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A fit KJP, huge relief for Sri Lanka



Kusal Janith Perera has recovered from injury and he will be key in Sri Lanka's World Cup campaign.

by Rex Clementine

When Kusal Janith Perera hurt his hamstring during the recent series against South Africa, it was a huge concern for the Sri Lankans and there were doubts whether he will be available for the qualifying round of the ICC T-20 World Cup that will get underway shortly. However, the former captain has pulled through and he is expected to be available for the qualifiers.

Given his vast experience, KJP is an important member in the Sri Lankan camp and he has proved to be a match winner in all three formats. Particularity in T-20 cricket, with his ability to find the boundary frequently, he is a dangerous player and fans have not yet seen the best of the left-handed batsman.

Sri Lanka will play Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea in two warm-up games before the qualifying round with the Bangladesh game slotted for today followed by the PNG game on Thursday.

Sri Lanka play Namibia, Ireland and Netherlands in the qualifiers on the 18th, 20th and 22nd October, respectively. The fixtures against Namibia and Ireland are in Abu Dhabi while the Netherlands game is in Sharjah.

This has been tough year for KJP as he has missed lot of cricket due to illness and injury. He hurt his shoulder during the series in England and was ruled out for the home series against India. He was expected to make a comeback for the South Africa white ball games, but tested positive for COVID and his return was delayed.

Sri Lanka won both their encounters against Oman last week where they did not play KJP. Dasun Shanaka’s side were also without the services of Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera as they were on IPL duty. Both IPL signings joined the Sri Lankan squad in Abu Dhabi Sunday night. Given their intense preparation and playing quality opponents like South Africa recently should stand in good stead for the Sri Lankans during qualifiers and they are expected to go through unbeaten.

Realistically, not many fancy Sri Lanka making it to the semi-finals and that takes pressure off from them. If the likes of KJP, Avishka Fernando and Shanaka fire in crunch games, that would be ideal for the former champions as they have showcased that their bowling is good to contain stronger opponents.

Sri Lanka did four changes to their World Cup squad on Saturday, the last day to submit teams for the ICC.

The selectors were forced to replace Nuwan Pradeep and Lahiru Madushanka as they were injured and brought in fast bowlers Binura Fernando and Lahiru Kumara. They also benched Kamindu Mendis and Praveen Jayawickrama opting for batsman Pathum Nissanka and off-spinner Akila Dananjaya. The selection of Dananjaya surprised many as he has struggled with his form in recent months.

If they qualify, Sri Lanka will compete in Group 1 in the second round where their opponents will be England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies and a qualifier from the other group, which probably is going to be Scotland.

It’s been quite a journey for Sri Lankan cricket in the last six months. The selectors took a bold step when they benched half a dozen seniors for white ball cricket but they were back to square one when three players who were expected to form the nucleus of their side – Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella – were served lengthy suspensions for breaching the bio-secure bubble in England.

The young team has shown immense character since then while the selectors have recalled Dinesh Chandimal. The experience of Angelo Mathews could have come in handy but bridges had been burned to a point of no return.




Danushka Gunathilaka found not guilty in sexual assault trial



Danushka Gunathilaka had been arrested last November following Sri Lanka’s T20 World Cup campaign

Sri Lanka batter Danushka Gunathilaka has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a Tinder date through the act of “stealthing”.Judge Sarah Huggett acquitted the 32-year-old as he sat at Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court on Thursday listening to the decision. He said he was looking forward to returning to playing after his acquittal.

“The evidence establishes that there was no opportunity for the accused to remove the condom during intercourse because that intercourse was continuous,” the judge said in handing down the verdict.

Judge Huggett found the complainant, who cannot be legally named, appeared to be an intelligent, calm and responsive witness who did not deliberately give false evidence.

However, at times the woman gave the impression she was “motivated by a desire to paint the cricketer in an unfavourable light”, the judge said.

“I find that the evidence regarding the complaint far from supports the complainant. Rather it undermines the reliability of her evidence.”

The cricketer’s defence team signalled he will apply for the Crown to pay his legal costs of defending the allegation.Outside court, Gunathilaka thanked his lawyers, parents and others who supported him during what he described as a very hard 11 months.

“I’m happy my life is normal again,” he said. “I can’t wait to go back and play cricket.”

Gunathilaka and the woman matched on the dating app and met for drinks at Opera Bar in November 2022 before having pizza together in the Sydney CBD and then catching a ferry to the woman’s eastern suburbs home.

Police initially brought four charges against Gunathilaka, who was arrested at the Hyatt Regency hours before the Sri Lankan cricket team was due to fly out of the country. Prosecutors later dropped three of those charges.

In statements to police and the court, the woman accused the batsman of various acts of aggression and violence such as slapping her buttocks, forcefully kissing her and bruising her lips and choking her during sex.There was no suggestion by prosecutors at trial that any of these acts constituted an offence, although the woman in her evidence said the sex was non-consensual.

