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How Arjuna spotted and nurtured Praveen Jayawickrama’s talent

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by Rex Clementine

As Sri Lanka ended their Test win drought that had stretched for 16 months, they had an unlikely hero. Praveen Jayawickrama, a left-arm orthodox spinner on debut was Man of the Match, finishing with figures of 11 for 178, the tenth best bowling figures by a debutant in Test match cricket.

Despite having played just ten First Class games before his Test debut, Jayawickrama bowled like a man who had been in the professional circuit for years. The turn he was able to produce was quite handful when the wicket started crumbling, but he also had control, guile and a clever arm ball. His rise has surprised many Sri Lankans but not World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who predicted a bright future for the youngster when he saw him a decade ago and took him under his wings.

“Ten years ago, my school Holy Cross College, Kalutara wanted to do a full day training camp for all the cricketers of the school. Arjuna was the Member of Parliament from the area at that point. So we asked him whether he could come along and help us. He readily agreed,’’ Sunil Silva, an old boy of the school and the Most Popular Schoolboy cricketer of the Year in 1986 told The Island.

“I remember Praveen sent down his first delivery and Arjuna stopped the next bowler and had a word with Praveen. He then sent down a couple of more deliveries, Arjuna turned to me and said, ‘Sunil, I see a bit of Ajit de Silva in this kid.”

Ajit de Silva, also a left-arm orthodox spinner, played in Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test and later was banned for 25 years for going on the rebel tour to apartheid South Africa in 1982.

After the session, Ranatunga met the Rector of the school and inquired more about young Praveen. “Arjuna came up to me and said, Father, look after this kid. He is a special talent. He had no doubt Praveen would go onto play for Sri Lanka,” Rev. Fr. Camillus Fernando, the Rector of Holy Cross told The Island.

Ranatunga was conducting a cricket academy for the kids of that area every weekend and Praveen was invited to attend. He made steady progress and went onto represent Sri Lanka Under-19.

“Praveen’s father passed away when he was small. We have four kids,” Praveen’s mother Nimali told The Island.

“Praveen is our second son. The eldest son, got a law degree. The third son just got selected to University in Engineering. The fourth son is also good at studies. Only Praveen missed out on his studies. In fact, he could not sit for GCE AL exams. All the time he was occupied with games either with the school or with Sri Lanka Under-19. This was troubling me. But I remembered Arjuna’s words that one day he would go onto play for Sri Lanka. Therefore, I did not stop Praveen’s cricket and let him continue to play,” she added.

Speaking to The Island, Ranatunga said that there are lots of talent away from Colombo but they do not get nurtured properly. “I have always believed that outstations produce some superb talents. Look at Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan or Rangana Herath. But we don’t invest much on outstations. Praveen Jayawickrama and Ramesh Mendis took 17 wickets in the second Test that Sri Lanka won and both are from outstations.”

“Praveen has great potential. I have no doubt about that. But then, the important thing is young players need to be guided well. Discipline is the key. Talent will get you somewhere, but you need to work hard and stay disciplined to achieve greater things,” Ranatunga a veteran of 93 Tests added.

“He is not the finish product yet. There are a few technical areas he has to work on. I think his right arm is falling too soon. He needs to work on his endurance. If he can spend some time with someone like Murali, that would be ideal. But he is a smart kid with an ability to outsmart the batsmen. That’s a very rare skill. I am sure we are seeing a special guy here. We will hear a lot about him in years to come,” Ranatunga added.

 

 



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Himasha’s ban extended to six years

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Himasha’s doping violation

by Reemus Fernando

The Appeals Committee of the Sri Lanka Anti-Doping Agency that heard sprinter Himasha Eshan’s appeal against his suspension, has decided to extend the ban against the former national 100 metres champion to six years.

SLADA has informed the athlete that the Appeals Committee had decided to extend the ban to six years after the appeal hearing conducted on November 3.

According to the letter sent by SLADA, Himasha will now be banned till 25th October 2027 which effectively closes the former national 100 metres record holder’s chances of competing for Sri Lanka again.

The 28-year-old was tested positive for a banned substance during a random test conducted by SLADA on October 26, 2021. The Disciplinary Committee of SLADA first banned him for four years from October 26, 2021 to October 25, 2025. That ban has now been extended by two years.It was the second time that the South Asian Games medallist has been found positive for a banned substance and he is also the only Sri Lankan athlete to be tested positive twice.

