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Marvan on spin and way forward for cricket



Rex Clementine in Dubai

There’s no better sight in cricket than Marvan Atapattu in full flow. Technically sound, naturally gifted but mindset bit unsettled; five ducks in six innings and all that at the start but he went onto end with more Test runs than his mentor Arjuna Ranatunga. Marvan can be a nervous starter. Wasim Akram sent him down tumbling to the ground with a vicious bouncer at Asgiriya in 2000. Marvan shook off the setback and went onto compile a stunning double hundred against Wasim and Waqar. He also had a successful stint as a coach and was Head Coach when Sri Lanka won their maiden Test series in England in 2014.

Marvan joined a group of journalists here in Dubai virtually from Colombo to discuss on various aspects of the sport and particularly playing spin bowling, Sri Lanka’s Achilees’ heel in recent times.

“I have seen guys like Arjuna and Aravinda murdering Abdul Qadir and Shane Warne. I remember when Warne came over to Sri Lanka for the first time, Arjuna telling the team meeting not to smash 16 runs off him in one over. Instead milk his bowling. That was his plan,” explained Marvan. In other words, don’t smash Warne all over the park as the opposition captain could take him off the bowling. Instead, pick four runs an over, give a false sense of security that the leggie has things under control and end up scoring big runs.

“I can tell a player this is how you play the sweep, where to get your head, where to get your body position, whether you come forward or go on the back foot. It is the players’ skills after sometime that enable him to succeed. The reverse sweep is not in the coaching manual but a stroke that’s quite unique and can produce runs. Warner plays the reverse sweep differently and Maxwell plays it differently. Nobody taught Dilshan to play the scoop. That’s the confidence he had. That’s ‘uncoachable’. But the important things about playing spin is to get your basics right.”

“You either go to the pitch of the ball or you go on the back foot, wait till the ball turns and then play. You can’t play spin half hearted. It’s a matter of time before you are exposed. Aravinda had an interesting theory. Don’t play the same spinner for six balls. If you take Arjuna, when he was struggling to play spin, very smartly he taps the ball to a vacant area and gets the single. Then if Sanath is in the other end, he will smash the next ball for a six to take the pressure off. Now the spinner has forgotten that he is bowling to a different batsman and he will be smashed all over. That is psychology. You have got to be street smart playing spin.”

Sri Lanka’s options against spin at times have been too risky; sweep. But is it a risk worth taking? “Waruna Waragoda is the best player of spin bowling I have seen. I have tapped into Waruna’s brains on playing spin. I actually asked him to come and help the team on how to play spin when I was coach. But he is a reserved kind of guy and he politely turned it down. He has some amazing tips on playing spin. He had learned the art from Mr. Stanley Jayasinghe. Basically, to play spin, you have to have good feet movement. What most players do right now is to sweep against spin. It’s a high risk shot. You don’t take a risk for one run. That’s what they taught me when I was small. These are basics of the game,” elaborated Marvan.

Sri Lanka performed creditably in the ICC T-20 World Cup and Marvan was pleased with the way the young team went about things. “Given the way we played; skill, attitude, passion and moral. I don’t think I have seen that from a Sri Lankan side for a long time. It started happening during the India series at home and then there was more improvement in the South African series that followed. That momentum continued for the World Cup. To be honest, even I was surprised by the way they performed in the World Cup.”

“I am bit old school; if you take Charith Asalanka and Pathum Nissanka they have very good foundation and technique. That’s the most important thing. Apart from that, they have the additional factor on how to improvise and innovate when it comes to T-20 cricket. They are smart lads especially Charith. The decisions he takes, which ball to hit which side to target, that’s pretty clever. Avishka Fernando was an opener and to drag him to number four maybe put some pressure on him. So Pathum came in as an opener instead of Avishka. He was able to find gaps, play the new ball well and he succeeded there but for Avishka it did not work. In a team game that can happen.”

