Need for improving Test temperament

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Niroshan came into prominence when becoming the schoolboy cricketer of the year in 2012 and leading his Alma Mater, Trinity College Kandy, to clinch all three cricket titles — two day league, ODI and T20. Then he made his club side, NCC ‘proud’ with excellent first class performance of 81 matches at an average of 36.44 with 10 centuries (HS 209) and 26 fifties as the opening batsman and the wicketkeeper. (Averages to date)

He deservedly got his first test cap against South Africa in 2014.

Since his debut his impressive Test match average is 29.62 in 25 matches, without a century but with nine fifties and 83 as the highest score. I just imagine, what his average would have been had he concentrated to convert his nine fifties into centuries, with two or three ‘not outs’. However, his ODI average is excellent for a newcomer, averaging 33.9 in 46 matches with two centuries (highest score of 116) along with eight fifties.

In the recently concluded English tour, we were trounced by three-nil in the Test series. Almost all our batsmen were not up to their reputations, and were far from showing their true potential. In most of the cases it was the sweep and ‘to hell with’ reverse sweep which brought their downfall.

In the last two matches we failed miserably, not being able to score 300+ runs to win, due to lack of concentration mainly due to the two reasons mentioned above. We had ample time and there was no hurry at all to reach the winning targets. Most of our batsmen batted as if they were chasing a target in a limited over match. In six innings we passed the 300 mark only once.

However, among them the newly found Ashen Silva (may be purposely hidden by many in the past) is a classic example of concentration for a long inning, which is called Test match temperament. Credit should go to Hathu, our national coach.

In an article written for ‘The Nightwatchman’ in 2014, Martin Crowe examined the temperament required by batsmen. I wish to quote some excerpts from same.

“Cricket, in particular batting, often calls for one’s temperament, a combination of the mental, physical and emotional traits of a person. The batsman knows that one ball is all it takes for him to fail. This demands a fierce focus. It’s a trust that has to come from within, for the batsman is truly alone, calling on temperament.”

In ‘The Art of Cricket’, Don Bradman describes the ideal batting temperament: “There is probably a greater premium on temperament for a batsman than for any player in any branch of sport. The batsman is not allowed one error.”

Crowe further states, that following a shaky debut, Bradman suspected what he was capable of. Dropped, then given time to reorganize his thoughts, he was unstoppable. He knew his temperament and how it needed to work. And his temperament was magnificent. And so he averaged 99.94 per Test innings – more than his first-class return, far more than any other batsman.

“My own first Test five innings were single-figure disasters, mainly a result of premature exposure. I had an immature temperament. A slow recovery led to an awareness of the mind–body balance. The next 50 Tests brought 16 centuries.

Temperament needs flushing out when things aren’t going well. Mindfulness is required – first to accept the situation, the need for help and the desire to change. Like our body – our temperament too needs regular check-ups.”

This is what Crowe mentioned about our Marvan Atapattu. “He began his Test career with one run in six innings. In 1997, Atapattu came back once more and struggled for another six Tests, with a highest score of only 29. He then went away and regrouped again. Three months later, in his 10th Test, he scored his first century. Through thoughtfulness, controlling his emotions, staying in the present and allowing his body to prepare better for the big event, he went on to score six double-centuries, culminating in a fine career”.

Although a new entrant to Test cricket, the Englishman, Ben Foakes displayed plenty of maturity behind the wickets and in his batting with a solid maiden century on his debut. Niroshan, many of your recommendation for DRS as the wicketkeeper were proved futile. Arrogance has brought disastrous results to many talented cricketers in the past. Further, in all your dismissals I have not seen any unplayable deliveries, and only your bad shot selections curtailed your stay at the crease. However, a little bit of polishing in your wicketkeeping too will make you more accomplished.

Niroshan, your, appealing behind the wickets is so terrible and it looks like a man who had been electrocuted. There was a time in the past that the umpires’ fingers used to go up because of the immense pressure, caused by excessive appealing and screaming by the fielding sides. (I remember the negative opinions about umpiring, expressed by former Indian captain Kapil Dev after our first Test win) Now the whole thing is changed with the availability of modern high technology, new laws, and of course the DRS system. Because of those, now there is nothing called the ‘pressure on umpires’ and they try to deliver the best result to make sure their decisions are impeccable and to acquire a reputation like Dickie Bird, who went on to umpire three consecutive World Cup finals in 1975, 1979 and 1983.

Kumar Sangakkara said in one of his speeches, ‘I used to get carried away long time ago. But, I remember how Arjuna advised me. If talking is getting in the way of your game, stop talking. Then I stopped talking. That is a good lesson for any young cricketer’.

Niroshan, you have at least 10 more solid years of international cricket in you. Hope and wish that one day you will also be able to write your name in the annals of the nation by emulating two of the greatest products of your great school, Hon. Lakshman Kadiragamar, the greatest politician and statesman of modern era, and the great Kumar Sangakkara, who have brought immense honour to our motherland. Their speeches were a treat to watch and listen.

You are a ‘proud’ boy to your parents, alma mater and to many who were and are behind the successes so far. I hope and wish that one day you will also become a ‘proud’ son to our motherland Sri Lanka long before the curtain comes down on your career.

God Bless you for an illustrious career.

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