Ashantha de Mel, Sri Lanka's chief selector, has come out with a stinging indictment of the team's performance in the ODI series against India, which the hosts have lost 3-0 with two matches to go. de Mel criticised the fielding and the running between the wickets, and said the selectors would meet Sri Lanka Cricket's chief executive, Duleep Mendis, over these issues on Thursday.
Gautam Gambhir and Suresh Raina were dropped in the first game, Yuvraj Singh was dropped in the second and Gambhir and Virender Sehwag were dropped in the third.
"One of the main areas we are concerned with is our fielding. I have observed that the team is not doing enough fielding drills and not spending enough time to make sure the fielding remains on top," de Mel told the Island, a Colombo-based English daily. "The selectors who have been on tour too have noted that sufficient time has not been spent on developing fielding skills. We [the selectors] are meeting the SLC CEO tomorrow and we are going to take up the issue. We want to tell the management as well that the fielding drills should be given top priority and maybe we need to do some supervision as well."
de Mel said Sri Lanka's fielding was much better when Tom Moody was the coach, when he was assisted by Trevor Penney, the fielding coach. After Penney, they had local fielding coaches but no one has been consistently with the team. Sri Lanka, currently coached by Trevor Bayliss, have been without a fielding coach since the last series against India in 2008.
"When Tom Moody was there, this wasn't the case. He insisted we spend considerable time doing fielding drills. Currently, we have four or five guys who can't throw," de Mel said. "There were a couple of dropped catches the other day and you saw some fielders dodging the ball when there was an opportunity to take a possible catch. It's disappointing to see fielding levels coming down."
de Mel was also concerned with the running between the wickets. "I was going through the records of the second ODI and I was stunned to see that there were 125 dot balls when we batted. That can't happen in one-day cricket. You may have the occasional run-out."
Sri Lanka have retained the squad for the rest of the series and de Mel reasoned that changes would have been an eye-opener for them to perform or perish.
"We could have made changes, but pressure will be even more if we had included new guys. Now, what we have got to do is to make sure that we finish off the series with some wins behind us rather than make things worse."
However, de Mel felt there was nothing drastically wrong with the team. "We had a good series in Pakistan. I don't see anything major wrong taking place, but little things. But the thing is these little things can have a huge affect at the end. If you don't practice fielding, you will be sloppy in the field and you can't let that happen against the quality of Yuvraj [Singh] and [Virender] Sehwag.
"One positive for me was the way Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara batted during the third ODI. They were positive and that's the way to go. Tillakaratne Dilshan too is shaping up well and let's hope things will click in the last two games."
de Mel said the selectors were tempted to play Lasith Malinga for the last two ODIs but decided not to rush his comeback. "At the moment, we don't want to play him in the one day game. Let's see how he goes in the Twenty20. He's coming from a fairly serious injury and we need to handle him carefully."
He added that Tommy Simsek, the physiotherapist, would soon be back to help the team. "He played a key role in managing players' injuries. When we play too much of cricket, you need to manage these niggles that occur and he was good at it. He will be back."