In India, last week, there was an outrage on social media after one of cricket’s greatest ever batsman Sachin Tendulkar’s son Arjun was included in the Mumbai Ranji Team. It was the first time that junior Tendulkar has been included in the Senior team. However, majority of cricket fans were more than convinced that he must have pushed by his legendary father, as Arjun’s cricket statistics are still not worthy of a place in a state team!
Few thousand miles away, in Sri Lanka, a batsman named Lahiru Thirimanne is still getting included by his godfathers, since last decade, that too at international level! Sri Lanka cricket fans also shows their frustration seeing Thirimanne again and again. However, it bothers little to his powerful godfathers!
Thirimanne is a case of study in World cricket! After 11 years, he is still getting chances, even with a dismal average of 22 in 35 tests! Even some of the great batsmen of world cricket like MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh couldn’t play test cricket for one decade! But Thirimanne is still playing!
There are many culprits, who can be held responsible for this perfect mess! Present Chief selector of Sri Lanka Asantha De Mel tops this list! There are plenty of stories in Sri Lanka cricket about Asantha and Thirimanne’s rapport! The most authentic fact, however, is that Asantha himself is a product of favoritism! So, it’s obvious that he will prefer his own favorites, while selecting a national squad! Other fact is that more than focusing on his batting, Thirimanne spend his time in securing porlitical backing. And when it comes to selecting politically influenced players, no one can compete with Asantha De Mel!
Unfortunately, Asantha is not the only one, who is an admirer of Thirimanne. Two former Sri Lanka captains, and among greatest batsmen of their generations, Aravinda De Silva and Kumar Sangakkara are also big Thirimanne’s fan! Aravinda, most famously, had in 2014 selected Thirimanne in a T20 World Cup squad, without bothering to realize that he is rated a slow batsman even in test cricket!
Sangakkara, meanwhile, backs Thirimanne, because once in a moon he plays a cover drive, which reminds of legendary batsman signatures shot!
Aravinda and Sangakkara have done great service to Sri Lanka cricket as players! However, by this illogical admiration for Thirimanne, both they have done great disservice to the Island’s most cherished game! Along with Asantha, they are guilty of backing a player, who has wasted an entire decade of Sri Lanka cricket! He was groomed to compete with modern day greats like Virat Kohli, Steve Smith. Now, even bowling all rounders like Jason Holder (32) and Ravinchandran Ashwin (27) maintain better test average than him! Only because of Asantha – Thirimanne’s eternal bonding, Sri Lanka plays test cricket with 10 players and 1 product of favoritism, that too in the era of ICC test championship where each and every point counts significantly!
Even after decade long failure, Yesterday, at Wanderers, he had yet another opportunity to prove his worth. After Dimuth Karunaratne’s early departure, and in the absence of Dinesh Chandimal, he was the most senior batsman left for Sri Lanka! Then, he got his mandatory life line as well, when he was dropped at slip. Thirimanne couldn’t capitalize even then!
However, after knowing the pattern of his selection since last one decade, it can be assumed that like any other failure, Yesterday’s poor batting display also won’t affect Thirimanne’s chances of getting selected for Sri Lanka’s future assignments. In the second innings, if he score a thirty, he will earn a place for England series. By mistake, if he scores a century, then he will be awarded a place for next five years! This is not the hypocrisy! This is the trend, Asantha De Mel has been carried, while keep persisting Thirimanne! By selecting him, Asantha has defied all the logic and it is not going to be changed anytime soon!