For a man who padded up to labour at the top-order for not one but two countries, you would think the greatest certainty of cricket – its uncertainty is implanted after the every hard-noised breath consumed in the middle with hostile contemporaries. Such were the heights of rejection that Sri Lanka endured, after being written off well before the tourists had even set foot on the rainbow nation. It may come as a nasty shock as to how they found the will to pull this history-maker off in Durban the other day, but you are ought not to, had you been not out of loop with the fascinating semblances of Test cricket mustered around the world this year.
Going by the recent calamities Sri Lanka had to stomach, Kepler Wessels could well have surmised its premature downfall and embroiled in the intimacy for ego-driven foretelling he forgot how shallow Proteas’s home record was as of late. It’s an age-old strategy manipulated by cricketing foes to get into the mind of opponents to undermine and dismantle them verbally and the sequel was they had their scope to back up the words literally in the field.
The problem with Wessels was he was rooted to a far away commentary box and hence the error in his ways and the smoke and mirrors. In a comical way South Africans may have cursed Wessels’s asinine punctuality for arousing a sleeping giant and Sri Lankans for the better should thank him for inadvertently coaxing them to tick another box in an ever decreasing paper of foreign countries conquered where only Australia and India remain not ticked. It’s testimony to the underlying, but deep-rooted and indomitable strength Sri Lanka possess in the game that they managed to achieve this at the most unexpected time where the most utopian optimist was casting a pall over.
This win doesn’t in any way erase the cumbersome patch of results in the post World Cup season. But what it has done is become the culmination of goodwill of trials and tribulations and be the perfect analyst of Sri Lanka’s slow recovery from the hangover of the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan. So many voices have clamoured that our bowling is club quality, that Tillekeratne Dilshan is the worst captain Sri Lanka ever had and so on and so forth while living in denial to the places where it needed treatment.
Sri Lankans after being humbled at Centurion must have felt like sitting under that Damocles’ sword with criticism coming their way quicker than a tunnel train although the critics should have been conscious of the fact that every team in the sub-continent tend to kill time to adapt to seaming conditions. Captaincy was not something Dilshan chased and he was the first captain to throw the dice without the services of the highest Test wicket taker in cricket. Probably due to pressure he lost his form which enabled him to top the charts for wielders in the World Cup. How ironic is that probably the most valuable Test win after The Oval 1998 was achieved with him at the helm?
To be frank, he could not just throw the ball, sit back and enjoy the joy ride and the bowlers had to come out of an 18-year-old shadow to fulfill the role of wicket takers, not set-ups. A transition tougher than many think and those unlucky souls weren’t privileged enough even to receive home decks with purchase in it to aid their ailing cause. One which had at Galle became hated by the ICC as much as they are helpless in the topic of DRS and slay down by the own countrymen for the genuine fact of Sri Lanka losing.
In the latest excursion at Durban, the pitch offered spritely support; venom and bite for the bowlers and critically batsmen brought up totals which could be defended and the final image belonged to the visitors celebrating a magical victory. There lie lessons to be learnt in abundance about the way forward.
Boxing Day Test provided contrasting cup of teas for selectors of Australia and Sri Lanka for John Inverarity led Aussie panel’s observing glasses were studious to retain scrutinised duo of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey which proved the difference while Duleep Mendis led counterparts’ blind insistence broke to pieces like a house build from plasticine as the late curve ball of the inclusion of Thilan Samaraweera and his subsequent hundred spoke his own story of the negligence that should be shown to the age over performance debate.
Dinesh Chandimal displayed the guts, Dilhara the fire and Herath the lionhearted warrior that he is. This was a team effort with the orchestration of that burly mercurial fighter Geoff Marsh and it brought to pass with Kumar Sangakkara’s ascendancy to the all time greats of the game with a century that -after being shelled early- flowed with the assurance of a world-class insurance. Statistically he needs to compose centuries in West Indies and Bangladesh to complete the collection but with being a pivotal part of Sri Lanka’s first Test win in South African soil being the latest feather in his cap, his legacy is already cemented. There’s lessons to be learnt -first one being the patience that is wanted in meshing a team from the scratch- for this win to be not just a New Year gift on the fly, but the paddock to a sustained leap to where Sri Lanka belongs.
When someone goes up it’s bound to come down and if not for any helping hand, gravity does it already. It’s the mission to go up that requires cooperation and it’s the least aided of the two as the Sri Lankan cricketers have found out conspicuously during this taxing transitional time period which could have grown them older and wiser ahead of time.
Hence why, this historic triumph is all the more sweet.
The Island Link- Dear Kepler It Does Not Pay To Be Rude