Thanks to the impressive performances of youngsters, Sri Lanka were able to win two games in the second round and came close to beating South Africa and England. “T-20 is the format that gives you most surprises. It’s the format that creates more upsets. In Test cricket, we say that the team that wins most sessions wins the game. It doesn’t work like that way in T-20 cricket. It can go either way. Against South Africa, Lahiru Kumara, the lengths that he bowled weren’t the right lengths. I don’t think he wanted to bowl those lengths. If you ask him, he will say that. Mistakes can happen. More importantly, he will learn from that experience and when he is faced with a crunch situation, he will have better options. On the other hand, the batsman was very lucky. Had he missed or if one had gone high in the air, the tide would have turned in Sri Lanka’s favour. That’s cricket.”

Since the 2015 World Cup, Sri Lanka have been rebuilding and the process has not gone well for them with the country now forced to play qualifiers for ICC events and if they were to have a Champions Trophy, Sri Lanka would miss out as only the top eight teams qualify.

“I learned something from Arjuna and Aravinda. They always said that Sanath and Kalu can get us 90 runs in the first 15 overs, but once we lose wickets, we need to consolidate and need to keep wickets at hand to cash in the last ten overs. That’s the blueprint that we followed except against Pakistan. You can’t do that against Pakistan because you know Wasim and Waqar will bowl the last ten overs. You have to score as many runs as possible in the middle overs and then when it comes to death overs, you have got to play it safe. Against other teams, no matter how much you score earlier on, you have got to consolidate till the 40th over and then you have to break free. Up to the World Cup in 2015, we had some momentum. We tried to maintain the same tempo after the World Cup. We did not believe in building a team and building an innings and stuff like that. Once our seniors were out, we expected too much from our players and we panicked. So, we faced setbacks and we had to take desperate measures and we appointed too many coaches, too many captains and too many managers. We kept doing this and our downfall was steep. We did not look to rebuild on players who had a good base.”

Have we got things right at the moment? “What we saw during the T-20 World Cup, there were lots of positives. We have utility players, solid batsmen, good fielders and bowlers with a bit of mystery aspect. So, we have got most bases covered. But we have to be patient. Simply because we won five games in the World Cup, we are not going to win the next Test series, especially away from home. We need to categorize players. Who is going to play which format and on what conditions. We tend to pick players who do well in T-20 cricket to play Test cricket and vice-versa. It’s not fair on the player too for he will struggle to adjust. There are players who can do that, no doubt about it. But there are also players who need some time to settle in.”

Marvan’s three-year tenure as Sri Lanka captain from 2003 to 2006 was a landmark era. There were good results but more importantly, he had introduced a team culture where players were made to be mindful of the fact that they were ambassadors of their country. For example, in a Test match, all players had to wear their Test cap for the first session of the game like they used to do when they were schoolboys. Every Sri Lankan captain who followed continued the tradition until Dimuth Karunaratne broke it. Under Dimuth, there is a new culture now. Currently, you see a debutant in Praveen Jayawickrama on the field with his shirt not tucked in. These maybe minute things but is that an indication that discipline is eroding? Well, when your three premier players get banned for breaching bio-secure bubble that’s an indication that something is wrong.

“People might say that a cap doesn’t make a difference to your cricket. But these things, small things go a long way. We used to for example start off a game by spending a few quiet moments thinking of our faiths. These are things that I picked up from my former captains and dressing rooms that I was part of. I always believe that you need to know the history of something, whether it’s cricket, religion your grandparents or whatever. If you don’t then you lose your values. Young players should be taught that this is how we gained Test status. When did we win ICC Trophy? This is how much former players earned for a Test match. There’s no future without a past. We have to respect our past.”

“I am told Mahela Jayawardene wants a documentary done on how we started our Test cricket and what’s our past. If you ask the current players, some may not know that Bandula Warnapura was our first Test captain. I still have the HNB cap that was given for our inaugural Test match. I have the stamp that was issued to mark the occasion. My father got it for me and I cherish those things a lot.”

