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Mahela leaves Sri Lanka team with a heavy heart  

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Rex Clementine in Sharjah

Former skipper Mahela Jayawardene’s role with the Sri Lankan team as a consultant has worked wonders and everyone from captain, coach to players have praised him immensely. Unfortunately, his stay with the Sri Lankan team will be over today as he had opted to stay only during the qualifiers. In an interview with a few Sri Lankan journalists in UAE, Jayawardene explained that he was leaving due to personal reasons.

“It’s tough. I just counted that I have been 135 days in quarantine and bubbles since June and I am in last legs. But I totally understand and I told them I will be with the group with the technology that we have. I hope that anyone can understand that being a father that I haven’t seen my daughter for that many days. I definitely need to get back home,” Jayawardene explained.

Jayawardene was happy with the way things have gone for Sri Lanka in the qualifying phase. Sri Lanka went through with a game to spare and almost certainly will top the group which means they will avoid the Asian bloc in the second round.

“Things have gone fairly well but there are things that need to be improved going forward. The main thing was role clarity for players and what needs to be done in T-20 cricket. The biggest thing I realized when I spoke to the coaches was fear of failure and playing T20 cricket at this level you need to play without that. Otherwise it’s difficult to get hold of certain situations and put pressure back on the opposition,” he explained.

“We have spoken about this individually. The batting area is something we still need to work quite a bit and continue to do so. The bowling group has a lot of skill sets and creating situation awareness and match-ups to improve the skill set we had. I think so far we have been very good in executing that and hopefully they will be able to do that even though it’s going to be tougher.”

“With the batting group, we still have to work with the guys to help them continue to bat with that freedom and start taking control of certain situations. Those situations we can’t predict. Those will arise like in the last game where we were three down or like the previous game where we had some hiccups and in those situations what needs to be done and have that tempo throughout the innings. Those are situations that we discussed so that the players are aware of those situations so that it won’t be a surprise if they are in that situation.”

The decision to bring Avishka Fernando down to number four took many by surprise and when asked on this, Jayawardene was not willing to spill the beans.  “To elaborate that on a media forum means we are putting out things that are detrimental to the player going forward. With Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis out of this T20 group, we needed to create bit more power in the middle which we lacked and having top heavy power wouldn’t have pitted like when you are going into a competition. You need to have that spread of different players coming and doing those things and continuing the tempo. So to break that we need to do something with Avishka.”

“Yes there were certain issues with Avishka as well where at the top he was finding it difficult with certain bowling match-ups.  So we wanted to take away that element and give him a different role to play.  I also felt that he had the game to do it and obviously when you look at his stats against certain bowler types, we could see his strength.  That’s something we’ve analyzed to see whether he can play that role. So when I spoke to him he was very much keen to take that challenge and now we see him expressing himself well in that role. He understands his role but I do not want to go into too many details which means I am giving out certain information which the opposition might be able to utilize as well.”

Another masterstroke during the Ireland game was to send Wanindu Hasaranga at number five after Sri Lanka were three wickets down for just eight runs in the second over.

“In T20 cricket, its small phases that takes the game away from anyone. It can be four balls or five balls. Ireland game is an example. Those six balls that Wanindu played in the Power Play, sixth over against the off-spinner was the one that got us the tempo and put pressure back on Ireland. And we knew that match up was there and Wanindu has that option. They obviously made a mistake by bowling a spinner in the Power Play against him and he took advantage. So it’s that crucial in a T20 game for you to be able to control those situations and be ready for that match-up.”

Fast bowler Lahiru Kumara has been sensational with his extra pace and he was a last minute inclusion. Jayawardene’s request would have made the selectors to include him in the side. “I have always believed that bowlers win tournaments not the batsmen so having a bowling group that is capable of creating those opportunities is important. Sometimes bowlers will go for runs and a having that attacking option is required. I know it’s against qualifying nations still but even with main teams, especially against good batting line-ups the only way to control those batting line-ups is by being able to pickup wickets and having that attacking option so you need to have that fire power.”

“Lahiru has been bowling really well. Having spoken to Vaasy even before the tournament he was quite happy the way Lahiru had progressed. He has to work hard on his skill, especially the yorker. That was something that he was working quite a while with Vaasy. He was very confident in executing that.  Chameera has come a long way in the last 12 months. He is probably one of the top bowlers in world cricket at the moment with T20 and been able to adapt to different condition.

Today’s game in Sharjah against Netherlands is a dead rubber but with Sri Lanka set to play a few games in the second round in Sharjah, the game will be a good opportunity to adapt to conditions.

“We’ll change the template and the way we want to play in Sharjah. In the Super 12 group, we have three games in Sharjah, one in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi so our template and strategy will change according to the surface and how we want to go about. Before I leave, I’ll put all structures in place and give them a better idea because I was involved in a few games in Sharjah two weeks back in the IPL and we saw how in the playoffs the surfaces were playing.”



