By Champika Fernando
Despite a remarkable year of cricket in 2015, seamer Dhammika Prasad received probably the unkindest cut from his employer Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) when he was overlooked for an annual contract for the 2016/2017 period after a spate of injuries kept him out of cricket for over a year.
In 2015 he took 38 wickets in eight matches at an impressive average of 22.92 his best year in international cricket.
Prasad last played for Sri Lanka in October 2015 against West Indies at home and even though he was part of the New Zealand (December 2015) and England (May 2016) tours, a back injury and a shoulder injury forced his return home without playing any part in the above tours.
Prasad was not among the 17 players announced for annual contracts last week and, according to the Chairman of Selector Sanath Jayasuriya, the 33-year-old seamer’s status quo will remain till he recovers from the shoulder surgery performed last month in Melbourne, Australia.
“We are not sure whether he can play for the whole of next year. Of course, he was our strike bowler but he is injured and done a shoulder surgery. This means he will be out for at least six to seven months. We will give him a contract after he recovers,” Jayasuriya told journalists at a press conference held on the eve of the National Team’s departure to Zimbabwe.
Prasad, who toured England in May as the country’s pace spearhead, returned home without playing a game with a shoulder injury that he had sustained during training. He was advised to take rest and undergo rehabilitation by the team physiotherapist early on. But a MRI scan confirmed substantial damage and immediate surgery was recommended. He underwent surgery in Australia late last month and was advised to take at least three months rest before bowling again.
When contacted, a Board official said that they had not cold-shouldered the seamer and had, in fact, borne all expenses relating to his surgery.
“As Sanath had said, we will offer him a contract once he’s fit to play but as for now his name has not been recommended by the selectors,” a top Board official said.
However, SLC’s decision has come under heavy criticism from the sports fraternity who voiced their support on various social media platform for the injured seamer.
“When horses get injured, you put him down with a gun as they often cannot recover from injuries. This is exactly what happened to Prasad. He was excessively used as there was no proper player management in our system and when he breaks down, they have just abandoned him. He got injured while on tour and it’s the responsibility of the Board to look after him till he recovers. I can understand if he was left out due to poor performance or if the injury was caused outside the cricket field,” a concerned cricketer voiced his support, requesting anonymity for obvious reasons.
Ironically, as recently as Monday, SLC Chief Thilanga Sumathipala commenting on injuries, blamed poor player management for the number of injuries in the National Team carrying at the moment.
“We have not managed our players properly for the last three years. We are experiencing good cricketers who have come in from Under-19, 23 and club level that once they reach the top level they can’t sustain their physical condition because they have been badly managed,” said Sumathipala addressing a media conference on Monday.