'India's first-class structure is strong, says Gurusinha

'India's first-class structure is strong, says Gurusinha

Asanka Gurusinha, the Sri Lanka team's manager, has blamed the T20 influence for his country's dwindling batting fortunes even as he praised India's first-class cricket structure.

After losing seven wickets in the last session of the first Test in Kolkata to eke out a nervy draw in fading light against India, Lanka produced another inexplicable batting show as they suffered their heaviest Test defeat ever – by an innings and 239 runs. Their second innings batting was particularly dismal as they lost nine wickets in just over a session to make an abject surrender.

Gurusinha, a gutsy No 3 batsman for Lanka for over a decade, felt the young batsmen from his country have picked up all the bad habits from T20 and their limitations get exposed in the longer format.

"The reason (for poor batting) is that they are playing so much of T20 cricket," he stressed here on Thursday. "Young guys who are coming into the Test squad are playing too much T20 cricket. Even schools are playing T20 tournaments. They are focusing on that. When they come to a two-day game or a three-day game they keep playing all these shots, but Test cricket is Test cricket. The name says it all. It tests your mental toughness and your  skill. That's what we are lacking at the moment."

When pointed out that the shorter format has proliferated in India too but they are still the No 1 Test team in the world, Gurusinha attributed it to the strong first-class cricket culture in the country.

"I was talking to a couple of people in the Indian coaching staff and (they said) it is because of their Ranji Trophy which is quite strong," he offered. "You take Ranji Trophy, there are big scores in every game. Even though they play IPL, all players need to go back to Ranji Trophy and perform. Everyone is talking about (Jasprit) Bumrah, the T20 bowler. He is playing Ranji Trophy and is amongst wickets. I think India has told him that we are interested in you playing Test cricket, but you've got to go back and prove it to us. What IPL has done is to give so much talent. But they are harnessing them in so many areas, one-dayers and Tests and building on that. I would love to have that kind of a player where we drop or a rest a player and the replacement is someone who averages 50 in Tests," he observed.

An integral part of Lankan team that won the 1996 World Cup held in the sub-continent, Gurusinha rued the decline of the hey days not too long ago.

Biggest issue

"The biggest issue we are having is that we are not batting three or four sessions," he began. "That's where we are struggling. We have always had fantastic batting line-ups. Not too long ago, we had guys like Mahela (Jayawardene), Sanga (Kumara Sangakkara) and Thilan (Samaraweera) batting so well for us. When you are getting 150s, you  are going to bat for four sessions. If you are going to get 400 runs in an innings, you need at least one guy to bat long. That was one reason why we won against Pakistan as we scored 400-plus and batted for more than 150 overs."

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