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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.


Dhananjaya de Silva returns as Sri Lanka bat first in Hamilton




Dhananjaya de Silva returned to the team (pic Cricinfo)
Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat first, on what captain Dasun Shanaka felt should be a good batting track in the third ODI in Hamilton. New Zealand captain Tom Latham said he would have bowled first anyway, mostly because the dew that forms in the evening can hamper the side bowling second. A damp ball is not only harder for bowlers to grip, it can also skid on off the surface, which tends to aid batters.
Sri Lanka strengthened their batting for this match, having been blasted out for 76 in the first ODI. They brought in Dhananjaya de Silva into the XI, dropping seam bowler Dilshan Madushanka from the side. This means they will field only two frontline seamers, in Kasun Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara, and will need overs from the likes of Chamika Karunaratne, who was in good rhythm in Auckland, Shanaka himself, and de Silva as well.
New Zealand made two changes forced by some of their players departing for the IPL. Glenn Phillips and Finn Allen, both of whom did well in the first ODI, exit the side, and in their place come Tom Blundell and Henry Nicholls. Blundell will open alongside Chad Bowes.
The toss was conducted under blue skies, and the weather is expected to remain good through the course of the encounter.
New Zealand:  Tom Blundell, Chad Bowes, Will Young,  Daryl Mitchell,  Tom Latham (capt.)(wk),  Henry Nicholls,  Rachin Ravindra, Henry Shipley,  Matt Henry,  Ish Sodhi,  Blair Tickner
Sri Lanka: Pathum Nissanka,  Nuwanidu Fernando,  Kusal Mendis (wk),  Angelo Mathews,  Charith Asalanka,  Dhananjaya de Silva,  Dasun Shanaka (capt,),  Chamika Karunaratne,  Wanindu Hasaranga,  Kasun Rajitha,  Lahiru Kumara
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Sri Lanka face in-form hosts in last bid to keep World Cup qualification hopes alive



Sri Lanka need a win to hold on to any hopes of direct qualification for the World Cup

While the rained out second ODI in Christchurch would have no doubt been frustrating for both sets of players, the fact remains that its impact on the grander scheme of things was rather minimal – at least in terms of the World Cup Super League.

Having shared the points, and despite Sri Lanka also being docked a Super League point for a slow over-rate in the first ODI, the equation nevertheless remains the same for the visitors; win the game on Friday and force South Africa and Ireland to win their remaining games this World Cup cycle. Indeed, if both slip up, as improbable as it may be, Sri Lanka might just sneak into the final automatic qualification spots.

But to even entertain that distant notion Sri Lanka must first go out and beat New Zealand in Hamilton – a ground where the hosts have won 10 of their last 12 completed ODIs dating back to 2014. Sri Lanka, though in fairness, are one of the two sides to have beaten the hosts during that period. But of course, that was a far more vintage Sri Lankan line-up with a top order stacked with modern-day greats such as Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

This present Sri Lankan outfit doesn’t quite boast the same pedigree, even if Angelo Mathews remains a tether between the two, but it’s by no means a poor one – they have in fact beaten both Australia and South Africa, albeit at home, in recent times – so facing off against a New Zealand team shorn of several of its first choice players should have in theory made for some quite competitive cricket, home or away. Which is what made the outcome of that first, tremendously one-sided ODI so jarring.

It’s been nearly a week since then, and the washed-out second match would have no doubt given the visitors an extra couple of days to stew over that abysmal performance in Auckland.

Going into the series decider New Zealand will once more be fielding a bunch of players pushing hard for World Cup spots. As for Sri Lanka, what they’ve brought recently hasn’t been anywhere near good enough. Qualification may be out of their hands too, but it would be nice if they at least gave themselves a shot at it.

He has had to bide his time, but at 30 years of age Chad Bowes finally made his long-awaited international bow in the first ODI. And while his stay at the crease might have been brief, it gave the sense of a man at ease with his game. That said, his primary position is at the top of the order – an area admittedly not top of the hosts’ pre-World Cup priorities. But with plenty of white-ball cricket ahead of the tournament, a trademark Bowes barrage on Friday certainly wouldn’t hurt his chances of settling in the selectors’ thoughts.

It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Dhananjaya de Silva has flattered to deceive throughout his career. In Tests, 3006 runs at an average of 38.53 hints at unfulfilled potential. In T20Is, he’s proven to be a handy allrounder with his speedy offbreaks – though it says something when it’s his bowling rather than batting that tends to be the key factor in his inclusion. His worst format is then arguably ODIs, where he strikes at just 78 and averages 26.28. Nevertheless his omission from the first one-dayer caused a minor social media furore, illustrating how highly he is regarded despite his shortcomings. If Sri Lanka are to build a successful head of steam leading to the World Cup, Dhananjaya – among others – will need to start living up to the hype.

New Zealand (probable):

Henry Nicholls, Chad Bowes, Will Young, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Latham (capt, wk), Mark Chapman, Rachin Ravindra, Henry Shipley, Matt Henry, Ish Sodhi, Blair Tickner

Sri Lanka (possible):

Pathum Nissanka, Nuwanidu Fernando, Kusal Mendis (wk), Angelo Mathews, Charith Asalanka, Dasun Shanaka (capt), Dhananjaya de Silva, Chamika Karunaratne, Wanindu Hasaranga, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara.

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Dharshana, Dilshi among top athletes to create new meet records



Sprinter Aruna Dharshana registered the second fastest time by a Sri Lankan in the men’s 200 metres and Dilshi Kumarasinghe returned to winning ways as they created new meet record marks on day two of the 58th Army Athletics Championships at Diyagama on Thursday. Dharshana who had to face disappointment after being disqualified for a foul start at the same venue at the first selection trial 10 days ago, overcame the disappointment yesterday when he clocked 20.65 seconds to win the men’s 200 metres.

His blazing performance is now second only to Yupun Abeykoon’s national record performance of 20.37 seconds in the men’s 200 metres. Dharshana’s feat is now the fastest by a Sri Lankan on home soil as he overtook Vinoj Suranjaya’s 20.68 seconds feat of 2018.

Kumarasinghe established the meet record when she returned a time of 2:04.89 seconds to win the women’s 800 metres.  Nilani Ratnayake gave the second day an exciting start as she clocked 9:55.20 seconds to win the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase in a new meet record performance.

H.S.E. Janith meanwhile created a new national record with a feat of 5.16 metres in the men’s pole vault.    In the men’s and women’s 10,000 metres race walking events P.H.S.L. Fernando and U.V.K. Madirika established national records. Fernando returned a time of 45:12.22 seconds to win his event while Madirika clocked 49:25.97 seconds for her victory.


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