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‘Buttler’s great at understanding what the game is telling him to do’ – Sangakkara

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“Jos is brilliant at reading the game, he knows how to switch back and forth between batting normally and power-hitting”

A little over halfway in the IPL, Jos Buttler is by a distance the most prolific batter in the competition, having made 588 runs at a strike rate of 151. Rajasthan Royals’ director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara talks about the season his team’s star batter is having.

Jos Buttler is no stranger to success at the IPL, but this season he’s been far and away the best of the batters so far. Why do you think that is?

He’s been given a very clear role as an opener, without having to think about batting No. 4 or 3, or his role being questioned in terms of how the team might benefit from his position being changed.

The franchise has also recognised that he’s been the best T20 opener in the world for the past few years. We’ve done our data and analytics for seven months. We had a separate analytics team that looked at player valuation quite differently and went into granular detail, and that helped us in terms of retention and in terms of auction strategy, and giving players clarity in their roles, and that’s helped Jos.

In terms of his technique, he’s done a lot of work in identifying what his best hitting position is, and how he changes from the first two to three overs in the powerplay to that power-hitting position the moment he feels he’s got rhythm. That’s been really good.

He tends to start somewhat slow…

Jos has realised that his strike rate right throughout the innings gets better and better, so he knows not to get fazed when the ball is swinging or seaming – to fight through those periods and give himself the best chance of success. If he’s batting in the 14th or 15th over, he’s well on the way to scoring a hundred. Last season the Sunrisers game was an example. He was about 35 runs off 35 balls and ended up scoring a hundred off 56 deliveries I think. He’s great at understanding what the game is telling him to do and the pitch is telling him to do. And giving himself the best chance of taking his innings deep and scoring the runs for the side. He’s got amazing skills, amazing hands and bat speed, so that does the rest of the job.

Then he explodes in the next ten balls to the point where balls ten to 20 are one of his most productive periods. Is this a game plan he has?

For him it depends on feel. If you take the first Mumbai game – Bumrah bowled a really good over, Daniel Sams not such a good over, and then Basil Thampi comes on and suddenly, I think he felt that was an over where he could really take him down. I think he took 26 or something in that over. When he gets that feeling, how he arranges his feet in terms of his ready position is really important for him to have that maximum output.

He starts off in the normal fashion but changes into his power-hitting position when the moment comes along. When there’s another tough period, he changes back. He’s brilliant at reading the game. He knows how to switch back and forth. That’s been a hallmark of why he’s been so successful this season.

No type of bowler seems to have had an advantage over him this season. What’s given him that unique edge?

He’s good against spin and pace, which is not always the case with even the great players. He also has a very good shot repertoire that he’s comfortable with. He paddles, sweeps, reverse sweeps. And he’s got great hand speed and a lot of power. He’s a very, very strong guy. You can see that even off a back-foot punch, how he clears the line. So when you have those shots and that strength in your armoury and those quick hands – it gives you a huge amount of confidence.

When I was playing, I had to calculate a six, and reverse sweeps were not something I did naturally. I had certain ways of scoring. But Jos is exceptional because of his range of scoring. He’s all around the wicket. He paddles pace, he hits down the ground, and he hits over extra cover. There’s no real weakness, when he gets going [for you] to tie him down. The only thing that can affect him a little bit is sticky or slow wickets. But then when he fights through those periods, those attributes that he has really help him.

He looks at his T20 innings as a long innings. He’s not a guy who’s just satisfied batting in the powerplay. He’ll take it to the 12th, 14th, 15th over, which really helps the side do well. That overall game arrangement that he has makes it tough for bowlers to tie him down.

As good as he has been against pace, he’s prospering even more against the spinners – he has faced 103 balls of spin in the tournament, been out just once, and scored at 9.9 runs an over against them, with almost a quarter of the balls he’s faced being boundaries. Could you break down his technique against spin?

