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.”
Sri Lanka men’s and women’s teams ready to contest FIBA Asia Tournament
by a Special Sports Correspondent
The Sri Lanka Men’s and Women’s basketball teams took flight to Singapore on Tuesday for the FIBA Asia 3×3 Basketball tournament.
The two teams have been in preparation since April and are being coached by Ajith Kuruppu.
The men’s team has to first prove its worth against China and Tonga and one more team before qualifying for the main tournament. “It’s going to be a tough tournament, but the men’s and women’s teams have been practicing well. Our preparations were good and we want to make an impact at the tournament,” said Kuruppu. According to the Sri Lanka teams’ coach China will be a tough challenge in the men’s segment of the tournament.
“We’ve been gelling together as a team during training and the players have a good understanding when playing as a unit,” said Sri Lanka’s Mens’ Team skipper Shehan Fernando.
Sri Lanka’s women’s team has made a direct entry into the tournament. Sri Lanka Women’s team skipper Anjali Ekanayake said that the ranking of the players in the national 3×3 team is good. “These players have got much exposure playing in this format of the game. We’ve been focusing on nutrition and shooting over the past few months. Training went well for the tournament,” said Ekanayake.
Coach Kuruppu took this opportunity to thank Vaaj Fitness for sponsoring the two national teams to Singapore and for making their gym available for the players to do strength and conditioning training.
Chathurya, Dinara, Saajida, Vishmi advance to second round
ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament
Chathurya Nilaweera ousted India’s Dhanush Varma to reach the second round of the ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament continued at the SSC Tennis Courts on Tuesday.
Nilaweera was the only player in the boys’ category from Sri Lanka to advance from the first round as he beat Varma 6-2, 6-0.
In the girls’ category Dinara de Silva, Saajida Razick and Vishmi Serasinghe reached the second round when they won their respective first round matches on Monday.
Dinara beat Yu Ching Wang of Taipei 6-3, 7-6(4) and Razick beat Indian Anushka Bhola 6-1, 6-1, while Serasinghe ousted Wei Chiao-Chen also from Taipei 6-1, 6-1.
In the other matches Dinethya Dharmarathe, Dahamna Methnadi, Nesangi Hemakumara, Vinethya Dharmarathne and Gehansa Metnadi conceded first round defeats.
In the boys’ category Vichinthya Nilaweera, Methwan Wijemanne, Abdul Bashit Cader, Thilina Dissanayake and Zahid Zihar were eliminated in the first round.
The boys’ and girls’ second round matches will be played today.
The tournament which commenced on July 4 will culminate on Friday.
Sri Lanka add more spin options after first Test disaster
by Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka have taken some desperate measures leading up to the second Test against Australia in Galle by adding more spin options indicating that the team management and the selectors are willing to make wholesale changes after the pathetic performance in the first Test which they lost before lunch on day three.
Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya has been sent home after he failed to make an impact following the ten-wicket loss last week. In an inexperienced attack, the 25-year-old with 17 Test caps is the senior most bowler but he had got his lengths wrong in a game dominated by Australian spinners. Embuldeniya had struggled in Bangladesh as well and was dropped. Instead of letting him fight his way back, he was drafted into the first Test against Australia and it wasn’t surprising to see him failing to make an impact. Now with the series at stake, Sri Lanka have pressed the panic button.
Even if Dimuth Karunaratne’s side win the second Test, Australia will retain Warne-Murali Trophy since they are the holders having blanked Sri Lanka 2-0 in 2019.
Sri Lanka’s desperation is evident by the fact that they have recalled Maheesh Theekshana, who hasn’t played a First-Class game in four years. In fact, Army had been told not to consider Theekshana for the ongoing one-day competition to help him recover from niggles but suddenly he finds himself in the hot seat with a Test series at stake.
Uncapped Dunith Wellalage also has been added to the squad giving the left-arm spin option that has been taken away following the axing of Embuldeniya. Support left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama had tested positive for COVID.
Former captain Angelo Mathews who was in isolation after testing positive for COVID has returned a negative test and has rejoined the team.
Off-spinner Lakshitha Manasinghe is the third player to be added to the group. He had an impressive series against Australia ‘A’ too. It is expected that Wellalage will make his Test debut while the slot for the third spinner is a toss-up between Jeffrey Vandersay and Maheesh Theekshana. The leg-spinner was untidy in the opening Test and the more realistic option seems to be that Theekshana debuting alongside Wellalage.
Although three replacement spinners have been added, some wonder why Sri Lanka have not thought of some batting replacements. It was a pathetic display by the team in the second innings where they were shot out inside a session and faced only 22.3 overs.
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