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.
Methwan wins marathon encounter
ITF Junior Circuit Tennis
Methwan Wijemanne overcame Josh Hinton of Great Britain in a marathon three and half hour battle to win the first-round encounter of the ITF Junior Circuit Week 1 Tennis Event at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Tuesday.
Wijemanne scored 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 against Hinton.
ITF Junior Circuit Tennis Tournament which is currently underway in Colombo will conclude on February 5.
Meanwhile, in another first-round encounter, Nithila Goonathilake beat Aryan Mehata of India 6-3, 6-0.
England Lions strongly placed
Top-order batsmen Alex Lees, Haseeb Hameed and Tom Haines scored half-centuries for visiting England Lions to reach 249 for three wickets at stumps after they dismissed the hosts for 136 on day one of the unofficial Test at Galle on Tuesday.
Sadeera Samarawickrama with 43 runs was the top scorer for Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka ‘A’
136 all out in 35.4 overs (Oshada Fernando 21, Sadeera Samarawickrama 43, Lakshaitha Manasinghe 26; Matthew Fisher 5/34, Liam Patterson-White 3/51)
249 for 3 in 48 overs (Alex Lees 56, Haseeb Hameed 81, Tom Haines 62, Josh Bohannon 26n.o.; Lasith Embuldeniya 2/89)
Hathurusingha named Bangladesh head coach
Bangladesh Cricket Board, on Tuesday (31), said that Chandika Hathurusingha has been named as the new head coach for a two-year period. He is expected to join the set-up in February.
“We have appointed Hathurusingha for two years as across the format head coach,” BCB chief executive Nizamuddin Chowdhury was quoted by Cricbuzz as having said.
The former Sri Lanka all-rounder had earlier served as the head coach of Bangladesh from 2014 to 2017. He has also served in various coaching positions with Sri Lanka, Canada, NSW and Sydney Thunder.
In his previous coaching tenure, Bangladesh had won ODI series against India, Pakistan and South Africa, alongside achieving Test victories versus Sri Lanka, England and Australia. During his stint, Bangladesh also reached the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy in 2017.
“It’s an honour to have been given this opportunity to coach the Bangladesh national team once again. I really loved the warmth of the people and the culture of Bangladesh whenever I have been there. I’m looking forward to working with the players once again and enjoy their successes,” he said in a press release.
Cricbuzz had earlier reported that BCB is unlikely to continue with split coaching and Hathurusingha is the front-runner to replace Russell Domingo, who resigned before completing his stint that ran until the end of the 50-over ICC World Cup.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s Test and T20I skipper Shakib Al Hasan remained tightlipped on the return of Hathurusingha as the head coach. No comments,” it’s all right,” he said, without elaborating further.
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