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Let the selectors not fool us

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by Rex Clementine

Are you not surprised that after Danushka Gunathilaka’s arrest in Sydney no one has resigned. Ideally, the National Selection Committee and Team Manager should have stepped down, but they are hanging on as if nothing happened. The team management clearly lost control of the players during the World Cup and it remains to be seen the outcome of the probe that has been launched.

There is a wide difference between an independent probe and an in-house probe. Afterall, when an independent probe was launched last time, the judge had recommended a two-year suspension on Danushka Gunathilaka. But it was reduced to six months. By sparing the rod the authorities spoilt the child.

Danushka was injured having played just one game. That was on the 16th of October. The physiotherapist had told the team management that he should be fine in five days’ time but even when they were in Perth ten days later, he had not recovered. Anyway, a decision had been taken to replace Danushka with Ashen Bandara. The team management at least at this point should have sent him home especially with additional replacements arriving from Colombo to be standby just in case there were further injuries.

With Danushka the team is always flirting with danger. Watching the team train from the sidelines in Sydney where you get a first-hand glimpse of how players go about things; you know his focus is not on cricket. So, how people who see him day in and day out failed to detect the same is mind-blowing.

 Had Danuhska been in good form the selectors had ground to argue. His form was horrendous, just one double figure score in the last five innings and the last half-century coming in May 2021, that is 20 innings without a half-century, strange for a top order batter.

The other strange selection was that of Jeffrey Vandersay. The leg-spinner was a mere passenger not even playing a warm-up game in Australia. With Sri Lanka’s chances of going through to the semi-finals over, you at least thought that he would be given a break for the dead-rubber against England in Sydney. It was a track tailor-made for spin. However, they brought in Chamika Karunaratne, who had been dropped for the earlier game. Then, Chamika did not even get to bowl. It was a comedy of errors. The national cricket team deserves better than what’s been happening now. There’s lack of clarity and transparency in selections. What is worse is that there has been little communication on the decisions that have been taken.

Having come in with a highly publicized fitness regime, the selectors convinced the public that they will kick out anyone who failed to meet minimum fitness standards. It has turned out to be a publicity stunt. Part of the problem why so many players broke down during the World Cup was because they had dodged fitness tests. It now emerges that since the Asia Cup, fitness tests were not done on the requests of certain players. Players dictating terms and selection criteria is recipe for disaster. That’s what we witnessed during the World Cup.

Danushka’s incident took attention from Sri Lanka’s World Cup campaign. Effectively, the team managed just four wins and failed to beat any of the top billed teams. In fact, they suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Namibia.

Sri Lanka’s top order clicked but the middle order was a flop. Had the middle order fired, the team could have beaten England which means they wouldn’t have gone onto win the World Cup. Sri Lanka could have also given Australia a closer run had the middle order clicked.

We are on the verge of a three-match limited overs series at Pallekele against Afghanistan and it is crucial for the team to gain automatic qualification for The World Cup. The selectors need to tell us as to why they think that the team is better off without someone like Angelo Mathews.

You have just finished a tournament where your middle order had been found wanting, should you not set your pride aside and be pragmatic and recall your senior-most batter?

One thing that you expect when selectors back young blood is that fielding to be top class. However, the current team’s fielding has been a letdown and the presence of a senior player is not going to adversely affect the team.

Sidath Wettimuny is the prime example of managing players when he was Chairman of Selectors. He introduced a similar aggressive youth policy after a poor World Cup campaign in 1999. However, he did not burn bridges. He kept the doors open for the seniors to bounce back and when the need arose they were accommodated. There were no grudges between him and players. As a result, Aravinda de Silva and Hashan Thilakaratne, who were both axed after the 1999 World Cup, were back in the team for the 2003 World Cup and Aravinda bowed off with his head held high.



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Six member committee appointed to inquire into Sri Lanka Cricket Team’s conduct in Australia

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Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Roshan Ranasinghe has appointed a six member committee headed by Retired Supreme Court Judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena to inquire into the incidents reported against some members of the Sri Lanka Cricket team that participated at the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia.

 

 

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My best knock for Sri Lanka – Asalanka

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By Rex Clementine

If you had no idea why Roy Dias identified Charith Asalanka as a Test captain in the waiting some seven years ago, there was proof for his claims at Pallekele on Wednesday as the diminutive left-hander from Elpitiya pulled off a stunning run chase against Afghanistan.Sri Lanka chased down a target of 314 in the last over with Asalanka finishing things off in style with a pulled six. What’s so special with the win is that it is Sri Lanka’s highest successful run chase ever at home.

“I was struggling with cramps. The heat was too much in the afternoon.

Once Dunith came in, I told him not to do too much running and target the gaps. There was a good partnership with Dasun too before that and that helped us to get back into the game,” Asalanka noted.

Most players when they get into the Sri Lankan cricket set up they get themselves tattooed and buy fancy cars and luxury apartments. Asalanka has remained grounded and he is very much close to his roots at Elpitiya.

In fact, he married his childhood sweetheart, whom he fell in love with at the age of 15. The pair met at the school bus when Asalanka was playing under-17 cricket and despite money and fame the captain in waiting hasn’t forgotten his past. Asalanka took a break middle of the series to get married on the 28th of November, the day of their tenth anniversary of falling in love. However, there was no honeymoon as Asalanka had to return to Pallekele for the rest of the series.

