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Bangladesh have been doing something right

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Rex Clementine at Pallekele

When Bangladesh came down to Colombo to play their maiden Test match in 2001, it turned  out to be a one-sided game with Sri Lanka winning by an innings and 137 runs inside three days. Captain Sanath Jayasuriya threw caution to the wind smashing 89 off 56 deliveries with 11 fours and four sixes. The entire Bangladesh team managed one more run than Jayasuriya in their first innings – 90 all out.

Twenty years on, they have come a long way. In the ongoing Pallekele Test, they declared after posting 541, the highest total ever at this ground. They are playing without two of their leading stars – Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman, both of whom are at IPL. Four years ago, when they were at full strength, they beat Sri Lanka.

There was a time in the early days when Sri Lanka realized that Bangladesh could not match their strength and  rested half of the team. There was a storm of protest from the senior players. But Guy de Alwis, bless him, a tough man, who was firm with his decision, insisted on bringing in young players against a weak opposition. He was the Chairman of Selectors. He had it his way. Today, while we are at full strength, Bangladesh are without their leading stars. How times have changed.

To put their cricket right, Bangladesh invested heavily on Sri Lankan talent. Many were picked for coaching roles. Carlton Bernadus, Champaka Ramanayake, Ruwan Kalpage and Chandika Hathurusinghe. Sri Lankans were sought after by Bangladesh beyond coaching too. They hired curators like Gamini Silva and trainers such as Mario Villawarayan and much more.

We Sri Lankans while having enough talent of our own, always look to England, Australia and South Africa. Our mentality is that there is something special that they can do which Sri Lankans can’t do. Bangladesh, however, are quite content with Sri Lankans. They are ever improving.

Ours is not an effort to have  a dig at the hiring of Tom Moody. That was a good choice and so is Head Coach Mickey Arthur who has a proven record. But how about some other choices? Former captain Hashan Tillekeratne, one of the respected voices in the sport, recently claimed that some of the physiotherapists brought from overseas had no idea on basics such as bandaging. That’s the sorry state of our cricket.

Sidath Wettimuny when he was Chairman of SLC felt the urgent need to put up a cricket center with basic facilities like a swimming pool. To date, Sri Lanka Cricket doesn’t own a pool. Bangladesh took that blueprint and put up a facility in Dhaka. Sidath’s plan was never followed up by his successors. They were more worried about doling out money to their vote base. They were spending like drunken sailors hitting town.

The other thing that Bangladesh have done right is to strengthen their school and club cricket. We all know what happened with club cricket where more teams were given First Class status to please the vote base. As parliamentarian Kumara Welgama pointed out the other day, SLC doesn’t even spend one percent of their revenues on schools. Why? That’s because schools don’t have votes. Clubs have. Hundreds of them.

Najmul Shanto who posted a fine 163 in the first innings has been groomed for a few years now. Players like him get a lot of exposure with the Under-19 side and the ‘A’ team. SLC is allergic towards ‘A’ team cricket. So how will young players develop? Already our First Class system consists of too many teams. Bangladesh learned their lessons from us. Now it is time for us to learn a few from them. No shame in that.



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Himasha’s ban extended to six years

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Himasha’s doping violation

by Reemus Fernando

The Appeals Committee of the Sri Lanka Anti-Doping Agency that heard sprinter Himasha Eshan’s appeal against his suspension, has decided to extend the ban against the former national 100 metres champion to six years.

SLADA has informed the athlete that the Appeals Committee had decided to extend the ban to six years after the appeal hearing conducted on November 3.

According to the letter sent by SLADA, Himasha will now be banned till 25th October 2027 which effectively closes the former national 100 metres record holder’s chances of competing for Sri Lanka again.

The 28-year-old was tested positive for a banned substance during a random test conducted by SLADA on October 26, 2021. The Disciplinary Committee of SLADA first banned him for four years from October 26, 2021 to October 25, 2025. That ban has now been extended by two years.It was the second time that the South Asian Games medallist has been found positive for a banned substance and he is also the only Sri Lankan athlete to be tested positive twice.

He was first found positive for a banned substances when he was 17 years old. He was slapped with a two year ban which was reduced considering his young age. The World Anti-Doping Agency introduced four years bans for first time offences in 2013. According to Anti Doping authorities any reduced terms are added to the suspension when an athlete is found positive for the second time.

