by Rex Clementine
Amal Silva spoke little English those days. During the Lord’s Test in 1984, when Ian Botham said not so complementary things about Amal’s mother, the opening bat was asking the non-striker and captain Duleep Mendis what’s going on. Both Moratuwa boys, they were playing contrasting knocks. Amal took 255 balls for his hundred while Duleep raced to 94 in 97 balls. The latter was dealing in boundaries particularly targeting Mr. Botham. That the golden boy of English cricket ended up bowling off-spin in that game is a little known fact. That’s Duleep. Never cross his path.
Well, the Sri Lankan cricket team will be crossing his path in a fortnight’s time. They take on Oman in two T-20 Internationals, a side coached by Duleep. One thing is absolutely certain, Duleep will be prepared for this challenge. He would have studied every Sri Lankan player; their strengths and weaknesses and what’s the best way to get the better of an emerging and unsettled team.
Mind you Sri Lanka will be without three of their leading players. Kusal Perera is recovering from a hamstring injury while Dushmantha Chameera and Wanindu Hasaranga are on IPL leave. On paper, Sri Lanka are still the stronger team. But cricket is a funny game and Duleep is a different beast.
In this series, even if Oman do not pose a challenge at all to Sri Lanka who have been well grilled after a hard fought series against South Africa, the bigger picture for Duleep is the World Cup qualifiers.
Make no mistake, Duleep has completely turned around Oman’s cricket. That’s a fact. All that in such a short time too.
With sheer hard work and guidance, Duleep enabled the Omanis to achieve T-20 status. Then a few years later they ended up gaining ODI status. Now they will be playing in a World Cup. His expertise has been on not just how to develop Oman’s senior side. But to put a cricket structure in place and build the proper infrastructure. Isn’t it remarkable that in such a short span of time Oman will be conducting a World Cup! It’s proof that ICC has recognized the remarkable progress they have made over the years.
Duleep’s half a century of association with Sri Lankan cricket has helped him to turn things around for Oman. He has done it all as a player, coach, chairman of selectors, manager, director cricket operations and eventually CEO. A golden half a century in which Sri Lankan cricket reached new heights until all of a sudden on flimsy grounds they forced him to retire. Duleep by no means is someone to harbour grudges. Like all sportsmen he has seen good and bad days and knows how to take them on the chin.
Once Duleep reached the age of 60, those who removed him thought he will quietly go into retirement. But cricketing gods had other plans. He was sent to Oman to help a budding cricket nation. Here at the age of 69, you see him still doing throw downs at 20-year-old’s. Older the bull, harder the ….
Oman’s progress has been so rapid. Interestingly, it has coincided with that of Sri Lanka’s decline.
In 2017, Sri Lanka rang up Duleep asking him to return home to take up some key responsibilities. He turned down the offer politely saying that he has been well looked after by the Omanis.
It’s a dangerous thing to quote the scriptures. Your friends make fun at you saying, ‘it’s like devil quoting the scriptures.’ Nevertheless, stories like these need to end with the words that ‘a prophet is not welcomed in his own country.’
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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