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Bright future ahead of teenager Duneeth Wellalage

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by Rex Clementine 

Respected Indian cricket writer R. Kaushik, who has authored several cricket books including autobiographies of VVS Laxman, ‘281 and Beyond’ and Gundappa Vishwanath ‘Wrist Assured’ is a wise man in the game. He also happens to be a keen follower of Sri Lankan cricket. For the 2003 World Cup, when Sri Lanka travelled to South Africa leaving T.M. Dilshan out, he commented that it was a blunder. Many of us didn’t get his point at that time but in subsequent World Cups Dilshan proved what an asset he can be for the side.

Dilshan could open batting, fit in the middle order, send down ten overs, keep wickets and he was the team’s best fielder. Leaving him out was a no brainer, argued Kaushik.

Similarly, during this year’s ICC Under-19 World Cup, he commented that Dunith Wellalage is a special talent and Sri Lanka have found a match winner. Wellalage has come off with flying colours. After his outing with the Under-19 side, he hit a purple patch in England when he represented Sri Lanka Development Squad. That earned him a call up with Sri Lanka ‘A’ and cricketing hierarchy  felt that time was ripe for little Dunith to be thrown into the deep end at the age of 19 against the mighty Aussies. It started off as a dream debut, many teenagers would be dreaming to dismiss Steve Smith on debut.

At Pallekele, Wellalage was living his dream. But eventually it was baptism by fire as Glenn Maxwell was in beast mode. One of cricket’s deadliest finishers  versus a rookie was a mismatch. For once, Goliath won but David would have the last laugh. Now then, no saying devil quoting the Bible.

Wellalage was going to get the long rope, play all five games irrespective of results having emerged as one of the best talents in recent times. But he has earned his place with that eye-catching performance in the second game. He chipped in with a useful 20 with the bat before inflicting two vital blows by dismissing Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne in successive overs and that put the brakes on the modest Aussie run chase. More than anything, the moment that lifted his profile was that terrific catch to dismiss Pat Cummins. This is no ordinary player. This is Anura Ranasinghe reborn.

Little Dunith hails from a cricketing family in Moratuwa, one of the nation’s finest cricket bases. His father Suranga was a wicket-keeper batsman who represented Prince  of Wales. The left-hander played in six Big Matches and could have gone onto achieve much more in cricket had he focused on the game.

Dunith attended St. Sebastian’s initially before shifting to St. Joseph’s. There he was a sensation. To his luck he had two superb mentors at school, Rev. Fr. Travis Gabriel, the Rector and former Test cricketer Roger Wijesuriya as the coach. A child can rarely fault when there are such sound minds and strict disciplinarians.

Kaushik back in Bangalore is excited for Wellalage and he’s confident that good times are ahead for Sri Lankan cricket, but he has a word of caution, be patient with the young man. Don’t ruin his talent.

Many are talents that we have ruined. Some have self destructed themselves while some others have been given raw deals. Take the case of Wanindu Hasaranga. Like Dunith, he was 19 when Sanath Jayasuriya picked him out of the blues.  He had such an impact claiming a hat-trick on debut. Instead of allowing him to develop, soon after Sanath left, he was axed and was in the wilderness for 15 months.

For the 2019 World Cup in England, Sri Lanka overlooked Hasaranga and their leg-spin choice was interesting. All these Born Again allegations can not be dismissed as gossip.

Thankfully  when Mickey Arthur returned, Hasaranga found a good mentor. It helped that Ashantha de Mel was Chairman of Selectors. The good thing about de Mel is that if the coach convinced him, he would back the coach’s choices. Let’s hope Wellalage doesn’t suffer the same fate.



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Sri Lanka men’s and women’s teams ready to contest FIBA Asia Tournament

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by a Special Sports Correspondent

The Sri Lanka Men’s and Women’s basketball teams took flight to Singapore on Tuesday for the FIBA Asia 3×3 Basketball tournament.

The two teams have been in preparation since April and are being coached by Ajith Kuruppu.

The men’s team has to first prove its worth against China and Tonga and one more team before qualifying for the main tournament. “It’s going to be a tough tournament, but the men’s and women’s teams have been practicing well. Our preparations were good and we want to make an impact at the tournament,” said Kuruppu. According to the Sri Lanka teams’ coach China will be a tough challenge in the men’s segment of the tournament.

