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)
Navy men and women record wins at Inter Club rugby matches
The men’s and women’s rugby teams of the Navy secured two more wins in their encounters over the Air Force in the Sri Lanka Rugby Nippon Paint Inter Club League Rugby Tournament at the Navy Rugby Ground, Welisara.
Navy men scored a thrilling 32-31 victory over Air Force where T.M. Weerasinghe added points through three conversions and two penalties. Further, S.J.F. Gregory, R.A.N.U. Perera, M.A.F.M. Mushin and G.D.J. Laksara also made a try each.
In the meantime, Navy women recorded a comprehensive 55-0 win over their Air Force counterparts. In this encounter, A.H.S. Madumali scored three tries and collected points through five conversions. In addition, R.S.H. Kumari scored two tries and P. Dilani, M.R. Kumudumalee, G.G. Randunu and W.R.W. Vithana too scored a try each.
Dinara, Sajida win first-round matches
ITF Junior Circuit Week I Tournament
Dinara de Silva and Sajida Razick won their respective first-round matches of the ITF Junior Circuit Week I tournament which commenced at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Monday.
De Silva beat Silvia Caliman of Spain 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the second round and Sajida Razick overcame India’s Gagana Mohal with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win in her match.
The tournament is set to conclude on February 5.
St. Anthony’s in command against Ananda
Under 19 Cricket
Kaveesha Piyumal and Induwara Galapitage shocked Ananda sharing six wickets between them as St. Anthony’s, Katugastota contained the home team to 56 for eight wickets at stumps after posting a commanding 268 on day one of the Under 19 traditional match at Ananda Mawatha on Monday.
Mohomed Aaqil (73) and Kavindu Shehan (46) gave the hosts an ideal start adding 90 runs for the first wicket after they decided to bat first. Lahiru Abeysinghe, Rayan Anthonyzs and Janith Rathnasiri then made vital contributions for them to reach 268 runs.
In their essay home team were rocked by the visitors as Piyumal grabbed for wickets for 17 runs to rattle the middle order.
268 all out in 54 overs (Mohomed Aaqil 73, Kavindu Shehan 46, Lahiru Abeysinghe 47, Rayan Anthonyzs 27, Janith Rathnasiri 36, Charuka Ekanayake 21; Kithma Sithmal 3/86, Ashinsa Nainayake 2/57, Ayesh Shashimal 5/40)
56 for 8 in 32 overs (Kaveesha Piyumal 4/17, Induwara Galapitage 2/11) (RF)
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