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Our fans were our biggest strength 



World Cup Winning captain relives the nation’s greatest sporting moment

by Arjuna Ranatunga  

During one of my visits to South Africa, I came across an interesting saying — ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.’ 

This sentence is so true. As we celebrate the Silver Jubilee of us winning the World Cup, we owe the success to our wonderful team spirit. I treat each of the other 13 members of the World Cup-winning squad not as teammates, but as brothers. They mean so much to me. And I know they will do anything for me. This was the secret of our success.  

I experienced the value of team spirit during the semi-final against India in Kolkata. It was hard for the 110,000 Indian fans to witness their team crashing out of the World Cup. As stones and bottles were hurled on to the ground, Upul Chandana, on as substitute for Roshan Mahanama, came up to me and asked for Aravinda to be relieved from boundary duties. Ara was fielding in the deep and Upul warned me that if a stone hit Ara and hurt him, he would be in doubt for the final.  Instead, Upul said, he’d field in the deep. That was a very touching moment. This was more than a team.  

During that campaign, there were occasions when I wanted to change the team. But some young players would come for a chat and tell me not to change the winning combination. That camaraderie will be very hard to find in any other sporting environment.   

Our biggest strength was our fans. During good times and tough times, they were there with us. I remember when I ran into problems with the cricket board, how well the fans supported me. The same goes for other players. Whenever they were going through a rough patch, the fans were well behind them, giving all the support. That’s why it hurts me to see the national team playing behind closed doors in these unprecedented times.  

I know when we play big tournaments; our fans conduct ‘bodi pujas’. Others go to churches, kovils and mosques to invoke blessings for us. This goodwill from our supporters and their best wishes help us immensely always.  

Never have I doubted the skill levels of our players. Our talent has been on par with the rest of the world, if not better than other countries. Personally, I was someone who was always tough mentally.  But I could see that the rest of my team-mates toughened up during our tour of Australia just prior to the World Cup.  

I remember the day before the World Cup final. An Indian journalist came up to me and said I must transfer pressure back on the Australian players. He wanted me to say something uncomplimentary about the opposition so that would distract them. I saw the point. I knew the Aussies were good at sledging but when you say something back, they don’t like it. They tend to react aggressively and at times lose it.   

So, before the final, Ravi Shastri interviewed me. He asked me about the Waugh twins. I told him they were overrated. Then he asked me about Shane Warne. I said Warne was a media myth. Now, these are all very fine cricketers. But that was my way of getting under their skin. It worked. Ian Chappell told me that when he went to interview Warne after Ravi had done mine, Warne had asked him, ‘What did that fat b****** have to tell about me now?’ Mission accomplished. 

I also know that one of the things that really irritated the Aussies was when I walked those singles. So I made sure I walked as much as possible. Sometimes, they would try to run me out and there would be overthrows. Then, I would sprint hard for those extra runs just to rub salt into their wounds.  

It is very important in sport to pay attention to minute details. The day before the final, Duleep (Mendis, the manager) and I visited the ground at night without telling anyone. We were surprised to see the amount of dew that night. We knew dew was going to be a factor the following evening.  

At the team meeting the next morning, we decided to bowl first if we won the toss. Not everyone agreed, but we explained our reasons for wanting to do so.  

As I walked out for the toss on match day, I ran into Imran Khan. Now, Imran is from Lahore, and knows this venue as well as anyone. He asked me what I intended to do if I won the toss, and I said I had decided to bowl. He told me not to be silly, urging me to set a target as this was a fine batting track. Aravinda overheard the conversation and tried to persuade me to bat first. I was in a dilemma. Imran was not only from Lahore but he was also the last captain to win a World Cup. I also have immense respect for the man. So I consulted Duleep. 

Duleep is someone who respected Imran as well, so he would have had his second thoughts. But we came back to that one point – the dew in the night, which was very unusual at that time of the year. So we decided to stick to our original decision as we knew our bowlers would struggle in the night with a wet ball. Not often would I have disagreed with Imran. But sometimes, as a leader, you have got to back your instincts although that’s not the most popular choice.  

I would be failing in my duties if I don’t recall the role played by the late Gamini Dissanayake in our success. He was a visionary and much ahead of his time. I remember going to meet him just before a tour of Zimbabwe, and he reminded me to get the combination right as the World Cup was around the corner. That, unfortunately, was our last meeting as he was killed shortly after that. It’s so sad he didn’t live to see us win the World Cup.  

His death was a massive blow for the game of cricket, but an even bigger setback for the whole nation. He was an astute statesman who loved his country immensely.  

There are others I would like to remember like Neil Perera, Nisal Senaratne, Abu Fuard, Major General Heyn, WAN Silva, Ranjit Fernando, Anuruddha Pollonovita and T.B. Khelgamuwa, all honourable men who did much for our cricket in the early days when there was no money. More recently, we have had far-sighted administrators like Ana Punchihewa and Upali Dharmadasa.  

