You could see what the Test series win over Bangladesh meant to Sri Lanka as they celebrated the tenth wicket with passion in Mirpur. There might be the odd question about beating a lower-ranked side missing 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 had more bad days than good in Tests over 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 Sri Lanka’s 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 concerns grew. Last year, India crushed them at home but when Bangladesh beat them in a Test, and Zimbabwe put them under intense pressure, Sri Lanka’s strength at home also came under scrutiny.
But during the tour of India, they managed to draw two Tests and now this series win in Bangladesh will give them renewed hope. Their newcomers, in particular, fuel that hope. Roshen Silva won the Player-of-the-Series award in only his second series, having made runs when nearly every batsman on both sides failed in Mirpur.Spinner Akila Dananjaya’s match figures of 8 for 44 was 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 Mirpur was a crucial contribution.Rangana Herath, who has been Sri Lanka’s stalwart in this difficult period, said this was the start of a new journey with the Test team after 12 months of unease. He said the previous three years of rebuilding was finally seeing results, particularly with the performance of Kusal, Roshen and 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 Roshen’s performance on such a difficult pitch 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 7000 runs. That experience helped him and I would like to congratulate him, because it is a very big achievement on this surface.
Herath also praised Dananjaya, who was in the wilderness for nearly five years before getting a call-up to the T20I side last year.
“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,” Herath said. “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.”
Herath said Chandika Hathurusingha’s appointment as the head coach had 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.”