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May the educated continue to run cricket!

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by Rex Clementine

While the Test series  involving Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is on at Pallekele in a bio-secure bubble, the media has been allowed to cover the series in what is called the  ‘outer bubble’. The press can file their stories from the press box and carry on with their day today activities. The only thing that we can not do is to come face to face with players and support staff.

Sri Lanka Cricket is at the moment run by a respected doctor – Professor Arjuna de Silva. Apart from being a brilliant physician, he is proving to be an outstanding administrator as well. Glad he does not wish to avoid the press like the plague in these testing times.

The press discussed a similar method during the England series, but it fell on deaf ears of those who were running the sport at that time. Leave alone giving us a fair hearing, it took SLC more than a week to respond to our collective mail.

Then there were lies all around.  SLC first said that it was impossible to accommodate the press as the England and Wales Cricket Board had objected to our presence. We referred the matter to the ECB, who denied it outright saying that they had no issues with press covering the series. Then there were more lies, even misguiding the Minister of Sports.

The same SLC Executive Committee a few weeks either side of the England series had requested the media to cover their press briefings and they were well attended. But cricket matches for some mysterious reasons were out of bounds for us. Obviously, SLC hierarchy were getting advice from the wrong people.

South Africa, Australia, England, Pakistan and even India where COVID cases are at a staggering high had allowed the media to attend cricket matches but SLC was an exception. Did they have an axe to grind with the press for constantly highlighting daylight robbery at Maitland Place?

There was a storm of protest at the treatment meted out to the media. Former players, administrators and fans expressed their disappointment at what was happening but SLC bosses were thick skinned. Its President boasted that he was going to get more than 100 votes at the AGM. He was all too powerful. But the law of the land proved to be more powerful than him as the entire Executive Committee was dismissed on technical grounds. The CEO continues, although his time is hanging by a thread.

Further woes followed at the COPE hearing as the Parliamentary watchdog found large scale corruption and no accountability. The Secretary to the Sports Ministry was informed to initiate legal proceedings against officials who were responsible for corrupt deals that included money that broadcasting partners owed the board being transferred into offshore accounts.

It remains to be seen what action the Sports Ministry intends to take with the game suffering several blows both on and off the field in the last five years. The slide started during the Yahapalana regime and not much has been done to address the woes under the present government. The Sports Minister backdating a letter legalizing the term of the Executive Committee was the last straw. The move was opposed and the Minister was forced to dismiss the Executive Committee and bring in fresh faces amidst much criticism.

The same Ex Co did not bother to take disciplinary action against misbehaving players. This coupled with poor on field performances saw cricket’s ardent fans turning away from the game. While the national cricket team was involved in a series in the Caribbean, the retired players were featuring in a Legends tournament in India. Strangely, the fans preferred to watch the former players in action than their national team. This was extremely disturbing news.

Soon after the administration was changed, a clear message has been sent that misconduct will be sternly dealt with. An opening batsman who had got into constant trouble was hauled up for an inquiry on Tuesday and has been warned to behave or pack his bags. This is the way forward. When there is discipline, results will follow automatically.

The elected officials who were in power before that had double standards. For example, captain Dimuth Karunaratne who was involved in a late night accident was fined Rs. one million. This was despite him buying a brand new three wheeler to the other party involved in the accident. Kusal Mendis who was involved in a hit and run was treated with kids’ gloves. The board closed the case claiming it was a personal matter. That a poor man on his way to work was killed wasn’t a serious enough issue for them. That was not on.

Thankfully, the attitude of the administration has changed now. The powers that be need to ensure that the educated run cricket. Let the corrupt rot in jail.



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South Africa ace record run chase to level series

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De Kock and Reeza Hendrics added 152 off just 65 deliveries for a partnership scoring rate of 14.03

In what was another incredible run fest at Centurion, South Africa brushed aside West Indies by six-wickets with a record-breaking run chase in the second T20I on Sunday (March 26).

Set an unrealistic target of 259 on a perfect batting surface with short boundaries, South Africa’s openers made a mockery of the assignment, racking up a century stand inside the PowerPlay itself. It was the sort of assault that West Indies were least expecting and the the Quinton de Kock-Reeza Hendricks partnership did it with minimum fuss, using the pristine conditions to the fullest.

By the time the stand was broken, the chase seemed to be a formality of sorts, considering the hosts’ firepower in the middle order and despite losing a few wickets in the middle overs, skipper Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen got the job done with seven balls to spare.