“Grooming a player is not about developing his skill. We should develop his confidence, should develop him socially. We should not only look to develop his batting, bowling and fielding. We should look to develop his social etiquettes, how to handle media, table etiquettes, what to do when they fly overseas. When you teach players those things that gives them lot of confidence. Then only you get a well-roundedplayer. We don’t follow certain protocols. When we are desperate, we look for quick results. We are not methodical. When I was Head Coach, I gave SLC these plans. I took them from England Lions program. But it was not executed. Sad!”


Tharushi shocks seniors, breaks own record and sets world-leading time



Tharushi Karunaratne erased her own national junior record as she beat national record holder Gayanthika Abeyratne to win the women’s 800 metres yesterday.

By Reemus Fernando

Ratnayake Central, Walala prodigy Tharushi Karunaratne blazed the track with the country’s second fastest time ever in the women’s 800 metres to provide a sensational start to the 2023 season proper as the Junior and Senior track and field trials commenced at Diyagama on Monday.

The athlete trained by Susantha Fernando clocked 2:01.39 seconds to beat reigning national champion and national record holder Gayanthika Abeyratne. The 18-year-old’s winning time was only 19 milliseconds shy of the national record established by the veteran runner last year.

Incidentally, Karunaratne’s feat is the world-leading time in her age category this year.

Abeyratne led the race for a better part but Tharushi beat her in the last few metres in the home straight to produce one of the fastest 800 metres races on home soil.

Tharushi who emerged as a future prospect with notable performances at the Under 16 level at Junior school competitions has been on a record-breaking sphere.

Competing in the senior category she shattered her own National Junior Record and announced her readiness even to make her senior debut for Sri Lanka at international competitions.

Her winning time yesterday stands out as it ranks above the women’s 800 metres Asian Junior Championship record. No one has run the women’s 800 metres faster than China’s Lang Yinglai (in 1997- 2:02.66 secs) at Asian Junior Championships.

Tharushi, who has represented Sri Lanka at back-to-back World Junior Athletics Championships has not only secured a place in Sri Lanka team for Asian Junior Championships but has also emerged as a strong contender to make the teams for the Senior Asian Championships and the Asian Games.

Sri Lanka Athletics conducts the two-day event as a precursor for the final selection for the Asian Junior Championships, Asian Senior Championships and the Asian Games taking place this year.

Meanwhile, in yet another notable feat Janindu Lakvijaya broke the national record in the men’s 110 metres hurdles as he clocked 13.82 seconds in the heats.

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After Big Match duties Sineth, Tharupathi guide Sri Lanka U19s to big win



Just a day after finishing their Big Match duties Royal College batsman Sineth Jayawardena and Richmond College spinner Malsha Tharupathi featured prominently in Sri Lanka Under 19s five-wicket victory over their Bangladesh counterparts in UAE on Monday.

Chasing a target of 230 runs to win Sineth Jayawardena top-scored with 101 runs to secure a five-wicket victory with 33 balls to spare. Jayawardena put on a first-wicket stand of 95 runs with St. Joseph’s batsman Hirun Kapurubandara who scored a half-century.

When Bangladesh Under 19s decided to bat first, Sri Lanka bowlers did well to restrict them to 229 runs. Tharupathi with three wickets was the pick of the blowers.

Sineth Jayawardena scored a century
for Sri Lanka Under 19s.

Sri Lanka Cricket had given exemptions for Sri Lanka Under 19 players Jayawardena, Tharupathi and Mahinda College Galle player Dinura Kalupahana to join the team in UAE after completing their Big Match duties.

Jayawardena took two wickets in the second innings though he was off colour with the bat in Royal College’s victory at the historic 144th Big Match. Tharupathi took six wickets for Richmond in the drawn Lovers’ Quarrel Big Match against Mahinda. All rounder Kalupahana who scored a half century and took three wickets for Mahinda in the Big Match, contributed with 10 runs yesterday, while his five overs could not yield wickets.


