You could see what the Test series win over Bangladesh meant to Sri Lanka. After seeing many of their plans being implemented, they celebrated the ten-wicket with passion in Dhaka. There might be the odd question about beating a lower-ranked side who were without their best player, but it wasn’t a cakewalk for the visitors.
Sri Lanka have had some success in the recent past when they beat Pakistan 2-0 and Zimbabwe 1-0. But on either side of those two series wins, they have seen more bad days than good in Tests in the last 12 months. Since January last year, they were beaten in South Africa, by India at home, drew against Bangladesh at home for the first time and only just about competed in India in November and December.
Questions about their ability to withstand the rigours of international cricket date back to 2014, when Mahela Jayewardene was on the verge of retiring. When Kumar Sangakkara followed in 2015, the concern grew. Last year, India crushed them at home but when Bangladesh beat them in a Test and Zimbabwe put them under intense pressure, their strength at home also came under the scanner.
But during the India tour they managed to draw two Tests and now this series win against Bangladesh will give them renewed hope. Their newcomers, in particular, take the shape of that hope. Roshen Silva won the player-of-the-series award in only his second Test series, having made runs when nearly every batsman in both sides failed to survive in Dhaka.
Akila Dananjaya‘s match figures of 8-44 is the best by any Sri Lankan bowler on debut. Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva made big runs in Chittagong, and Mendis’ first-innings fifty in Dhaka was a crucial contribution.
Rangana Herath, who has been one of their stalwarts in this difficult period, said that this is the start of a new journey with the Test team after 12 months of unease. He said that the last three years of rebuilding is finally seeing some results, particularly with the performance of Kusal, Roshen and Akila Dananjaya in crunch moments.
“Not only this [series win], even when we played in Dubai we won 2-0 against Pakistan,” Herath said. “We had a bad series in India. So I feel we have started another journey with the Test team. Hopefully we can continue with that. When Sanga and Mahela left the team, it was a lot of runs [that left as well]. Now, for the last three years later we are rebuilding the side. Now I can see the proper team with youth and experience, especially Roshen [Silva] and [Akila] Dananjaya and Kusal Mendis.”
Herath said that the contributions of Roshen and Dananjaya will go a long way in making Sri Lanka’s Test side stronger as they create competition for places in the XI. He said that Roshen’s batting on such a difficult track said a lot about how he applied his first-class experience of 12 years.
“I have seen Roshen a lot because he has played first-class cricket for over ten years and scored almost 7,000 runs. That experience helped him and I would like to congratulate him, because it is a very big achievement on this surface,” he said.
Herath also had praise for Dananjaya who was in the wilderness for nearly five years, having been recalled only last year in the T20 side.
“It’s good for Sri Lanka cricket. I would like to congratulate him for taking eight wickets on debut. I have seen him a lot even when he was starting. He played for Sri Lanka at the age of 18 in the 2012 World Cup. So I can see a better and bigger future in him,” he said.
Herath said that Hathurusingha’s appointment as the head coach has already made a bit of difference in the overall thought-process of the side. “He has good knowledge and he knows how to give [to] the people who are around. He is always trying to get a good environment and be positive and just face the moment… those are the simple things he asks for,” he said.
The mixture of old and young has come good in this series. They are back on track in Test cricket, and now it is up to the same combination to take them ahead for the rest of 2018.