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Murali gets involved in cricket after ten years  

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by Rex Clementine

Cricket’s most successful bowler – Muttiah Muralitharan retired from the game in 2011 and for ten years he had little involvement with Sri Lanka Cricket, although he offered his services elsewhere in the IPL and to the Australian Test team. With his appointment on Friday to the Cricket Committee headed by Aravinda de Silva that’s set to change.  

“To be honest, nobody asked me to get involved before. Namal called me and asked whether I can help. This is the first time someone has asked me whether I can be of some help.  I said if I am coming in, it had to be a good team and we have a very good one in Aravinda, Kumar Sangakkara and Roshan Mahanama,” Muralitharan told Sunday Island.

“Three guys have captained Sri Lanka with some guys playing in 1980s while someone like Sanga being modern having played till 2015. There’s a lot of experience. Whatever the suggestions we want to give the board, we will collectively discuss and put them forward. I don’t want to speak my mind out before we meet as a committee. I don’t have any favourties or enemies in the sport. We want to be fair to everybody.

“After 2015 everything is in shambles. We have to now play for qualifiers. We lose Test matches without any fight. Discipline has eroded. I have played and coached at the highest level and I know what we are missing,” Muralitharan remarked.  

There will be more clarity on the role of the Cricket Committee once they meet Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa next week. But it is believed that they will provide recommendations on cricket matters and one of their prime tasks is to restructure domestic cricket.

Many former players have spoken of the need to revamp domestic cricket but for four years no change has been done. The Provincial Tournament that was highly competitive at one point has not been regular and observers have remarked that the gap between international cricket and domestic cricket is too huge.



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Antigua; good, bad and the ugly

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By Rex Clementine

Antigua is one of the finest tourist attractions in the world with some 300 beaches to boast about. Although the Europeans pick Barbados as their favourite Caribbean destination, Antigua is equally good and slightly less expensive. Barbados only has a population of 250,000. Antigua is even less – 90,000 people. Barbados has produced the finest players from the Caribbean, from the Three Ws, Sir Garry Sobers, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and all the other stars. Antigua is less charming when it comes to cricketing talent but not bad when you consider Sir Viv Richards, Richie Richardson, Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose all emerged from this tiny island.

The Sri Lankan Cricket team is putting up at Pineapple Resort in Antigua not very far from Swetes where one Mrs. Hillie Ambrose ran out of the house and rang the street bells every time her son took a wicket in Test match cricket. The Sri Lankans played their inaugural Test match in the Caribbean in 1997 in Antigua. Mrs. Ambrose was a busy woman as she rang the bell eight times. This was fast bowling at its very best and Ambrose was named Man of the Match after finishing with eight wickets. The Sri Lankans had to put up with another menacing quick in Courtney Walsh, who left Hashan Tillekeratne with a broken arm.

That was at the old cricket ground – Recreation Ground at Antigua. It was a venue much loved by locals as some of the finest moments of their sporting history had come there. Located at the heart of the capital in St. John’s, the venue witnessed Brian Lara’s 375 and 400 not out, ten years apart. Only one thing didn’t change – the opposition. The West Indies used to love England attacks.

For the 2007 World Cup, cricket moved out of Recreation ground. The officials were saying that they were looking for a cricket only venue as at the old ground football and other sports had been played. But in reality, they seemed to be more worried about financial benefits a shift would bring.

The new ground has been named after Antigua’s famous sporting son – Sir Viv Richards.  The Sri Lankans will be based in Antigua for their entire stay in the Caribbean. While the ODIs and Tests will be played in Sir Viv Richards Stadium, the T-20 series will take place at Alan Stanford Stadium.

Alan Stanford at one point was a godsend to cricket. He signed a multimillion dollar deal with England and Wales Cricket Board for a series of T-20 games. ECB in 2008 thought Stanford was the best way to take on India’s IPL which had just started off.  In a publicity stunt, Stanford even flew to Lord’s in his private helicopter to sign the deal with England cricket bosses.

Stanford was based in Antigua but most of his businesses were in US. A few months after signing the ECB deal, he was charged by the FBI for financial fraud and currently he is serving a 110 year jail term. 

