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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.

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First sprinter to run 100m in under 10 seconds dies




Jim Hines held the world record in the men's 100m for nearly 15 years (pic BBC)

US sprinter Jim Hines, the first man to run the 100m in under 10 seconds, has died at the age of 76.

He broke the record in 1968 when he recorded a hand-timed 9.9 seconds at the US Championships. Hines then broke his own record shortly after while winning gold at the 1968 Olympics, where an electronic timer in Mexico City recorded him at 9.95. His record held for nearly 15 years until Calvin Smith ran a time of 9.93 in 1983.

That is the longest length of time an athlete has held the record for the men’s 100m since the International Amateur Athletic Foundation began keeping track – 110 years ago.

His death was announced in a statement by World Athletics. The organisation said it is “deeply saddened” by the news. Both the Olympics and USA Track and Field shared tributes to Hines on Twitter. “The sport has lost a legend,” USA Track and Field said.

Hines was born in the state of Arkansas in 1946 but was raised in Oakland, California.

He had an early love of sport, namely baseball, but showed a real talent for sprinting as a teenager. He attended Texas Southern University where he ran for the Tigers track team before competing in national championships and the Olympics.

In addition to winning the 100m at the Mexico Olympics, he was also part of the US 4x100m relay team which won a gold.

He ended his sprinting career shortly after the Olympics and joined the NFL. He spent three years in the league, playing for the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs.

(BBC Sports)

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Silverwood promises to address dot ball issue



Rex Clementine
at Suriyawewa

Leading up to the World Cup Qualifiers starting in less than two weeks’ time in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Chris Silverwood promised to address the team’s dot-ball woes.

In the first ODI against Afghanistan which the hosts lost by six wickets here on Friday, there were 158 dot balls with the batters struggling to rotate the strike. That is a huge amount coming up to more than 25 overs. Although the number was cut down to 128 in the second game, Sri Lanka would like to do better than that.

“The dot ball issue is something that we are addressing. A lot of people are talking about it I know. We need to rotate the strike better and put the pressure back on the bowlers. The boundary percentage went up in the last game. Getting a balance between the two will help us to score above 300,” Silverwood told journalists.

Silverwood, the former England Head Coach, also welcomed the return of seniors Angelo Mathews and Dimuth Karunaratne back into the side bringing more stability to the batting unit. Mathews was left out for game two, but that appears to be part of the team’s strategy to give everyone in the squad a go.

“Angelo was brought into the squad to boost the batting lineup and bring confidence into the side. He has experience of playing big matches. The fact is we must prepare the whole squad to cover ourselves to face any situation.

“Dimuth is making a comeback into the ODI side and he played superbly. He had a good Test series against Ireland. His tempo is very good. He gave us something to build on. The openers added 80 plus for the first wicket. Every partnership after that was scored at less than run a ball. It shows what we can do when we have a good start,” noted Silverwood.

Dhananjaya de Silva came up with a match-winning effort in the second game bowling his off-spin so well picking up three wickets that included the prize scalp of Ibrahim Zadran and earlier his less than run a ball 29 had helped Sri Lanka to a match-winning total of 323 for six.

“Dhananjaya is at six and has to adapt to situations whether it be setting a target or chasing one. The first game he played a superb inning. Today we saw him capitalizing after we had a great start. He kept the momentum going. Obviously scored quickly which is exactly what we need to get over 300. We want to keep pushing the barriers. When it comes to his bowling, he has been threatening to do it for a while.”

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Tharushi dazzles with two golds



Sri Lanka’s mixed relay team with their medals. (from left) Jayeshi Uththara, Tharushi Karunaratne, Susantha Fernando (coach and manager), Shehan Dilranga and Vinod Ariyawansa.

Asian Junior Athletics Championship

by Reemus Fernando

Ratnayake Central, Walala runner Tharushi Karunaratne won back to back gold medals as Sri Lanka reaped a haul of three medals on day two of the Asian Junior Athletics Championships in South Korea on Monday.

Karunaratne won the gold medal in the women’s 800 metres before running the vital anchor leg for her team to clinch gold ahead of strong Indian and hosts’ teams in the 4×400 metres mixed relay.

Gold medals Sri Lanka won yesterday were its eighth and ninth since the commencement of the biennial championship in 1986.

Competing in her pet event, Karunaratne was hardly challenged as she led from the first 100 metres to finish in a time of 2:05.64 seconds. Karunaratne, had set an Asian (junior) leading time just outside the current national record to earn her ticket to the event in South Korea. “I am really proud of her achievement. I was not expecting her to run close to her personal best as she had given her best in the 400 metres,” Susantha Fernando her coach told The Island after she clinched her first gold. She won the silver medal of the 400 metres on Sunday.

In the mixed relay she started in the third position but when the Indian counterpart who had won the gold in the 400 metres individual event tumbled at the start she grabbed the opportunity to fight for the first place and there was no turning back for her from there on. Jayeshi Uththara who won the 400 metres bronze, Shehan Dilranga and Vinod Ariyawansa were the others to form the mixed relay team.

She finished in a new Sri Lanka record time of 3:25.41 seconds. She was also a member of the team that had set the previous national record at the World Junior Championships. While the country’s senior athletes are yet to run the mixed relay at an international event, the junior athletes’ performances had been considered as National Records.

Kahawatta Central triple jumper Malith Yasiru was the other medallist of the day. Yasiru cleared 15.82 metres, seven centimeters shy of his personal best, to win the bronze ahead of India’s Sukhpreet Singh. Japan’s Miyao Manato who was the only athlete to clear the 16 metres mark (16.08m) and China’s Ma Yinglong (15.98m) won the gold and silver medals respectively.

With the two gold medals won yesterday the country has nine gold medals against her name at these championships now. Sri Lanka’s first gold medals of these championships were won by Damayathi Dharsha (100m) and Susanthika Jayasinghe (200m) in Jakarta Indonesia in 1994. The country had to wait till 2012 when it hosted the event in Colombo to witness the next gold. Dulaj Madusanka and Shivanthi Kumari Ratnayake won golds in the men’s and women’s 400 metres at the Sugathadasa Stadium while also anchoring the 4×400 metres relay teams to bronze and silver.

At the last edition in Gifu, Japan the country won three golds with Aruna Dharshana winning the men’s 400 metres with a championship record time of 45.79 seconds. Dharshana also ran a vital leg to win the 4×400 metres gold. The other gold came in the women’s 3000 metres steeplechase when Parami Wasanthi clocked a National Junior Record time of 10:21.54 seconds to win.

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