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Cracking the Avishka Fernando code

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by Rex Clementine

Cabinet Minister Bandula Gunawaradene once said that Rs. 2500 is sufficient for a person to live a month. The argument did not go down well with the public. This is what happens when successful tuition masters try their hand in guiding the national economy. On the same note, it is a tricky subject for not so successful cricket writers to give suggestions on how the national cricket team should function. Nevertheless, it is good to be an armchair critic once in a while as long as you don’t get your calculations totally wrong like Bandula sir.

So, we have been sold this theory that Avishka Fernando has a chink in his armour opening the innings and that he is better off playing at number four. With gents like Mickey Arthur and Mahela Jayawardene being the theorists, the press took the bait, hook, line and sinker. Well, the two gents were asked to explain their theories. They played their cards close to their chests. Apparently, they did not want to let the cat out of the bag. Fair enough.

The closest it came to was that during Power Plays with field restrictions on and the inner circle cramped, Avishka struggled to find the gap and rotate the strike.

Some did not buy into that theory. Jaffna Kings, Avishka’s franchise owners certainty didn’t. They batted him at his usual position and the Moratuwaite came up with a stunning display hitting five consecutive sixes in an over this week. The bowler at the receiving end was T.M. Sampath, the younger brother of former captain T.M. Dilshan.

Avishka has always batted top of the order. He is so exciting to watch and there’s little doubt that he’s Aravinda’s heir given the time he has got to play his strokes and the natural flair. If it is true that why Sri Lanka wanted him to go down the order was because he was struggling to rotate the strike when field restrictions were on, it is defensive thinking, some could argue. We are a nation that got hold of not just one opener but two of them and told them to go helter-skelter upsetting the bowlers’ rhythm. Why can we not do the same with Avishka? Fair question.

You can not criticize Avishka’s demotion altogether for that tactic allowed Pathum Nissanka to move up the order and how well he has performed there. Sri Lanka were desperately searching for someone to bat through the 20 overs, often getting bowled out without utilizing their quota of 20 overs. Pathum has solved that problem. He plays the anchor role so well and occasionally brings up Steve Smith like strokes that you can only sit back and marvel.

Over the years, in Sri Lankan cricket we have converted some of our finest talents as opening batsmen. They have all done terrific jobs top of the order. But to get an opening batsman to bat at in the middle order is almost unheard of. Also the theory that Avishka is fine to open batting in ODIs but not in T-20s doesn’t add up. One of Dav Whatmore’s theories was that your best players needed to ‘consume the larger amount of overs’ when it came to white ball cricket.

There’s some fault in Avishka too. He was going to make his Test debut early this year against England in Galle but was sent home having failed a fitness test. Apparently the Sri Lankan team manager at that time, former fast bowler Ashantha de Mel, had lower skinfolds than Avishka! A little bit of discipline, common sense and interest in what you are supposed to do can take you places. On the other hand, lack of intent will see your talent going down the drain and if you are not disciplined you have so much to lose.

Mickey Arthur’s fitness regime needs to be commended. No Sri Lankan coach has stressed on fitness as much as Mickey and his theory of ‘my way or the highway’ worked wonders. Mickey after all was someone who sacked Mitchell Johnson of all people for failing to do his ‘homework’. Taking on Avishka would have been child’s play for him. There is only one language that some players understand.

Coming back to the question whether Avishka should open or bat at four, it is an interesting debate. People like Mickey, who has coached four international teams and Mahela, who has turned everything he touched in coaching into gold need to be given the benefit of the doubt. But then, they taught us at school that only the Pope is infallible. Maybe MJ too when it comes to cricket.



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Sri Lanka level series with big win in second ODI 

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Dushmantha Chameera wheels away in celebration

Rex Clementine
at Suriyawewa  

Sri Lanka bounced back to beat Afghanistan by 132 runs on Sunday to square the three-match one-day series in Suriyawewa yesterday. It was Sri Lanka’s biggest win over Afghanistan in ODIs and makes amends for its disappointing performance in the first ODI on Friday, which they lost by six wickets,

Having set Afghanistan a stiff 324-run target, fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera dismissed the dangerous Rahmanulah Gurbaz cheaply for two runs to give his side an early advantage. Although Afghanistan put together two strong partnerships after that, the required run rate kept climbing and the Afghans lost their way trying to keep pace.

