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From humble beginnings to a billion dollar business

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Sri Lanka won the World T20 trophy in 2014.

by Rex Clementine

When England cricket bosses discussed the idea of T-20 cricket as a third form of the game in 2003, they would have never imagined the popularity of the game would have soared so high. The format was introduced for one specific reason; the dwindling number of fans in English County Cricket. It was a concern for the authorities and they thought a condensed version of the game with fans enjoying an evening under lights was the best way to bring them back to the game.

Former cricket supremo Jagmohan Dalmiya’s take on T-20 cricket was interesting. Dalmiya showed up at the press box when the 2003 50 over World Cup semi-final involving India was taking place in Durban. Now Dalmiya had just finished his tenure as the President of International Cricket Council and was back with India as the President of BCCI. When a British journalist put through the idea to him during a press conference, the business tycoon from Calcutta said, “You people in England may need another format for the game to infuse interest. But not us in India. When they play a Test match in my backyard at Eden Gardens, there are 100,000 fans inside the ground and 5000 fans outside the ground.”

Now Dalmiya is no fool. At a time when BCCI was paying television companies to telecast Indian cricket it was he who changed the trend by selling Indian television right in 1980s. His dig at England was just his way of sending the message across to Lord’s. Your game maybe struggling to survive but ours is in very good hands.

India wasn’t quick to embrace T-20 cricket. In fact, they had reservations about taking part in the first ever World T-20 in 2007 held in South Africa. There had to be compromises made to ensure that India participated in the event as otherwise the tournament would have been a flop. The money that Indian cricket brings is gigantic. If India tours Sri Lanka for two weeks, the money generated from television rights is good enough to run Sri Lankan cricket for the entire year.

India in fact for the first World T-20 sent a second team under a 25-year-old captain. A certain M.S. Dhoni. The authorities never thought that this will turn the sport upside down. India won the title, in style, beating arch-rivals Pakistan in the finals. It was the first time they had won a global title since Kapil Dev’s side had won the 50 over World Cup in 1983. There was no looking back.

Around this time, the Indian board had a dynamic official by the name of Lalit Modi. Politically, Modi was powerful. He supported BJP and was known as the ‘Super Chief Minister’ of Rajastan.

Modi had studied Business Administration in the United States. It was in the US he had got a first taste of franchise sport. He tried to implement the same in India and the IPL was born.

IPL started in 2008 involving the world’s best players. The event also promoted young Indian cricketers. Suddenly you found players like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli just out of Under-19 cricket sharing dressing rooms with the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya, Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Gayle and all world’s biggest stars. Indian cricket never looked back.

The ICC buoyed by the success of the inaugural World Cup made it a biannual event.

Sri Lanka had been very good at innovation and they were a hit in T-20 cricket winning bilateral series consistently and performing so well in ICC events. They reached the finals in 2009, 2012 and 2014 and won the event in Dhaka seven years ago.

The retirement of several seniors saw Sri Lanka struggling, especially in the shorter formats of the game. But the same seniors have now returned to help cricket in an advisory capacity and their game is looking to overcome the challenges.



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Youth Athletics Selection Trial will weigh the impact of pandemic

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The First Youth Athletics Selection trial will be held at the Sugathadasa Stadium on November 13 and 14.

First Youth Athletics Selection Trial on November 13,14 

by Reemus Fernando  

The First Selection trial for the Asian Youth Athletics Championship 2022, scheduled for mid November, will be an ideal opportunity to weigh the impact the Covid 19 pandemic has dealt on schools sports.

There had been no schools competitions for track and field athletes since March 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Only a very few coaches had continued training junior athletes amidst trying conditions due to lockdowns and other restrictions during the last two years. Some of the athletes who were aspiring to compete at the Asian Youth Athletics Championship 2021 continued their training only to be disappointed later when the event was postponed to 2022 meaning the athletes who were eligible for competitions in 2021 will not be entitled to compete in 2022 due to the age group difference.

Sri Lanka were almost certain of top medals in at least two events at the Asian Youth Athletics Championships including the women’s 800 metres as young aspirant Tharushi Karunaratne was in top form. She is the top ranked 800 metres athlete in Asia in the Under-18 age category this year according to World Athletics listings but the postponement of the event to 2022 prevents her from emulating her brother Harsha who won a medal at a previous edition.

Sri Lanka Athletics announced November 13 and 14 as dates for the first Youth Trial for the Asian event to be held in Kuwait in March 2022. The eligible athletes are those who were born in 2005 and 2006 and Sri Lanka Athletics has provided entry standards to apply for trials. But almost all eligible athletes in this age category have last competed at national level in 2019 making it impossible to provide proof of their true current abilities to apply for entries. Due to this Sri Lanka Athletics will consider performances registered from August 01 2019 making the forthcoming trial an ideal opportunity to test the impact the pandemic has had on country’s junior sporting structure.

