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Exodus of white South African cricket talent  

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by Rex Clementine

Every time Sri Lankan teams go to South Africa, they ask the locals one question. ‘What happened to Marchant de Langa?’ The six foot seven inch tall quick, made his Test debut against the Sri Lankans in Durban in 2011. He took seven wickets in the first innings and his victims included Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, and Tilan Samaraweera et al. Yet, after that, he was hardly heard of. So what actually happened to de Langa? Well, he turned ‘Kolpak’ preferring County Cricket in England instead of Test cricket for his country.

Isn’t that absurd? One may wonder. The ultimate joy for any player is to represent your country. That too, after you had proven yourself in Test cricket, why do you want to return to First Class cricket? Well, the reason being, white South African cricketers get a raw deal in their country and they are seeking greener pastures in Europe or in places like Australia and New Zealand. Not just cricketers, this includes farmers, businessmen and other professionals. Australia in particular welcomes South African farmers with open arms.

For decades, the black South Africans suffered at the hands of white rulers and those terrible apartheid laws not only segregated them but deprived them of equal opportunities. The world took notice and imposed trade embargos on South Africa. Sports associations followed banning bilateral sporting ties with South Africa and in the end; they were left with Hobson’s choice but to give in for fair play.

Sadly, now white South Africans are at the receiving end due to the ‘quota system’ that is prevalent across all walks of life. When seeking employment, black South Africans get the preference, followed by coloured and those of Indian origin and the whites come last. So opportunities for them are few and rare. In sports too talent alone won’t get you there. The quota system encourages more black South African representation and as a result the whites are moving out.

In the Lanka Premier League, two South Africans share the new ball for Jaffna Stallions – Kyle Abbott and Duanne Olivier. Both were successful international cricketers before they turned Kolpak settling in England to play County Cricket.

Abbott was playing the New Year Test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town in 2017. That he had signed a Kolpak deal was a poorly kept secret and the news was out during the Test match. Cricket South Africa reacted angrily and wanted to separate.  The fast bowler announced his retirement at the conclusion of the Test match. This was the second Test.  So for the third game in Johannesburg, the Proteas were short of a fast bowler. They drafted in Duanne Olivier.

Olivier on debut was on the money and his pace was too much to handle for the Sri Lankans. The game was lost inside three days. Two years later when Sri Lanka returned to South Africa, Olivier along with Kagiso Rabada was South Africa’s premier bowlers. Yet, after the second Test, Olivier too turned Kolpak and South Africa lost yet another fine talent in his prime.

All South Africans who have turned Kolpak are doing a terrific job for their respective counties. Their country meanwhile is struggling to make an impact in the sport. South Africa are ranked sixth in Tests and fifth in ODIs and T-20s. Not the true reflection of their sporting greatness.

What the Kolpak ruling means is that citizens of the country who have trade agreements with the European Union countries are eligible to work as locals. Now South Africa is not part of the EU, but they have a trade agreement with EU and that qualifies their citizens. So when English counties hire South Africans, it’s not considered an overseas signing.

In the last few years with Britain exiting from the European union more South Africans turned Kolpak in order to qualify. Cricket authorities in South Africa must be hoping that now their problems will end as Kolpak deal is no longer valid once Britain exits EU. However, unless they deal with serious issues like equal opportunities to all, they are going to face more problems.

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What’s England doing right in Sri Lanka   

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Rex Clementine in Galle Fort

There was a time when England barely lasted three days in Galle. The extreme heat, tracks that turned square and skilful spinners brought misery upon successive England teams. But they have found a way to turn the tide. What is England doing right to succeed in Sri Lankan conditions? In the last ten years, England have visited the island on three occasions and have never lost a series.

The easy answer is to say that the Sri Lankan team has lost some big names and the team is in transition. That’s not the truth. When England squared the two match series in 2012, the big three – Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and T.M. Dilshan – were very much part of the side. So, they must be doing something right to do well here.

To start with England and Wales Cricket Board initiated a programme whereby their young First Class players performed in our domestic cricket. Some of the names that come to mind are Ben Foakes (Colts CC) and Moeen Ali (Badureliya CC). There were many others.  The experience these players gain by playing on our surfaces against some good spinners is invaluable.

Foakes for example made his Test debut in the last series in Sri Lanka and he looked pretty comfortable. He went onto top batting charts scoring 277 runs. His wicket keeping was flawless too and he was named Player of the Series.

How many of our players have gone onto represent county cricket in the last ten years?

The other important thing is that England’s development squads are constantly touring sub-continent. This prepares them well when they engage in Test match cricket. Sri Lanka rarely sends their ‘A’ team on overseas assignments these days. We had a former board president who went on record saying that ‘A’ team cricket was a futile exercise as they didn’t bring any money!

