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Inaugural Test, Arjuna’s memoirs

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Arjuna Ranatunga bats during the first day of Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test

by Rex Clementine  

When the England cricket team landed in Colombo in February 1982 for Sri Lanka’s maiden Test match, Ian Botham was their biggest star. Just six months prior to that, Botham had become the cynosure of all eyes when he played a couple of stunning knocks to secure the Ashes as England snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. So much so, the 1981 Ashes is known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’. This week marks the 40th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test match and Arjuna Ranatunga recalled with us memories of the nation’s greatest moment in sports since Duncan White’s Olympic medal.

“The first ball I remember, I attempted to hook. I was late on the shot and in no time it was in the wicketkeeper’s gloves. Botham was the big star, but Bob Willis was really quick. I was telling myself I had never faced anything quick like this before. You start even wondering whether you are good to compete at this level,” Ranatunga recalled.

Fair enough. After all, Arjuna was a schoolboy. He was 18. It must have been quite a thing to walk in to bat when your side is 34 for four. All the big boys, Roy Dias, Duleep Mendis, Sidath Wettimuny and skipper Bandula Warnapura back in the pavilion.

“I think I was lucky to play the first Test. What actually happened was the team was searching for a left-handed batsman as England had Derek Underwood (left-arm orthodox). We didn’t have many lefties. So I got a break,” Arjuna said.

“By nature, I am a fighter. I had a lot of respect for guys like Willis and Botham, but then Mr. Lionel Mendis had given me one good advice when I was 11-years-old. That was, no matter how good a bowler is don’t forget that you have to face only one ball from him at a time.”

“Coming back to the game, Ranjan Madugalle is one of the sharpest cricket brains I have seen. I would say, he is the best captain Sri Lanka has produced. He told  me, let’s just pick up the singles, keep the scoreboard moving and then we will reassess. He reminded me not to be overawed by the occasion. Obviously, we had never experienced anything like that before. So we just took it ball by ball. Once we spent time in the middle, it got easier and we cashed in,” Ranatunga added.

Ranatunga became the first Sri Lankan to score a Test half-century and Madugalle soon followed as the pair added 99 runs for the fifth wicket.

“There was this misconception that there was a battle for the final slot between late Anura Ranasinghe and myself. But the truth is that it was a toss up between Lalith Kaluperuma and Anura. It was a great atmosphere to be around that team. These were guys who were several years my seniors. D.S. de Silva was I think 40 whereas I was 18. We had a caring skipper in Bandula Waranpura. He was so protective of me. He called me ‘podi eka’ (small fellow) while Roy Dias called me ‘chuti’ (little one). They were fond of me and they still call me that. During the first Test match, when they were socializing, they wouldn’t even let me come near the table. I didn’t like it initially but later I realized they were protecting me.”

“It was a brilliant Test match and we showed to the world that our cricket was very strong. But we lacked experience. That’s what happened on day four. We had done so well in the first three days but on day four in half an hour we lost some seven wickets and ended up gifting the game to England. But it was a massive learning experience.

The atmosphere in 1980s helped Arjuna to grow into the leader he is. “One good thing in our cricket was that we had some superb gentlemen around. We had Mr. Gamini Dissanayake as President of the Board. Then Mr. J.R. Jayewardene was the President of SSC while Mr. Lalith Atulathmudali was the President of NCC. These gents may have not played big cricket, but they were good administrators. They were surrounded by brilliant cricket brains and despite their political stature, they were willing to listen to people who knew cricket. There was so much to learn from them.”



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Joes and HFC win Under-20 basketball titles

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Due to the pandemic, there wasn’t much sporting activities in schools for two years and basketball players showed lot of enthusiasm as their sport was in full swing since April holidays. Sri Lanka Schools Basketball Association despite many challenges successfully conducted the All Island Under-20 basketball tournament at Sugathadasa Stadium this week. Girls and boys in ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ Divisions competed over a month and there were some thrilling encounters.St. Joseph’s College, Darley Road and Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya cruised to victory in the ‘A’ Division final. While St. Joseph’s beat Royal College in the boys’ final, HFC overcame Mahamaya College, Kandy. Both teams cruised to victory and were hardly troubled throughout the campaign. Interestingly, both teams are coached by the same individuals with Roshan Randima as Head Coach and Shane Daniel as his deputy. Their teams over the last decade or so have come up with consistent performances and have always remained among the top three.

St. Joseph’s took an early 24-09 lead in the first quarter and although Royal contained them in the second quarter conceding just seven points, they themselves could not score big. Both teams scored 16 points each in the third quarter and Royal matched St. Joseph’s skills in the final quarter but the damage done in the first quarter proved to be costly as Joes won by 16 points with the final score being 68-52.Mahamaya scored 14 points compared to HFC’s 16 in the first quarter in the girls’ final but from thereon HFC were unstoppable winning by a comfortable 31 points. The final score was 70-39.

In the boys’ category, St. Joseph’s captain Shehan Fernando was adjudged the Most Valuable Player while Keith Costa also from St. Joseph’s was declared the Best Defensive Player. Royal’s Yuganan Baskaran was named Best Offensive Plyaer. In the girls’ segment, Onela Dunuwille and Minoli Direkze of HFC emerged as Most Valuable Player and Best Defensive Player respectively. Chithera Samarakoon of Mahamaya was the Best Offensive Player. The tournament was sponsored by Gaja Group. The Group’s CEO Gayath Jayasinghe, a former Sri Lanka basketball player was the Chief Guest.

