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.
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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