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A laughing stock



by Rex Clementine

We were a nation that reinvented how the one-day game was played. Our players were so skilful that they dominated the sport particularly in the white ball formats. Many are the careers that Sanath Jayasuriya ended with his brutal hitting. Many were the games that ended before noon after Chaminda Vaas ran through the top order. Many were the series that Sri Lanka won with a game to spare and then half a dozen seniors were rested for the dead rubber blooding in some promising youngsters. Today, England, the perennial underachievers in limited overs cricket are giving us a taste of our own medicine.

Not even during the nation’s formative years in the sport in 1980s, Sri Lanka suffered such ignominious defeats. Losing is part of the game, but what has been worrying is the manner in which Sri Lanka lost, unable to find the boundary in the Power Plays and unable to bat out the full quota of 20 overs. Surely, a school team would show more character and courage than this.

To make matters worse, the players are adamant that they will not sign central contracts. Four of them who were supposed to attend a residential training camp in Dambulla ahead of the India series were sent home on Saturday for their stubbornness.

England are the defending champions in the 50 over game and world’s number one ranked team in the 20 over format, not many fans expected Kusal Perera’s side return victorious when they went to UK. But at least, it was expected the team will put up a fight. The batting display they put up throughout the series was shocking to say the least. In England, you expect a team to improve on their batting performances as they spend more time on tour. Sri Lankan batting went on the reverse faring worse every game.

Batting has been a concern for some time now no doubt. There have been various excuses given over the last six months but it is tough to imagine how Grant Flower, the Batting Coach, will survive this debacle. When put under pressure, the options that the batsmen took were simply no good.

What’s more shocking is that coaches like Mickey Arthur and Tom Moody, who have been in the business for long enough now have failed to address tactical issues. The buck, however, should not stop with Flower, Arthur or Moody. We need to take a serious look at things.

Oshada Fernando has been one of our best finds in the last five years. But for god’s sake, he’s a solid Test match player. Why on earth would you expect him to convert his Test match successes in the T-20 format? The excuse that’s going to be given is that Oshada came in only because Avishka Fernando was injured. That’s correct but should you not have enough T-20 cricketers as back up especially now that you are carrying an extended squad.

To add insult to injury, Oshada was coming in when the Power Play was on. Now this is an area that you have been badly exposed earlier in the series and should you be not sending in someone who can clear the boundary? Sri Lanka played a brand of cricket making most of the fielding restrictions two and half decades ago. Today, our players are struggling to find the boundary. For Sanath Jayasuriya, hitting five boundaries in an over was something that he did frequently. Today, our entire team put together is not able to hit six boundaries in 20 overs.

It was clearly evident that Oshada did not belong there. Into the bargain, he’s also an average fielder and a poor runner between the wickets. Another person who doesn’t belong in T-20 format is Dhananjaya de Silva. Surely, we have seen enough of these players to know that in what format they are good at. But how come the decision makers aren’t so sure of these?

When Bhanuka Rajapaksa gets his act together and passes the fitness tests, Sri Lanka will have lesser headaches perhaps. Another guy who has to be seriously looked at for the T-20 format is Sadeera Samarawickrama. His attitude, work ethic and skill set were so good when he toured India and UAE in 2017. But ever since, he has not got a look in.

Here are some of the bigger issues that need to be addressed by all concerned. When the system was given a shake up with as many as six seniors axed from the white ball team, it was a welcome move as change was long overdue. However, the choice of captain was rather perplexing. Now, KJP is one of the nicest guys you will find in cricket. He minds his own business and not a social media warrior which most of our young players are. But he’s also an introvert. You have taken the tough decision of axing all your senior players, but then, how come you give flimsy reasons like that KJP is the only guy who is sure of a place in the side when handing him the captaincy? At one point you are being bold and few minutes later you are extra cautious.

Surely, there’s Dasun Shanaka who dethroned Pakistan as world’s number one ranked team in T-20s not so long ago. Why wasn’t he given the job back? Mysterious indeed. The first thing that KJP does after being appointed captain is to say that he is going to keep wickets. That put Niroshan Dickwella out of the side. Now, we are told that Dickwella was offered a top contract because he features in all three formats. Are these people taking us for a ride?

There are many changes that have happened in cricket and some of them are welcoming moves. But something that authorities are unable to do is changing the domestic structure. The moment we say this, the clubs are on war path. They treat the press like the plague. Provincial or club cricket, our elite domestic tournament can’t have two dozen teams. The rot started there. It was increased to please member clubs in 2016. Since then, our cricket has suffered new lows.


Nobody owning up to Sri Lanka’s World Cup disaster



Dasun Shanaka’s ODI captaincy has become untenable

by Rex Clementine

Following the national cricket team’s shambolic performance in the ODI series in New Zealand there was confirmation that Sri Lanka will not qualify automatically for this year’s World Cup. They will have to play a qualifying tournament in June this year involving West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Netherlands and other teams in the lower ranks and only two teams go through for the World Cup in India this October. Sri Lanka having never missed out on an ICC event in the past will be under tremendous pressure to maintain the status quo.

Nobody is willing to accept responsibility for the debacle. None have stepped down. The coaches are passing the buck onto the selectors while the selectors are blaming poor domestic cricket standards and the finger pointing goes on.

