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DILSHAN – THERE’S BEEN NEVER ONE LIKE HIM

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by Rex Clementine

A reporter once informed T.M. Dilshan that the scoop shot had brought about his downfall umpteen times and he should reconsider playing it frequently. Dilshan said that there is a 90 percent chance of him scoring a boundary off the shot and a ten percent chance of getting dismissed. He added that he would trust his instincts and play the stroke first ball in the next game if it was in the zone. True to form he did it. The reporter never gave Dilshan batting tips after that Dilshan turned 44 yesterday and many anecdotes relating to him were recalled on social media.

Four Sri Lankans have scored more than 10,000 runs in ODI cricket. The usual suspects are Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene, people hardly remember Dilshan’s name. It has been a case throughout his career. He always lived in the shadows of Mahela and Sanga. But make no mistake. He was a vital cog in the Sri Lankan wheel for more than a decade and mighty effective too.

There is nothing in cricket that he could not do. He was a prominent figure in the middle order filling in the big shoes of Arjuna Ranatunga. Then the selectors asked him to move up the order as Sanath Jayasuriya was set to bring the curtain down on his remarkable career. How did he fill these shoes? Effortless.

Dilshan played his last game for Sri Lanka two months before his 40th birthday. Even at that stage he was the team’s best fielder – by a country mile. The selectors were at ease when Dilshan was in the side as they could be flexible and experiment. He could keep wickets. He could bowl ten overs of tidy off-spin. There was nothing in the game of cricket that was impossible for him. He was a Jack of all trade and a master of them too.

Dilshan was the Hobson’s choice for captaincy in 2011. A tour of England was his first assignment. He faced many challenges. The team’s premier fast bowler retired hastily. The players arrived in England in different batches giving priority to their IPL commitments and Sri Lanka looked a team in disarray. True to form they were blown away for 82 runs in the opening Test in Cardiff to lose by an innings. It was time for Dilshan to lead from the front. He surely did in the next Test posting a career best 193 at Lord’s and in the process broke Sidath Wettimuny’s record for the highest individual score at the Home of Cricket by a Sri Lankan – a record that had stood for more than a quarter century. Ironically, it was Wettimuny who had picked Dilshan from total oblivion in 1999.

The rumblings continued. Despite the setbacks Sri Lanka won their maiden Test match in South Africa when they overcame the Proteas in Durban. Dilshan’s leadership skills should have been celebrated. Yet, he was sacked unceremoniously at the end of the tour. The then President of Sri Lanka Cricket had conspired with a senior player to remove Dilshan after the tour come what may. It was a deal, sealed at Perera Gardens.

You tend to get the feeling that some seniors were disruptive elements during Dilshan’s captaincy. Dilshan captained the side in nine Tests away from home. There was one particular senior who did not make a single half-century in those nine games. Yet, he shamelessly took up the captaincy when Dilshan was sacked. 

Next up Australia. If someone did something wrong to you, you would naturally want to give them a taste of their own medicine? Not Dilshan. He came off with flying colours in Australia in the tri-nation competition finishing as the highest run getter of the tournament. Mind you this was the very next series after he had been sacked as skipper. His 513 was more than that of David Warner (506), Virat Kohli (373) et al. So next time you hear rumours questioning Dilshan’s honesty do keep in mind that Perera Gardens and not Maitland Place used to run our cricket a decade ago.



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Sports

Dilshi stamps her class with national record

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Shanika qualifies for World Junior Championships

by Reemus Fernando

Former Ratnayake Central Walala athlete Dilshi Kumarasinghe stamped her class with a new Sri Lanka record performance in the 800 metres while emerging 800 metres runner Shanika Lakshani reached qualifying standards for the World Under 20 Championships and sprinter Mohamed Safan broke shackles to win the 200 metres as the first Selection Trial produced its best on the final day at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.

Kumarasinghe who registered her maiden 400 metres triumph at national level on Wednesday bagged the 800 metres win as well in style on Friday when she clocked the fastest time for the distance by a Sri Lankan in history. Her time of two minutes and 2.55 seconds erased the four year-old national record held by experienced Gayanthika Abeyratne who finished third(3rd 2:03.64 secs) yesterday. Asia’s third ranked 800 metres runner Nimali Liyanarachchi was placed second in a time of 2:03.15 seconds. Former record holder Abeyratne is ranked fifth in Asia.

The 21-year-old athlete trained by Susantha Fernando maintained a steady pace right throughout to win the event for the second time within months. She won her first 800 meters title at senior level at the last National Championships in December. “I am happy to have broken the record. We planned for the record but I am not satisfied with the time,” Kumarasinghe told The Island. Her coach Fernando expressed similar sentiments. “We were planning to produced a far better timing as she has the potential to reach international level,” said Fernando.