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Cricket’s finest gentleman Michael Tissera

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Michael Tissera and Sir Garry Sobers give away the trophy named after them to Angelo Mathews as Sri Lanka won the maiden

by Rex Clementine

Next week, as the second Test between Sri Lanka and West Indies comes to a conclusion, Michael Tissera will be in Galle to give away Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne a trophy that bears his name and that of West Indies legend Sir Garry Sobers. Irrespective of the result of the second Test, Sri Lanka will retain the Sobers-Tissera Trophy having won the first Test. West Indies can only square the series and as the holders of the trophy, Sri Lanka will retain the title.

Sri Lanka’s current cricketers will do well to pick the brains of Tissera, an iconic figure in our game. He played the game at a time when the sport had no money and the perks that the current generation is enjoying, because of men like Tissera, Anura Tennekoon and many others of their generation who laid a solid foundation for the sport. Built on that strong foundation is the brand name called Sri Lankan cricket.

Tissera respects the game and he has taken the values of cricket to his personal life and to his business. That’s why he is so successful. These are factors that are missing in some young players for whom cricket is their profession and nothing beyond. Not just players, but there are many of us who make a living out of cricket, but do we take values of the game beyond our working spaces? That’s the best thing that we can learn from Tissera – respect the game, value it and stay humble.

Talent itself is a great blessing and it is important to respect that. That’s why Tissera is an exceptional role model.

A disciplined man, he has set the standards and others have simply followed. His unquestionable integrity as Chairman of Selectors ensured fair-play in team selections and politicians dare not challenge him.

When Tissera took over as Chairman of Selectors in 2002, Aravinda de Silva had faded away. His cricket was over. He was heavily focusing on his business. But having realized that Aravinda still had much to offer the game, he threw down a challenge to Aravinda. If you are interested, the number four position of the national cricket team is all yours. But on one condition. ‘You are overweight and you need to get fitter.’ Aravinda loves those challenges. He knew he had cricket in him and apparently in two months he lost 15 kilos. A lot of running around Independence Square and no fancy stuff like lamb, pork sausages, cakes and of course his favourite Kandos.

On his comeback, he was a revelation. Aravinda produced a double hundred in his last Test match, he was the star as Sri Lanka reached the finals of the Champions Trophy in 2002 beating Australia in the semis. Basically he carried the team on his shoulders during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. Making runs on those bouncy tracks was child’s play for Aravinda. And Tissera knew the man better than many others. Some of those knocks were out of this world. They are the stuff that you dream of. All that was possible because of Tissera. He gave Aravinda a second chance. Every young man deserves a second chance. Had Tissera been managing the Sri Lankan cricket team, Kusal Mendis would have been like Babar Azam of Pakistan leading Sri Lanka not serving a suspension.

Tissera’s two year tenure as the Manager of the national cricket team was highly successful. Tom Moody was the Head Coach and the team reached new heights. England were thrashed 5-0 in their own backyard in 2006 and the team won many Test matches overseas. It all culminated with Sri Lanka reaching the finals of the 2007 World Cup.

That team had some tricky customers. Tissera’s brilliant man management skills saw there was smooth sailing. Moody can be ruthless, like a typical Aussie. You needed the calm head of Tissera to ensure that things did not get out of hand. Well, they did get out of hand at certain points, but no one spilled the beans. What happened on tour, stayed on tour. None dared leaking information.

Tissera is tough when he needs to be, but he is also a father figure when players need support. Straight out of school when Sanath Jayasuriya from Matara ended up at CCC it is people like Tissera who looked after him. He has done much more to help up and coming players. All silently though.

Good on Sidath Wettimuny as President of Sri Lanka Cricket for naming this trophy after one of the iconic figures of our game. It takes one great man to respect another.

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Dimuth on the verge of several batting milestones

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Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne will equal the World Record for most consecutive fifties in Test match cricket if he scores a half-century in the first innings of the second Test against West Indies in Galle starting Monday.

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne has hit a purple patch this year and the 147 he scored against West Indies in the first Test in Galle this week was his fourth hundred in 2021. The 33-year-old came up with an equally solid 83 in the second essay as Sri Lanka won by 187 runs and a session to spare.

His exploits have seen him accumulating 854 runs this year in Test cricket at an average of 77. Only Joe Root and Rohit Sharma have scored more runs in 2021 although they have played more games with the England captain featuring in 12 Tests and the Indian star appearing in 11 games compared to Dimuth’s six Tests.

Dimuth has now scored six consecutive half-centuries and a 50 in the second Test starting on Monday will see him equaling a World Record shared by six other players. Everton Weeks, Kumar Sangakkara, Andy Flower, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Chris Rogers and K.L. Rahul have all scored seven consecutive fifties in Test cricket.