It’s risk and reward, and he understands that very well. He will use his feet against certain spinners. He understands which spinners he’s struggling against, so he’s more than happy to take a couple of singles and give the strike over to the other guy. He hits off the back foot really well now over cover, and straight down the ground really well. In the first KKR game, he back-foot-punched Varun Chakravarthy into the sightscreen. The moment they go full, he hits down the ground off the front foot. There’s very little margin in terms of spin unless there’s a lot of purchase on the pitch. As a bowler, when your margins decrease, there’s a lot of pressure to be almost perfect, which, again, can lead to a lot of mistakes, and that again is an advantage to Jos.

Spinners – except for a Rashid Khan or a Sunil Narine to an extent – have been able to bowl good balls at him, but they’ve not been able to tie him down or get him out. Sometimes we get carried away with the boundaries only, but the way he’s rotated the strike, minimised risk, and really taken down bowlers when he knows he can – that’s the kind of back-and-forth in his batting that’s really helped him against spin.

He very famously once had “f*** it” written on the top of his bat handle. As a director of cricket, for you is he the kind of player that you just leave alone to prepare their own way?

Jos is someone who thinks about his technique and his batting quite a lot – much more than I expected he would. He’s always ready to learn. He talks about his batting with a lot of knowledge and authority. He has a very set way of training and keeping his body position. He works very hard at training.

My job is really to show him what the results are and why that is happening. And to convince him to keep doing the same thing – not any less or any more. Just to build that tempo into his innings and understand that each day it’ll be different. That tempo could come at different times. It could be the second ten balls, or it could be from balls 30 to 40. Just to fight through the tough parts and give himself the best chance to be impactful for the side. There’s been times when he’s struggled through with a very average strike rate, and ended up with a 150 or 160 strike rate. Sometimes it’s over 200. My job is to get him comfortable in that and give him ownership.

Are you finding that because he’s having such an incandescent season, the oppositions’ tendency to prioritise the match-ups against him, or use different bowlers while he’s at the crease, is having knock-on effects for the rest of your batters?

With the new balls they’ll always try to get him out with set ways, which he knows about. There’s yorkers, there’s change of pace, or two fielders on the leg side to stop him from using his paddle against pace. He knows what’s coming at him and he gets prepared for that. When you’re hitting a six, you don’t really care where the field is. You’re just trying to clear the field anyway. He’s got that really clear mindset.

With a lot of the sides, if he’s going well, they will have to try and bring their best bowlers back on to try and get him out or to try and get someone else out. And that gives the rest of the batters a little bit of an easier time, facing bowlers that they might manoeuvre or find to their liking or take down. It’s had a positive effect on the side. The others have been able to bat in situations and positions that suit them because Jos has been so effective.

Which of his innings have been the most important this season, for you?

That RCB game, he struggled through and managed to accelerate at one particular point. For me that reinforces his actual strength and shows him very clearly that if he fights through periods that are tough, he accelerates so quickly, he gets us to positions from where we should win. Those kinds of innings show him his real ability rather than scoring a hundred at a canter. He organises his game and his mindset in a way that benefits the side when the pressure is on. Innings like that are really crucial.

He also hit a fantastic century against KKR, against a very good attack featuring Pat Cummins, Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy, and Umesh Yadav. Could you break that knock down for us?

We all know his ability against pace – he plays so straight and his commitment to his boundary-hitting. I think the significance was that back-foot punch for six against Chakravarthy. That really put the KKR bowlers under threat, because Chakravarthy, whom we’d spoken so much about, was nullified. And then all the batters started taking runs off him, and Jos was leading that. That particular shot gave not just Jos but everyone else confidence as well.

It’s not easy to get to 100 in T20 cricket. You can get to 50 or 60 and feel like you’ve done your job. But Jos is not like that. He’ll push through.

(Cricinfo)



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Yupun continues record-breaking spree  

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Yupun Abeykoon improved the men’s 100metres national record at a championship held in Germany on Wednesday.

Sri Lankan is the Asian leader

by Reemus Fernando  

Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon continued his record-breaking spree at a championship in Dessau, Germany as he clocked the fastest time in the men’s 100 metres in Asia this year to win ahead of Kenyan world leader Ferdinand Omanyala on Wednesday.

