by Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka have always relied on spin to win Test matches on home tracks but times have changed and Chairman of Selectors cum Manager of the national cricket team Ashantha De Mel conceded that it is time to switch to pace when Bangladesh tour the island for a three match Test series.
Sri Lanka have enjoyed overwhelming success against Bangladesh having won 16 of the 20 Tests between the countries and while on paper they definitely have an edge, the tourists are no more pushovers as they proved during the tour of 2017 when they won their maiden Test match against Sri Lanka. That loss eventually cost Graeme Ford his job.
It is sensible to rely on pace against Bangladesh as they have formidable spin options while Sri Lanka’s spinners – except maybe an aging Dilruwan Perera (38) – are raw.
“Our thinking is to beat them with pace. It’s not definitely going to be spin. Bangladesh have a decent spin attack whereas we have a very good set of fast bowlers. So it’s sensible to stick to our strength. We might keep about five quicks in the squad. That is what the coaches are thinking,” De Mel told Sunday Island.
A pool of 23 players will start training next week (on Thursday) after a much needed break following the conclusion of the domestic season. De Mel singled out several players who were impressive during the season.
“Minod Bhanuka looked very promising. He is an aggressive player and good to see someone with such attacking instincts. Santhush Gunathilaka at six foot two hits the deck hard and has a smooth action. He is handy with the bat too. Then there is Lahiru Udara, who has been quite impressive. We are looking at keeping the younger guys in the squad so that they can gain exposure by being in the set up. Together with coaches, we have watched lot of domestic cricket and we need to appreciate what they have done and then look at which one to fast track.
Sri Lanka Cricket is yet to announce the schedule for the tour, but Sunday Island learns that the teams will be involved in a three Test series as was in the original itinerary. The series was supposed to be played in July but was postponed due to outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be the first international cricket series involving Sri Lanka since February this year.
SLC was looking at ways to play two Tests at Pallekele as conditions generally suit seam bowlers there more than any other venue. The remaining Test match will take place in Colombo and SSC seems to be the preferred choice. This means Galle – which rarely misses out on Test match cricket – will not host a game. A final decision is yet to be made as some seniors of the team are keen to play in Galle.
Bangladesh are expected to arrive in the island later this month with a pool of 30 players and will be involved in training and practice matches. Sources said that the first Test is likely to take place on the 24th of October. SLC are in discussions with health authorities on safety measures that need to be followed during the series. Board officials said while players and match officials will be in a ‘bubble’, they were looking at the possibilities of accommodating a limited number of fans during the games.
Sorry state of South Africa cricket
by Rex Clementine
Most players will not pick South Africa as their favourite destination but most cricket reporters would pick it. There are many reasons. A vast country, South Africa has much to offer. While most love the wildlife and weather, others prefer the variety of beers and meat. The visa process is the easiest while it literally takes you less than five minutes to complete the accreditation process. Like Sri Lankans, the people in South Africa are the most friendly. Then their cricketing centers are right up there with other world class facilities be it Kingsmead in Durban, Newlands in Cape Town or Wanderers in Johannesburg.
But cricket in South Africa is facing hard times at present. Some observers have even pointed out that the country is facing the threat of suspension from the International Cricket Council due to government interference. If the unthinkable happens, it will be a black day for one of the greatest sporting nations.
Three decades ago, when South Africa were readmitted to the ICC following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, which ended the apartheid regime, there was new found hope.
The cricketing world witnessed Alan Donald for the first time during the 1992 World Cup. He was so quick and earned the nickname ‘White Lightning’
A year later, when South Africa made their maiden visit to Sri Lanka, the players had discussed at length how they were going to tackle Donald. But they were blown away by someone called Brett Schultz, whose left arm thunderbolts were unplayable.
As long as Mandela was in power, he ensured fair play. Mandela was a generous man. He was perhaps too honest. The South African constitution allowed him two terms. But he decided to retire after serving just one term. His successors were not so generous.
The racial quota introduced in South Africa has had a devastating effect in sports. Of the 11 South Africans in a cricket team, there can be only five whites. That is for international cricket and the chances of whites playing domestic cricket is even more less. Hence, the whites have moved in massive numbers to greener pastures in England, Australia and New Zealand. As a result, we have seen the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Marnus Labuschagne and Grant Elliott playing the sport for other countries.
The worst is that white South Africans giving up their international status and moving to the UK to play First Class cricket taking a KOLPAK deal. A KOLPAK deal briefly means that countries that have trade agreements with European Union (EU) also have same rights as member countries of EU.
Duanne Olivier debuted for South Africa when Sri Lanka toured that country. He bowled some hostile spells and Sri Lankans were in full awe given the pace he generated. But he opted for a KOLPAK deal giving up his chances of playing for South Africa. That was in 2019. In 2018, Morne Morkel turned KOLPAK and in 2017 Kyle Abbott had done the same. These are some of the finest fast bowlers produced by South Africa.
