Born a rebel!
by Rex Clementine
The year was 1979. West Indies during those stop-over tours to Sri Lanka before the country had gained Test status were playing a game in Galle. Sylvester Clarke, the fearsome fast bowler from Barbados floored Sri Lankan opener Bandula Warnapura with a vicious bouncer. Bandula is a fighter. He was unconscious for six hours. Then he recovered and two years later went onto become the nation’s first Test captain. Life has punched a cruel blow to him right now. Don’t be surprised if he comes out of this tough time and goes onto become the President of the Cricket Board in two years time when the elections are due.
Warnapura was never the player he was after being floored by Clarke. Prior to that, he had never ducked. He took on the fast bowlers. In fact, when Tony Greig skippered the MCC side to Colombo in 1977 in a radio interview he said that after Sunil Gavaskar, the best opening batsman in the Asian region was Bandula. His was a game of sheer elegance. He was a tough player.
This newspaper has spoken to every cricketer who went on the rebel tour to South Africa including the mastermind of the series, Dr. Ali Bacher. They all have their reasons for going on the tour and organizing it. Many of them echoed same sentiments; that they were victims of circumstances. Some others said that they were in the twilight of their careers and there was no hope.
Only Bandula spoke the harsh truth. He went there for the money. He was born a rebel, played the game, skippered the side and ran the sport like a rebel. He didn’t mind when we used the term ‘filthy lucre’. He in fact had been taken for a ride. There was no second tour to South Africa that Bacher had promised. He was left high and dry. Bacher wasn’t the only person who had taken Bandula for a ride. There were many others. Bandula took them all on the chin.
Bandula’s finest hour in the sport came during the 1979 World Cup. With skipper Anura Tennekoon injured, he stepped in as captain for the game against India, a star studded side. Sri Lanka overcame India in what was World Cup’s first ever shock. That went a long way in the nation gaining Test status two years later.
The specialty of his captaincy was that he was a players’ man. He would fight for his colleagues and would do much to make the youngsters feel comfortable. Sidath Wettimuny recalled how in his first appearance for Sri Lanka he was feeling nervous and the captain approached him and asked where he wanted to field. Sidath was told to go and field wherever you like!
The rebel tour had a massive toll on him; it ended his career and brought many challenges to his life. When he skippered the side to South Africa, he basically was taking on the top brass of the government. President J.R. Jayewardene was a former Board President and was the President of SSC at that time. His two deputies Gamini Dissanayake was the Board President and Lalith Athulathmudali was President of NCC. Lalith was the Cricket Board President in waiting.
These three smart politicians, not many dared crossing their paths. In Bandula’s own words, ‘they were very good friends, but bad enemies.’
That was like taking on Holding, Marshall and Roberts in their prime. Even those fine fast bowlers of West Indies wouldn’t have had such venom. Bandula was being hunted and trouble after trouble followed him. He never gave up though.
When the ban was eventually lifted, he did not mellow down. Business establishments wanted someone who raised the company’s profile rather than someone who spoke the plain truth. Cricket establishment meanwhile employed him but became increasingly worried about the independent manner in which he carried things out. In fact, when he left Maitland Place for Malaysia to take over a posting at the Asian Cricket Council, cricket bosses thought it was a blessing in disguise.
A few years ago, SLC wanted him to take up a key position. But cricket bosses were scared that they will not have control over the affairs if Bandula was calling the shots. Instead, they preferred a yes man. He never got the job and instead was taking part in reality shows as a judge while cricket was suffering many setbacks.
Bandula did have ambitious plans. With a few good men he wanted to contest the next cricket elections. He was getting his act together for his next biggest challenge when something totally unexpected happened. He is hanging in there and he needs to continue the fight. Cricket needs him.
Novak Djokovic takes on Carlos Alcaraz in Paris semi-finals today
From the moment the French Open draw was made a fortnight ago, the tennis world licked its lips at the prospect of one blockbuster match. The countdown towards Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the 22-time Grand Slam champion, against Spanish world number one Carlos Alcaraz was on.
Today (09), the two men – at opposite ends of their careers but in the same stunning form – finally go head-to-head at a Grand Slam when they meet in the Roland Garros semi-finals.
“That’s the match that a lot of people want to see,” said 36-year-old Djokovic, who is bidding for a third French Open title and a men’s record 23rd major.
Alcaraz, 20, won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open in September and is contesting his maiden semi-final on the Paris clay. “Since the draw came out, everyone was expecting that match. Myself as well. I have really wanted to play this match,” Alcaraz said.
The pair have long been considered the main contenders to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires on Sunday, even before 14-time champion Rafael Nadal withdrew with a hip injury.
Whoever wins in the last four will be favourite to beat the victor of Friday’s other semi-final between Norwegian fourth seed Casper Ruud and Germany’s 22nd seed Alexander Zverev.
Bowlers extend Australia’s dominance in WTC final
Australia extended their dominance in the World Test Championship 2021-23 final on Thursday (June 8), with their bowlers taking the centre stage after a massive partnership between Travis Head and Steve Smith.
