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‘All these years later, Vaas is still the benchmark’ – Mathews

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Vaas didn’t mind taking on the role of keeping things tight at one end while Murali unravelled line-ups at the other(Getty)

Chaminda Vaas was Mathews’ hero at school. He has been one ever since, as Mathews shares his views on Vaas to ESPN.

“When I think back to my early days in school, there was one name that monopolised our conversations: Chaminda Vaas. I must have been about seven when he made his debut for Sri Lanka. Up until then I had looked up to my brother and my father in terms of sporting idols, but it wasn’t long before Vaas aiya dominated my thoughts.

In Sri Lanka, school cricket is considerably more popular than the club game, and now Vaas, a star from our school, St Joseph’s, was playing for the national side. It didn’t really get much bigger than that. I was around nine when Sri Lanka won the World Cup. To see him lift that trophy is something I’ll never forget. Yes, it was amazing for all Sri Lankans, but to see a fellow Josephian hoisting that trophy high was an unbelievable feeling; I knew then that I wanted to follow his path.

My only regret is that I was too young to have seen him play in our school colours. I was born in 1987 and I think Vaas aiya played his last school game around 1990. But he did return to the school regularly to help out and mentor the players, which highlighted the sort of character he was.

It was during those visits that I first met him; he was the first international cricketer I had seen in the flesh. And all these years later, he’s still the benchmark for the sort of professional I want to be.

He placed a lot of emphasis on hard work and fitness during his pep talks. But more than anything it was way he handled himself that inspired me. I still remember how he would come to the college to do some of his fitness stuff straight after an international tour. The commitment I saw in him has stayed with me to this day; I knew that if I was ever going to reach the top I needed to work as hard as he did.

His humble nature also translated to the type of cricketer he was; for much of his career he just held up one end, keeping things tight while Murali picked up wickets at the other end. But when you look at his career, his longevity was unbelievable. An Asian seamer playing over 100 Tests and 300 ODIs, and picking up over 750 international wickets – a lot of which came in subcontinental conditions – is an incredible feat.

I was never as skilled as him, but watching him I saw how much you could achieve by just hitting your lengths and keeping things tight. So even though I was never blessed with pace, I always looked to do something similar when I had the ball in hand – hold one end up and create pressure so that my team-mates could pick up wickets at the other. Every team needs a player like that.

I was fortunate enough at the start of my international career to play alongside him. As a team-mate, in the dressing room he wouldn’t talk much, but he would always share his experiences and help you out if you needed it. He led through action more than words. The training he did was phenomenal, as were his overall fitness levels. He was always running at the front of the pack, always looking to improve.

As a young cricketer watching him improve his batting in the twilight of his career also served as motivation for me to become an all-rounder. That really summed him up – always looking to improve, and hell-bent on maximising every ounce of potential. I just hope that I can inspire the next generation in the same way he inspired me.” (ESPN)

 

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Successful staging of LPL would pave the way for other sports to resume – Dr. Lal Ekanayake

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by Reemus Fernando

Dr. Lal Ekanayake, the Director General of the Institute of Sports Medicine expressed hope that Lanka Premier League (LPL) cricket tourney which was scheduled to start in the evening yesterday would be the first step towards resumption of sports in the country despite a rise in the number of Covid 19 positive cases.

“Successful staging of the LPL tournament will pave the way for other sports to resume under new normal conditions. The sports minister too is looking at the possibilities of starting other sports events after the successful conclusion of the LPL,” said Ekanayake in an interview with The Island.

“The Covid 19 is unlikely to leave us soon. Experts say that this will stay for a couple of years. In such a scenario responsibility is on us to prepare ways to resume sports,” said Ekanayake.

“Even some countries which are worst affected by the pandemic have resumed sports under new normal. Sometimes there is confusion regarding health guidelines. But if we plan properly sports can resume,” opined Ekanayake.

“Many international sports events scheduled for next year will happen as scheduled. We cannot hold back. We are going to take part in these championships. The postponed Olympics is happening later next year. So are other international events,” said Ekanayake.

Ekanayake said that his institution was looking forward to support sports associations conduct their competitions. Sri Lanka Athletics is one of the hardest hit sports and the track and field governing body has scheduled the National Championship to December after the cancellations of many top level competitions throughout the year.

Ekanayake has expressed his views on resuming track and field sports on previous occasions as well. He has cited track and field sports as a low risk sports and has the ability to resume despite the pandemic.

Sri Lanka’s sportsmen and women are scheduled to take part in a number of international events in 2021 and 2022. Resumption of local competitions including national championships is going to benefit them.

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Diego Maradona – Argentina’s flawed football icon

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Dazzling, infamous, extraordinary, genius, outrageous. Diego Maradona. A flawed football icon.

One of the game’s most gifted players, the Argentine boasted a rare combination of flair, flamboyance, vision and speed which mesmerised fans.

He also outraged supporters with his controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal and plunged into a mire of drug abuse and personal crises off the pitch.

