by Rex Clementine
After half a decade of struggle in white-ball cricket, the national cricket team is gradually showing signs of coming out from the slump and they should be a force to be reckoned with at this year’s T-20 World Cup in Australia. The IPL allowed several Sri Lankans to showcase their skills and leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga was the biggest draw. He is Sri Lanka’s best hope when they take on Australia in the upcoming series.
There are several other players who have benefited from the IPL stint like Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana, and Chamika Karunaratne. It’s pretty certain that they will form the nucleus of the bowling attack as Sri Lanka will be using the series as preparation for the Asia Cup and the World Cup that is to be followed. The bowling in white-ball cricket looks settled and a lot of credit should go to former coach Mickey Arthur who through some tough times built up a competitive unit.
The same cannot be said of the Test team as they struggled to claim 20 wickets in the Test series against Bangladesh. Kasun Rajitha returning to the side from injury looked a class apart and an improved bowler but spin bowling was disappointing. Leave alone claiming wickets, the spinners were not able to keep things tight, create pressure and then pick up wickets. They offered too many hit me balls.
There are issues with the spin bowling department in Test match cricket and the only way you are going to address the issue is by backing the guys whom you have trusted. Ramesh Mendis and Praveen Jayawickrama had quite a bit of success at home in their short careers but overseas they have struggled.
Usually what we have done is when one set of players do well in one format we take them and let them play in a different format. That doesn’t unfortunately work that way in cricket as young players need to develop temperament to succeed in other formats. As a result, players lose their bearings. It has happened with so many of them and eventually, they are dropped from the format they are really good at.
Oshada Fernando is a case in point. Barely known to many when he was picked to play the Test series in South Africa in 2019, he came up with some solid efforts against an attack that comprised Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada. His efforts helped Sri Lanka win a Test series in South Africa. A classical Test match number three batsman he should have been allowed to play Test matches alone. But he was rushed into the white-ball teams and he was like a fish out of the water.
Oshada is the type of player who will take his time, show patience in abundance, and rarely plays a rash stroke. But suddenly pushed into the T-20 side, he was trying to manufacture shots and as a result cut a sorry figure. Angered by his failure in the T-20 side, he was axed from the Test team too.
Oshada went back to domestic cricket, scored heaps of runs, and made a comeback to the Test side in Bangladesh and did reasonably well. But you do get the feeling that the rashness of the T-20 format is still there in him. Not many players adjust to the formats so quickly unless you are a Sanath Jayasuriya.
So let Test match players develop. We have enough stocks in white-ball format and therefore Praveen Jayawickrama and Ramesh Mendis should only concentrate on red-ball cricket. But selectors rarely agree with those rational thinking. They play by a different set of rules.
We also have the classic example of Lahiru Kumara. He broke down in the middle of the Mohali Test match in March. He has not played any domestic cricket since then and he is in the preliminary squad for all three formats against Australia. First of all, Lahiru Kumara is no Richard Hadlee and then, this bloke has serious fitness issues that need to be addressed.
Every time Kumara plays a Test match, be it Gabba 2019, Centurion 2020, Pallekele 2021, or Mohali 2022, he broke down during the game and it was a massive blow for the team. But we never seem to learn our lessons. Let him go through proper Firsts Class cricket; prove his fitness over four days before being brought into the longer format. Rational thinking is very much needed as arrogance is going to cost us dearly.
Selectors set to be first casualties post World Cup
by Rex Clementine
Members of the national selection panel are set to be the first casualties post World Cup in which the national cricket team had a disastrous campaign. Despite Sri Lanka finishing ninth in the ten-team event and failing to qualify for the Champions Trophy, none holding key positions within the national cricket team had stepped down.
Although previous Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe and other bodies attached to the Sports Ministry were keen to change the selection panel headed by former fast bowler Pramodya Wickremasinghe, there was tough resistance from Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).
However, with Harin Fernando taking charge as Sports Minister following the dismissal of Ranasinghe, Fernando had discussed changes moving forward with fresh thinking coming in.
Accordingly, SLC will advertise for selectors and in due time will pick a competent team.
Under Pramodya, Sri Lanka ended up playing three qualifying round tournaments to go through for ICC events, a trend that had never happened previously.
