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Lessons learnt as Avishka returns



by Rex Clementine

During the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, several former greats who had turned expert television commentators were highly impressed by young Avishka Fernando. With an exceptional skill to pick up the loose balls early and put them away, Avishka was waiting to cash in when the bowlers erred with their line and length. He was quite handful in England where wickets in one-day games are batsmen friendly. What made him special was that he punished even the not so bad balls.

But we haven’t heard of Avishka in recent months. Well, he has been of course in the news for the wrong reasons. If you wonder why we haven’t heard more of his cricketing exploits it is because he hasn’t played a game for Sri Lanka in 15 months now.

Following his success in limited overs cricket, the selectors were pushing him for Test match cricket as well and he was drafted into the squad in January when England were in town. Captain Dimuth Karunaratne, an opener and Oshada Fernando, a number three bat, were both injured and Lahiru Thirimanne, the other opener, was on borrowed time with his scrappy form. So the indications were that Aviskha was set to make his Test debut.

We were preparing our copies on those lines. With Sri Lanka Cricket chucking us out from covering the Test series, we had to rely on our reliable sources rather than taking a firsthand account of what was taking place in the coastal town. It emerged that Avishka had failed the skin folds test and he was going to be sent home.

Sri Lanka’s coaching staff had been talking so much on putting a premium on fitness but we remained skeptical whether they had the guts to do it against a player who could win you a match with his stunning stroke play. But they kept to their word and Avishka was axed from the tour of Bangladesh as well until he got his act together.

That was not all the trouble for Avishka; he missed out on a retainer as well when the annual contracts were announced. This was perhaps making him to feel the pinch and to his credit Avishka has got his act together and passed all the required fitness tests to make himself eligible for the tour of England.

There’s been so much wrong in our cricket over the last few years with players as young as 22-years not able to pass a simple fitness test. But now a message has been sent that sloppiness will not be tolerated and it is great to see that everyone is getting their act together.

Avishka is a match winner no doubt but apparently the coaching staff wanted him to contribute more on the field and improve his running between the wickets. The new strict fitness standards will help him achieve that.

Avishka has been one of the brightest young talents to emerge from the school cricket scene in the last ten years. His performances were vital as Sri Lanka Under-19 whitewashed their English counterparts in the UK in 2016. Avishka made two hundreds in that series.

On that performance, he was chosen to represent Sri Lanka against mighty Aussies in an ODI in 2016. He did not last long falling for a second ball duck to Mitchell Starc but not many 18-year-olds cover themselves in glory against Starc.

In a brief career where he has featured in 18 ODIs, Avishka has produced two hundreds and three fifties. You can be assured to expect much more from him moving forward.


India crowned champions of inaugural U19 Women’s T20 World Cup




The Shafali Verma-led side beat England in the final by seven wickets

Titas Sadhu, Archana Devi and Parshavi Chopra took two scalps each while Gongadi Trisha and Soumya Tiwari made useful scores as India Under-19 scripted a memorable seven wicket win over England Under-19 to seal the inaugural Women’s Under-19 World Cup in Potchefstroom. India U19 chased down the paltry target of 69 in the 14th over.

Brief scores:

England U19 68 in 17.1 overs (Ryana Macdonald Gay 19; Titas Sadhu 2-6) lost to India U19 69/3 in 14 overs (Soumya Tiwari 24*; Alexa Stonehouse 1-8) by seven wickets


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ICC names all-woman panel of match officials for 2023 Women’s T20 World Cup



The upcoming women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa will have an all-woman line-up of match officials, in what will be a landmark first in the game.On Friday, the ICC announced the panel of three match referees and ten umpires, featuring officials from seven countries. The match referees are GS Lakshmi (India), Shandre Fritz (South Africa) and Michell Pereira (Sri Lanka). The on-field and TV umpires will be Sue Redfern (England), Eloise Sheridan (Australia), Claire Polosak (Australia), Jacqueline Williams (West Indies), Kim Cotton (new Zealand), Lauren Agenbag (South Africa), Anna Harris (England), Vrinda Rathi (India), N Janani (India) and Nimali Perera (Sri Lanka).

Selecting this panel was part of the governing body’s “strategic ambition of advancing the involvement and visibility of women in cricket,” an ICC statement said.

The panel will also have the most number of women umpires and match referees in a global ICC tournament, four more than the nine who are at the ongoing women’s Under-19 T20 World Cup.

“Women’s cricket has been growing rapidly in recent years and as part of that, we have been building the pathways to ensure more women have the opportunity to officiate at the highest level,” Wasim Khan, ICC’s general manager of cricket, said. “This announcement is a reflection of our intent in this space and just the start of our journey where men and women enjoy the same opportunities across our sport.

“We are committed to continuing to support our female match officials and provide opportunities to showcase their talents on the global stage. I wish them all the best for the tournament.”

The eighth edition of the women’s T20 World Cup begins with hosts South Africa facing Sri Lanka on February 10. Defending champions Australia are in Group A with Bangladesh, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Arica. Group B has England, India, Ireland, Pakistan and West Indies. The top two teams from each group will move into the semi-finals.The matches will be played in Cape Town, Gqeberha and Paarl with the final scheduled for February 26 at Newlands.


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ACC to meet in Bahrain on Feb 4, call on Asia Cup expected



The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) will meet in Bahrain on February 4. A decision on the Asia Cup is expected at the much-awaited meeting where the representatives of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will be present. It could be a stormy affair in the Persian Gulf city of Bahrain, with the two boards having been at loggerheads.

The hosting right of the upcoming Asia Cup, which will be an ODI championship among the continental sides, has been a bone of contention, with the BCCI and the PCB being at odds over the venue. The August-September championship was allotted to the PCB but in view of political tension between India and Pakistan, the BCCI had declared that the Indian team will not be in a position to travel to Pakistan.

The BCCI’s refusal was initially escalated by former PCB chairman Ramiz Raja who threatened to boycott the World Cup in India later in the year. A similar stand seems to have also been taken by Najam Sethi, who succeeded Raja, but there seems little support from other ACC members to the PCB position.

The BCCI and the PCB sparred recently after Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary and ACC president, announced the schedule of the council. It was responded with sarcasm by Sethi who said in a social media post, “Thank you @JayShah for unilaterally presenting @ACCMedia1 structure & calendars 2023-24 especially relating to Asia Cup 2023 for which Pakistan is the event host. While you are at it, you might as well present structure & calendar of our PSL 2023! A swift response will be appreciated (sic).”

The PCB chairman’s comments were rejected by ACC which declared that Shah’s post was not unilateral. “It has come to our knowledge that PCB Chairman Mr Najam Sethi has made a comment on the ACC President unilaterally taking the decision on finalising the calendar and announcing the same. The ACC wants to clarify that it has followed well established and due process. The calendar was approved by its Development Committee and Finance & Marketing Committee in a meeting held on December 13th, 2022.

“The calendar was then communicated to all the participating members individually, including Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), via an email dated December 22nd, 2022. While responses were received from certain Member Boards, no comments or suggested modifications were received from PCB. In view of the above, Mr Sethi’s comments on a social media platform are baseless and are vehemently denied by the ACC,” the ACC said backing Shah’s position.

With the meeting in Bahrain happening in such a backdrop, it could be a stormy affair. A BCCI official, who was in Mumbai for the unveiling of Women’s Premier League teams, confirmed a final decision on the Asia Cup will be taken in Bahrain on February 4.


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