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Rangana Herath as skipper: Does this indicate a lack of leadership in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka has the likes of Angelo Mathews among the ranks, but he won't be there to serve Sri Lankan cricket forever.


Herath has surpassed Somachandra de Silva to become Sri Lanka’s oldest Test captain

Players start counting down the residual days of their playing tenure when they enter into their late 30s, more so when they start knocking on the doors of the 40s. With reflexes diminishing and youngsters raring to make a mark on the national team, clawing on to a Test slot is all that’s expected from a veteran.

In the twilight of a player’s career, captaincy seems way more than just a far cry. Rangana Herath’s story has been different. It won’t be bewildering to know if Herath himself didn’t see the captaincy mantle coming at him. In the process, he became the oldest player to captain Sri Lanka in Test cricket. Angelo Matthews’ multiple leg injuries made it a reality.

Lanka and its legends

Mahela Jayawardena's charisma has got Sri Lanka out of jail several times

Experience along with a display of class and flair in the field are the basic ingredients to dish out a captain. It’s a duty to be proud of, but it’s something which isn’t in the range of capabilities of everyone. Sri Lanka boasts of some of the supreme captains to have played the game. The following list throws light on the elite list of captains.

PeriodCaptainsMatchesWinsWin Percentage
2006-2013Mahela Jayawardena381847.36
1999-2002Sanath Jayasuriya381847.36
2013-PresentAngelo Matthews311341.93
1989-1999Arjuna Ranatunga561221.42

Out of the 251 Tests Sri Lanka have played till date, they have won 78 of them. Among them, 61 wins are engraved beside the above legends’ names which convert to an astounding percentage of 78.20. In 35 years of Test cricket, Sri Lanka has produced four quality leaders which is pretty commendable.

A forlorn state of future leadership

Angelo Matthews is the current torchbearer of Sri Lankan cricket

Angelo Mathews is just 29 years old and scrutinizing his recent performances will add to his prowess as a skipper. But the future doesn’t seem a healthy one for Sri Lanka in terms of future captains.

Also read: Rangana Herath: Sri Lanka's unsung hero who thrives in the shadows   

Generally, during the injury of the mainstream captain, the next most experienced is handed over the mantle, but if it’s given to a 38-year-old, then it’s viciously alarming for the team. The following table will tell you the story

PlayerAgeMatchesDebutRunsAverageWickets
Rangana Herath (c)38+73September 1999127714.67332
Niroshan Dickwella (wk)23+4July 201414420.57  -
Dilruwan Perera34+12January 201427113.5559
Lakshan Sandakan25+3July 2016316.509
Dhananjaya de Silva25+3July 2016325652
Dimuth Karunaratne28+31November 2012179231.43 -
Suranga Lakmal29+29November 20102167.7160
Kusal Mendis21+9October 201563537.35 -
Kusal Perera26+7August 201535929.91-
Kaushal Silva30+30October 2011173030.89-
Asela Gunaratne30+-Yet to debut---
Lahiru Kumara19+-Yet to debut---
Kasun Madhushanka25+-Yet to debut---
Lahiru Gamage28+-Yet to debut---

There are several aspects which come to the limelight. Sri Lanka is currently in Zimbabwe for a Test series and in terms of prospective leaders, the squad seems a little bleak. The loopholes are expounded below:

Too many aged players

There are 7 players in the current squad who are either past their 30s or are about to enter them. Therefore, they aren’t healthy prospects to be groomed forward even if they show signs of leading a side through their body language on the field. A makeshift captain will do the job, but won’t be of any good in the long run.

Herath’s dominance in terms of number of matches

The squad has an experience of 201 matches at an average of 14.35 matches per player. By putting aside the number of matches Herath has played, the average drops down to a drab 9.84 per player. With the growing exactitudes of Test cricket, any player of the squad is inexperienced to take the burden of Test captaincy. 

20 wickets win a match

An opponent must be bundled out twice in a match in order to win a Test match. A bowler, being a captain, can marshal his troops efficiently and it’s a necessity in Test cricket. Rangana Herath’s selection as a captain makes sense from that point of view, but if it’s a long-term strategy, then it may take time to actually steer the approach forward after Herath’s retirement. The squad has an aggregate of 462 wickets, out of which 71.87% goes to Herath.

Batting consistency also a necessity for captaincy           

Apart from their mobile nature and ability to innovate in Test cricket, a hemorrhage of runs by Virat Kohli and Steven Smith has ensured that they can be trusted with taking the role of captaincy. The Sri Lankan batting arsenal has Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva with the most number of matches, but averages of 31.43 and 30.89 respectively are huge disappointments. Therefore handing them leadership roles will be equivalent to taking gambles.

A mountain to climb

Sri Lankan cricket board somehow has to groom a player into a potential skipper

Sri Lanka are languishing way down at number 6 in the ICC Test rankings and it’ doesn’t come as a shocker. They have lost the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardena and Arjuna Ranatunga down the line, but it won’t be accepted as an excuse for not producing quality skippers.

There are West Indies who have capitulated due to lack of an astute skipper and Sri Lanka might be heading in the same direction. They have got the better of Australia 3-0 in the recent Test series, but there should always be a backup skipper.

Herath’s not getting any younger and it’s high time they start grooming another captain. Sri Lankan players also need to perform consistently for the team management to bank on them. The role of a skipper is instrumental in selecting the team. Sri Lanka has Angelo Mathews, but again, he won’t be there forever.

All data provided is before the start of the first Test between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe at Harare

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