A frustrated fan’s viewpoint
by Aravinthan Arunthavanathan
Bhanuka Rajapaksa’s media outburst recently gave rise to polarizing views in cricketing circles. Whether it was warranted or not is a secondary issue, in fact it depends on the lens you chose to review his views, but for a common fan it is so disheartening to see a player of that caliber and talent being forced to vent his frustration in public.
My first memory of Bhanuka was in New Zealand in the 2010 Under-19 World Cup. As Bhanuka was dominating a minnow attack, the commentator was saying “He is showing that he is a brilliant player against mediocre attacks, it is interesting to see how he fares against the big boys”.
Fast forward to 2019 on a dewy night in Lahore, the same Bhanuka jumps down the track, gets inside the line of a 140 plus Wahab Riaz thunderbolt and smacks it over cover for an extravagant six intertwined with nonchalant elegance. If one had gone into oblivion and returned almost a decade later since seeing Bhanuka as a schoolboy cricketer, fair chance is that he would have thought by now Bhanuka was a superstar on World stage. His skill on that tour was such that one would find it hard to believe that he was just playing his first international series. How such a talent did not get a chance shall not be an enigma for anyone who understands the peculiar ways in which Sri Lankan cricket works. At times comprehending the fuel pricing formula and travel restrictions are cakewalks compared to decoding selection policies. While a lot has been heard and read about Bhanuka one thing is clear, he seems to be one who does not mince his words. His views and opinion are so strong and polarized, that at times it almost projects him as an entitled personality finding fault with everyone else but himself.
But imagine being asked to bat out of position in immediate aftermath of having eviscerated the number one bowling attack in the world in one series, and that too lower down the order after a solitary failure. Imagine being asked to forego franchise commitments, losing out on big money only to be thrown out of the squad without a reason. Imagine the commitment being questioned and labeled as sloppy for carrying the gloves while running, that too after almost pulling off a domestic T20 final single handedly with a hamstring injury. Bhanuka Rajapaksa unfortunately has endured it all. Life has certainly been unfair on Bhanuka in his own words and by anyone’s standards.
Before we judge and let the jury out on whether Bhanuka’s recent media outbursts were warranted or not, one must empathize with the agony he must have endured. There could be many others in the same boat. Angelo Perera not many fans’ favourite also had echoed the same thoughts regarding selection policies in a recent interview on a sports program. If you are good enough to be selected, you at least need to be told where you fit in the scheme of things and why you are dropped from the side. Anybody who has worn the national cap deserves that courtesy. It is not an add on feature but a necessity in managing a team. While the new selection committee has shown an inclination towards an inclusive and transparent environment it’s yet to be seen how consistent it would be.
To make matters complicated for Bhanuka the recently introduced fitness standards seem to make him a nonstarter in the race to selection. A stringent selection criterion is essential in the long run to lift the lackluster standards ailing the game. But there would always be exceptions based on the genetics. If at all if that is a valid reason it should be factored in properly. Lasith Malinga recently went on record stating after his foot injury he had to prove his fitness through bowling and no other means. While a uniform scale is an essential there should be secondary mechanisms which are validated to ensure the best talent is not left out due to rigid policies.
It looks like unfair to see a player of Bhanuka’ caliber being kept out of the squad. But change is difficult. There will be casualties for greater good. Bhanuka having ended on the wrong side of the tide seems to be ending up on the wrong end again. He may not play for Sri Lanka anytime soon after his recent outbursts and probably may not never ever wear the national Jersey.
But as a fan who was mesmerized by the 19-year-old back in 2010 and then again in Pakistan all one could hope is he goes onto play domestic leagues and scores truckloads of runs not knocking the door but bulldoze the door so that nobody can keep him out citing any reason.
Bhanuka seems to be that kid who is not happy with the system. It looks justifiable on surface. But history has shown those are the ones who go onto change the world. If Bhanuka turns out to be that person in Sri Lankan context it would be the ultimate high for any Sri Lankan fan and the fairy tale culmination to a career which never got what it deserved.
After all, as Saurav Ganguly recalls, when he was recalled to the Indian side under Greg Chappell after being ousted as skipper, he had to face a baptism of fire on the fiery venomous tracks of South Africa. He faced fire with fire and came out on top to find his place not only in Tests but also the World Cup squad in 2007 and bowed out in 2008 on a high. Only a few years before it seemed impossible. But history has shown nothing is impossible.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa has dished out a welcome, audacious stream of words which has created a stir. Now he would have to perform way more than what he would have had to prior to his outbursts. It will be interesting to see how he emerges out of this. But as a Sri Lankan fan all one could wish is that the nonchalance mixed with aggression in Bhanuka’s batting will be seen for years to come.
(This writer’s blogs can be found at “Cricketing Perspectives” on Facebook)
Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society win third place
The medal winning karatekas with Chief Instructor Sensei Lakshman Saparamadu.
Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won 33 medals at the E – Kata International Karate Tournament recently.
This team were placed third at the tournament organized by the United Universal Shotokan Karate Association. The event was conducted using video technology. Some thirty counties participated in this tournament.
