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End of the road for Gurusinghe?

Asanka Gurusinghe seems unlikely to play for Sri Lanka again. The left-handed number three who played a big role in his country winning the World Cup last year has pulled out of the squad for New Zealand and is unlikely to be picked for future tours.

Gurusinghe is playing cricket for North Melbourne right now and wanted to be able to fly directly to New Zealand and join the Sri Lankan squad instead of going back to Colombo and then flying with the team. The request may seem out of order but not when one considers the fact that Aravinda de Silva, the vice-captain, was allowed to join the squad in Pakistan when they last toured; de Silva was playing county cricket for Kent at the time.

Gurusinghe is thus justified in asking why he cannot do something similar. After all, the reasoning runs, he has to join the team for a conditioning camp and practice. He is playing right now and thus would be keeping fit anyway. Why, then, cannot he be given the same treatment as de Silva? One can find no fault with this line of reasoning. If it had been the case that nobody had ever been permitted to join the team directly, then it would have been different. But as it happens, this is not the case. There is a precedent. And Gurusinghe is no greenhorn in the team; he is a veteran.

Gurusinghe had fallen foul of the authorities shortly after the Sharjah tournament in November last year. He had given an interview to a Sri Lankan newspaper and, in the course of that, had implied that he had been dropped from the team for a match or two in Sharjah, for reasons other than cricketing ones. During the interview, Gurusinghe hinted that there had been problems about his accepting the contract to play in Australia. To quote him: "They say I would not be able to be committed to Sri Lanka. But if Aravinda could have come from Kent to join the Sri Lankan team in Pakistan, why can't I do the same and join the Lankan team in New Zealand if they need me?"

Regarding the Sharjah tournament, Gurusinghe said neither he nor Roshan Mahanama were given reasons for being left out of the second and first ties respectively. It may be recalled that Kumar Dharmasena was injured in the first match and Marvan Atapattu had flown in, ostensibly as a replacement. Atapattu finally played instead of Gurusinghe, with Upul Chandana taking the place of Dharmasena. Atapattu's joining the team was, Asanka says, a secret until the former had left Sri Lanka.

The reasons for his being 'dumped'? "I am blunt and outspoken. I tell people whatever I want to tell them, 'friendships' apart. Some now say I am (then Sri Lankan coach) Dav Whatmore's man. That may be partly true. He and I got on well but there have been times when we have disagreed strongly, that's my nature. Roshan is a close friend of mine but at times I have criticised him. I have done that to others also and that may be one of the reasons why I was dumped."

Gurusinghe rejected the argument that he was dropped because of poor form. "I did not fail in Sharjah. The wicket was very tricky and almost all batsmen failed with the exception of Pakistan's Saeed Anwar... Others criticise me on the basis that I get run out too often. I must say that at least half of those runouts were largely due to my attempt to save the batsman at the other end. In the Sharjah match, I was run out in an effort to save Sanath Jayasuriya. If I did not play with such a team spirit, perhaps I could have saved my place."

The board seems to have taken objection to the interview but there was no way they could have left Gurusinghe out of the squad for New Zealand without a lot of questions being asked. But then they probably knew that Gurusinghe would not be able to come back to Colombo to join the team and would insist on joining the team direct from Australia. He had submitted a letter to the board shortly after the interview and this demand is likely to have formed part of what he wrote. Thus, another one is likely to bite the dust.