In a year of woe for Sri Lanka, another captain has labeled another series loss the worst of his career. Dinesh Chandimal, in only his second series at the helm, lamented the 0-3 beating at India’s hands. Barely a month ago, Angelo Mathews had said the ODI series loss to Zimbabwe had been “one of the lowest points” of his own career, and not long after he ended up stepping down.
Chandimal’s despair is understandable, because never before have Sri Lanka lost 0-3 at home to India. Two of India’s victories came by an innings, and the other – in Galle – was their biggest victory in terms of runs. And where India tallied a whopping 1949 across four innings at an average of 60.90 per wicket, Sri Lanka managed 1421 in six innings at an average of 24.92. All four of the highest wicket-takers, and three of the top four run-scorers, were also from the visiting side. It was, in short, an almighty hiding.
“This was the toughest series in eight years playing international cricket, no doubt,” Chandimal said. “The reason is that we were not able to take the games to five days. The previous two were four-day Tests, and this was a three-day Test. Since I’ve been in this team, this is the worst series loss I’ve experienced.”
The series has seen paltry crowds, especially in Galle and Colombo, perhaps due to the one-sided nature of the contest. Attendance was slightly better in Pallekele, but the ground was still mostly empty.
Where fan support and satisfaction had been extremely high at the end of the 3-0 Test victory over Australia last year, it has diminished alarmingly over the past eight months, in which Sri Lanka were defeated badly in South Africa, lost a Test to Bangladesh, and crashed out of the Champions Trophy. Chandimal apologised for the team’s performance this series.
“I want to convey our disappointment to all of our fans,” he said. “To all Sri Lankan fans here and away from home, we are very disappointed about our performance. As captain, I would like to take the responsibility. The fans have always supported us. They encourage us always. Today we saw that although we were losing, people were still applauding us. That is what the team needs now. We cannot let the players be mentally down. We are getting the process right. We might not get results soon, but we are confident that the future looks good.”
Chandimal did, however, cite injuries as a possible reason for the defeat. Sri Lanka lost batting allrounder Asela Gunaratne in the first session of the series, then had seamer Nuwan Pradeep break down towards the end of the first day at the SSC. Suranga Lakmal was ruled out from the second Test onwards, and Rangana Herath sat out the dead rubber with a stiff back.
“I would say what has especially gone wrong is injuries,” Chandimal said. “When we played the Australia series didn’t have any injuries. Everyone did their best. When we came to this series there are so many injuries – Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Rangana Herath. They played some really good cricket in the last six months. That’s the main issue. You can’t give excuses. As youngsters you have to stand up and perform.”
Sri Lanka’s pace attack had, in fact, been laid low by injury during that Australia series too. Lakmal had been ruled out before the first Test, and Pradeep only played one game, and Dushmantha Chameera – who was the third seamer in line at the time – was also out of contention with a stress fracture.
Elsewhere, another worrying sign for Sri Lanka, was the failure of their senior batsmen. Upul Tharanga and Angelo Mathews hit only one half-century apiece across six innings – both of those on the flattest track of the series. Chandimal himself managed only a high score of 48 and an average of 24 in four innings (though in mitigation, he had suffered from pneumonia the week before the SSC Test).
“Consistency has been a huge issue this series,” Chandimal said. “Some players cannot perform well in every series. As seniors, you have to do well, and then the youngsters will follow.
“Angelo and I couldn’t get amidst the runs, and we take a lot of blame for that. But we were trying very hard in the middle – even today – and we’ve been training very hard. I have lot of faith the seniors will come back strongly when we take on Pakistan.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando