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Cricket’s invisible men

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India played three spinners in the Test match. Sri Lanka opted for one spinner. Indian spinners accounted for 15 of the 20 wickets in Mohali. Sri Lanka's planning in India has been awful.

Rex Clementine in Mohali

As the national cricket team made a mockery out of the opening Test match against India here in Mohali with wrong selections and combinations the team is faced with more trouble as they are unable to fly in replacements due to delay in processing visas.

Asitha Fernando, who has featured in three Test matches was the possible replacement Sri Lanka were trying to bring in but that’s not gone to plan and even if he gets the visa, he is unlikely to be available for selections for the second Test in Bangalore as he has to undergo a three day quarantine before joining the team.

With Lahiru Kumara ruled out with a hamstring injury, Dushmantha Chameera, who was expected to feature in the second Test is complaining of ankle pain and Sri Lanka are wary of exposing the injury prone fast bowler ahead of a hectic cricket season. Although Binura Fernando is the automatic choice, the team management have concerns about him as he has previously broken down in middle of games. That makes Chamika Karunaratne the Hobson’s choice and he’s expected to feature in the side along with Suranga Lakmal and Vishwa Fernando. If Chameera doesn’t play, it will be a killer blow for Sri Lanka.

In the first Test, playing Kumara without a single First Class game under his belt since his last injury as if weren’t a bad enough, it surprised many when he limped out to bat struggling to move his feet. Assuming it was a case of Sri Lanka needing ten runs to avoid the follow on, sending out the injured last man would have made sense. But here Sri Lanka were trailing by 400 runs. Then with the team all set for a massive defeat, Kumara was sent out again in the second innings. Surely, your number 11 is not going to make a hundred. The only thing that could have happened with him coming out to bat was the fast bowler aggravating the injury.

The coaching staff seems to be heavily relying for input from Colombo, worried to take decisions independently. Video footage of the Mohali pitch was sent to Colombo to ask what combination the team should play. Sri Lanka went with three seamers and one spinner whereas India went with three spin options. Eventually, the team became the laughing stock as seamers got little purchase while India’s spinners were handful with Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin accounting for 15 of the 20 wickets.

Young Pathum Nissanka had done a terrific job as an opener having scored three half-centuries in the two match series against West Indies in December. What crime he had committed to be demoted to number three remains a mystery. Interestingly, his replacement Lahiru Thirimanne since playing the Bangladesh Test match last year had not featured in any First Class games. Tactically, it was a blunder sending two left-handed batsmen against the off-spin of Ravichandran Ashwin.

As expected, Ashwin came onto the attack in the fifth over of the innings and had his man. In the second innings, Ashwin didn’t wait that long. He bowled the first over and once again dismissed Thirimanne, this time for a duck. The invisible men in Colombo had thought it was fit that Thirimanne was good enough to open batting against world’s best bowling attack having not featured in a First Class game for nearly a year.

The confidence level of the team is at a low ebb. The coaching staff seems to be not putting their foot down in areas where they need to show authority as they know they are all on borrowed time with interim appointments.

For every minute thing the invisible men in Colombo are consulted and the results have been disastrous with Sri Lanka suffering their third heaviest Test defeat in history. Team’s planning has been awful.

Sri Lanka Cricket often gets the blame for team’s sorry performances, but this debacle can not be placed on the doorstep of the board for they clearly mange only the administrative part with cricket being run by invisible men. They are not in India with the team but very soon will arrive here after the Test match is over as the carnival is set to begin. By then, the horse has bolted and the image of nation’s cricket team would have taken a huge blow. The invisible men will not get exposed. They will get their men like Mubaraks and Kandambys to run the show now that they have failed to bring in Farbrace and Ford. Cricket remains their private property and only their friends will play a role in cricket. Invisible men will continue to be invisible.



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‘I have accomplished my job’ – Yupun on his sub 10 seconds  

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by Reemus Fernando   

Sprinter Yupun Abeykoon who became the latest member of the exclusive sub 10 seconds club in the men’s 100 metres said that he has accomplished the target he had set himself and all achievements from here on would be bonuses.

Speaking to his fans on a social media platform, the first South Asian athlete to run the men’s 100 metres under 10 seconds said that running sub 10 seconds in the athletics’ glamour event was what he was working hard on and he felt a sense of accomplishment after stopping the clock at 9.96 seconds in Switzerland on Sunday. His first sub ten seconds feat and the 10.16 seconds performance he achieved in 2020 to get the Sri Lanka record under his belt will always remain special to him.

Abeykoon smashed his own national record and became the first man from South Asia to run the men’s 100 metres under ten seconds when he clocked 9.96 seconds to win the men’s 100 metres at the Resisprint International.

It is also the fastest performance by an Asian this year overtaking the two Japanese sprinters Ryuichiro Sakai and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown who are yet to clock sub 10 seconds this year.