This time Himasha was tested positive during a random test conducted by SLADA on October 26, 2021. The Anti-Doping authorities collected Himasha’s urine samples at the Army quarters at Narahenpita. He was involved in several impressive performances including a wind assisted 10.29 seconds feat to win the men’s 100 metres during the Army Athletics Championships which was held around that time.

Once the fastest man in the South Asian region, Himasha was coached by Chaminda Perera. He won the gold medal at the 2016 South Asian Games and set a South Asian regional record of 10.22 seconds in 2019. He was also part of Sri Lanka’s 4×100 metres team that established the current national record in the 4×100 metres relay.

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Cristiano Ronaldo, Al Nassr knocked out of Saudi Super Cup

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr were knocked of the Saudi Super Cup on Thursday after a 3-1 semifinal loss to Al Ittihad in Riyadh.The 37-year-old Portugal international, five-times Ballon D’Or winner, had a couple of chances to score but was well shackled by the Al Ittihad defence for most of the match.

Anderson Talisca’s goal for Al Nassr in the 67th minute was not enough to turn around the deficit from two first-half goals for Al Ittihad from Romarinho and Abderrazak Hamdallah.

Muhannad Al-Shanqeeti added the third three minutes into stoppage time.Al Nassr next travel to Al Fateh in the Saudi Pro League on Feb. 3.

(ESPN)

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Stefanos Tsitsipas beats Karen Khachanov to reach final of Australian Open 2023

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Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas has another chance to land his first Grand Slam title after reaching the Australian Open final by beating Russian Karen Khachanov in the Melbourne last four.Third seed Tsitsipas, 24, won 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 against Khachanov, who was going for a maiden major final.Tsitsipas lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final and might have the chance to avenge that loss.

Serbia’s Djokovic plays American Tommy Paul in Friday’s other semi-final.Tsitsipas, who will become the world number one if he wins the title, eventually booked his place after recovering from Khachanov saving two match points in the third-set tie-break.

Another tight forehand saw a third chance disappear in what proved to be the final game, before he regained his composure to convert his fourth when a first serve was batted long by the 18th seed. Asked what he was thinking when the match went into a fourth set, Tsitsipas said: “I thought about how hard I’ve worked to get to this position.

“But if you stick around, dedicate yourself even more, and concentrate even more in the important moments it pays off.”

Nine-time champion Djokovic is the favourite to face Tsitsipas and takes on the unseeded Paul, who is competing in his first major semi-final, at 08:30 GMT on Friday.

The 35-year-old former world number one has won in Melbourne every time he has reached the last four and is aiming for a record-extending 10th title which would equal Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 major men’s titles. At a tournament with a hard-court surface on which he thrives, and in a city where he is warmly backed by its large Greek population, Tsitsipas has long appeared destined for success at the Australian Open.

The towering youngster announced his arrival there with a famous 2019 win over defending champion Roger Federer in the fourth round, only for a captivating run to be ended when he was crushed by Rafael Nadal in his first semi-final appearance.

Long-time rival Daniil Medvedev ended his dreams at the last-four stage in both 2021 and 2022, with another Russian – this time, the powerful Khachanov – standing in his way this time.

Backed by a vocal crowd who waved Greek flags after virtually all of his winning points, Tsitsipas started confidently against a player who he had beaten in all of their five previous encounters.

Khachanov could not cope with Tsitsipas’ pounding ground-strokes and dynamic athleticism as the world number four moved two sets ahead.

When Tsitsipas broke early in the third set and moved into a 5-4 lead which left him serving for the match, few on Rod Laver Arena expected anything other than a straight-set win.However, nerves kicked in for Tsitsipas, who suddenly looked unsure with his ground-strokes, and Khachanov cut loose to extend the contest.

After a bathroom break before the fourth set, Tsitsipas returned free of the weight of expectation and broke Khachanov’s serve at the first opportunity.Dominant service games from that point ensured there would be no repeat of the previous set as he finally reached the final of what he calls his “home” Grand Slam event.

“I feel blessed for the fact I’m able to play tennis at this level and for many years I’ve wanted to put Greek tennis on the map – Maria [Sakkari] and I have done that, I think,” Tsitsipas said.

“Coming from a small country like Greece I feel so grateful I get support like this.

“I never thought I would be treated so well here so I’m extremely happy I’m in the final now – let’s see what happens.”

(BBC Sports)

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