by Rex Clementine
The Board of Control for Cricket in India announced their home fixtures for next year and Sri Lanka have been slotted in for a Test series. However, unlike three Tests that has been customary between the countries, this time around, India has reduced the series for just two Test matches.
Accordingly, Sri Lanka will play in Bangalore and Mohali early next year, the first time they will play in a southern state since 2005.
Interestingly, it seems that the big three – India, Australia and England – are now content in hosting Sri Lanka for two Tests only although all three nations have hosted the team for three Tests overs the years.
England and Australia, the founder members of the ICC, restricting Sri Lanka for two Tests is understandable but India’s stance will be a bitter pill to swallow for traditionally they have been Sri Lanka’s strongest ally.
It can be easily pinned down to Big Three wanting to engage in more games between them. This year alone, England and India have played eight Test matches (four in India and four in England) and a ninth Test in Manchester was cancelled due to fears of outbreak of COVID.
However, the fact that Sri Lanka have own problems to sort out cannot be ignored as the standard of our cricket has downgraded rapidly
The last time Sri Lanka beat one of the Big Three was back in 2016, against Australia. Since then, they have lost five Tests to England, four Tests to India and two to the Aussies. Into the bargain, both India and England have handed Sri Lanka 3-0 whitewashes in our own backyard.
There are few ways for Sri Lanka to win back the recognition and their dues. One of that is by improving their rankings. Currently, Sri Lanka are ranked eighth in Test match cricket while none of their players; batsmen, bowlers or all-rounders are ranked among the top ten. Basically, that sums up the story and status of our cricket.
India has been a huge pillar of strength over the years, bailing out Sri Lanka Cricket umpteen times. Whenever there has been a financial crunch at Maitland Place, it is not Dubai, Lord’s or Jolimont Street that our cricket bosses dial up but Bombay.
India have never said no and their tours have brought in millions in foreign exchange that help SLC to invest on the game.
In recent times however, instead of sending their full strength sides, India have sent their back up players; like when they won the Nidahas Trophy in 2018, a tournament in which Sri Lanka didn’t even reach the finals. Then, again early this year when Rahul Dravid magnanimously continued the series scratching the barrel when the Indian bubble was compromised and several players were down with COVID. Incidentally, India was fielding two teams at the same time. While Virat Kohli was leading their Test side in UK, Shikhar Dhawan was in Colombo skippering the white ball team.
India’s second string teams beating full strength Sri Lankan sides is no good sign and we have only ourselves to blame.
Gateway felicitates coach for making Sri Lanka proud
Pradeep Nishantha, Assistant Head of Sports of Gateway College Colombo was felicitated by the school for his remarkable contribution in producing two medal winners at the recently concluded Paralympic Games in Japan.
The national anthem was played for the very first time at an Olympics when Dinesh Priyantha Herath who was trained by Pradeep Nishantha won a gold medal with a new world record. Pradeep has been employed at Gateway since 2005 and he has been responsible for producing many national athletes from Gateway.
Gateway students are blessed to be coached and guided by professionals of the highest caliber. Thilaka Jinadasa, the Team Leader – Sports development for the entire group represented Sri Lanka in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
Among Gateway’s team of coaches are a number of top Sri Lankan coaches. Tharindu Fernando, who was recently appointed National Basketball Coach for the Under 23 Sri Lankan side is among them.
Dialog and SLC release T20 World Cup song ‘Ape Kollo’
The national cricket team’s sponsor and Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata, together with Sri Lanka Cricket, recently released ‘Ape Kollo’ the T20 World Cup song in support of the Team on their T20 World Cup campaign which will commence on the 18th of October 2021 in the United Arab Emirates.
The song will be sung by a stellar line-up of artistes and Dialog brand ambassadors including, Bathiya and Santhush, Umaria, Yohani, Sanka Dineth, Sajitha, Sanuka, Madhuvy and guest performer, Roy Jackson. With lyrics written by Triad, the Sri Lanka Cricket T20 World Cup song is an initiative powered by Dialog Axiata connecting the wishes of every Sri Lankan.
