Players' failure to adjust to foreign conditions - rather than sweeping flaws in the domestic system - are to blame for the Sri Lanka's plight in South Africa, chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya has said. Sri Lanka won the T20 series 2-1, but have been clean-swept in the Tests, and are presently 0-4 in the five-match ODI series. Until Tuesday, no Sri Lanka batsman had made a century on tour, and only three half-centuries were hit in the Test series.
"We should be able to play under any conditions, not just at home," said Jayasuriya. "There's no point giving excuses or blaming our domestic structure after we lose a series. Your success depends on how fast you adjust to these conditions but sadly we have taken too long to do that."
Sri Lanka's domestic structure has been the subject of increasing criticism over recent years, not least from recently retired players. It has been repeatedly claimed that the Premier League Tournament - the main first-class competition, which features 14 teams - is too inflated to allow for adequate concentration of talent. It has also been suggested that domestic surfaces are too spin-friendly. Fourteen of the 15 top wicket-takers of the ongoing Premier League Tournament are spinners - the previous season's final statistics had laid out a similar breakdown.
"I wouldn't say there's a dearth of talent but we don't produce those champion cricketers as much as we did in the past," Jayasuriya said. "I don't think it's a problem with the domestic structure or the school structure, because it's the very system that produced all those champion cricketers in the past. So, we need to assess this situation and find out where the problem is and correct it.
"The problem I see here is not lack of talent but their inability to adjust quickly to situations and handle the pressure. You can't play cricket, if you can't absorb pressure."
Sri Lanka have, nevertheless, unearthed cricketers the team's coaches and managers believe are capable of becoming world-class players. Two of those, Kusal Mendis and Lahiru Kumara, had had substantial exposure to overseas conditions before they were picked in the national side - Mendis having spent a season playing club cricket in Middlesex, and Kumara having toured England with the Under-19s side. Jayasuriya said this kind of exposure may mark Sri Lanka's route to better overseas performance on future tours.
"If we can do a player programme at least at the Under-19 level that will do a world of good for the players," he said. "We sent Kusal Mendis to England and we all know how well he performed in England last year. We've also seen South African players being sent to India to get use to spin wickets. This is one area we could really look at in the future.
"We really need to find a way to play outside of our comfort zone. We do better in our own conditions and win matches, but when we go out, we struggle. If we don't change this situation fast, we will only be winning matches at home."