Karatekas fielded by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won twelve gold, eleven silver and ten bronze medals. They were trained by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society’s Chief Instructor, Sensei , Lakshman Saparamadu. (Text and pic by W.D. Vithana Delgoda Corr.)
Yupun within required world ranking to earn Olympic ticket
Local athletes suffer due to absence of top competitions
by Reemus Fernando
Italy based athlete Yupun Abeykoon could become the first Sri Lankan sprinter since 1996 to compete in the men’s 100 metres at an Olympics after improving his world ranking to be among the top 50 athletes in the world.
According to the World Athletics’ world rankings updated on Wednesday Yupun has climbed 34 places up to be ranked 48th in the world. The fourth place performance produced at the last week’s Diamond League meet in Rome has stood in good stead for him to secure the top position. He was ranked 82nd in the world prior to last week’s meet.
Competing against a solid field Yupun clocked 10.16 seconds to finish ahead of American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.
In the ‘Road to Olympic Rankings’ he was in the 65th position but after the Diamond League feat he has climbed 15 positions to be in the 50th position.
World Athletics set tough qualifying standards for Tokyo Olympic qualification. For a direct qualification Yupun needs to clock 10.05 seconds and athletics officials said that the national record holder has often expressed confidence in achieving the mark.
While 39 athletes will be selected through qualifying standards, the rest of the athletes will be selected according to their placing in the world rankings. The Tokyo Olympic men’s 100 metres will feature 56 athletes.
No Sri Lankan male athlete has featured in an Olympics 100 metres sprint since Chinthaka de Zoysa competed at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
Since Yupun has reached the top 50 now, it will be a matter of maintaining that position for him to realize the Olympic dream. According to Sri Lanka Athletics, Yupun is set to compete in another meet over the weekend.
In contrast the absence of quality competitions has hampered the progress of local track and field athletes. Steeplechase runner Nilani Ratnayake, who is the only female athlete within the required world rankings to book an Olympic berth, has slipped five places to be ranked 41st now. She had a better world rank (35th in the world) couple of months back. Her participation in Olympics will be in jeopardy if she drops below the 45th position as only the 45 top ranked athletes are chosen for Tokyo Olympics for this discipline.
Some of the top ranked athletes who were looking forward to compete in Kazakhstan with the hope of improving their world rankings over the weekend had to abandon their plans yesterday after authorities’ last ditch attempt to secure visas for them found futile.
Middle distance runner Nimali Liyanarachchi (Road to Olympic Rank– 55), 400 metres sprinter Nadeesha Ramanayake (56), javelin thrower Sumeda Ranasinghe (46) and high jumper Ushan Thivanka (52) are the other athletes closer to earning Olympic berths. But unavailability of competitions has hindered their chances.
Arthur encourages Sri Lankans to take up County Cricket
by Rex Clementine
England’s County Cricket is not the most attractive form of domestic cricket any longer as the IPL has taken over. What you end up earning after six months of County Cricket, the IPL pays five times of that for six weeks of work. But County Cricket remains the ultimate test of players’ skill. So many Sri Lankans reinvented themselves after a season of County Cricket be it Aravinda de Silva in 1995 with Kent, Kumar Sangakkara in 2007 with Warwickshire, Muttiah Muralitharan in 1999 with Lancashire or Chaminda Vaas in 2004 with Worcestershire.
Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Mickey Arthur agreed on the values of County Cricket and urged his players to take up stints in England if possible. “I would love our players to get involved in County Cricket. It’s a great breeding ground and you find out about your technique there when you play cricket day in and day out. If there’s room in our calendar, it would be superb for our players to be involved.”
The national cricket team is in Manchester at the moment and having finished their quarantine the team has started training at Old Trafford. The venue has a superb facility with rooms inside the ground. According to Arthur, one set of balconies of the hotel room are facing the Old Trafford cricket ground while the other set are facing the Old Trafford football ground, home for the famous Manchester United. Arthur said that his players have got ‘the best of both worlds.’
Sri Lanka were initially supposed to play warm-up games in Canterbury and Hove against Kent and Sussex but those were scrapped with the players supposed to remain in a bio-secure bubble. Arthur wasn’t overly bothered that the warm-up games had been called off and was happy with the training the team was getting in ahead of the series.
One of the areas that Arthur wanted his batsmen to improve on from the Bangladesh series is the middle overs batting. “There was lot of learning from Bangladesh series. We changed our brand a little bit. We got caught in the middle overs a bit. We worked on it during our training and we want to have intensity in the middle overs. We were getting only 130 to 135 runs in that period. That is an area we need to improve on.”
With the return of Avishka Fernando to the side, the Sri Lankans have so many batting options when it comes to the opening combination with Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera and Danushka Gunathilaka all able to partner him. Arthur was keen on having a settled batting line-up.
“We have got to settle down on a batting order as soon as we can. We cannot be having so many players batting in different positions. It creates confusion. What we have tried to do is to nail down guys’ roles during our training,” Arthur explained.
The first T-20 International takes place in the Welsh capital of Cardiff next Wednesday (June 23).
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