in all formats, he showed the cricketer in him, but above all the GENTLEMAN in him, and holding no grudges against his detractors, he was a true sport and played the game like his school St. Joseph’s College taught him to play in the true spirit, because cricket is a gentleman’s game, with winning or losing is not what matters, but how one played the game. And MATHEWS always played the game maintaining its lofty traditions.

Being human, MATHEWS like all sportsmen who play the game hard are open to injury. It was no different with this gutty cricketer who has always been an example to the youngster, game and country.

The moment he fights back, recovers from at times career-threatening injuries and gets on to the run paved roads, calamity strikes like it did in Christchurch. Call it evil eye or some cursed hoodoo. But MATHEWS built like a mountain will not be easy to move and has promised with the grace and blessing of the Almighty to comeback with a vengeance and once again let his bat do the talking. We wish MATHEWS a quick and a lasting return to the game, because he is a MUST in Lanka’s push to win the next World Cup.

According to reports MATHEWS will be out of the limited overs series against the Kiwis which started on Thursday and then in the Test series against Australia. His absence will create a chasm in the fragile Sri Lankan batting that will be hard to fill.

That Sri Lanka suffered a humiliating defeat is unacceptable, and whatever the excuses adduced will not be acceptable when one considers that we have been playing in the big league for a near four decades.

When the Lankans used the seaming conditions to strangle the Kiwi batting for 178, the door was open for the batsmen to bat intelligently, post a formidable first innings score and have the Black Caps against the ropes. But an unbelievable and unforgivable collapse where they sacrificed six wickets for 10 runs after being 98 for 4 – all out 104 – handed the game on a platter to the home team. The collapse was caused by not having the correct technique to negotiate the moving and bouncing ball.

It is time that the coaching staff line the batsmen up getting them to front up to the Bowling Machine and bowling moving and short pitched deliveries at them. This should have been done long time ago. These are basics. While the Kiwis would have celebrated singing their national anthem, ‘God defend New Zealand’ the Lankans would have been humming that Billy Ray Cyrus perennial – ‘Achy, breaky heart’.

With Virat Kohli’s Indians pocketing the third Test against Australia in Melbourne by 137 runs to go 2-1 up in the four Test series, India will not be easy beats in the final Test beginning in Sydney and unless the unforeseen happens, what with cricket tagged a funny game, the Indians are poised to celebrate by winning a series against Australia in Australia for the first time.

By the way play a straight bat and enjoy life now. It has an expiry date on it.

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