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Our fans were our biggest strength 

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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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When failures boast of success

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by Rex Clementine

Former Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, lamenting the sorry state of Sri Lankan cricket, has recalled how the game was run during his tenure as Sports Minister in 2014. His boastful claims reminded us how disastrous his tenure as the Sports Minister was.

One of the first things that Mahindananda did soon after assuming duties as Sports Minister was to pack the Cricket Board with his Royal College buddies – Eshana de Silva and Sarinda Unamboowe.

Aluthgamage has a remarkable ability to handpick square pegs for round holes.

SLC constructed a brand-new cricket stadium and extensively refurbished two other grounds ahead of the 2011 World Cup while Aluthgamage was the Sports Minister. Questions were raised over the manner in which funds were spent on those constructions. There were calls for a probe. Curiously, they fell on deaf ears. The computer hard disks at SLC went missing under mysterious circumstances. Mahindananda did not take action against SLC, for the Cricket Board was full of his or his political master’s buddies.

Mahindananda has bragged that during his tenure as the Sports Minister the national cricket team was ranked number two. If not for his unnecessary meddling with running of the sport, Sri Lanka could have gone on to become number one. Don’t believe us. Ask the then captain Kumar Sangakkara, who at one point claimed that Mahindananda was all out to discredit his reputation.

The then Head Coach Trevor Bayliss was known for maintaining a very low profile but not even he could help exposing serious deficiencies in the game, and publicly wished cricket administration were without political interference. Mahindananda was like a cat on a hot tin roof at that point. But a majority of Sri Lankans agreed with Bayliss’ well-observed comments.

Bayliss was replaced by Geoff Marsh, a fine sportsman and a coach who had the rare distinction of winning both the Ashes and the World Cup, first as a player then as a coach.  The Island covered both his assignments in UAE against Pakistan and the tour of South Africa in 2011. The way he developed the team, especially the young players, was quite remarkable,

South Africa is such a hard place to compete in. Usually, Sri Lankan teams would lose there, inside three days, mostly by an innings or other heavy margins. But Marsh made a complete turn-around and Sri Lanka won the Boxing Day Test match in Durban. The press hailed Marsh as the man who could bring back the glory days of Sri Lankan cricket. At the end of the tour, Mahindananda did something nobody expected. Guess what. He had Marsh sacked! The tough Aussie proved he was made of sterner stuff; he successfully sued SLC, which had to pay him a hefty amount by way of compensation. All this happened while Mahindananda was the Sports Minister.

Don’t forget that during Mahindananda’s tenure as the Sports Minister, Sri Lanka Cricket went bankrupt; it could not even pay players, coaches, employees and contractors so much so that the government had to bail it out. Thus, Mahindananda’s excesses became a burden on the poor taxpayer.

More recently, Mahindananda did what he is adept at—having egg on his face. He claimed that the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup had been fixed. The players were up in arms and wanted their names cleared.  It was a great game of cricket and the better team on that day – India – won. The ICC issuing a statement said that it had no reason to believe that the 2011 final was corrupt.  ICC Anti-Corruption chief Alex Marshall also refuted claims that Mahindananda had reported his suspicions to the ICC in 2011. A bull in a China shop is less troublesome than Mahindananda.

All in all, Mahindananda’s five-year tenure as Minister of Sports was a disaster. It is laughable that he is now offering unsolicited advice to SLC, which is at least a democratically-elected body. While he was the Sports Minister, his cronies were going places, and corruption and waste were rampant at SLC. Officials were spending money like drunken sailors hitting town. No wonder the board went bankrupt.

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Golden point and Crusaders scrape through in week 7

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by Rajitha Ratwatte

The Otago Highlanders after their record-breaking win over the Crusaders who looked unbeatable up to that point in the season, were up against the Waikato Chiefs who also seemed to have turned their season around after beating the Wellington Hurricanes. However, the chiefs were without their captain and All Blacks captain Sam Cane, who is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. It was going to be an even contest and a keenly fought match was expected.

15 minutes into the game the sides were inseparable with the score line reading 13 each. In the 15th minute a penalty awarded to the Chiefs, right in front of the posts saw Damien Mackenzie make no mistake and the Chiefs crept ahead 13 – 16. The next 45 minutes saw no change in the score line and typical robust forward play and strong unshakable defence from both sides. It was only in the 60th minute that the Chiefs were able to finish a number of phases and scramble over the line, close enough to the posts to enable 7 points 13 – 23. In the 69th minute, Josh Ioane one of the “bad boys” from last week (dropped with 7 others for breaches of discipline) joined the line and spotted a gap to go over the line mid left of the posts. He converted himself and the score line was 20 -23 Highlanders catching up. 4 minutes from the scheduled close, the ‘Landers completed the catch up thanks to a simple penalty and the score was even Stevens at 23 all with two minutes to go. The Chiefs were awarded a penalty on the 50-meter line at the full-time hooter and Damian Mackenzie stepped up, but his kicking record particularly over long distances was not convincing enough to leave the die hard ‘Landers fans, without hope. Sure enough he missed and we were in to the Golden Point, extra time for the first time in Aotearoa super rugby 2021.