Kumarasinghe who is currently ranked sixth in Asia behind local counterparts Liyanarachchi and Aberatne is set to improve her ranking when the World Athletics update statistics next week.

Holy Cross College, Gampaha athlete Shanika Lakshani became the second junior runner at this championships to earn qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next August. Her coach Madura Perera said that it was a huge relief to witness his trainee accomplish the target after missing it by a whisker at the National Championships in December. Lakshani, running alongside the veterans clocked 2:07.02 seconds (Qualifying mark: 2:08.70 seconds).

On Wednesday Isuru Kawshalya Abewardana of Ananda Sastralaya Matugama reached qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship when he returned a time of 47.24 seconds in the Junior Men’s 400 metres final.

In the men’s 200 metres, Mohamed Safan turned tables on National Champion Kalinga Kumarage as both clocked sub 21 seconds, a rarity at local athletics. Safan was playing second fiddle to Kumarage at the last National Championships where he clocked 21.41 seconds. Yesterday Safan returned a time of 20.81 seconds, while Kumarage clocked 20.85 seconds.

In the women’s 200 metres, Nadeesha Ramanayake was the winner. She clocked 24.28 seconds.

The men’s 800 metres, conspicuous by the absence of national record holder Indunil Herath, was won by the Asian Championship participant Rusiru Chathuranga, who clocked 1:49.82 seconds.

Herath was not the only leading athlete who was absent at the First Selection Trial which was organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to provide much needed competition opportunity to top athletes vying to reach Olympic qualifying standards.

The next track and field competition for top athletes will be the next month’s National Championship.

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COPE; a toothless tiger?

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by Rex Clementine

Parliamentary watchdog COPE – Committee on Public Enterprises has made a scathing attack on some of the corrupt practices at Sri Lanka Cricket. COPE Chief, Professor Charith Herath has gone onto claim that by fighting out certain legal battles and writing off money that companies and member club owed SLC, insiders may have been receiving kickbacks. This is a very serious allegation by the  legislature.

Professor Herath wants legal action taken against SLC officials. It remains to be seen whether any culprits can be hauled up before courts or whether COPE is just a toothless tiger.

In the absence of SLC bigwigs, CEO Ashley de Silva bore the brunt of the criticism. In January this year, in these pages we wrote that Ashley’s time was up. While there are many questions about his efficiency and decision making abilities, it can be safely said that Ashley is no crook. The real crooks are hiding behind the CEO.

There have been some decent men as well at SLC like Mohan de Silva, who was President in 2004. De Silva had warned his colleagues that their excesses could tarnish the reputation of the institution, but his concerns fell on deaf ears.

Not only the guardians of SLC but even those who let them enter into these corrupt deals need to be probed. While most of these allegations will take time to prove, certain things can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. For example fixing a domestic match in 2017 by some prominent members of SLC.

However, four successive Sports Ministers – Dayasiri Jayasekara, Faizer Mustapaha, Harin Fernando and Namal Rajapaksa – failed to take action. All four turned a blind eye despite having overwhelming evidence in front of them. Ravin Wickramaratne, the number one suspect, went places in cricket circles. He is now SLC’s alternate ICC Director.

At a time when the game has been so badly managed, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s decision to backdate a gazette notification extending the term of SLC’s Executive Committee has not gone down well with many. Rather than giving a clean bill of health to SLC hierarchy, he should have perhaps taken the bad eggs out.

The ball is back on Namal’s court. It is his Ministry that has to now decide which deals need to be proved and against which officials’ action needs to be taken in courts of law.  From the start, Namal has treated SLC hierarchy with kids’ gloves. Now that their deficiencies have been exposed well and truly, he needs to watch his steps. If he continues to play politics with cricket governance, his popularity is going to wane, fast.

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Saha wins U12 boys’ singles title  

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Saha Kapilasena beat Sasen Premaratne to win the Under-12 boys’ singles title of the Clay Court Nationals conducted at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday. 

Kapilasena scored 6-3, 6-1 to win the title. Kapikasena ousted third seed Aahil Kaleel in the semi-final, Premaratne eliminated number one seed Methika Wickramasinghe in the semi-final. 

In the mixed doubles final Anika Seneviratne and Thangaraja Dineshkanthan were the winners as they beat Sanka Athukorale and Neyara Weerawansa 7-5, 6-4. 

Sanka Athukorale and Yasita de Silva beat Rajeev Rajapakse and Renouk Wijemanne 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the men’s doubles title.  

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