Dr. Jayantha Dharmadasa, Vice President of Sri Lanka Cricket said, “I would like to thank Dialog Axiata for materializing the T20 World Cup song into existence. This tribute will be an immense morale boost for players and fans alike. The team over the past few months have been playing tourneys and trial games which have been instrumental in selecting the best combination for the T20 World Cup in UAE.”
Sri Lanka will qualify, but can they reach semis?
by Rex Clementine
The cricket fans of Sri Lanka are truly amazing. They know pretty well that the chances of the team reaching the semi-finals in UAE is as low as that of Maithripala Sirisena winning a future Presidential election, but they keep believing that their team will deliver. It is only fair that the players come up with a decent show, unlike Maithripala.
If the IPL is any indication, there aren’t going to be too many high scoring games over the next four weeks and spin is going to play a huge part. That will certainly be a good indication for Sri Lanka’s bowlers.
Their batsmen, however, it remains to be seen what lessons they have learnt on sweeping. Grant Flower seemed to be having little tricks up his sleeve on the advantage of the sweep, both the conventional, paddle and reverse. Hopefully, now that Sri Lanka have a fine sweeper in their coaching staff in Mahela Jayawardene, the issue has been discussed at length.
Lack of smart options against spin has been one reason for Sri Lanka’s decline in the shorter formats of the game. Ours was a team where the sweep was the batsmen’s bread and butter and it’s quite perplexing how the current lot have forgotten to sweep and the coaching staff have failed to address the issue.
Avishka Fernando has been tremendous to watch. He has always been an exciting player and such a shame that he failed a fitness test in January and was banished from the team hotel. He was so close to making his Test debut against England and failing the fitness test was a bitter pill to swallow. But glad that the selectors and the coaching staff had the conviction to do it. They have spared the rod and spoilt too many young children. Avishka has bounced back; leaner, fitter, stronger and hungrier. IPL teams will be watching and the gut feeling is we are talking of a future billionaire in this space.
There is some school of thought that Avishka should bat at number four. He has come up with some consistent performances in that position this week. It’s true that he is Aravinda’s heir apparent, but Sri Lanka has to make the most of the Power Plays and Avishka should open batting with Kusal Perera to make most of the field restrictions. You sense that you have enough fire power in Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga and Chamika Karunaratne to take care of the death overs.
Oppositions will focus a lot on Hasaranga’s leg spin as he has had quite a bit of success in the lasts 12 months and ended up earning a contract in the IPL. World Cup is a superb occasion for him to stamp his authority as one of world’s leading wrist spinners.
Maheesh Theekshana, the new kid, has a bit of surprise element in him and could trouble teams that have not seen him much as he proved during his debut against Proteas last month. It will be interesting to see how teams that do not play spin that well handle him.
The last minute decision to include Akila Dananjaya while axing Praveena Jayawickrama hasn’t gone down too well with some supporters. But it’s a smart move. There’s no denying of the fact that Akila has looked a pale shadow of his former self since remodeling his action and in recent months has looked awful. But then, Sri Lanka have to qualify. The team is thin on experience after our selectors chased away half a dozen seniors and Akila has a surprise element about him and that could come in handy; particularly in the qualifying round.
The spin trio is not Sri Lanka’s only strength. Their main weapon is pace with Dushmantha Chameera picking up wickets with the new ball consistently and he will be their key weapon. Such a shame that the team will miss the services of Nuwan Pradeep, a clever bowler in death overs.
All hope is not lost for Sri Lanka though. One good thing is that they are not playing any Asian teams. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are all in Group ‘B’. Sri Lanka will have Australia, England, West Indies, South Africa and one more qualifier and if their spin fires, they could spring a few surprises. Can they go onto book a semi-final berth?
In T-20 cricket anything can happen. So don’t just rule out the Sri Lankan team. The same can be said of our voters. Don’t rule out Maithripala.
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