Mahela said the problem of slow starts had been addressed © IPL
Half-way through the tournament, Mumbai Indians find themselves with five wins to their credit — and a place at the top of the points table (which was later usurped by Delhi Capitals after their eighth match). Only twice in all these years have they had a better start to an IPL season. It’s almost an alien territory for Mumbai Indians to be in. Mahela Jayawardene, the team’s head coach, said that this was a problem identified, addressed and worked upon coming into the 2020 season.
“As a coach, you will never be at ease in such a tournament,” Jayawardene admitted despite his side getting off to a good start. “But it [the issue of starting slow] was something we were conscious about at the start of the tournament, where we always start slow and then we claw our way into the tournament. So it was something we spoke about.
“We knew the guys going into the tournament were in good form, they had prepared well but it’s all about getting into that awareness, the intelligence for the situations out there. Trying to get them to understand the situations quickly enough and adapt, that’s where we came back strongly after the first few games where we learnt a lot very quickly, how to play in Abu Dhabi, which is going to be our main venue, having to play eight games there. That has been the key, players understanding how we need to adapt to the change. That whole identification as well, whether they are batters or bowlers – what are the situations they are going to be in and winning those little battles out there with the oppositions. So far, I’m very happy the way the guys have responded to that.”
A good reason for Mumbai Indians’s success so far has been due to the high-performing pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult and James Pattinson. However, with the pitches in UAE turning slower and aiding slower bowlers, a few teams have already benefited with the performances of their spinners. However, Jayawardene doesn’t feel a need to change the combination that has been winning them games just as yet.
“Last year as well, we made that adjustment at the backend of the tournament when we played in pitches that suited the spinners,” he said. “So far, the fast bowlers have had a bigger role to play in the tournament, whether it is the powerplay, the middle overs or the back end. We’re trying to keep that balance. As long as they are making the contributions and they are penetrating the opposition batting line-ups, it doesn’t matter what kind of surfaces we play on. The quality of the fast bowling line-up that we have, they are always going to create opportunities.
“We have a couple of good spinners operating right now in the playing XI. And there are a couple of guys who are in the wings, who we might look at depending on the opposition and match-ups. Depending on the conditions, we might, but right now I’m happy with the combination that we have, seeing the way we have operated.”
Even though the tournament is past its half-way mark, Mumbai Indians remain possibly the only side with a settled XI. It’s a core they have continued with from their last year’s title-winning run. With all the players hitting form and making match-winning contributions at some point or the other already, there isn’t a lot to cover with the on-field battles. However, they are also a team that hasn’t tested its bench too much, and that brings with it, its own set of headaches of dropping motivations within the team. However, Jayawardene is confident that the team culture is strong enough to make the receive players feel important in the setup.
“It’s about creating a culture within the group where everyone understands that there are players who are going to go out in the middle but the other guys are also as important as anyone else in that group,” he said. “They are the ones who keep the guys on the field on their toes because these are very good players who we have got on our bench. At any time, they are ready to go out on the field and perform. It makes a healthy rivalry within the group. Everybody is focussed, they are prepared for each and every game.
“If we feel they (the players in the XI) are physically not capable or whether they are not mentally fresh. We will make sure we manage those workloads. So that is one of the things for which we have got a lot of good players on the bench to make sure they are ready to go at any given time. It’s a great headache to have but it’s also a good, healthy competition that we’ve created. What we try and do is try to keep them fresh and prepared, not push them too much but not let them relax too much either. It’s a two-month tournament, it’s not too much of an ask from these professionals. We just have to make sure they are at the top of their game. It’s also communication between the management and the players, trying to figure out issues and resolve it before it can be a problem for the two.”
Dilshi stamps her class with national record
Shanika qualifies for World Junior Championships
by Reemus Fernando
Former Ratnayake Central Walala athlete Dilshi Kumarasinghe stamped her class with a new Sri Lanka record performance in the 800 metres while emerging 800 metres runner Shanika Lakshani reached qualifying standards for the World Under 20 Championships and sprinter Mohamed Safan broke shackles to win the 200 metres as the first Selection Trial produced its best on the final day at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.
Kumarasinghe who registered her maiden 400 metres triumph at national level on Wednesday bagged the 800 metres win as well in style on Friday when she clocked the fastest time for the distance by a Sri Lankan in history. Her time of two minutes and 2.55 seconds erased the four year-old national record held by experienced Gayanthika Abeyratne who finished third(3rd 2:03.64 secs) yesterday. Asia’s third ranked 800 metres runner Nimali Liyanarachchi was placed second in a time of 2:03.15 seconds. Former record holder Abeyratne is ranked fifth in Asia.
