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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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Sri Lanka men’s and women’s teams ready to contest FIBA Asia Tournament

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by a Special Sports Correspondent

The Sri Lanka Men’s and Women’s basketball teams took flight to Singapore on Tuesday for the FIBA Asia 3×3 Basketball tournament.

The two teams have been in preparation since April and are being coached by Ajith Kuruppu.

The men’s team has to first prove its worth against China and Tonga and one more team before qualifying for the main tournament. “It’s going to be a tough tournament, but the men’s and women’s teams have been practicing well. Our preparations were good and we want to make an impact at the tournament,” said Kuruppu. According to the Sri Lanka teams’ coach China will be a tough challenge in the men’s segment of the tournament.

“We’ve been gelling together as a team during training and the players have a good understanding when playing as a unit,” said Sri Lanka’s Mens’ Team skipper Shehan Fernando.

Sri Lanka’s women’s team has made a direct entry into the tournament. Sri Lanka Women’s team skipper Anjali Ekanayake said that the ranking of the players in the national 3×3 team is good. “These players have got much exposure playing in this format of the game. We’ve been focusing on nutrition and shooting over the past few months. Training went well for the tournament,” said Ekanayake.

Coach Kuruppu took this opportunity to thank Vaaj Fitness for sponsoring the two national teams to Singapore and for making their gym available for the players to do strength and conditioning training.

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Chathurya, Dinara, Saajida, Vishmi advance to second round

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ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament

Chathurya Nilaweera ousted India’s Dhanush Varma to reach the second round of the ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament continued at the SSC Tennis Courts on Tuesday.

Nilaweera was the only player in the boys’ category from Sri Lanka to advance from the first round as he beat Varma 6-2, 6-0.

In the girls’ category Dinara de Silva, Saajida Razick and Vishmi Serasinghe reached the second round when they won their respective first round matches on Monday.

Dinara beat Yu Ching Wang of Taipei 6-3, 7-6(4) and Razick beat Indian Anushka Bhola 6-1, 6-1, while Serasinghe ousted Wei Chiao-Chen also from Taipei 6-1, 6-1.

In the other matches Dinethya Dharmarathe, Dahamna Methnadi, Nesangi Hemakumara, Vinethya Dharmarathne and Gehansa Metnadi conceded first round defeats.

In the boys’ category Vichinthya Nilaweera, Methwan Wijemanne, Abdul Bashit Cader, Thilina Dissanayake and Zahid Zihar were eliminated in the first round.

The boys’ and girls’ second round matches will be played today.

The tournament which commenced on July 4 will culminate on Friday.

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Sri Lanka add more spin options after first Test disaster

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Maheesh Theekshana and Dunith Wellalage are likely to make their Test debuts in the series-deciding second Test in Galle.

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka have taken some desperate measures leading up to the second Test against Australia in Galle by adding more spin options indicating that the team management and the selectors are willing to make wholesale changes after the pathetic performance in the first Test which they lost before lunch on day three.

Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya has been sent home after he failed to make an impact following the ten-wicket loss last week. In an inexperienced attack, the 25-year-old with 17 Test caps is the senior most bowler but he had got his lengths wrong in a game dominated by Australian spinners. Embuldeniya had struggled in Bangladesh as well and was dropped. Instead of letting him fight his way back, he was drafted into the first Test against Australia and it wasn’t surprising to see him failing to make an impact. Now with the series at stake, Sri Lanka have pressed the panic button.

Even if Dimuth Karunaratne’s side win the second Test, Australia will retain Warne-Murali Trophy since they are the holders having blanked Sri Lanka 2-0 in 2019.

Sri Lanka’s desperation is evident by the fact that they have recalled Maheesh Theekshana, who hasn’t played a First-Class game in four years. In fact, Army had been told not to consider Theekshana for the ongoing one-day competition to help him recover from niggles but suddenly he finds himself in the hot seat with a Test series at stake.

Uncapped Dunith Wellalage also has been added to the squad giving the left-arm spin option that has been taken away following the axing of Embuldeniya. Support left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama had tested positive for COVID.

Former captain Angelo Mathews who was in isolation after testing positive for COVID has returned a negative test and has rejoined the team.

Off-spinner Lakshitha Manasinghe is the third player to be added to the group. He had an impressive series against Australia ‘A’ too. It is expected that Wellalage will make his Test debut while the slot for the third spinner is a toss-up between Jeffrey Vandersay and Maheesh Theekshana. The leg-spinner was untidy in the opening Test and the more realistic option seems to be that Theekshana debuting alongside Wellalage.

Although three replacement spinners have been added, some wonder why Sri Lanka have not thought of some batting replacements. It was a pathetic display by the team in the second innings where they were shot out inside a session and faced only 22.3 overs.

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