His wife is an English teacher and that gives us hope that press conferences are going to be interesting again although the good old days of Sanga will never come.Asalanka received a scholarship to Richmond College after passing the Grade Five scholarship and he is known as a sharp thinker of the game.

“First game the ball swung a lot. It was a grassy pitch. We knew this wicket was not going to do much for the bowlers. The main thing we wanted was to bat 50 overs. Everyone contributed from top to the lower middle order, and it was great to watch.”

Sri Lanka have a settled top order when it comes to white ball cricket and the middle order could be built on Asalanka who can accelerate and rebuild an innings. “Dasun is the one who told me that I’d be batting at number five and to feel comfortable. I was going to get the long rope. I had never batted at number five before that and glad I have cemented my place now.”

“This is my best innings in international cricket. Dunith Wellalage was outstanding as well. Afghanistan have a very experienced side. They have lot of players who are involved in league cricket. Dunith showed lot of maturity.”

“We had identified that Rashid Khan was their key players. We didn’t want to take risks against him. We got out for some good balls. We made sure that we didn’t give wickets to him, and it got easier to score runs.

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Richmond, Trinity clash for Under 19 Division I Tier ‘A’ cricket title  

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by Reemus Fernando  

The stage is set for a thrilling climax when unbeaten Richmond meet formidable Trinity in the final of the Under 19 Division I Tier ‘A’ cricket tournament at the Thurstan College ground today.

There are two factors indicating to a thrilling climax. Both teams know what it takes to win a championship title as they have players who have featured in finals before. It was not long ago that a few players in the Trinity team guided their Under 17 team to joint champions title of the Division I cricket tournament of that age category. The team from Galle have in their ranks a number of players who had to be content with the runner up position after reaching the final of this tournament during the last season.

For the final, Trinity are likely to stick to the same team which won the semi –final against their arch rivals St. Anthony’s at the same venue early this week. During this tournament captain Rahal Amarasinghe has seen Manula Kularathne, Theeraka Ranatunga, Dinusha Pieris  and Janith Warnakula sharing most of the batting responsibilities for the team’s success.

In the bowling department, Ranatunga (with over 20 wickets) has topped the wicket takers list. Dinuka Thennakoon, Tharana Wimaladharma and Manula Kularathne are the others shouldering most of the wicket taking duties.

During the semi-final Ranatunga was joined by skipper Amarasinghe, Peiris, Wathila Udara and Vibhavith Ehelepola to play crucial roles with the bat, while the former and deputy skipper Ehelepola took two wickets each to contain St. Anthony’s to 202 runs.  A prominent feature of Richmond during this tournament was the dominant role played by their Sri Lanka Under 19 player Malsha Tharupathi. Tharupathi produced outstanding all-round feats to beat defending champions St. Joseph’s and St. Benedict’s in the quarter-final and the semi-final.

They have a strong batting line up from skipper Tharinda Nirmal, Helitha Edirisinghe, Thamindu Pradeeptha, Kavindu Nirmana, wicketkeeper batsman Janeth Kaushal to Tharupathi.

While Tharupathi is easily their top wicket taker, Nalaka Jaywardena, Nirmal and Sharon Abishek have all shared bowling responsibilities. Maheesha de Silva and Kaveesha Induwara have been economical with the new ball.

How they reached the final 

Trinity beat St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa and St. Anthony’s, Katugastota during the knockout stage after completing their first round matches as the third placed team in their group. They won five out of the eight matches during that phase.

Richmond have remained unbeaten during this tournament. They won all their eight matches in the first round to be the champions in their group. During the knockout stage they ousted defending champions St. Joseph’s and St. Benedict’s in a row to reach their second consecutive final.

Teams:

Richmond (from): Tharinda Nirmal  (Captain), Kavindu Nirmana (Vice Captain), Ruwan Jayawardena, Janeth Kaushal, Maheesha De Silva, Malsha Tharupathi, Sharon Abhishek, Thamindu Pradeeptha, Chehan Subasinghe, Sihath Ramanayake, Sasindu De Silva, Seneth Sisan, Kaveesha Induwara, Manuja Dulneth, Helith Edirisinghe, K.K Yuri, Pubudu Mihiranga,  Charuka Gunasekara. 

Officials:

Nuwan Jayasinghe (Master in Charge), Lakmal de Silva (Head Coach), Umal Udayanga (Asst. Coach), Lahiru Madhuwantha (Asst. Coach) 

Trinity (from):  Rahal Amarasinghe (Captain), Vibhavith Ehelepola (Vice Captain), Theeraka Ranatunga, Supun Waduge, Manula Kularatne, Tharana Wimaladharma, Kusal Wijetunga, Dinusha Pieris, Dinuka Tennakoon, Jayavi Liyanagama, Janith Warnakula, Malith Rathnayake, Lakvin Abeysinghe, Wathila Udara, Yewan Hulangamuwa, Viduka Dhammage. 

Officials:

Brian Senaratne (Master in Charge), Naveen Ekanayake (Head Coach),  Lakshitha Alahakoon (Asst. Coach) 

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