Abeykoon, who is also the South Asian record holder in the 100 metres clocked 10.06 seconds to win as he took a good chunk of 0.09 seconds off his previous national record.

It is the third time that the 27-year-old has improved the national record in 100 metres.

Abeykoon first took the national record of the 100 metres (10.16 secs) in 2020 before improving it to 10.15 seconds last year.

Abeykoon’s 10.06 seconds is the fastest time in Asia this year as he overtook Abdullah Abkar Mohammed (10.14) of Saudi Arabia and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (10.15) of Japan who had both produced their seasonal best in March.

With Abeykoon winning the 100 metres against a quality field inclusive of Ferdinand Omanyala, who had clocked a world-leading time of 9.85 seconds early this month, it is expected that the South Asian Games medallist would produce the tough qualifying standard of 10.05 seconds for the World Championship soon rather than later.

Athletes are selected for the World Championship through direct qualifying standards and through the world rankings. Of the 48 slots allocated for the track’s showpiece discipline, 27 are selected from those who achieve the tough qualifying standard of 10.05 seconds, for which Abeykoon is just a millisecond behind.

The remaining slots are filled according to the ‘Road to Oregon 2022’ list in which Abeykoon is placed in the 58th position at present. That ranking is set to improve when stats are updated next week.

Abeykoon’s remarkable achievements have come at a time when some of the country’s promising athletes struggle to improve their rankings due to lack of quality competitions here in Sri Lanka.

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Bangladesh top order stumbles after Mathews, Chanidmal hit tons

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Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews shared a 199 run stand for the sixth wicket as both batters hit centuries to give Sri Lanka a 141 run lead in the first innings in the second Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka yesterday.

Sri Lankan seamers cut through the Bangladesh top order in the second innings after centuries from Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal gave the visitors a commanding lead in the second Test in Dhaka yesterday.

Bangladesh were in a dangerous position at 34 for four at stumps on the fourth day and still needing another 107 runs to ward off an innings defeat.

The visitors were all out for 506 runs in the day’s final session, with Shakib Al Hasan claiming his 19th five wicket haul in Test match cricket. Fast bowler Ebadot Hossain finished with four for 148.

The hosts fell into trouble in the sixth over as Asitha Fernando delivered opener Tamim Iqbal his second duck of the Test, returning after a catch in second slip from substitute fielder Kamindu Mendis. It’s the first time in his 67 Test career, Tamim had picked up a pair.

Najmul Hossain (two), Mominul Haque (0) and Mahmudul Hasan (15) followed him in quick succession as Fernando and Kasun Rajitha ripped through the top order to finish with 2-12 and 1-12 respectively.

Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton Das, who shared 272 in the first innings and slammed a century each, finished the day on 14 and one.

It followed a day of struggles with the ball, with Bangladesh unable to make any breakthrough until after tea.

Mathews finished Sri Lanka’s spell at the crease unbeaten on 145 while Chandimal made 124 in the pair’s 199-run partnership for the sixth wicket.

The pair dominated the Bangladesh bowlers before Ebadot took Chandimal, with the final five wickets falling in 41 runs.

Mathews, who faced 342 balls and struck 12 fours and two sixes in his second century of the series, was given out caught-behind off Khaled Ahmed on 94 but survived on review.

He was given leg-before again off Mosaddek Hossain at 105 but the decision was reversed.

Chandimal enjoyed a similar lucky spell in the morning session after a caught-behind call on the fourth ball of Mominul’s first over was overturned.

Two balls later the right-hander narrowly survived a stumping chance on 44.

He later hit Ebadot for two successive fours before reaching his century with a single in the same over.

Chandimal hit 11 fours and a six in his 219-ball innings. It was his first Test hundred since 2018.

The first Test between the countries in Chittagong was drawn.

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SLR sees tradition challenged during troubled times 

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by A Special Sports Correspondent 

Rugby in Sri Lanka is at a standstill and there are many reasons for this. The main reason for this is Asian Rugby (AR) suspending the membership of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR); the controlling body for rugby in Sri Lanka. The other reason is the chaotic situation in the country which has been brought about largely by the economic crisis.

