by Rex Clementine
With sheer pace and skill Kagiso Rabada cut the big talking Bhanuka Rajapaksa to size. Bhanuka had made us all believe that the entire cricketing fraternity was against him and that he wasn’t getting a fair deal. Bhanuka can not walk the talk. The whole nation watched it live. Mickey Arthur was spot on in assessing him. Bhanuka is a lazy, overhyped; sloppy cricketer who is not just had troubles with the Sri Lankan team management but even his own club; BRC.
In this series against South Africa Bhanuka got three ducks in a row. He should have been axed but the selectors persevered with him.
Well, you can understand the selectors’ dilemma. Bhanuka has met their fitness criteria, he is one of the few players who can clear the boundary and more importantly he has a powerful social media network. So the selectors have all the reasons to be scared of him and preserve with him.
But at the same time what wrong has Avishka Fernando done? For Bhanuka to be continued after scoring three successive ducks and Avishka to be axed three innings after he had scored a hundred doesn’t make sense. Bhanuka will turn 30 next month. Avishka is 23. He certainly is the future. You are willing to give the long rope to Bhanuka, but you are not prepared to do the same to Avishka.
Then there is this ridiculous argument put across that Avishka’s numbers in T-20 cricket are not that spectacular although he has done exceptionally well in ODIs. Is that so? Then how come you give Bhanuka a place in the ODI side having initially brought him to the T-20 team? There can be only two reasons. Either the selectors are scared of Bhanuka or they have got no clue.
When Pramodaya Wickramasinghe axed a whole bunch of seniors promising to rebuild he created the image of a tough guy who will not take any nonsense. Four months later, he has been taken for a ride by an average First Class cricketer who can not pass a simple fitness test on the first time.
The press has so many questions to ask Pramodaya, but he has avoided the media like the plague. If you think that in these days of the pandemic there’s no room for media briefings, let us tell you that SLC has a vibrant media unit that has conducted over 100 media briefings virtually since the pandemic restricted movements.
Pramodaya has to come out and explain his policies. At the moment it looks as if the he is groping in the dark.
For the last World Cup in the UK, we entered uncharted territories rather than going with the flow. Swimming against the current seems to be the trend in our backyard as we fielded half a dozen players who had at least not played an ODI in more than a year. Remember Eoin Morgan’s tongue in cheek comment that Sri Lanka were the surprises package in the World Cup. You reckon something similar is in store this time around too. Teams put out their best outfits for World Cups after years of planning. Sri Lanka are taking a bunch of rookies. Half of the team picked for the World Cup have played less than a handful of T-20 Internationals and that is recipe for disaster.
Dimuth Karunaratne was one guy who was doing a decent job as one-day captain. What was the mighty hurry in sacking him? What wrong had he done? Then you get someone who has not even captained his school to lead the side. The trial with Kusal Perera lasted just one month. Then the job is handed to Dasun Shanka who is not sure of his place in the ODI side. The selectors have run out of options. There are no more leaders to be given the job. The game is at its lowest ebb.
We can not afford to have a bunch of amateurs doing selections. We need professionals and people who are well respected in the game to do one of sport’s toughest tasks.
Gateway felicitates coach for making Sri Lanka proud
Pradeep Nishantha, Assistant Head of Sports of Gateway College Colombo was felicitated by the school for his remarkable contribution in producing two medal winners at the recently concluded Paralympic Games in Japan.
The national anthem was played for the very first time at an Olympics when Dinesh Priyantha Herath who was trained by Pradeep Nishantha won a gold medal with a new world record. Pradeep has been employed at Gateway since 2005 and he has been responsible for producing many national athletes from Gateway.
Gateway students are blessed to be coached and guided by professionals of the highest caliber. Thilaka Jinadasa, the Team Leader – Sports development for the entire group represented Sri Lanka in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
Among Gateway’s team of coaches are a number of top Sri Lankan coaches. Tharindu Fernando, who was recently appointed National Basketball Coach for the Under 23 Sri Lankan side is among them.
Dialog and SLC release T20 World Cup song ‘Ape Kollo’
The national cricket team’s sponsor and Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata, together with Sri Lanka Cricket, recently released ‘Ape Kollo’ the T20 World Cup song in support of the Team on their T20 World Cup campaign which will commence on the 18th of October 2021 in the United Arab Emirates.