Golden point is when the game is restarted with another toss and played for 10 minutes and whoever scores first wins. If no one scores the match is declared a draw. Highlanders skipper Aaron Smith won the toss and picked the side of the field that he wanted to start from. Two minutes into the golden point, the Chiefs line out was penalised for jumping early. Since this was only a free kick the ‘Landers called for a scrum, it was a good attacking position on the opposition 22-meter line. The ball was won and passed straight into the pocket with Josh Ioane well positioned for a drop goal. Josh Ioane would have celebrated his comeback in style if he managed to convert this drop goal attempt, but it was not to be. Four minutes into extra time Anton Lennert- Brown that hard working All Blacks and Waikato center three-quarter showed us that backs can also play like forwards by supporting his own weight over the ball and securing a vital penalty off a ruck. It was around 37 meters out and straight in front of the posts. This was the extreme limit of the range that the diminutive Damien Mackenzie could achieve. He stepped up and the X factor that exceptional players are able to call on when the going gets tough, must have played a part in the kick sailing over the middle of the posts and securing a desperately needed win for the Waikato Chiefs 23 – 26.

Sunday afternoons game was Wellington Hurricanes against the Crusaders. Wellington playing at home and 19-year-old schoolboy, Rueben Love making his debut at no10. Aardie Savea was wearing the no 7 jersey for this game. Joe Moody who mans the loose head slot for the All Blacks and Crusaders was playing his 100th game and auctioning his jersey after the game in aid of prostate cancer. He lost his father to this disease around 10 months ago.

The debutant Rueben Love got off to a great start picking up the ball inside his 10-meter line and making a great run and a chip kick that took the ball into the crusaders’ 22. Two minutes into the game the ‘Canes got themselves a penalty around 50 meters out and in front of the posts. Usually, meat and drink for Jordie Barret but he was kicking into what Ian Smith (tongue in cheek) described as a breeze. There is never a breeze in Wellington, it is either a force 10 gale or a typhoon! Jordie missed, no addition to the score. Ten minutes into the game the Crusaders conceded another much easier penalty around 28 meters out and in front. J. Barret was not going to miss that, and the Hurricanes went into a 3 – 0 lead. The Crusader retaliation came just two minutes later when George Bridge, that great finisher powered his way over the line but seemed to be held up until Ngani Laumape of the “canes dived on top of the players and allowed the ball to be grounded. Laumape displayed a weakness that some Pacific island players have in relying on brute force when rugby union is really about finesse. 3 – 7 and Crusaders leading. In the 23rd minute George Bridge went over again for a try in the extreme left corner and Mo’uanga converted brilliantly, 3 -14. Meanwhile the “canes got out of jail” with a penalty reversal coming off a captains challenge and what would have been a gifted 3 points to the crusaders, turned into a clearing kick due to a high tackle that had been missed by the ref. A great example of the new trial rule working to perfection. Meanwhile lineout throws from both teams were not working and turnovers from lineouts were rife. Wild passes and handling errors from the Crusaders continued, at one stage Crusaders handling errors were 5 to nothing from the Canes. The mighty Crusaders pack was losing scrums and conceding penalties. Big trouble in the workings of the juggernaut. The 27th minute saw some great tireless forward play from Dan Coles the Hurricanes hooker, he got involved in three phases of play out of sseven and finally got a great pass off to Laumape who powered his way over the line for a 7 pointer. 10 – 14 Crusaders still in front.

At this point in the game there was a flurry of scoring. First the Crusaders clawed three points straight back with a simple penalty and went back into a seven-point lead. 10 -17. Straight off the resumption, the younger Savea brother, Julian sprinted down the right touch line and scored for the ‘Canes. Jordie Barret kicking into the wind from the extreme right of the field was able to bring the ball back and send it between the posts. Score’s level 17 all. Mo’uanga showed his absolute brilliance with a beautiful chip kick after drawing the defence and sent Seevu Reece (the leaping prawn) away. However, Reece was pinged for foul play and the Hurricanes got out of jail again! It was almost half time, and the Hurricanes got a 60-meter penalty but chose to kick for touch as they were kicking into the wind and even Jordie Barret may have found this difficult. However, they gained good touch and got over the line but were unable to ground the ball.

At this stage we had an incident that has begun to typify the way the Crusaders play. Highly unnecessary for a side with so much talent and ability. Scott Barret the Crusaders captain raised a captain’s challenge (the half time hooter had gone) and got the ref to review an incident when Ngani Laumape displaying the aforesaid unnecessary force that is his penchant, kneed a player on the ground. Now in the “bad old days” when rugby was still a man’s game such incidents when missed by the ref, were duly noted and referred to the “hit men” of the team and revenge extracted at an opportune moment. However now, and especially the Crusaders cry out in anguish to the referees, throw in some acting skills and usually get a yellow card or even a red card against their opponents. The ref duly obliged (yellow card) with a faint air of embarrassment, that I could relate to, and this meant the Hurricanes would start the second half one man down.

