Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford has admitted his side’s lack of fast-bowling depth is “alarming”, after losing two quicks to injury while one has been reported with a suspect action on their England tour.
Angelo Mathews’ men face England at Lord’s on Friday in the final match of their three-Test series, following comprehensive defeats in the first two matches of what’s been a miserable tour for Australia’s next Test opponents.
The star of Sri Lanka’s series-clinching win over England at Headingley in 2014, Dhammika Prasad, and Dushmantha Chameera have both left the tour with injuries, while Shaminda Eranga is awaiting the results of a biomechanics test he completed on Monday.
Considering Sri Lanka’s fast-bowling stocks looked thin even before the beginning of the England tour, Ford concedes their lack of experienced seamers is a concern.
“It is a challenge, because Dhammika (Prasad) was the star of the show last time Sri Lanka toured England,” Ford told reporters on Sunday.
“He was the one that bowls the right length and was able to swing the ball both ways. The rest of the guys tend to swing it out more than anything else. And then we lost that extra pace that Dushmantha (Chameera) brings.
“From a firepower point of view we are perhaps not where we want to be.
“But we do have a bowling unit that can bowl with discipline, hit their areas, and find other ways of creating pressure.
“(Bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake) has been working very hard with them on that. We've had periods where we have created that pressure and stuck to it pretty well.
“But then we've had other periods when we haven't been like that, which shows that we're very much a work-in-progress.”
Should Eranga be ruled out by the ICC, left-armer Chaminda Bandara could make his Test debut, joining incumbent seamers Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal and veteran spin-bowler Rangana Herath in the Sri Lanka attack.
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Ford, appointed for his second stint as Sri Lanka’s national coach in January, also identified fielding as a major issue for the side.
Sri Lanka held on to a number of tough catches during the first Test at Headingley but missed chances off Jonny Bairstow, who went to make 140 in that match, and then Moeen Ali (155 not out) in the second Test proved costly for the tourists.
While Ford insists his charges work hard on their fielding, the 55-year-old suggests it’s a skill that needs more of an emphasis at junior levels.
“The players have worked like crazy, but at the board level we've talked about how if you want to have a good fielding side, you have to make sure there's real solid coaching in the fielding department at the emerging player level,” he said.
“By the time they get to international cricket they should be good fielders.
“We need somebody at the Under-17, Under-19, development and emerging players having regular fielding sessions. They would have done so many good drills that they're not scared of the ball and not scared to dive. They would watch the ball while they're diving.
“You can't teach an old dog new tricks. You can't flick a switch. You can't have them playing for Sri Lanka and in a couple of fielding sessions turn them into brilliant fielders.
“We want to be known as a nation that produces really good fielders.”
Following their England assignment, Sri Lanka host Australia for a three-Test series.