I was lucky to be the captain when we won the World Cup and enjoyed success, but this fortress of our cricket was built by men like Mahadevan Sathasivam, C.H. Gunasekara, Michael Tissera, Anura Tennekoon and Bandula Warnapura, to name a few. Thanks to them, we enjoyed this success.  

I appreciate the efforts of my parents in giving me the right values in life. I thank the contributions of my coach sir Lionel Mendis. I am always indebted to my school Ananda College and all the teachers of this great institution. I thank the parents of rest of my team mates, their coaches, teachers and their schools for giving them the right values in life.

I would like to also remember with gratitude the role played by our coach Dav Whatmore, our physio Alex Kountouris and Duleep.  

Do bear with me if I have inadvertently missed out any names.


Under 19 Division III cricket tournament to be concluded after schools reopen



The knockout stage matches of the Under-19 Division III cricket tournament will be played only after the schools reopen, the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) said.

The SLSCA managed to conclude the Under-19 Division I and II tournaments before the third wave of the Covid 19 pandemic forced cancellation of all public events. But the Division III tournament largely consisting of outstation and up and coming schools was stranded at the quarter-final stage as the schools were closed due to the third wave of Covid 19.

The Sri Lanka Cricket conducted Under-19 Inter Provincial Tournament too was postponed due to the third wave of the pandemic.

Nishantha Kumara, the Under-19 tournament secretary of the SLSCA said that the Division III Level one and two tournaments will be concluded after schools reopen.

He said that there were no health issues emanating from the concluded phase of the tournament as the matches were conducted according to guidelines stipulated by health authorities.

“We were able to conclude the Division I and II tournaments successfully as all schools, players and parents of players and match officials cooperated well to conduct the tournament according to guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education,” said Nishantha.

“We will try our best to conclude the Division III tournament in a similar manner after normalcy returns,” said Nishantha.

Meanwhile player registrations for the Under-15 and 17 tournaments is now on. The SLSCA has introduced an online registration method for the schools to register their players for various age category tournaments.

“We invited officials from schools to introduce the system before hand and now those officials nominated by the respective schools are conducting the registrations online successfully. We are requesting all schools to conclude the registration process. So that we can commence tournaments when the authorities grant permission,” an official of the SLSCA said.

The SLSCA conducted the Under-19 tournament as a curtailed limited overs tournament after the Ministry of Education granted permission to hold events within a short period of time from March to April. Generally the Under-19 tournament commences in September and concludes in April with matches of two innings format (of two-days of duration) being played in a league tournament.

Schools cricket tournaments remained suspended for a year from March 2020 due to the pandemic. (RF)

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Karunaratne closes in on top 10 of ICC Men’s Test Player Rankings



Dimuth Karunaratne has closed in on a top-10 spot in the ICC Men’s Test Player Rankings after a successful second Test against Bangladesh in Kandy which Sri Lanka won by 209 runs to clinch the two-match series 1-0.

The opening batsman struck 118 and 66, moving up four slots to 11th position in the list led by New Zealand captain Kane Williamson. Karunaratne’s career-best ranking is sixth, attained in August 2019. He is the top-ranked Test batsman from Sri Lanka with Angelo Mathews next in the list in 24th position.

Niroshan Dickwella (up four places to 31st), Oshada Fernando (up 10 places to 58th) and Lahiru Thirimanne (up 13 places to 60th) are the other Sri Lanka batsmen to advance while left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama’s player of the match haul of 11 for 178, the best figures by a Sri Lankan on Test debut, sees him enter the rankings in 48th position.

Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal’s knocks of 92 and 24 have helped him gain three places to reach 27th position while Mushfiqur Rahim and captain Mominul Haque have inched up a slot each to reach 21st and 30th positions, respectively, in the latest men’s weekly update that includes the first Test between Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

Pakistan fast bowler Hasan Ali’s haul of nine for 89 in the first Test against Zimbabwe in Harare not only won him the player of the match award for starring in the innings victory but also enabled him to gain 15 slots and reach a career-best 20th position among bowlers.

Left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Afridi (up two places to 31st) and left-arm spinner Nauman Ali (up 12 places to 54th) have also advanced in the list for bowlers while left-handed batsman Fawad Alam continues his fine run, moving up 31 places to a career-best 47th position after scoring 140, his fourth century in 10 Test matches. Abid Ali is up six places to 78th position. 

For Zimbabwe, Regis Chakabva has gained two slots to reach 97th position while fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani has progressed 26 slots to reach 55th position with figures of four for 73.


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The story of Devapathiraja’s rise to glory



by Reemus Fernando

When the Devapathiraja team visited Colombo for the knockout stage matches of the just concluded Under-19 Division I tournament Lumbini and Wesley generously provided free lodgings for the team. When they host teams, Richmond come to their rescue providing accommodation for the visiting teams. Foundation of Goodness has been providing them team kits. Except the umpire fees, all their other expenses on cricket are met by the cricketers’ not so well to do parents. Their coach had done a voluntary job for a better part of the last two decades. In return, Devapathiraja College, Ratgama boxing their way up in the country’s schools cricket rankings have not disappointed.