South African authorities don’t have to force it on the system to have a certain number of non white players. Equal opportunities for everyone means fine talents will emerge. Take the case of Hashim Amla, one of the finest batsman to play the game. Or go and ask Kumar Sangakkara who among current fast bowlers he hates facing. You can be assured his answer will be Kagiso Rabada. The quota system has only created unwanted issues. A non-white player effectively carries the stigma of representing his country not on merit. Not just players, even those none whites who were in administration had splendid careers. Haroon Lorgat was initially Chairman of Selectors and then went onto become CEO of the board and headed the ICC. There was also Lerato Malekutu, the long standing Media Manager of the team who did a splendid job.
Cricket South Africa recently has been unstable. In the last three years, the board has had four CEOs. They have also lost several sponsors in the last few years and could be heading for a financial crisis.
A vibrant South Africa is very much needed for the sport to thrive. With the Big Three again flexing their muscle, it is South Africa that can lead other smaller nations like Sri Lanka and Pakistan to keep the sport strong.
Department of Sports Development conducts workshop for netball coaches
The Department of Sports Development commenced a workshop to upgrade the knowledge of netball coaches at the Torrington Sports facility on Wednesday. The second in a series of such workshops the three-day programme attracted some 40 coaches from various parts of the country.
The coaches attached to the Department of Sports Development, Provincial Councils and the Netball Federation of Sri Lanka were participating in the workshop which was inclusive of both theory and practical sessions.
“For several years there had been no workshops like this to upgrade and share knowledge. We found this an ideal time to conduct such a workshop as the Covid 19 pandemic has halted most of the training programmes around the country,” said Department of Sports Development official .Jayantha Siyamudali who conducted a session on modern warming up methods in the morning yesterday.
National Track and Field coach Y.K. Kularatne conducted a lecture on training principles which was followed by a session on netball techniques and skills development conducted by Chandrani Pathiraja.
Director of Sports of the Moratuwa University, C. Rathnamudali was scheduled to speak on training planning today.
The Department of Sports Development conducted a similar workshop on conditioning for coaches of all sports recently.
The workshop which concludes today was coordinated by project officer Thamara Liyanage.
The attendees included prominent coaches who are working with the junior national teams and former national coaches. Asian Junior Cup team coach Kumari Gamage, coaches in the current development pool namely Prasadi Nalika and Lakmini Samarasingheand former national coach Deepthi Alwis took part in the programme with fellow coaches from elsewhere. (RF)
Rohit set to open with de Kock in IPL 2020
Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai Indians skipper, confirmed that he’ll open the batting during IPL 2020. In an online press conference, which both the captain and coach Mahela Jayawardene attended, Rohit said although the team is keeping “all options open” when it comes to their batting, he will start the 13th edition of the tournament as an opener.
“I opened for the entire tournament last year and will continue to do that. As a team, we keep all options open. I’m happy to do what the team wants. I enjoy batting at the top of the order and I’ve been doing it for a while. But even when I play for India, the message to the management is to not close any door and keep all the options open, so I’ll do the same here,” Rohit said on Thursday (September 17), two days before the IPL opening game against Chennai Super Kings.
With Quinton de Kock set to partner Rohit at the top of the order, Chris Lynn will have to wait on the sidelines. Lynn, who was roped in for his base price of INR. two crore, didn’t really get going on the slow pitches during the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League. He aggregated 138 runs playing for St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, scoring his runs at an average of 17.25 with a highest of 34.
“Lynn is a great addition to the squad, but the combination of Rohit and Quinton did a phenomenal job for us last season. They complement each other well, they’re consistent and both of them are experienced. They’re good leaders as well, so why would you want to fix something that isn’t broken? We will continue to go with that,” said Jayawardene.
“Lynn as an option gives us flexibility in the squad and that’s what we’ve always done. We try and add more value to the team, give more options so that we can be unpredictable when it comes to tournaments and big matches. Quinton and Rohit as a combination have been brilliant.”
Mumbai Indians, meanwhile, will miss the services of Lasith Malinga who pulled out of the tournament due to personal reasons. While mentioning that Malinga’s shoes are big to fill, Rohit said MI will try to make up for his absence with the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Pattinson.
“For anyone, it’s hard to fill his boots. What he has done for MI and Sri Lanka is remarkable. He has been a match-winner for MI, whenever we were in trouble, Malinga bailed us out. His experience will be missed and what he did for MI is unbelievable. Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Pattinson and Dhawal Kulkarni are some of the names who can be his replacement. What he did for MI cannot be compared and he cannot be replaced,” Rohit said.
Rohit also spoke about the challenges of playing the tournament in a bio-bubble and praised the team management for keeping the team mentally fresh. “It’s going to be a different IPL. We were mentally prepared for it. Even before we came here, we discussed with boys about the bio-bubble guidelines. We are following all the protocols set by BCCI. Mentally it’s tough. Credit to Mumbai Indians management to have worked it well for us. Mentally we are fresh and not drained in our hotels with the facilities. Hats off to the team management for doing a fantastic job.”
About playing in the UAE, Rohit said: “The challenge for us would be to adapt to these conditions. Not a lot of cricketers from our group have played here. People who have been here need to share their experience with the players who have not played so far. Mentally, it’s about going there and understanding the pitch is doing. We have played some practice matches here and we know what to expect there. Reading the pitches will be very important.”
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