Born 60 years ago in a Buenos Aires shanty town, Diego Armando Maradona escaped the poverty of his youth to become a football superstar considered by some to be even greater than Brazil’s Pele.

The Argentine, who scored 259 goals in 491 matches, pipped his South American rival in a poll to determine the greatest player of the 20th Century, before Fifa changed the voting rules so both players were honoured.

Maradona showed prodigious ability from a young age, leading Los Cebollitas youth team to a 136-game unbeaten streak and going on to make his international debut aged just 16 years and 120 days.

Short and stocky, at just 5ft 5in, he was not your typical athlete.

But his silky skills, agility, vision, ball control, dribbling and passing more than compensated for lack of pace and occasional weight problems.

He may have been a whizz at running rings round hostile defenders but he found it harder to dodge trouble.

Maradona’s 34 goals in 91 appearances for Argentina tell only part of the story of his rollercoaster international career.

He led his country to victory at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and a place in the final four years later.

In the quarter-final of the earlier tournament, there was a foretaste of the controversy that would later engulf his life.

The match against England already had an extra friction, with the Falklands War between the two countries having taken place only four years beforehand. That on-field edge was to become even more intense.

With 51 minutes gone and the game goalless, Maradona jumped with opposing goalkeeper Peter Shilton and scored by punching the ball into the net.

He later said the goal came thanks to “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.

Four minutes later, he scored what has been described as the ‘goal of the century’ – collecting the ball in his own half before embarking on a bewitching, mazy run that left several players trailing before he rounded Shilton to score.

“You have to say that is magnificent. There is no doubt about that goal. That was just pure football genius,” said BBC commentator Barry Davies.

England pulled one back but Argentina went through, with Maradona saying it was “much more than winning a match, it was about knocking out the English”.

Maradona broke the world transfer record twice – leaving Boca Juniors in his home country for Spanish side Barcelona for £3m in 1982 and joining Italian club Napoli two years later for £5m.

There were more than 80,000 fans in the Stadio San Paolo when he arrived by helicopter. A new hero.

He played the best club football of his career in Italy, feted by supporters as he inspired the side to their first league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the Uefa Cup in 1989.

A party to celebrate the first triumph lasted five days with hundreds of thousands on the streets, but Maradona was suffocated by the attention and expectation.

“This is a great city but I can hardly breathe. I want to be free to walk around. I’m a lad like any other,” he said.

He became inextricably linked to the Camorra crime syndicate, dragged down by a cocaine addiction and embroiled in a paternity suit.

After losing 1-0 to Germany in the final of Italia 90, a positive dope test the following year triggered a 15-month ban.

He returned and arrested his slide, appearing to get his act together to play in the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

But he alarmed viewers with a maniacal full-face goal celebration into a camera and was withdrawn midway through the tournament after he was found to have taken the banned substance ephedrin. (BBC Sport)

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LPL rocked by corruption scandal  

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By Rex Clementine 

A former Sri Lanka cricketer is under probe after his alleged attempt to entice a player into corrupt practice in the inaugural Lanka Premier League tournament that will get underway today at Hambantota. 

The former player – an off-spinner with a dodgy action – had represented Sri Lanka frequently from 2012 to 2016 before being discarded after being reported for a suspect action. He has featured in various T-20 leagues since losing his spot in the Sri Lankan side. Cricket officials said that he had been under the spotlight for corrupt activities but had escaped punishment due to lack of evidence. 

The player who was approached was former S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia spin bowler Tharindu Ratnayake. The ambidextrous Ratnayake bowls both left-arm orthodox spin and right-arm off-spin and represents Sinhalese Sports Club in domestic cricket. The former Sri Lanka player had got to know him at the club having also played for the Maitland Crescent club. 

Ratnayake had reported the approach after he received a Watasapp message tempting him to corrupt practice during the Lanka Premier League. Ratnayake represents Colombo Kings. 

Sri Lanka Cricket officials said that while they were disappointed that something of this nature had occurred on the eve of the tournament added that they were happy that players are taking corruption in the sport seriously.

“We have spent a lot of time, energy and money educating our young players of dangers of corruption and we are glad the incident was reported,” a senior cricket official told The Island.

The captain of the Colombo Kings franchise Angelo Mathews also came in for special praise by SLC. “We are glad to note that Angelo as the captain of the Colombo franchise had called up all his players for a meeting and had warned them to be vigilant of nefarious plots,” the official added. 

The official said that Mathews also had vehemently opposed an Indian player who was banned for corruption being flown in to be part of the Colombo franchise which Mathews leads. 

The LPL will get underway today at Hambantota and the scandal was the last thing the organizers wanted having gone through many difficulties in making the event a reality. The organizers were working in a short time frame to make this a reality and in the middle of that the outbreak of the pandemic threatened the event. 

Sri Lanka Cricket has successfully worked with health authorities in bringing down overseas players, support staff and television crew who have gone through isolation before being drafted into a bubble to resume training ahead of the tournament. 

 

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