The freak batting show from the Proteas overshadowed West Indies’ unreal batting performance earlier in the game, with the visitors posting their highest-ever total in the shortest format of the game. It was an exhibition of brutal power-hitting, led by Johnson Charles who smashed the joint-second fastest century of all time.

He got good support from the others, notably Romario Shepherd and skipper Rovman Powell as the South African bowlers were taken to the cleaners. Only Kagiso Rabada managed to withstand the onslaught to some extent but even he went at over 10 runs-per-over.

At the halfway stage, it seemed like West Indies had closed the door on this series but South Africa led by de Kock broke that open with a historic batting effort. A total of 46 boundaries and 35 sixes were hit in this mind-boggling contest.

The final game of the series will be played at The Wanderers, Johannesburg on Tuesday (March 26).

Brief scores:

South Africa 259/4 in 18.5 overs (Qintotn de Kock 100, Reeza Hendricks 68, Aiden Markram 38*) beat West Indies 258/5 in 20 overs (Charles 118, Mayers 51, Shepherd 41*) by six wickets

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Spinners, Sciver-Brunt guide Mumbai Indians women to WPL title

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Mumbai Indians were crowned the inaugural champions of the Women’s Premier League after a tense, low-scoring final at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai. In a nervy title clash between the two best teams of the competition, it was the experience of Nat Sciver-Brunt that helped Mumbai get across the line, the star all-rounder following up her Eliminator blitz with a more measured knock of 60* off 55 balls. Sciver-Brunt’s half-century and her crucial partnership of 72 with Harmanpreet Kaur (37) came after an excellent bowling performance, particularly from Hayley Matthews and Melie Kerr, that restricted the Delhi Capitals to a modest total of 131.

Brief scores:

Delhi Capitals women 131/9 in 20 overs (Meg Lanning 35, Radha Yadav 27*; Hayley Matthews 3-5, Issy Wong 3-42, Melie Kerr 2-18) lost to Mumbai Indians women 134/3 in 19.3 overs (Nat Sciver-Brunt 60*, Harmanpreet Kaur 37; Radha Yadav 1-24) by seven wickets.

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Where have all the mystery bowlers gone? 

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by Rex Clementine 

It’s been a while since a mystery Sri Lankan spinner bamboozled the opposition batsmen. Not just batsmen but coaches went on a frenzy decoding these bowlers while Times of India and Daily Telegraph dedicated headlines praising how well Sri Lanka groomed these sensational talents.

Ajantha Mendis was the last global sensation with bit of mystery as his carrom ball humbled India’s fabulous batting line-up comprising Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly. After him T. M. Dilshan opening the batting with field restrictions on came up with a scoop shot over the head of the wicketkeeper that later became popular as Dilscoop.

Not exactly mystery but Sri Lanka promoting unorthodox style of play totally contrary to the coaching manual had been appreciated and encouraged. Not just Dilshan and Mendis but Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya all broke convention and were extremely successful.

Credit to selectors and captains for encouraging these natural talents and more importantly for the coaches, especially at lower levels, for not sidelining them for being different.

Mendis and Malinga weren’t hits at school cricket and they were more or less groomed after they left school. But Jayasuriya and Murali were entirely different. Thankfully their early coaches did not tinker too much with their style.

Coaches nowadays are too engaged in the sport. They roam around the boundary rope providing ball by ball instructions making the captain redundant. Imagine how much impact they’d be having on players at training and there’s little room for creativity.

Cricket Academies are mushrooming as well with little monitoring done and you sense that not many players with unorthodox style are going to be accepted and as a result succeed. There are few rare talents with unorthodox styles. Some bowlers have copied Lasith Malinga and Matheesha Pathirana has earned an IPL deal even before he’s become a permanent fixture in the Sri Lankan side.

Paul Adams earned a nickname ‘frog in the blender’ for his action  and anyone who sees Sri Lankan spinner Kevin Koththigoda from down south will remember the South African wrist spinner.

Funnily Richmond College, Galle seem to be nurturing these special talents and Kamindu Mendis is another player who can  make a big impact. He’s nowadays mostly in the Test squad and nearly featured in the second Test in Wellington. He’s there in the team for his batting but he’s ambidextrous and bowls both left-arm spin and off-spin with good accuracy. That makes him an ideal candidate for shorter formats of the game and that’s where he should perhaps focus more at succeeding.

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