“I am really happy to have accomplished the target. I knew that I could do it this year. It was not a coincidence. It was a result of a three year plan with my coaches. No one can perform magic in this sport. By last year we knew that we could reach the target this year,” said Abeykoon beaming from ear to ear when he came on live on Tuesday.

“I tried to reach the target from the start of this season. I missed the opportunity on a number of occasions. I was waiting for the ideal condition.

“I do not know how you will take this. I have finished my job. From now on what I achieve, my victories will all be bonuses,” the 27-year-old said.

He said that the 10.16 seconds and 9.96 seconds will remain special to him.

He said the plan for this year was to win an Asian Games medal, reach the Commonwealth Games final and to feature in the semi-finals of the World Championships in Oregon.

The 9.96 seconds result proves that the training schedules had gone according to plan as he tops the Asian 100 metres sprinters list and is placed among the top 15 athletes in the world in his pet event.

Commenting on the photo he published recently with Yohan Blake on facebook he said that he was shocked to hear that Blake had watched and followed his races.

The Jamaican who had run 9.69 secs (-0.1 in 2012) is considered the second fastest man ever to have competed in the men’s 100 metres behind compatriot Usain Bolt.

“Generally competitors would not wish his opponents but Blake wished me for my race. He had watched some of my previous races.”

Yupun said that he would try his best to do well at future events to bring a smile to his followers.

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Spin legend Warne’s  legacy lingers long after Sri Lanka tsunami

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Shane Warne’s brother Jason greets locals at Seenigama during a visit early this week. Philanthropist Kushil Gunasekara, who runs the Foundation of Goodness is also in the picture

No foreign cricketer is likely to ever capture the hearts of Sri Lankans quite like Shane Warne did.

Yet, of all the heartfelt tributes paid to the spin great on the island he had helped to rebuild from its worst ever natural disaster, the late spin great might have been most touched by a quiet moment in the small village of Seenigama this week.

Back in early 2005 at the urging of Muttiah Muralitharan, Warne had visited the seaside community on Sri Lanka’s south coast, one of many that had been flattened by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

Among the most memorable vision captured by a 60 Minutes film crew during his visit was four-year-old Dilini Wasana kissing Warne on the cheek as he handed out food and toys.

On Monday, four months after the sudden death of the Victorian, Dilini was in the same spot where she had met Warne seventeen years ago.

This time she greeted his brother Jason, who was visiting the Foundation of Goodness; the embodiment of Shane’s contribution to the country.

“It’s been pretty emotional,” said Jason Warne, standing on a small cricket ground the Foundation built in the aftermath of the tsunami.

“We’re here because of what Shane did in 2004. It’s been great to come over here and get a sense of why he wanted to do it.

“(From) the footage that came out of Shane’s visit, there was one little girl (Dilini) who gave him a kiss on the cheek, you could see she was so happy.

“She was saying she would love to be able to say thank you one more time. To go there today and see her, was pretty special.”

The spin legend’s visit back in 2005 to Sri Lanka shone a light on the destruction to lives, homes and the Galle cricket ground where Warne had taken his 500th Test wicket less than a year earlier.

It prompted a wave of donations from Australia and his continued efforts in the ensuing years have not been forgotten.

Kushil Gunasekera, the long-time manager of Murali who runs the Foundation of Goodness, has used the proceeds to build community facilities across ten sites in rural Sri Lanka.

One of the graduates of the Foundation’s educational programs was Ramesh Mendis, born in nearby Ambalangoda and whose off-spin saw him take four wickets against Australia in last week’s first Test.

“He was the first one to come,” Gunasekera said of Shane on Monday, as he gave Jason and his wife Shay a two-hour tour of school, health, dental and sporting facilities in Seenigama.

“What Shane did when he came with 60 minutes, and because of the way he presented the case, it went all around Australia.

“And as a result Master Builders came, the Victorian Government came, and we were able to get help from so many people.”

Since his brother’s passing, Jason Warne has heard countless stories, tributes and messages of gratitude from around the world about the leg-spinner’s impact on other’s lives.

For the first Test in Galle, the ground the late Warne had helped raise $1 million for, posters with his and Murali’s faces were stationed around the ground while seven members of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning team were on hand for a commemorative plate presentation before play.

“It was hard not to notice the Warnie portraits up all around the ground,” said Mitchell Swepson, one of the few leg-spinners to play Test cricket for Australia since Warne.

“All the work he did for the Sri Lankan tsunami fund, he’s had a massive impact on this country with his cricket and off the field as well. It was great to see them pay tribute and see how much they respect the man

“I’m in no way shape or form trying to be Shane Warne, he is the best we’ve ever had … but when people ask me what I do, I tell them I bowl leg spin it’s ‘Oh, like Warnie”.

“That’s just the mark he left on the game, he’s a legend.”

Some tributes have even surprised Jason Warne, most notably the announcement from the United Nations at the MCG memorial service that a wildlife conservation grant would be named in the late cricketer’s honour.

“It’s sometimes hard to get your head around that my brother, who I used to just go up to the nets with and have a bit of fun, has left such a legacy,” said Warne.

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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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