Every country goes through its fair share of ups and downs. India, at the zenith of the ICC Test rankings at the moment, went through a similar period a few ago back as did world-beaters Australia after the retirement of some stalwart cricketers. Both of them recovered well. But that's more than can be said about the West Indians who had a fearsome lineup in the 1980s before fading into oblivion.
Now, Sri Lanka, it seems is going through a similar patch with several of their big names hanging up their boots. Experience isn't the only thing the Lankans lack, but they missed it terribly when India flew to their shores and wrecked havoc. They missed the flair of Kumar Sangakkara, the stability of Mahela Jayawardena, the wile of Muttiah Muralitharan, the X-factor of Lasith Malinga and the aggression of Tillakaratne Dilshan.
What they had was an uninspiring skipper, a methodical but drab opener, a veteran spinner who looked pedestrian against some world-class batsmen and a hit or miss middle-order.
They looked lost with the bat, befuddled with the ball and clueless in the field.
It can be safely said that Sri Lanka were completely outplayed by their neighbours in every aspect of cricket. Not once in the three Tests did Lanka give an impression of pulling off a draw at the very least. When they chased down a mammoth 388 against Zimbabwe right before this series, there was ecstasy and joy.
But did the Lankans ever wonder why they were chasing such a huge total at home against the minnows?
It clearly shows the kind of false hope they place in themselves. A first step in the right direction for this pathetic Test side would be to accept the fact that they have been deplorable. "This was the toughest series in eight years playing international cricket, no doubt," skipper Dinesh Chandimal had said after the whitewash, "The reason is that we were not able to take the games to five days. The previous two were four-day Tests, and this was a three-day Test. Since I've been in this team, this is the worst series loss I've experienced."
That isn't all though. It would help if the Lankans gathered enough courage to look through the facts.
They have just one name in the top four run-scorers in the series and none except Nuwan Pradeep took more than six wickets for them in the whole series as against Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja who took 17 and 13 wickets respectively.
They conceded more than 600 twice in the series and lost by an innings twice. India averaged above 60 with the bat in the series while the hosts had less than 25.
Sure, injuries played a part of Lanka's pathetic show. Asela Gunaratne was injured on the first day of the series. Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal and Rangana Herath were also injured during the series. But there is no reason to believe that they would have put up a better show with these injured personnel in the playing XI. They have been woeful for the past two years and there is no moving forward without accepting that fact.
Once they take that first step, there will be more clarity, but that is all it would give. There are so many other things this side needs to do before it can compete with the other top tier Test nations.
The failure of their senior players bogged them down completely. From Angelo Mathews to Upul Tharanga and Chandimal to Herath, every one of their senior players put up a horrible show. If Sri Lanka needs to ride back from the ashes, at least two of them need to stand up and pull the youngsters by their hands. For that very reason, they need to stick by their senior core players despite their horror series.
Adversity brings about the best in teams. Sri Lanka have right now hit rock bottom and the only way from here is up. Positivity will go a long way in helping this side. They need an inspiring captain and Chandimal needs to transform himself. Entrusting someone else with the job now would be detrimental to Chandimal and the team, so it would be better if the middle-order batsman continues donning the role, albeit with more support from the other senior players.
Grooming these youngsters should also take utmost priority. It is not that Sri Lanka have a rut of talent. The likes of Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Viswa Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka have time and again showed glimpses of their talent but not one of them have married consistency yet, which has affected Sri Lanka's chances.
The key here is to stick by the players they think would form their core group in the coming years. Back them, give them confidence and give them more games. The only way to imbibe confidence in these youngsters is by giving them a really fair run in the squad.
The selection is another point on which the team needs to brush up. Far too often have they resorted to going back to dumped players and this has not only affected the confidence of the younger guns, but also given the discarded ones false hope.
The selection panel, coach and captain need to sit down and chalk out a clear plan for the future. It does not mean setting down unrealistic goals like winning a series in each of Australia, South Africa and England in the next two years. Rather it means they form an idea as to where they are headed. Right now, Sri Lanka look like a disaster that the opposition are happy to welcome. The major steps to change that cannot happen overnight but they need to start rebuilding quickly.