Gunathilaka always maintained his innocence, pleading not guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent relating to the cricketer’s alleged “stealthing”, or removing his condom during sex without the woman’s consent.

During the judge-alone trial, defence lawyers questioned the credibility of the complainant, claiming her story shifted over time and that she edited her version of events to paint Gunathilaka as an aggressive person.

Judge Huggett also heard evidence from two of the woman’s friends who described her as fragile and distraught the day after the cricketer attended her home.Police officers who spoke to the woman were also questioned about the way they handled the case, including omitting crucial details, throwing out notes and potentially contaminating witnesses.

Judge Huggett on Thursday described the conduct of police in prosecuting Gunathilaka as “very concerning” and “far from satisfactory”.

Gunathilaka has been on bail during the trial but was unable to play international cricket or return to his hometown of Colombo.


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Cheering Indian crowds welcome Pakistan team before ICC Cricket World Cup




A Pakistan cricket fan cheers as the cricket team arrives at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, India (pic Aljazeera)

The Pakistan cricket team has been greeted with warm applause and loud cheers by hundreds of Indian fans upon its arrival before the ICC World Cup 2023, which starts on October 5.

The contingent landed at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad late on Wednesday and was given a raucous welcome by local fans who had lined up to catch a glimpse of the cricket stars from across the border.

Videos posted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on X, formerly Twitter, showed fans taking photographs with their phones and shouting the Pakistani players’ names to catch their attention as the squad walked past them inside the terminal.

Bigger crowds awaited the players outside the terminal and along their route out of the airport.

They let out loud cheers for Pakistan’s captain and star batter Babar Azam when he smiled and waved back while boarding the team’s bus.


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Danushka Gunathilaka found not guilty




Danushka Gunathilaka was arrested in November while in Australia for the T-20 World Cup (pic ABC)

Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka has been found not guilty of sexual intercourse without consent following an accusation of “stealthing” involving a Tinder date in Sydney.

The 32-year-old was arrested in November while in Australia for the T-20 World Cup, after he went for drinks with a woman near the Opera House.

He had chatted online for several days and then had dinner with the woman, who can’t be identified for legal reasons, before being invited back to her eastern suburbs home, the NSW District Court heard.

The Crown’s case was that he removed a condom during intercourse without the woman’s knowledge when she had consented only to protected sex.

The complainant told the court she did not see the batsman remove the condom, but saw it on the floor shortly after the intercourse stopped.

Judge Sarah Huggett today found evidence about the “genesis” of the woman’s complaint undermined the reliability of her evidence. The judge said the woman had given different accounts in her two statements; the second, given in April this year, went into further detail about the issue of ‘stealthing’ and added that the complainant did not have a “clear memory” of what happened around the time she saw the condom on the floor.

“The evidence establishes there was no opportunity for the accused to remove the condom during the intercourse because that intercourse was continuous,” she said.

Judge Huggett considered the woman’s first conversations with two close friends, which seemed to frame the complaint in terms of the roughness of the sexual activity.

Gunathilaka’s defence counsel argued the woman lied, gave self-serving evidence and appeared to not remember parts of the night that were inconsistent with a “narrative” she created, which morphed over time.

Murugan Thangaraj SC told the judge the Crown failed to establish the woman’s reliability and highlighted what he said were inconsistencies and implausibility in her version of events.

He said it was “completely illogical” to claim she felt ambushed before lighting candles in her bedroom, effectively setting it up for “a romantic sexual liaison”.

In court, the woman alleged Mr Gunathilaka kissed her “forcefully” on the way home and on her couch, where she felt “ambushed” before moving to the bedroom.

She further alleged he choked her three times during sex, leaving her fearful for her life, and ignored requests to go slow.

Judge Huggett found the woman was an “intelligent witness who gave evidence in a considered way”, and was overall a “calm and responsive” witness.

But the judge said there were times when it appeared the complainant was motivated by a desire to paint the accused in an unfavourable light.

In his police interview, Mr Gunathilaka said he told her his preference generally was to not use condoms but wanted to on the night because it was their first meeting.

In the interview, the cricketer made mention of there being two condoms because one malfunctioned — which the Crown said was a deliberate mistruth.

But Judge Huggett disagreed, finding that his answers were the result of “confusion, fatigue, a language barrier and possibly memory”.

“I formed the distinct impression he was doing his best to be truthful and assist the police,” she said.

Sitting in the interview room, Gunathilaka told police the woman had organised him a taxi and he kissed her before leaving. “She didn’t even text me, I didn’t text her also,” he said.  “And that’s it, then I’m here.”

Gunathilaka has been in Australia on bail since mid-November.

(ABC News)

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