This puts paid to Sri Lanka taking part in any regional tournaments. That could mean Sri Lanka’s chances of contesting the rugby sevens event of the upcoming Commonwealth Games is also in jeopardy. But there could be a way out of this murky situation for SLR if it conducts the AGM and has a free and fair election. AR is monitoring the rugby activities in Sri Lanka and even sent one of its representatives here to study the situation. AR proposed having the SLR AGM.

Our investigations into the events that have taken place in Sri Lanka’s rugby scene reveal that AR has found out that a democratic atmosphere doesn’t exist within the fraternity that the SLR controls. A representative from AR was here in April to conduct a probe on the rugby set-up here. The probe, according to news reports published in the web and leading national newspapers, revealed that all stakeholders of the game are not equally represented in SLR’s decision-making environment. Also, it has been revealed that the decision taken to suspend the SLR’s membership has been taken with the interest of maintaining Asian Rugby’s principles which are equality, transparency, and accountability.

It is also learned that the AR representative had made it known that the rugby set-up here in Sri Lanka was in need of an Annual General Meeting (AGM). This AGM would be called upon by the National Olympic Committee as desired by AR. A letter indicating the above has been sent to the minister of sports. According to the SLR its AGM is scheduled for August 27.

One of the major issues in local rugby is that Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU)-the union with the highest number of rugby clubs-has been denied voting rights at past AGMs due to the nonpayment of membership fees to the SLR. The clubs within the WPRFU have come together as a force and made a request through the competent authority- appointed by the former sports minister to control rugby-to grant voting rights to individual clubs at the AGM. This is because the WPRFU is facing obstacles in contesting this AGM. This practice of clubs voting at the SLR AGM was done away with many years ago. An SLR official asked why these clubs representatives now want to return to an old system of having voting rights for clubs when most of these individuals, when serving the SLR as officials, were quite happy with provincial unions having voting rights some years ago?

Rugby in Sri Lanka was once a happy family. This writer remembers the manner in which tradition was preserved at past AGMs. There was one year when the bidding present of the SLR (Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union then) Michael Jayasekara was challenged at a vote by another candidate for the post of president. Jayasekara withdrew his nomination at the last hour to ensure maintaining the tradition of the bidding present of the SLR not be contested at a vote.

Rugby AGMs in the past have been ‘healthy’ and camaraderie has prevailed even during a voting for other posts. These get-togethers have been like parties and representatives of clubs and provinces have caught up on old times after the voting concluded and new committees were formed. At present provincial unions are fighting for their ‘pound of flesh’ and dirty politics exists.

Just a few weeks ago the WPRFU organised an open club rugby sevens tournament and received much response from clubs. Several schools were also invited to take part in the tournament. WPRFU officials were quoted in newspapers saying that the purpose of organizing the rugby sevens tournament was to give an opportunity to club players to play rugby sevens because they were denied chances of playing rugby due to the  obstacles caused by the COVID pandemic during the past couple of years.  But the chaotic political and economic situation in the country didn’t support the commencement of this tournament, which was scheduled for May 14. As many as 18 teams had confirmed participation. For the record, last year, the WPRFU conducted the ‘Warriors Cup’ sevens tournament with much success.

In the same manner, the inter-club league rugby tournament is to be discontinued. This is due to the chaotic situation in the country. According to SLR President Rizly Illyas the council is in the process of naming table leaders Kandy SC as the winner; by taking into consideration points accumulated.

When contacted SLR President Rizly Illyas said that he together with his committee, overseeing the rugby operations in the island, has always given blessings to each provincial union to conduct its own tournaments.

The SLR headed by Illyas recorded a victory recently when they managed to bring an interim order suspending the enactment of the Gazette issued by the Ex-sports minister suspending the registration of the SLR with the Ministry of Sports. The interim order was issued by the Court of Appeal and is effective till June 30, according to news reports.

Illyas said that he hopes that there would be a free and fair election.

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