x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Coach Geoff Marsh wants young Sri Lanka to deliver

With the team going through a transitory phase, the upcoming players have yet to fill the void left by legends such as Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan.

Sri Lanka’s young cricketers, seen during training at Dubai International Cricket Stadium yesterday, will need to put their hands up.
Sri Lanka’s young cricketers, seen during training at Dubai International Cricket Stadium yesterday, will need to put their hands up.

DUBAI // Geoff Marsh, Sri Lanka's new coach, has challenged his young set of players to show they are capable of emulating the greats who have gone before them, starting on Friday against Pakistan.

If ever a series proved that time and tide wait for no cricket team, it is this one.

Pakistan, who are admittedly better practised at crisis-management than anyone else, have done a fine job so far of coping with the high-profile loss of three players for reasons entirely unrelated to the ageing process.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, have been managing less well with the departure of their old guard. There is no doubt that they have become an eminently friendlier proposition with the gradual erosion of the side of Sanath Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan.

However, those days are gone. It prompted Kumar Sangakkara, the one player who came out of the Test series against Pakistan with distinction, to tell his young colleagues that they need to forge their own path, following their latest series loss.

Marsh, who was training with his charges at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium at precisely the same time as son Shaun was batting in a Test for Australia in South Africa on Wednesday, echoed Sangakkara's sentiments.

"His message was that those great players are now finished, and it is time for our younger players to step up and become those great players," Marsh said.

Sangakkara was the top run-scorer in the Test series which concluded on Monday, and Marsh described it as "a fantastic" performance. He added: "But we really need to get some of our younger players to stand up and be the next Sangakkara, [Mahela] Jayawardene, et cetera. I think he was using his experience to send a message that it is time to move on now, and we need the whole team to play well and for the next cricketer to come forward."

For all the protestations international cricketers make about the Test game still being the No 1 arena, there is little doubt the limited-overs series, starting on Friday, will set the pulses racing more than what went before it.

It better had, otherwise everyone will be asleep. While a 1-0 win in the three-Test series was gratefully received by a characteristically under-siege Pakistan side, the action was tepid.

The arrival of Shahid Afridi, the all-rounder, in Dubai has immediately given the series a little more stardust, as well as the promise of fireworks on the field.

Sri Lanka, too, are welcoming back one of their own figureheads, in the form of the quick bowler Lasith Malinga. With such high-profile figures around, perhaps it will be less easy to be distracted by issues unfolding thousands of miles away.

The Pakistanis are tired of being under the microscope, according to their coach-come-chief selector, Mohsin Khan.

"It is natural to feel that way," he said. "Our top cricketers went through those problems and it was very sad news for all of us. "But our duty is for the series against Sri Lanka. We are concentrating on cricket, that is it. We have to do well for our country.

"I personally feel, and I am not just saying this because I am a Pakistani myself, that Pakistan is one of the best and most talented cricketing nations of the world."

Referring to the spot-fixing trial and subsequent conviction of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, Mohsin said: "This thing has hurt us. But it should not overcome our players. Let us hope for the best."

pradley@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE and Paul Radley @PaulRadley