Some men who duped cricket’s guardians are in jail. Stanford is a case in point while others like Vijay Mallaya are having a hard time facing lengthy legal battles. Some others are still at large, particularly a few who frequent Colombo-7.  Their excesses are set to be exposed soon when COPE meets.

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Thewin, Pawan help Trinity as Gishan bags eight wickets  

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Under-19 cricket

by Reemus Fernando

 A laboured 44 runs by Thewin Amarasinghe in the first innings and an unbeaten 76 by Pawan Pathiraja helped Trinity avert defeat in the traditional Under-19 cricket encounter dominated by Royal at Reid Avenue on Friday. 

Royal declared their innings on the overnight score of 403 for two and spinner Gishan Balasooriya picked up five wickets to rattle the Trinity batting line up.  A painstaking 44 runs by Thewin Amarasinghe (in 155 balls) was the only highlight in Trinity’s first innings. 

Following on Pawan Pathiraja scored an unbeaten 76 (in 105 balls, 11x4s) as they reached 115 for six wickets when bad light forced an early end.  

Balasooriya was the pick of the bowlers as he collected a match bag of eight wickets. 

The match will be remebered for the record breaking partnership between Royal captain Ahan Wickramasinghe (210n.o.) and Sadeesha Rajapaksha (152n.o.). They broke the Royal record for the highest partnership held by Sumithra Waranakulasuriya and Ajith Dewasurendra when they put on an unbroken 362 runs stand for the third wicket against Trinity in 1981 which was won by Royal by an innings and 62 runs.   

Scores: 

Royal 403 for 2 in 98 overs

(Ahan Wickramasinghe 210n.o.,  Ashen Gamage 22, Sadeesha Rajapaksha 152n.o.)  

Trinity 133 all out in 62.3 overs

(Thewin Amarasinghe 44, Matheesha Pathirana 16, Ranuda Somaratne 16; Gishan Balasooriya 5/41, Kavindu Pathirathna 2/18) and 115 for 6 in 32 overs (Pawan Pathiraja 76n.o.; Prashan Kalhara 2/29, Gishan Balasooriya 3/44) 

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Dhananjaya returns for West Indies Tests  

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By Rex Clementine

Stylish Dhananjaya de Silva’s calm presence in the middle order had brought so much assurance to the Sri Lankan batting in recent times but he has been out of cricket for almost three months now after pulling a thigh muscle during the Boxing Day Test against South Africa at Centurion. De Silva was cruising on 79 when he attempted a run and pulled the muscle ruling him out of the series and the subsequent home Tests against England. His absence resulted in Sri Lanka struggling to balance the side.

The 29-year-old has been named in the 17 member squad that also includes Lahiru Thirimanne, who tested positive for COVID-19. Roshen Silva, Vishwa Fernando and Lasith Embuldeniya also have been named in the Test squad. All five players will fly to Antigua on Sunday via Doha and New York.

The selectors were contemplating of retaining an 18th player for the two match series. Lahiru Kumara had been named in the squad but he had to be withdrawn after testing positive for COVID. Sources said that either Nuwan Pradeep or Dilshan Maudhsanka could be retained as the additional player. However, no final decision had been made yet.

The players will have to go through 72 hours of quarantine in Antigua before being allowed to resume training.

All-rounder Dasun Shanaka will also travel to the Caribbean on Sunday but he will be taking an entirely different route – literally four flights. He will travel to Dubai from Colombo and will get connecting flights to Paris and St. Martin before reaching Antigua.

Shanaka was unable to get a US visa in time and was not able to be present in Antigua to lead the side. The all-rounder had lost his passport containing a valid US visa and the US High Commission in Colombo was investigating whether his previous visa had been used by someone else.

Sri Lanka will play three ODIs in Antigua prior to the two match Test series. All five games will be played at Sir Viv Richards Stadium. The T-20 series is being played at Alan Stanford Stadium, named after the Antiguan businessman who is currently serving a 110 year jail term in the United States for financial fraud.

Sri Lanka squad for West Indies Tests:

Dimuth Karunaratne (Captain), Niroshan Dickwella,  Angelo Mathews, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dinesh Chandimal, Dasun Shanaka, Dushmantha Chameera, Asitha Fernando, Ramesh Mendis, Pathum Nissanka, Oshada Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Lasith Embuldeniya, Vishwa Fernando, Roshen Silva and Suranga Lakmal.

 

 

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