Second half started with scores level and the Wellington team playing with the wind at their backs, this would obviously add range to the already massive kicks of the youngest Barret brother. Two minutes into the second half Aardie Savea made a great break off the back of the scrum (he played no 8 although he was wearing the no7 jersey) and sent his no 9 Brent Hall away who then passed to Westhuizen on the left wing who scored. Jordie Barret converted with another brilliant kick and the score line was 24 -17, ‘Canes in the lead. Aardie Savea seemed to have taken a big knock on his knee but soldiered on and continued to make a huge difference to the Hurricanes loose play. The Crusaders went into full attack mode and usually when they do this, they are clinical and perfect and invariably score. However, basic mistakes, pinged for obstruction, conceding scrum penalties and chip kicks going astray led to the Hurricanes not conceding points. The Crusaders were unable to score with the opposition one man down and in fact the opposition scored! Maybe the rugby God’s are still able to have their way! In the 55th minute the entire Hurricanes side was pinged for not bothering to get onside off a kick from their full back. It was a huge booming kick from Jordie Barret and the fact that the Hurricanes players did not wait for him to put them on side would have made little difference to the game, but we are told the referees have been asked to crack down on this infringement. The resulting penalty was easily converted by Mo’uanga. 24 -20 but the home side still ahead. Another penalty this time for the ‘Canes, around 30 meters out posed no problem for Jordie Barret and with those 3 points he became the highest points scorer for the tournament (overtaking Ritchie Mo’uanga) to date and took his team to a 27 – 20 lead.

At this point two players who had been playing their hearts out for the Wellington team, skipper Aardie Savea and hooker Dan Coles were subbed off the field. This proved costly but would have been necessary as a man can only do so much! 63 minutes into the game the Crusaders strung together seven phases of play and Seevu Reece went over the line from what initially looked like a forward pass but was later cleared by the TV ref. scores level once again 27 all. 71 minutes into the game, the Hurricanes got a penalty 63 meters out but Jordie Barret was kicking with the wind behind him, and the crowd was chanting JORDIE< JORDIE and left their team with no choice but to take the kick. Aardie Savea was moving his lips in prayer from the sidelines. Jordie missed but it was not due to lack of distance! two minutes from the end Ritchie Mo’uanga tried a drop goal and missed, scores level at full time and two golden point games in succession.

This is where superior coaching and complete coaching comes to the fore. The acting Hurricanes skipper looked lost with the decisions he had to make when he won the toss and the Crusaders pulled off a great one- two trick with Ritchie Mo’uanga who usually takes drop goals running with the ball and getting involved in a ruck and making the Hurricanes defence think that the danger of a drop goal was non-existent, only to have David Havili kick a drop goal from acting first receiver. All over red rover, with just two minutes into extra time.

The Crusaders did win but they should be rather worried because the usually well-oiled juggernaut is not functioning the way it should.

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Caniston, Yasiru post big ninth wicket stand

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Under-19 Cricket

by Reemus Fernando

A captain’s knock Pavan Ratnayake for Mahanama and a ninth wicket stand of 103 runs between Yasiru Rodrigo and Caniston Gunaratnam for S. Thomas’ were the highlights in the traditional matches which commenced on Sunday.

Rodrigo and Gunaratnam posted the big stand as S. Thomas’ batted the entire first day to post 344 runs against St. Joseph’s in the Gilmore Jayasuriya Trophy encounter which commenced at Darley Road on Sunday.

At stumps Rodrigo was unbeaten on 97 (152 balls) after having scored six fours and five sixes. The nineth wicket stand came off 122 balls.

Pavan Ratnayake played the main anchor role once again as he helped Mahanama post 169 runs. Ratnayake batted for more than two hours and his knock of 81 runs (in 130 balls) was inclusive of six fours and three sixes.

Match Results

S. Thomas’ V St. Joseph’s at Darley Road

S. Thomas’ 344 for 9 in 103 overs

(Anuk Palihawadena 54, Ryan Fernando 71, Thenuka Liyanage 36, Yasiru Rodrigo 97 n.o., Gunaratnam Caniston 53; Dunith Wellalage 3/111, Shenuka de Silva 2/12)

Mahanama V St. Anne’s at Kurunegala

Mahanama 169 all out in 71.2 overs

(Sadishan Chamodya 22, Pavan Rathnayake 81, Sachira Weliwatta 23; Pasindu Tennakoon 4/51, Manaan Muzammil 2/49, Kalindu Wijesinghe 2/28)

St. Anne’s 79 for 1 in 25.3 overs

(Dilhara Deshabandu 35n.o., Kavindu Ekanayake 29n.o.)

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