The song will be sung by a stellar line-up of artistes and Dialog brand ambassadors including, Bathiya and Santhush, Umaria, Yohani, Sanka Dineth, Sajitha, Sanuka, Madhuvy and guest performer, Roy Jackson. With lyrics written by Triad, the Sri Lanka Cricket T20 World Cup song is an initiative powered by Dialog Axiata connecting the wishes of every Sri Lankan.
Dr. Jayantha Dharmadasa, Vice President of Sri Lanka Cricket said, “I would like to thank Dialog Axiata for materializing the T20 World Cup song into existence. This tribute will be an immense morale boost for players and fans alike. The team over the past few months have been playing tourneys and trial games which have been instrumental in selecting the best combination for the T20 World Cup in UAE.”
Sri Lanka will qualify, but can they reach semis?
by Rex Clementine
The cricket fans of Sri Lanka are truly amazing. They know pretty well that the chances of the team reaching the semi-finals in UAE is as low as that of Maithripala Sirisena winning a future Presidential election, but they keep believing that their team will deliver. It is only fair that the players come up with a decent show, unlike Maithripala.
If the IPL is any indication, there aren’t going to be too many high scoring games over the next four weeks and spin is going to play a huge part. That will certainly be a good indication for Sri Lanka’s bowlers.
Their batsmen, however, it remains to be seen what lessons they have learnt on sweeping. Grant Flower seemed to be having little tricks up his sleeve on the advantage of the sweep, both the conventional, paddle and reverse. Hopefully, now that Sri Lanka have a fine sweeper in their coaching staff in Mahela Jayawardene, the issue has been discussed at length.
Lack of smart options against spin has been one reason for Sri Lanka’s decline in the shorter formats of the game. Ours was a team where the sweep was the batsmen’s bread and butter and it’s quite perplexing how the current lot have forgotten to sweep and the coaching staff have failed to address the issue.
Avishka Fernando has been tremendous to watch. He has always been an exciting player and such a shame that he failed a fitness test in January and was banished from the team hotel. He was so close to making his Test debut against England and failing the fitness test was a bitter pill to swallow. But glad that the selectors and the coaching staff had the conviction to do it. They have spared the rod and spoilt too many young children. Avishka has bounced back; leaner, fitter, stronger and hungrier. IPL teams will be watching and the gut feeling is we are talking of a future billionaire in this space.
There is some school of thought that Avishka should bat at number four. He has come up with some consistent performances in that position this week. It’s true that he is Aravinda’s heir apparent, but Sri Lanka has to make the most of the Power Plays and Avishka should open batting with Kusal Perera to make most of the field restrictions. You sense that you have enough fire power in Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga and Chamika Karunaratne to take care of the death overs.
Oppositions will focus a lot on Hasaranga’s leg spin as he has had quite a bit of success in the lasts 12 months and ended up earning a contract in the IPL. World Cup is a superb occasion for him to stamp his authority as one of world’s leading wrist spinners.
Maheesh Theekshana, the new kid, has a bit of surprise element in him and could trouble teams that have not seen him much as he proved during his debut against Proteas last month. It will be interesting to see how teams that do not play spin that well handle him.
The last minute decision to include Akila Dananjaya while axing Praveena Jayawickrama hasn’t gone down too well with some supporters. But it’s a smart move. There’s no denying of the fact that Akila has looked a pale shadow of his former self since remodeling his action and in recent months has looked awful. But then, Sri Lanka have to qualify. The team is thin on experience after our selectors chased away half a dozen seniors and Akila has a surprise element about him and that could come in handy; particularly in the qualifying round.
The spin trio is not Sri Lanka’s only strength. Their main weapon is pace with Dushmantha Chameera picking up wickets with the new ball consistently and he will be their key weapon. Such a shame that the team will miss the services of Nuwan Pradeep, a clever bowler in death overs.
All hope is not lost for Sri Lanka though. One good thing is that they are not playing any Asian teams. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are all in Group ‘B’. Sri Lanka will have Australia, England, West Indies, South Africa and one more qualifier and if their spin fires, they could spring a few surprises. Can they go onto book a semi-final berth?
In T-20 cricket anything can happen. So don’t just rule out the Sri Lankan team. The same can be said of our voters. Don’t rule out Maithripala.
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