When schools with over 100 years of rich cricket history and substantial funds to nurture the sport struggle in lower divisions in the premier Under-19 cricket tournament, Devapathiraja, a little known entity at the start of the millennium, have improved by leaps and bounds during the last two decades. Their latest achievement was reaching the final of the just concluded Under-19 Division I Tier ‘B’ cricket tournament.

Devapathiraja were the babies of the Tier ‘B’ of the Division I tournament inclusive of power houses of cricket namely Ananda College, Thurstan College and St. Peter’s College from Colombo and strongholds of Southern Province, Mahinda, St. Servatius’, St. Aloysius’ and Dharmasoka. Against many odds Devapathiraja reached the final. After being bowled out for a low score they made Mahinda College, Galle toil hard for victory.

Devapathiraja started playing cricket when their current coach Ranjan Lasantha de Silva was a student at the school. Many schools started playing hard ball cricket following the 1996 World Cup win. Ranjan, like the rest of the youth of his era was craving to play cricket. Unfortunately there was no cricket team or facilities for the sport at the school. He requested in writing that cricket be started at his school. Fortunately the principal, late T.A.C.N. Gunasekara had come from a cricket playing school (Revata College) and facilitated the start. Like the majority of schools which started playing cricket after 1996, the sport started with a Big Match against Sri Sumangala College, Hikkaduwa in 1997. But the sport did not really kick off until the correct combination of coach, Master in Charge and the sports loving youth got together a couple of years later.

With no previous coaching experience Ranjan after leaving school started training the school’s teams. By 1999 the school had started training all four age groups.

“I was influenced and helped by the likes of Tedlal Silva and Viraj Chaminda to pursue qualifications in coaching. So I did the Level I coaching course conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket. Also followed whatever other courses available to be qualified for the job. I must also thank former District Coach Lasith Chaminda and officials like, Jayananda Warnaweera for their support,” said Ranjan in an interview with The Island.

When cricket Devapathiraja commenced playing cricket they did not have a proper ground and the teams took refuge at the Ratgama Public ground. The school received a boost when Nishantha Kumara, who had the experience in running cricket at Neluwa National School received a transfer to Devapathiraja in 2000. He did all the necessary correspondence for all age group teams to play in Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association conducted tournaments and worked hand in hand with Ranjan until they were promoted to Division I.

Devapathiraja achieved their first breakthrough when they reached the final of the Under 19 Division III tournament in the 2013/14 season. They were the runners up to Debarawewa National School that season and earned the all important promotion to Division II the following year. It did not take too long for them to graduate from Division II to Division I.

“You have to play in the Division I category for your players to get recognition. Players in the lower divisions too are called for selection trials but it is highly unlikely for them to get the selectors’ nod. That realization compelled us to strive for Division I qualification,” said Ranjan.

However by the time they had reached the top Division they had already produced several cricketers to club level and one of their products, Tharindu Kaushal had played several Tests for Sri Lanka.

They were the Division II champions in the 2017/2018 season and commenced their Division I campaign in the 2018/19 season where they struggled but managed to avoid relegation.

Devapathiraja have done well in the lower age category tournaments as well and has produced players who have represented the Sri Lanka Schools Under-15 teams and National Youth Teams. Dilshan Kanchana, Umesh Mayurakantha, Pathum Madusanka, Raveen Yasas and Thikshila de Silva are among them.

According to Ranjan, cricket at Devapathiraja survives thanks to the contributions made by the cricketers’ parents who are not from well to do families. “The Schools Development Society provides umpire fees. But all other expenses are taken care of by cricketers’ parents. But there are others who help like the Foundation of Goodness which provides several scholarships for students and playing kits. Principal of Richmond College and the Masters in Charge of Cricket of both Mahinda and Richmond support us when we host teams. When we went to Colombo for the knockout stage matches Wesley College and Lumbini College provided lodging” said Ranjan.

Ranjan also appreciated the support given by the school’s Principal Sam Silva and current Master In Charge of Cricket Ranjith Kumbalathara.

Ranjan said that cricket at Devapathiraja has not only helped the national team find raw material but has also helped youth of the area to engage in sports in a meaningful way.

Devapathiraja Team:

Sudeera Weeraratne (Captain), Irushka Thimira, Dinitha Prabanka, Pawan Sandesh, Jeewaka Shasheen, Sasanka Nirmal, Tharindu Rukshan, Matheesha Saranga, Darshaka Sandeepa, Sandaru Theekshana, Chaminda Sandaruwan, Pathum Shaminda, Pradeep Rangana, Hiran Chamikara, Chanuka Sulakshana, Simash Dilunja.


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