India did limit the damage from the Australian batters as they picked up the last seven wickets for 108 runs. But Australia, who finished with 469, ensured they did not let any substantial partnership develop in India’s innings as the Rohit Sharma-led side ended Day 2 at 151/5, trailing by 318
The day began with Smith bringing up his 31st Test hundred with two successive fours off Mohammed Siraj in the opening over. A short while later, Head registered his fourth 150-plus score as they extended their partnership to 285. India, though, came back strongly as they picked up three for 26 which started with the dismissal of Head. While there were a few boundaries scored, India persisted with short-ball tactics and the move paid off when Siraj had Head caught down the leg-side to dismiss him for 163. Cameron Green edged a Mohammed Shami delivery to second slip and Smith chopped Shardul Thakur onto the stumps to depart for 121. Australia lost their fourth wicket in the first session as Mitchell Starc was run out.
Alex Carey, who had seen off the opening session along with Pat Cummins, began with a flurry of boundaries at the start of the second, including three in an over off Shami. He also struck a six off Ravindra Jadeja to power Australia past the 450 mark and raise the half-century stand with Cummins. But he missed a reverse-sweep off the left-arm spinner and was out leg-before, with India using the review to reverse the onfield call of not out. Siraj bagged the last two wickets, accounting for Nathan Lyon and Cummins, as he bagged a four wicket haul and reached the 50-wicket milestone in the process.
India made a confident start with the bat, with Rohit and Shubman Gill dealing in regular boundaries. But it didn’t take Australia long to get on top again as the openers departed in quick succession. Cummins trapped Rohit leg-before while Gill was bowled by Scott Boland shouldering arms. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara faced a couple of probing overs but got through the testing period unscathed before the Tea break.
Pujara began confidently in the final session, clipping a Boland delivery wide of mid-on and then playing a square drive off the backfoot off Green. But much like Gill, a poor judgement ended Pujara’s outing as he was bowled shouldering arms to a Green delivery. A rising delivery off a length from Mitchell Starc clipped Kohli’s thumb en route to the ‘keeper, leaving India in further trouble as they slipped to 71/4. Ajinkya Rahane, meanwhile, had a lucky break as he was trapped in front by Cummins but upon review it was clear that the bowler had overstepped.
Rahane, meanwhile, needed the physio’s attention a couple of times as he was struck on his fingers by a Cummins delivery while he was struck on the helmet after missing a hook off Green. Ravindra Jadeja, on the other hand, batted positively as he dealt in regular boundaries and also flicked a Boland delivery over the fence. Rahane, however, did capitalise on anything in his zone as he executed a cover drive off Boland en route to a half-century partnership. The fifth wicket pair extended their stand to 71 before Jadeja edged a Nathan Lyon delivery to slip to fall two short of a fifty. Rahane and KS Bharat were unbeaten at Stumps, having their work cut out for Day 3.
Australia 469 (Travis Head 163, Steve Smith 121, Alex Carey 48; Mohammed Siraj 4-108, Shardul Thakur 2-83) lead India 151/5 (Ravindra Jadeja 48, Ajinkya Rahane 29*; Nathan Lyon 1-4, Scott Boland 1-29) by 318 runs
Mathews left out of World Cup qualifiers
by Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka’s selectors have left out former captain Angelo Mathews from the World Cup Qualifiers that will begin in Zimbabwe shortly. There was not much change from the squad announced for the bilateral series against Afghanistan with the only omission being that of Mathews.
Mathews had made a comeback to the ODI side when Sri Lanka toured New Zealand a couple of months back and was dropped after the first ODI against Afghanistan. Since making a comeback to the ODI side in more than two years, Mathews had managed scores of 12, 0 and 18.
However, if hard hitting batsman Kusal Perera hadn’t recovered from a hamstring injury, Mathews was expected to be part of the squad for Zimbabwe, despite not having a big knock to his name. It was leg-spinner Dushan Hemantha who was expected to miss out but the selectors have chosen to pick two leg-spinners with Wanindu Hasaranga being the number one pick.
As for Kusal Perera, the hopes of him recovering in time for the qualifiers have faded away. The batsman returned to international cricket after shoulder surgery in New Zealand but featured only in T-20 cricket. Even if he wasn’t picked for the Afghanistan series, he was tipped to make it to the World Cup Qualifiers but his hamstring is continuing to give trouble.
Sri Lanka will be pleased that Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara have recovered from injuries and the team’s hopes of earning one of the two remaining slots for the World Cup are very much high. Extra pace is going to be vital against associate countries who’ll be featuring in the qualifying round. Even Afghansitan were shaken up by the pace as Chameera and Kumara claimed the top six wickets with the new ball in the deciding third ODI where the tourists were shot out for 116.
The lack of left-arm variety in the attack is cause for some concern but the selectors seem to be adamant that they have got all bases covered. The return of Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne to the ODI side is the biggest plus point as Sri Lanka had struggled to bat out their 50 overs in recent months. The irony is that the same selectors who axed him have recalled him.
Sri Lanka Squad:
Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Kusal Mendis (Vice-Captain), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dhananjaya De Silva, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Dushan Hemantha, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha
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