He was first found positive for a banned substances when he was 17 years old. He was slapped with a two year ban which was reduced considering his young age. The World Anti-Doping Agency introduced four years bans for first time offences in 2013. According to Anti Doping authorities any reduced terms are added to the suspension when an athlete is found positive for the second time.

This time Himasha was tested positive during a random test conducted by SLADA on October 26, 2021. The Anti-Doping authorities collected Himasha’s urine samples at the Army quarters at Narahenpita. He was involved in several impressive performances including a wind assisted 10.29 seconds feat to win the men’s 100 metres during the Army Athletics Championships which was held around that time.

Once the fastest man in the South Asian region, Himasha was coached by Chaminda Perera. He won the gold medal at the 2016 South Asian Games and set a South Asian regional record of 10.22 seconds in 2019. He was also part of Sri Lanka’s 4×100 metres team that established the current national record in the 4×100 metres relay.

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Cristiano Ronaldo, Al Nassr knocked out of Saudi Super Cup

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr were knocked of the Saudi Super Cup on Thursday after a 3-1 semifinal loss to Al Ittihad in Riyadh.The 37-year-old Portugal international, five-times Ballon D’Or winner, had a couple of chances to score but was well shackled by the Al Ittihad defence for most of the match.

Anderson Talisca’s goal for Al Nassr in the 67th minute was not enough to turn around the deficit from two first-half goals for Al Ittihad from Romarinho and Abderrazak Hamdallah.

Muhannad Al-Shanqeeti added the third three minutes into stoppage time.Al Nassr next travel to Al Fateh in the Saudi Pro League on Feb. 3.

(ESPN)

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Stefanos Tsitsipas beats Karen Khachanov to reach final of Australian Open 2023

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Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas has another chance to land his first Grand Slam title after reaching the Australian Open final by beating Russian Karen Khachanov in the Melbourne last four.Third seed Tsitsipas, 24, won 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 against Khachanov, who was going for a maiden major final.Tsitsipas lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final and might have the chance to avenge that loss.

Serbia’s Djokovic plays American Tommy Paul in Friday’s other semi-final.Tsitsipas, who will become the world number one if he wins the title, eventually booked his place after recovering from Khachanov saving two match points in the third-set tie-break.

Another tight forehand saw a third chance disappear in what proved to be the final game, before he regained his composure to convert his fourth when a first serve was batted long by the 18th seed. Asked what he was thinking when the match went into a fourth set, Tsitsipas said: “I thought about how hard I’ve worked to get to this position.

“But if you stick around, dedicate yourself even more, and concentrate even more in the important moments it pays off.”

Nine-time champion Djokovic is the favourite to face Tsitsipas and takes on the unseeded Paul, who is competing in his first major semi-final, at 08:30 GMT on Friday.

The 35-year-old former world number one has won in Melbourne every time he has reached the last four and is aiming for a record-extending 10th title which would equal Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 major men’s titles. At a tournament with a hard-court surface on which he thrives, and in a city where he is warmly backed by its large Greek population, Tsitsipas has long appeared destined for success at the Australian Open.

The towering youngster announced his arrival there with a famous 2019 win over defending champion Roger Federer in the fourth round, only for a captivating run to be ended when he was crushed by Rafael Nadal in his first semi-final appearance.

Long-time rival Daniil Medvedev ended his dreams at the last-four stage in both 2021 and 2022, with another Russian – this time, the powerful Khachanov – standing in his way this time.

Backed by a vocal crowd who waved Greek flags after virtually all of his winning points, Tsitsipas started confidently against a player who he had beaten in all of their five previous encounters.

Khachanov could not cope with Tsitsipas’ pounding ground-strokes and dynamic athleticism as the world number four moved two sets ahead.

When Tsitsipas broke early in the third set and moved into a 5-4 lead which left him serving for the match, few on Rod Laver Arena expected anything other than a straight-set win.However, nerves kicked in for Tsitsipas, who suddenly looked unsure with his ground-strokes, and Khachanov cut loose to extend the contest.

After a bathroom break before the fourth set, Tsitsipas returned free of the weight of expectation and broke Khachanov’s serve at the first opportunity.Dominant service games from that point ensured there would be no repeat of the previous set as he finally reached the final of what he calls his “home” Grand Slam event.

“I feel blessed for the fact I’m able to play tennis at this level and for many years I’ve wanted to put Greek tennis on the map – Maria [Sakkari] and I have done that, I think,” Tsitsipas said.

“Coming from a small country like Greece I feel so grateful I get support like this.

“I never thought I would be treated so well here so I’m extremely happy I’m in the final now – let’s see what happens.”

(BBC Sports)

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