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Sri Lanka Athletics to seek private sector support to send team for World Junior Championships

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Ambagamuwa Central hurdler Dhanuka Dharshana has bettered the World Junior Championship qualifying standard on several occasions.

Junior Nationals Athletics Championships rescheduled to June 7-10

by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Athletics will seek support from the private sector to meet the massive costs involved in sending all athletes reaching qualifying standards for the World Junior Championships which will be held from August 1-6 in Cali, Colombia.The track and field governing body, which met this week to reschedule the Junior National Championship which was postponed due to the curfew imposed on May 9, also discussed ways of finding funds to send all athletes who reach qualifying standards for the World Junior Championships.

Sri Lanka Athletics has been sending all athletes reaching qualifying standards for the World Junior events in recent years. But the massive cost of airfare in the midst of the prevaling economic crisis has made it difficult for the sport’s governing body to bear the full cost involved in sending a strong team.So far nine athletes have reached qualifying standards for the biennial event and there is opportunity for other athletes to reach entry standards for the event when the postponed Junior National Athletics Championship is held from June 7 to 10 at the Sugathadasa Stadium.

“There is a massive cost involved in sending athletes for the Cali event. With the increased airfare it will cost around 1.5 million rupees per athlete. If we opt to send only the top two athletes and those who can find funds by their own it will not be fair by the others who reach qualifying standards. Because of that we will seek private sector support to send the full team,” a senior official of Sri Lanka Athletics told The Island on Friday.

Earlier there were plans to send a pruned down team but a couple of athletes have obtained private sponsorships for their travel compelling athletics officials to find sponsorships for others as well.Of the nine athletes who have reached qualifying standards so far, four are from three schools in Colombo.  At least one athlete from outstations and an athlete from a school in Colombo have received the support of sponsors to meet their expenses during the meet.

“We will request leading private sector firms to support junior athletes. We will also seek the support of friendly sports federations like Sri Lanka Cricket to support us at this difficult moment,” said the official.

Tharushi Karunaratne (800m, 400m), Jayeshi Uththara (400m) and Amesha Hettiarachchi (400m hurdles) in the girls’ category and Sithum Jayasundara (400m), Dhanuka Dharshana (400m hurdles), Kaveesha Bandara (110m hurdles), Pasindu Malshan (triple jump), Hirusha Hashen (long jump) and Rumesh Tharanga  (javelin throw) in the boys’ category are the athletes who have reached qualifying standards for the Cali event. Incidentally, Tharushi Karunaratne and Sithum Jayasundara will be taking part in their second consecutive World Junior Championships after having represented the country at the last edition in Nairobi. Sri Lanka did well to reach the final in the mix relay in Nairobi where they were ranked fifth with a time of 3:26.39 secs.

Junior National Championships from June 7 to 10

The Junior National Athletics Championship which was postponed after the morning session on May 9 will commence from where it stopped on June 7. According to athletics officials the events which could not be completed on May 9 will be held on June 7 and there will not be any changes to the schedule of the next three days.

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Shoriful ruled out of SL Tests with wrist injury

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Bangladesh’s injury woes continue as pace bowler Shoriful Islam has now been ruled out of the remainder of the ongoing Test series against Sri Lanka due to a wrist injury. Shoriful is the latest addition to the hosts’ injury list as they earlier lost Taskin Ahmed (shoulder) and Mehedy Hasan (finger).

“Shoriful Islam had a contusion of the right hand while batting. After the fourth day’s play an X-ray was carried out which has revealed a fracture on the base of the 5th metacarpal bone,” physio Bayjedul Islam said in a statement on Thursday.

“Such injuries tend to take around three weeks to heal followed by a couple of week’s rehab. He will not be available to play for four to five weeks.”

Shoriful was retired out on Day 4 after pacer Kasun Rajitha’s short delivery hit him on the gloves. Bangladesh were forced to end their innings at 465 following his injury.

Cricbuzz has learnt that Shoriful is unlikely to be available for the Test series against West Indies as well. Bangladesh will leave on June 6 to take part in the full fledged tour of West Indies, comprising two Tests, three ODIs and as many T20Is.

Meanwhile, the BCB has retained the same squad for the second Test against Sri Lanka that will begin on May 23. The board opted to not name a replacement for Shoriful since they have a big squad to pick from.

“We did not take any replacement for Shoriful as we have got a big squad in hand,” BCB chief selector Minhajul Abedin told Cricbuzz. ‘’We have to see fitness of Hasan Mahmud (who was in discussion as a possible replacement of Shoriful) and though we are not considering him in this series, if he is fit we might pick him for the Bangladesh ‘A’ team tour of West Indies.”

Squad:

Mominul Haque (C), Tamim Iqbal, Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Mushfiqur Rahim, Litton Kumar Das, Shakib Al Hasan, Nayeem Hasan, Taijul Islam, Syed Khaled Ahmed, Yasir Ali Chowdhury, Quazi Nurul Hasan Sohan, Musaddek Hossain, Ebadot Hossain Chowdhury, Shohidul Islam, Rezaur Rahman Raja.

( Cricbuzz)

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