Those holding responsible positions in cricket have overtaken King Kekille, who according to folk stories, always punished the innocent and spared the wrongdoers whenever he heard cases. He once had a goldsmith punished for a structural fault in a newly-built wall around his palace. On being questioned by the king, the bricklayer concerned said he had been distracted by an attractive woman who had been going past the work site several times a day. The woman, summoned to the royal court, said she had been compelled to make many trips to the goldsmith, who had delayed the delivery of her order. So, the king decided to punish the goldworker. Those holding key positions in cricket must be King Kekille’s descendants.

There are seven coaches at SLC drawing an annual salary of more than 100,000 US$ each. You expected better results from such a highly paid unit. As for the selectors, they have been in office for more than two years now and their flawed policies have made Sri Lankan cricket the laughing stock.

This after all is not New Zealand’s best side. The hosts had lost the cream of their players to IPL and Sri Lanka were favourites to win the series. Yet, seamers who were bowling at 120 to 130 kmph were running through the batting line-up. It was a weak bowling attack and the batting unit failed miserably. Thank god the likes of Kusal Mendis never played against the class of Wasim Akram. He picked up consecutive ducks in the two ODIs and he is our vice-captain. The selectors are quite keen that the captaincy will remain at SSC in case they have to axe Dasun.

The least said about the captain the better. He reviews a catch to first slip in one innings and then runs out the man in form – Pathum Nissanka – in the next innings and throws away his wicket when he needs to lead from the front. Dasun Shanaka’s ODI captaincy is untenable. He has failed to lead by example, averages 26 with the bat and doesn’t bowl enough and has no place in the ODI side.

After a humiliating performance in the first ODI, it’s funny how the selectors backed the same batting unit while someone like Sadeera Samarawickrama, who has been a prolific run scorer in domestic cricket, was warming the bench.The selectors approach to ODI cricket has been flawed. One major reason why the team is not occupying 50 overs, something paramount to compete in limited overs cricket, is that there’s no batter who is equipped to play the anchor role.

Successful Sri Lankan teams used to do that with the likes of Asanka Gurusinha and then Marvan Atapattu stepped up to that role. After their departure, Kumar Sangakkara did a splendid job at three but the current team hasn’t got a batter who is capable of batting through the innings. Most batters are happy to get a flashy 20 and then throw away their wicket.

There needs to be a complete overhaul of the way Sri Lanka play ODI cricket. For a nation that set the trends and were innovative in the 50 overs format, we have failed to move on with the times. Sri Lankan cricket has paid a heavy price for selectors’ flawed policies.

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Hazlewood set to miss initial stages of IPL 2023



Josh Hazlewood picked up 20 wickets in 12 matches last IPL

Royal Challengers Bangalore fast bowler Josh Hazlewood is set to miss the initial stages of the IPL beginning in Ahmedabad on Friday.According to, Hazlewood will remain in Sydney having been sent back home after missing Australia’s four-match Test series in India, and will consult with Cricket Australia’s medical staff before joining the IPL. The report also added that he ‘remains hopeful’ of turning out for Royal Challengers later in the tournament.

Hazlewood was sent back from the Test tour of India due to Achilles tendonitis that had plagued him for two months, which came after he damaged his side in the first Test of Australia’s home summer in early December 2022 and missed the next three Test matches. He subsequently missed the ODIs against India as well. He last played for Australia in the third Test against South Africa in January. His fitness will be monitored closely given Australia have the World Test Championship final and the Ashes coming up immediately after the IPL ends on May 28.

Hazlewood, who was picked up by Royal Challengers at the 2022 mega auction for INR 7.75 crore, took 20 wickets in the 12 matches he played last season, finishing as the side’s second-highest wicket-taker.

Royal Challengers have suffered a spate of injuries even before the season has begun. Earlier, England batter Will Jacks has been ruled out of the season, with New Zealand allrounder Michael Bracewell named his replacement. Rajat Patidar, who was the team’s breakout star last season, is set to miss at least the first half of the season with a heel injury.Royal Challengers open their campaign against Mumbai Indians on April 2 at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.


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Argentina bids to host U20 World Cup in place of Indonesia



FIFA President Gianni Infantino looks on during a meeting ahead of the opening of the 76th CONMEBOL Ordinary Congress on Thursday

Argentina has submitted a formal bid to host this year’s Under-20 World Cup in place of Indonesia, which was stripped of its rights to stage the tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Thursday.Argentina was the only country to submit a formal offer. The FIFA Bureau will decide whether to accept the proposal in two or three days with the tournament scheduled to start on May 20.

“We all know Argentine football and surely it can host a competition of this level,” Infantino told a news conference in Paraguay, where he was to take part in the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) Congress on Friday.

“There are other countries that have also announced interest but as a candidacy, with the government’s guarantees and other details, Argentina is the first and we will make the decision in two or three days,” he added.

FIFA stopped Indonesia from hosting the event after the country’s soccer federation (PSSI) said it had cancelled the draw because the governor of the island of Bali refused to host the Israel team.

“Israel is in favour of Argentina hosting, they deserve it as world champions. It is a very nice and big country, with excellent facilities. I hope they can also organize the 2030 World Cup,” Israel’s Ambassador to Argentina, Eyal Sela, said.

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