The selectors decision to bench half a dozen seniors from the white ball sides also didn’t go down too well and eventually they had to bite the bullet and fall back on the likes of Angelo Mathews. However, one of the finest all-rounders Sri Lanka had Thisara Perera had quit international cricket by then.
Former captain Marvan Atapattu had been approached to take over as new Chief Selector, but The Island learns that he had declined the role and wasn’t keen to be involved in cricket in any capacity at the moment.
Former fast bowler Ashantha de Mel is a possible candidate to become the Chief Selector again. De Mel has had several stints with the last being from 2019 to 2021 and the highlight during his tenure was Sri Lanka becoming the first Asian nation to win a Test series in South Africa.
It remains to be seen which other former cricketers will apply for the post of selectors.
SLC is also likely to not renew the contracts of several individuals within the coaching set up of the national cricket team. However, former captain and Consultant Coach Mahela Jayawardene is likely to get an extension despite an embarrassing World Cup campaign, Sri Lanka’s worst since 1999.
Sri Lanka’s next campaign will be the bilateral white ball series against Zimbabwe at home in January. All key slots are expected to be filled by that series.
Colombo South win Under 15 Youth League final in style
by Reemus Fernando
Royal College batsman Rehan Peiris scored his second century, a run-a-ball 129 for Colombo South Under 15s before their bowlers produced a combined effort to record a comfortable 86 runs victory against Colombo North in the Sri Lanka Cricket conducted Under 15 Youth League final at MCA ground on Wednesday.
Chasing a target of 257 runs to win, Colombo North played second fiddle and were never in the hunt as they lost wickets at regular intervals. Sadeesha Silva resisted anchoring the innings with 47 runs but he lacked support from the rest. Yenula Dantanarayana and Lahiru Lakmal made 20s.
For the winners Holy Cross College, Kalutara spinner Himaru Deshan and Cambrian Rusandu Silva bowled tight spells. Deshan and Silva gave away just 27 and 22 runs respectively during their quota of ten overs. Both took one wicket each. Deshan, who ended up as the highest wicket taker of the tournament had three maidens in his ten overs. Janul Damhiru who shared the new ball with Dunitha Anusara picked up two wickets. Anusara, Yasaru Praveen and Matheesha Aponso picked up one wicket each.
Earlier deciding to bat first, Colombo South lost their first wicket for 11 runs. But a second wicket stand of 110 runs between Peiris and Lasiru Sandakan (Royal, Panadura) provided a solid base for them to post a formidable total. After Sandakan was dismissed for 40 runs Peiris joined St. Peter’s wicketkeeper batsman Jason Fernando to post 96 runs for the third wicket.
Peiris scored ten sixes and five fours in his innings, while Fernando made 19 runs.
Colombo South consisted of players from Royal, Colombo, Royal, Panadura, D.S. Senanayake, Colombo, St. Peter’s, Bambalapitiya, Prince of Wales, Holy Cross, Kalutara, C.W.W. Kannangara and Walapura MV, Horana. They were captained by Thevindu Wewalwala of Royal College Colombo.
Dubai Lankans Rugby Club gears up for Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens
In an exciting pre-season development, the Dubai Lankans Rugby Club, with the President Mark Kirby at the helm is set to make waves in the upcoming rugby season. Known for his unwavering support, Kirby has been a pillar of strength for the players.
Coach Thusitha Dushan, a former Havlocks and national player, is determined to impart his wealth of experience, aiming to bring glory to the Lankan boys.
Manager Zalique Jayah, a former national and CH & FC player, is ensuring the Dubai Lankans Rugby Club stands out with a unique identity, fostering a rich culture and discipline within the team.
Adding a unique twist, both Thusitha and Jayah will join the team as players for their final chapter on the field. The leadership baton will be held by the highly experienced Dulaj Perera, a former Havlocks and national player, who expresses confidence in his team’s readiness to achieve greater heights.
Dubai Lankans will showcase some familiar faces from Sri Lanka rugby, including Sajith Saranga, who also serves as the deputy, along with Kevin Dixon, Ishan Fernando, and Sachith Silva.
Notably, the squad takes pride in being the only Sri Lankan club in the UAE featuring exclusively Sri Lankan players, making them a unique force in the region. The stage is set for Dubai Lankans to carve their mark in the upcoming Dubai sevens.
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