 Opening batsman Ibrahim Zardan continued his good form, posting 54 runs while captain Hashmatullah Shahidi top scored with 57 runs, but once Sri Lanka dismissed the top order there was not much resistance from the rest of the batters.From 146 for two, Afghanistan collapsed to be bowled out for 191 runs in 42.1 overs, losing their last eight wickets for just 45 runs.

Spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Dhananjaya de Silva shared six wickets between them to seal a comprehensive win for the home side.   Sri Lanka’s batting put on a show giving the team confidence ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe this month.

Afghanistan have already qualified for the World Cup and despite the heavy defeat on Sunday, will feel positive with star Rashid Khan expected to feature in the final game on Wednesday. The leg-spinner was ruled out of the first two games with a back injury.

Half-centuries by Kusal Mendis and Dimuth Karunaratne helped Sri Lanka post their commanding total. While Mendis top scored with 78 runs off 75 balls with seven fours and one six, Karunaratne, who was recalled for this series to stabilize the batting, made 52 off 62 balls with seven fours. Opener Pathum Nissanka contributed 43 runs while Sadeera Samarawickrama, featuring in an ODI for the first time since 2019, made 44 off 46 balls.

There was some big hitting by the lower middle order with captain Dasun Shanaka chipping in with 23 runs while Wanindu Hasaranga finished things off in style with an unbeaten 29 off 12 balls with four fours and a six. Dhananjaya de Silva was named Man of the Match for his unbeaten 29 and three wickets.

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Tharushi wins silver, Uththara clinches bronze at Asian Junior Athletics Championships  

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By Reemus Fernando  

Ratnayake Central, Walala runner Tharushi Karunaratne and Holy Cross College, Gampaha sprinter Jayeshi Uththara shared the silver and bronze medals respectively of the women’s 400 metres to give a winning start to Sri Lanka’s Asian Junior Athletics Championship campaign on day one of the event in South Korea on Sunday.

Karunaratne and Uththara reached the final as the second and third fastest from the heats held in the morning and those positions remained unchanged as they finished second and third respectively in the final.

Karunaratne clocked 53.70 seconds to finish second behind India’s Rezoana Mallick Heena who returned a time of 53.31 seconds for the gold. Uththara clocked 55.51 seconds for her bronze.

Commenting on their achievements Sri Lanka Athletics in a statement said that it was the first time in almost three decades that two Sri Lankan female athletes had won medals in a single event at the Asian Junior Championships.

The track and field governing body was referring to the gold and silver doubles of legendary Susanthika Jayasinghe and Damayanthi Dharsha who shared the gold and silver medals in the 100 metres and 200 metres with championship records at the 1994 edition held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

At the last edition held in Gifu, Japan Sri Lanka’s men’s pair of Aruna Dharshana and Pasindu Kodikara won the gold and silver medals in the men’s 400 metres.  Karunaratne who is trained by veteran coach Susantha Fernando is set to compete in the women’s 800 metres final today where she will be the favourite for gold.

She returned an Asian leading time of 2:01.39 seconds at the selection trail held in March though her preparation for the event was plagued by a sickness forcing her to skip the recently held Junior National Championships. Tharushi will enter today’s race as the third fastest 800 metres runner in the world this year.

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Dominant Sri Lanka claw back to level series

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Sri Lanka came up with a dominant show with both bat and ball to stage a strong comeback and level the three-match series against Afghanistan on Sunday (June 4). Having lost the first ODI, the hosts staged a commendable comeback with their top four laying the platform for a 300-plus total which was then defended with ease as Afghanistan fell short by 132 runs.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 323/6 in 50 overs (Kusal Mendis 78, Dimuth Karunaratne 52; Mohammad Nabi 2/52) beat Afghanistan 191 in 42.1 overs (Hashmatullah Shahidi 57, Ibrahim Zadran 54; Dhananjaya de Silva 3/39) by 132 runs

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