“We’ve been gelling together as a team during training and the players have a good understanding when playing as a unit,” said Sri Lanka’s Mens’ Team skipper Shehan Fernando.

Sri Lanka’s women’s team has made a direct entry into the tournament. Sri Lanka Women’s team skipper Anjali Ekanayake said that the ranking of the players in the national 3×3 team is good. “These players have got much exposure playing in this format of the game. We’ve been focusing on nutrition and shooting over the past few months. Training went well for the tournament,” said Ekanayake.

Coach Kuruppu took this opportunity to thank Vaaj Fitness for sponsoring the two national teams to Singapore and for making their gym available for the players to do strength and conditioning training.

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Chathurya, Dinara, Saajida, Vishmi advance to second round

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ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament

Chathurya Nilaweera ousted India’s Dhanush Varma to reach the second round of the ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament continued at the SSC Tennis Courts on Tuesday.

Nilaweera was the only player in the boys’ category from Sri Lanka to advance from the first round as he beat Varma 6-2, 6-0.

In the girls’ category Dinara de Silva, Saajida Razick and Vishmi Serasinghe reached the second round when they won their respective first round matches on Monday.

Dinara beat Yu Ching Wang of Taipei 6-3, 7-6(4) and Razick beat Indian Anushka Bhola 6-1, 6-1, while Serasinghe ousted Wei Chiao-Chen also from Taipei 6-1, 6-1.

In the other matches Dinethya Dharmarathe, Dahamna Methnadi, Nesangi Hemakumara, Vinethya Dharmarathne and Gehansa Metnadi conceded first round defeats.

In the boys’ category Vichinthya Nilaweera, Methwan Wijemanne, Abdul Bashit Cader, Thilina Dissanayake and Zahid Zihar were eliminated in the first round.

The boys’ and girls’ second round matches will be played today.

The tournament which commenced on July 4 will culminate on Friday.

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Sri Lanka add more spin options after first Test disaster

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Maheesh Theekshana and Dunith Wellalage are likely to make their Test debuts in the series-deciding second Test in Galle.

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka have taken some desperate measures leading up to the second Test against Australia in Galle by adding more spin options indicating that the team management and the selectors are willing to make wholesale changes after the pathetic performance in the first Test which they lost before lunch on day three.

Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya has been sent home after he failed to make an impact following the ten-wicket loss last week. In an inexperienced attack, the 25-year-old with 17 Test caps is the senior most bowler but he had got his lengths wrong in a game dominated by Australian spinners. Embuldeniya had struggled in Bangladesh as well and was dropped. Instead of letting him fight his way back, he was drafted into the first Test against Australia and it wasn’t surprising to see him failing to make an impact. Now with the series at stake, Sri Lanka have pressed the panic button.

Even if Dimuth Karunaratne’s side win the second Test, Australia will retain Warne-Murali Trophy since they are the holders having blanked Sri Lanka 2-0 in 2019.

Sri Lanka’s desperation is evident by the fact that they have recalled Maheesh Theekshana, who hasn’t played a First-Class game in four years. In fact, Army had been told not to consider Theekshana for the ongoing one-day competition to help him recover from niggles but suddenly he finds himself in the hot seat with a Test series at stake.

Uncapped Dunith Wellalage also has been added to the squad giving the left-arm spin option that has been taken away following the axing of Embuldeniya. Support left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama had tested positive for COVID.

Former captain Angelo Mathews who was in isolation after testing positive for COVID has returned a negative test and has rejoined the team.

Off-spinner Lakshitha Manasinghe is the third player to be added to the group. He had an impressive series against Australia ‘A’ too. It is expected that Wellalage will make his Test debut while the slot for the third spinner is a toss-up between Jeffrey Vandersay and Maheesh Theekshana. The leg-spinner was untidy in the opening Test and the more realistic option seems to be that Theekshana debuting alongside Wellalage.

Although three replacement spinners have been added, some wonder why Sri Lanka have not thought of some batting replacements. It was a pathetic display by the team in the second innings where they were shot out inside a session and faced only 22.3 overs.

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