In the list of most runs in Test cricket for Sri Lanka, Dimuth went past former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga this year and he is currently the ninth highest run scorer. He’s on 5406 runs and if he scores 96 more runs in the second Test, he will knock off three more Sri Lankan greats; Tilan Samaraweera (5462), T.M. Dilshan (5492) and Marvan Atapattu (5502). That will see him sitting at number six among the highest run scorers for the country.

Dimuth is hungry for runs and he wants to finish his career with 10,000 Test runs. Only two other Sri Lankan greats have achieved the milestone. Kumar Sangakkara with 12,400 runs and Mahela Jayawardene with 11,814 runs are the only members of the exclusive 10,000 club.

“Scoring 10,000 runs is my dream. I don’t know if I’ll be able to achieve that, but that’s what I’ve got in my mind. If I can continue this form, I’ll be able to get close to 10,000 runs. I like to improve as much as I can, and whenever I finish a match, I’ll go and check where I am on the Sri Lanka run charts, to figure out how many I need to score to pass someone,” Karunaratne explained.

The Sri Lankan captain was Man of the Match as Sri Lanka took a 1-0 lead to retain the Sobers-Tissera Trophy. The win also enabled Sri Lanka to collect 12 points in the ICC Test Championship.

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Amasha smashes Susanthika’s Army record, Roshan dazzles with hurdles feat

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Amasha de Silva smashed Susanthika Jayasinghe’s meet record in the women’s 100 metres.(Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

57th Army Athletics Championships  

by Reemus Fernando  

Sprinter Amasha de Silva smashed Olympian Susanthika Jayasinghe’s longstanding Army Athletics Championship 100 metres record and Roshan Dhammika Ranatunga came almost close to breaking his national record in the 110 metres hurdles as they blazed the track on the final day of the Army Athletics Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.

Amasha clocked 11.67 seconds to win the women’s 100 metres final ahead of Susanthika’s niece Medhani Jayamanne in the afternoon. She broke Susanthika’s 1994 hand-timed record of 11.6 seconds. With yesterday’s feat, Amasha has now taken both the 100 and 200 metres records of the Army Championships under her belt. The athlete trained by Sanjeewa Weerakkody has a personal best of 10.55 seconds from 2020 and is the fourth fastest athlete in history in the 100 metres behind Susanthika, Damayanthi Dharsha and Rumeshika Ratnayake.

In the morning, Roshan Dhammika produced the second-fastest legal time ever run by a Sri Lankan in the men’s 110 metres hurdles.

Dhammika, who broke Olympian Mahesh Perera’s 24-year-old 110 metres hurdles record at the National Championships four weeks ago, clocked 13.91 seconds to win the gold in the 110 metres hurdles final. The SLEME athlete’s effort had a minus 1.9 wind reading as he finished the event just two milliseconds slower than his national record.

His coach Thiron Gamage was confident that Dhammika would improve his national record once again and he almost achieved the target running against the wind. “He missed the record but with this feat, Dhammika has proved beyond doubt that his national record was not a fluke,” Gamage told The Island after the new meet record performance.

How much he has got to offer was evident from the time Dhammika ran a relaxed heat in the morning. Despite breaking the second hurdle he was still leading when he cleared the last hurdle but slowed down to finish third in the heat.  In the final his only blemish was breaking the last hurdle. Still, he was metres ahead of the rest. With his third sub 14 seconds run (13.97 secs and 13.89 secs at the Nationals) the former Kularatne Central, Godakawela athlete has become the only Sri Lankan to run the distance under that mark legally.

All three athletes who had previously run the distance under 14 seconds, namely Chaminda Fonseka, Supun Viraj Randeniya and Mahesh Perera had wind readings above the legal limit.

Those were not the only impressive track performances as Pabasara Niku produced his personal best with a 46.36 seconds to finish first in the men’s 400 metres final which was minus national champion Kalinga Kumarage and the other leading contender Aruna Dharshana. Dharshana pulled out from the competition due to injury in the semi-finals on Thursday. Harsha Karunaratne who won the 800 metres, finished second behind Niku in a time of 46.83 seconds. In the corresponding women’s event, Nadeesha Ramanayake bagged the gold medal. She clocked 54.54 seconds.

There were two other individual meet record performances from Sarangi Silva in the women’s long jump and Samith Fernando in the men’s shot put.

Sarangi cleared a distance of 6.14 metres to win the long jump. Fernando cleared 16.60 metres to create his record.

Nilani Ratnayake, whose steeplechase feat was adjudged the most outstanding performance in the female category won her third individual gold medal when she clocked 4:25.20 seconds to finish the 1,500 metres. While Samantha Pushpakumara (RMS) won the men’s 10,000 metres in a time of 31:12.28 seconds, H.A.M. Dilrukshi was the winner in the women’s discus throw. Men’s 100 metres winner Himasha Eshan (10.29 secs), who was involved in many victories for the Artillery regiment- the winners of the championship- won the award for the most outstanding performance in the men’s category.

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