Hathurusingha slams Sri Lanka's 'school boy' errors

Sri Lanka head coach Chandika Hathurusingha has lambasted his side’s insipid batting display that saw the hosts go down to England by a whopping 211-run margin in the first Test at Galle on Friday (November 9). Sri Lanka were bowled out for 203 & 250 in the two innings, with batsmen frequently committing what Hathurusingha termed were “school boy” errors.

Hathurusingha’s anger stemmed from the fact that his wards were not mindful of the traps laid out to dismiss them and often walked willingly into them. Kusal Mendis’s dismissal in the second innings had drawn stone-dead reactions from the dressing room on the fourth day’s play after the batsman holed out to the mid-off fielder barely a ball after charging at Jack Leach and hitting him over the top at a time when Sri Lanka were looking to bat time. Niroshan Dickwell too, was snared at short extra-cover, a field position specifically put in place for his uppish drives.

“When you play Test cricket, you need to understand how people are going to get you out, even at club cricket you need to understand that,” Hathurusingha said. “You cannot come to international cricket and learn that. If you are doing things like playing against turn and getting out, it is sad. The opposition looks like they are playing with school kids.

“It is very disappointing with the way we got out… getting out to the traps they set. You can play your natural game, but that doesn’t mean you are given free licence to play shots regardless of the situation. You need to understand what the opposition is trying to do,” he added.

Sri Lanka’s failure to grasp finer nuances of sessions cricket irked Hathurusingha further. Apart from losing players immediately after an interval (Angelo Mathews in the first innings), Sri Lanka played into England’s hands by allowing the visitors to send down an extra over just before the session break. Dhananjaya de Silva’s dismissal in the final over before Lunch on the fourth day was a case in point. Joe Root had sent down a quick over so as to allow Ben Stokes to start the final over of the session in the nick of time. As it turned out, Stokes struck and Sri Lanka were another man down when they could have easily avoided facing another over with basic gamesmanship.

“This is something I didn’t see in my first tenure with the team [before 2010] – it’s in this tenure I am seeing it. Prior to this, people were more intelligent,” he said. “You can do simple things like wasting a bit of time to ensure that they didn’t bowl an extra over. You take your shoe lace off. We learned that when we were playing school cricket. When we used to play cricket, we learned from people who played with us, and we had like certain periods of game where we bowl short. Or certain times we bowl on certain areas of the wicket to test the batsmen’s patience.”

Hathurusingha, however, had some words of praise for Angelo Mathews, who he’d recently axed from the ODI team suggesting fitness issues for his run-out problem. The Sri Lankan all-rounder shrugged off his recent lukewarm run in Test cricket with twin fifties, something Hathurusingha believes can be an encouraging starting point for another consistent run with the bat, urging his senior player to push himself to match the likes of Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Steve Smith.

“I’m very happy with the way Mathews conducted himself throughout the game, and his commitment for running between the wickets and for the batting,” he said. “I’m sure he’d be the first one to say that his two fifties were not enough, because he got a start. He could have gone on and got a big one. He’s the one that we have seen played wonderful innings in situations like this. But him coming into runs is a good sign for us.

“I think he’s very capable of getting his average above 50 [currently 43.51]”, Hathurusingha said. “He’s one of the top batters and one of the most-experienced going around. Maybe injuries caused him setbacks, because he had a wonderful 2013 and 2014, before he really started getting these injuries. I would have thought he would have been in Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Steve Smith’s level, because he’s capable of getting to that level as a batsman. I think he has realised that and he’s worked hard in the last eight months to get himself fit. I’m hoping for big things from him.”