The 21-year-old athlete trained by Susantha Fernando maintained a steady pace right throughout to win the event for the second time within months. She won her first 800 meters title at senior level at the last National Championships in December. “I am happy to have broken the record. We planned for the record but I am not satisfied with the time,” Kumarasinghe told The Island. Her coach Fernando expressed similar sentiments. “We were planning to produced a far better timing as she has the potential to reach international level,” said Fernando.
Kumarasinghe who is currently ranked sixth in Asia behind local counterparts Liyanarachchi and Aberatne is set to improve her ranking when the World Athletics update statistics next week.
Holy Cross College, Gampaha athlete Shanika Lakshani became the second junior runner at this championships to earn qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next August. Her coach Madura Perera said that it was a huge relief to witness his trainee accomplish the target after missing it by a whisker at the National Championships in December. Lakshani, running alongside the veterans clocked 2:07.02 seconds (Qualifying mark: 2:08.70 seconds).
On Wednesday Isuru Kawshalya Abewardana of Ananda Sastralaya Matugama reached qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship when he returned a time of 47.24 seconds in the Junior Men’s 400 metres final.
In the men’s 200 metres, Mohamed Safan turned tables on National Champion Kalinga Kumarage as both clocked sub 21 seconds, a rarity at local athletics. Safan was playing second fiddle to Kumarage at the last National Championships where he clocked 21.41 seconds. Yesterday Safan returned a time of 20.81 seconds, while Kumarage clocked 20.85 seconds.
In the women’s 200 metres, Nadeesha Ramanayake was the winner. She clocked 24.28 seconds.
The men’s 800 metres, conspicuous by the absence of national record holder Indunil Herath, was won by the Asian Championship participant Rusiru Chathuranga, who clocked 1:49.82 seconds.
Herath was not the only leading athlete who was absent at the First Selection Trial which was organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to provide much needed competition opportunity to top athletes vying to reach Olympic qualifying standards.
The next track and field competition for top athletes will be the next month’s National Championship.
COPE; a toothless tiger?
by Rex Clementine
Parliamentary watchdog COPE – Committee on Public Enterprises has made a scathing attack on some of the corrupt practices at Sri Lanka Cricket. COPE Chief, Professor Charith Herath has gone onto claim that by fighting out certain legal battles and writing off money that companies and member club owed SLC, insiders may have been receiving kickbacks. This is a very serious allegation by the legislature.
Professor Herath wants legal action taken against SLC officials. It remains to be seen whether any culprits can be hauled up before courts or whether COPE is just a toothless tiger.
In the absence of SLC bigwigs, CEO Ashley de Silva bore the brunt of the criticism. In January this year, in these pages we wrote that Ashley’s time was up. While there are many questions about his efficiency and decision making abilities, it can be safely said that Ashley is no crook. The real crooks are hiding behind the CEO.
There have been some decent men as well at SLC like Mohan de Silva, who was President in 2004. De Silva had warned his colleagues that their excesses could tarnish the reputation of the institution, but his concerns fell on deaf ears.
Not only the guardians of SLC but even those who let them enter into these corrupt deals need to be probed. While most of these allegations will take time to prove, certain things can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. For example fixing a domestic match in 2017 by some prominent members of SLC.
However, four successive Sports Ministers – Dayasiri Jayasekara, Faizer Mustapaha, Harin Fernando and Namal Rajapaksa – failed to take action. All four turned a blind eye despite having overwhelming evidence in front of them. Ravin Wickramaratne, the number one suspect, went places in cricket circles. He is now SLC’s alternate ICC Director.
At a time when the game has been so badly managed, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s decision to backdate a gazette notification extending the term of SLC’s Executive Committee has not gone down well with many. Rather than giving a clean bill of health to SLC hierarchy, he should have perhaps taken the bad eggs out.
The ball is back on Namal’s court. It is his Ministry that has to now decide which deals need to be proved and against which officials’ action needs to be taken in courts of law. From the start, Namal has treated SLC hierarchy with kids’ gloves. Now that their deficiencies have been exposed well and truly, he needs to watch his steps. If he continues to play politics with cricket governance, his popularity is going to wane, fast.
Saha wins U12 boys’ singles title
Saha Kapilasena beat Sasen Premaratne to win the Under-12 boys’ singles title of the Clay Court Nationals conducted at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday.
Kapilasena scored 6-3, 6-1 to win the title. Kapikasena ousted third seed Aahil Kaleel in the semi-final, Premaratne eliminated number one seed Methika Wickramasinghe in the semi-final.
In the mixed doubles final Anika Seneviratne and Thangaraja Dineshkanthan were the winners as they beat Sanka Athukorale and Neyara Weerawansa 7-5, 6-4.
Sanka Athukorale and Yasita de Silva beat Rajeev Rajapakse and Renouk Wijemanne 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the men’s doubles title.
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