The other thing that England have done well is to plan properly. Last year when they were here, they spent more than two weeks before the first Test match and they were involved in two warm-up games. The tour was aborted after the outbreak of the pandemic. This time too, they spent nearly two weeks in Sri Lanka before the opening Test match although they didn’t have the luxury of warm-up games against local sides due to health restrictions.

Sri Lanka’s planning has been extremely poor. The gap between the LPL final and the first Test in South Africa was ten days. That sums up the story. In both Tests against South Africa and the first game against England, our batsmen have been in T-20 mode and we have had little momentum. When will we learn?

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Sharmal seeks fifth straight title against Yasitha

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2020 Tennis Nationals

by REEMUS FERNANDO

Defending champion Sharmal Dissanayake and number two ranked Yasitha de Silva advanced to the finals as the men’s singles of the 2020 Tennis Nationals went according to the pre tournament script at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday.

Dissanayake edged out number three ranked Sankha Atukorale 7- 6, 6-3 as he set sights on a possible fifth straight men’s singles title in the final which will be played on Sunday (17). Dissanayake has won four consecutive men’s singles national titles since 2016.

Yasitha de Silva, who was eliminated in the semi-finals by Heera Ashiq at the last edition, made sure that teenage heroics of Chathurya Nilaweera would not stop his promising start this time around at the penultimate hurdle.

He scored 7-6, 6-3 to beat the 16- year-old, who was the youngest player in the last four stage. In the rounds of 32, 16 and quarter-finals, Dissanayake beat Harieshwar Parameshwaran (6-1, 6-4) Archana Lokuge (6-2, 6-2) and Kavisha Ratnayaka (6-2, 6-3) respectively.

De Silva meanwhile beat Dinusha Wijesuriya (7-5, 6-3), Prasanna Athauda (6-2, 6-0) and Dilvan Herath (6-2, 6-1) respectively before advancing beyond the semis. The 2020 men’s singles draw featured some 50 competitors.

A Sri Lanka Tennis Association official confirmed that both men’s and women’s singles finals will be played on Sunday.

The women’s semi- finals featuring Anika Seneviratne and Savini Jayasuriya and 14-year-old Hasali Gajaba and Janali Manamperi will be played today

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England consolidate as Joe Root slams unbeaten 168  

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England captain Joe Root posted an unbeaten 168 in the opening Test match against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium yesterday. (Pic by Thusith Wijedoru/ SLC)

Rex Clementine in Galle Fort

England made Sri Lanka pay a heavy price for their reckless batting by posting a commanding 320 in their first innings at stumps on a rain curtailed second day, the tourists already have a lead of 185 with six wickets in hand. Sri Lanka need lot of catching up to do and it is going to be real hard work for them to save the game.

The home team batsmen were casual in their approach as most of them were in T-20 mood and England captain Joe Root gave them a good example of how to consolidate and put pressure back on the bowlers.

Root very cleverly rotated the strike and used the sweep shot to good effect forcing the bowlers to alter their lengths. He survived a couple of close reviews and went onto dominate the bowling.

A couple of England batsmen have left an indelible mark while playing spin bowling in Sri Lanka and names such as Kevin Pietersesn (2012) and Graham Thorpe (2001) come to mind. Root will join that elite club given the ease with which he played the three spinners.

The Yorkshireman playing his 98th Test reached his 18th hundred and the third against Sri Lanka with a single off Dilruwan Perera to short fine leg. His 168 not out is now the highest score by an Englishman in Sri Lanka with the previous best being Pietersen’s 151 at P. Sara Oval.

Root faced 254 balls for his 168 not out and hit 12 fours. The hallmark of his knock was the patience he showed applying himself to settle in. As the day progressed there were loose balls now and there and the batsman was quick to pounce on them.

Daniel Lawrence on debut was dropped three times and eventually his luck ran out on 73 when Kusal Mendis took the catch at forward short leg.

Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya finished with three wickets but Wanindu Hasaranga from whom much was expected was a disappointment. The leg-spinner gave away too many bad balls. Playing at his home ground, the former Richmond College player was expected to have an impact but Hasaranga was the least effective bowler.

There will be an early start today with play getting underway at 9:45 am. A total of 98 overs are scheduled to be bowled but there’s also prediction for rain after lunch.

 

Brief Scores:

Sri Lanka 135

(Dinesh Chandimal 28, Angelo Mathews 27; Dom Bess 5-30, Stuart Broad 3-20) trail England 320/4 (Joe Root 168*, Dan Lawrence 73; Lasith Embuldeniya 3-131) by 185 runs.

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