Sri Lanka Athletics has reduced the number of events limiting it only to the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 3,000m, 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles, 2,000m steeplechase, high jump, long jump, triple jump and the javelin for both girls and boys.

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There Are No Clear Favourites, Any Team Could End Up Lifting The Trophy – Muralitharan

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Sri Lanka spin icon Muttiah Muralitharan stated there are no clear favourites for ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 which starts from Sunday. The T20 World Cup will begin with the Round 1 Group B encounter between hosts Oman and Papua New Guinea on Sunday, with Scotland and Bangladesh, the other teams in Group B, clashing in the evening match.

“The most exciting thing about the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 is that there are no clear favourites. Coming into the competition in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, it feels like there is no standout side and as a result, any one of a large number of teams could end up lifting the trophy,” Muralitharan said in an ICC column.

“I’m obviously delighted to see the importance that spinners have taken on in T20 cricket. It is a fast game and is meant to be a batter’s game, but the bowlers have adapted in the 18 years since the format first started in England. Fast bowlers are bowling slow balls and cutters and different balls. Those are the skills you have to develop.”

Muralitharan also shared his experience of T20 cricket as a player and coach/mentor and said one has to approach the shortest format of the game with a ‘defensive mindset’.

“My experience, both as a player and a coach or mentor in T20 cricket, was that you have to approach it with a defensive mindset, whereas in ODIs or Tests, the aim is to take wickets. Defending is attacking in T20 in my mind, you need to aim to go for 6 or 6.5 runs an over and if you can manage that, you will probably take a couple of wickets as well,” he said.

“I have been out in the UAE for the IPL and looking at the wickets, it is clear that the spinners are going to have a huge role to play in the World Cup. It will depend a lot on how the curators have prepared the wickets, but it looks like the spinners will be key as the batters were finding it hard to connect and it made for some low scoring,” the Sri Lankan pointed.

Sri Lanka is placed with Ireland, Netherlands, and Namibia in Group A. The Round 1 matches will run till October 22. The top two teams in each group will proceed to the Super 12 stage of the tournament, beginning on October 23.

“From a Sri Lankan perspective, the team will have to go through qualifying in the first round. The team has gone down in the last five or six years and it’s the first time in our history that it has happened to us. Frankly speaking, we were not good enough, and have not played good enough cricket which is why we are in this position. But the team has capable players who can reach the Super 12s and have an impact, but first they have to qualify,” Muralitharan opined.

“The spinners are very good, whereas the batting is a little bit weaker, but if they can step up and manage decent totals, then the bowlers can defend them. If they make it through, I think they will upset a few teams,” he added.

The first semi-final of the T20 World Cup will be held in Abu Dhabi on November 10. The second semi-final will be hosted by Dubai on November 11. Both semi-finals have reserve days. The marquee clash of the tournament will take place in Dubai on November 14, Sunday, with Monday acting as the reserve day for the final.

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Youth cricketers in action today

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by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Under 19 will play their first match since the last Youth World Cup when Dunith Wellalage led outfit take on Bangladesh Under 19 in the first Youth ODI at Dambulla today.

The team coached by Avishka Gunawardene have been together for just one month while their opponents had been training since October 2020 though their training has been hampered by Covid 19 related issues occasionally.

While the Bangladesh team had competed together before (against Afghanistan) the hosts are meeting an international team for the first time after the last Youth World Cup, which was played in January 2020.

Matheesha Pathirana who bowls with a sling arm action, S. Thomas’ Mount Lavinia paceman Yasiru Rodrigo, Nalanda College all-rounder Raveen de Silva and skipper Wellalage are the only players who have previous experience playing Youth International matches.

“This will give their first match exposure against an international team. This will be the opportunity for them to come together and bond together,” said Avishka Gunawardena speaking to The Island on the eve of the match.

The hosts are likely to field three pacies with Pathirana who is the only player returning from the last Youth World Cup spearheading the attack.

Wellalage will be joined by offie Traveen Mathew from St. Anthony’s, Katugastota to make the spin attack. Mathew is one of the least experienced players in the squad.

Sri Lanka Under-19 will play five Youth ODIs against Bangladesh in this series. With the Under-19 Asia Cup not confirmed yet, the series starting today will be crucial as it will be the final preparation for the Youth World Cup.

Sri Lanka Under-19 From: Dunith Wellalage (Captain), Shevon Daniel, Pawan Pathiraja, Sadisha Rajapaksa, Ryan Fernando, Sadeesh Jayawardena, Raveen de Silva, Jeewaka Shasheen, Traveen Mathew, Yasiru Rodrigo, Matheesha Pathirana, Chamidu Wickramasinghe, Lahiru Abeysinghe.

Others in the squad: Harindu Jayasekera, Lahiru Dawatage, Wanuja Kumara, Malsha Tharupathi, Sasanka Nirmal, Danal Hemananda, Vinuja Ranpul.

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