Bangladesh U19s

229 for 8 in 50 overs (Chowdhur Md Rizwan 38, Jishan Alam 40, Ahrar Amin 50; Malsha Tharupathi 3/35)

Sri Lanka U19s

234 for 5 in 44.3 overs (Hirun Kapurubandara 52, Sineth Jayawardena 101, Hiran Jayasundara 35; Jishan Alam 3/31)

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New Zealand seal 2-0 whitewash despite Sri Lanka’s lower order resistance



Southee and Tickner picked three wickets each.

Despite a strong resistance by Sri Lanka’s lower order, three wickets apiece by Tim Southee and Blair Tickner helped bundle out the visitors for 358 to help New Zealand clinch the second Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington by an innings and 58 runs, on Monday. With the win, the hosts also sealed the two-match Test series 2-0.

The visitors, who were asked to follow on after bundling out for 164 in the first innings, in response to New Zealand’s 580 for 4, provided a strong fight for most parts of the first two sessions, led by Dhananjaya de Silva’s 98 – and well supported by Dinesh Chandimal’s 62 and Nishan Madushka’s 39. However, on either side of the two partnerships – for the fifth and sixth wicket respectively – the hosts triggered collapses.

They struck in the first over of the day itself, with Kusal Mendis mistiming a pull off Matt Henry to mid wicket, without adding to the overnight score. The short-ball which got them the success early in the day, was used rather generously by the New Zealanders throughout the day, especially Blair Tickner who filled in that role in the absence of Neil Wagner.

In the fourth over of the day, the other overnight batter – Angelo Matthews – departed pulling Tickner to square leg. Despite losing two wickets early in the day, Sri Lanka continued to be on the offensive, with Chandimal and Dhananjaya taking on the short-pitched attack. The duo stitched a 126-run stand for the fifth wicket, in what proved to be a high-scoring session where Sri Lanka picked 136 runs.

The attacking approach that the two batters maintained also helped them quickly take advantage of the loose deliveries as well. However, late in the morning session, Chandimal eventually fell to the ploy, top-edging a pull off Tickner to the fine leg fielder.

Madushka, on debut, got off the mark by going down the track off Michael Bracewell and hitting the offspinner for a six in the last over before Lunch. He attempted to drive the next delivery, but was tricked by the dip and eventually hit it just short of the fielder. The approach post Lunch though was rather cautious. Against the moving new ball, the batters were tested by Matt Henry and Tim Southee. However, apart from a couple of leg before appeals and a few beating the bat, there wasn’t much threat posed to them.

They slowly kept chipping away at the deficit with a 76-run partnership for the sixth wicket before Madushka fell at the stroke of Tea – yet again dismissed pulling against Tickner, this time caught at mid on.

Sri Lanka’s chances of wiping off the deficit took a massive hit when Dhananjaya was dismissed in the second over after tea. Looking to sweep Michael Bracewell, he got a top edge to the short-leg fielder. Thereafter, the lower order only delayed the inevitable. They kept the New Zealand bowlers at bay for nearly two and a half hours from thereon to hand them the last three wickets, two of which were eventually scalped by Southee.

Kasun Rajitha played out 110 deliveries in the company of Prabath Jayasuriya and Lahiru Kumara, both of whom added 45 balls each. Rajitha’s dismissal – caught at second slip poking at an away-going delivery – ended Sri Lanka’s innings soon after play was extended for the day.

Brief scores:

New Zealand

580/4 decl. in 123 overs (Kane Williamson 215, Henry Nicholls 200n.o.; Kasun Rajitha 2-126)

Sri Lanka

164 all out in 66.5 overs (Dimuth Karunaratne 89; Matt Henry 3-44, Michael Bracewell 3-50) and 358 all out in 142 overs (Dhananjaya de Silva 98, Dinesh Chandimal 62; Tim Southee 3-51, Blair Tickner 3-84)

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