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Our tactics in 1996 caught opponents off guard

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Duleep Mendis with captain Arjuna Ranatunga  and deputy Aravinda  de Silva. 

by Duleep Mendis 

Today is a special day for every Sri Lankan who knows his/her cricket. It was on this day 25-years-ago we won the Cricket World Cup at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore beating the fancied Australia in the final. Mark Taylor’s side were favourites to win or so everyone thought. 

This day brings back a lot of good memories and pride when I think about the final and how the boys played the whole tournament in 1996. I will not be overstating if I say Sri Lanka changed the way one-day cricket was played with their innovative style and approach.

We came to this tournament with just four wins out of the 20 World Cup games we had played since 1975 and nobody expected us to throw surprises at everyone. 

I had the dual role of being Manager of the Sri Lankan team and Chairman of Selectors. We were responsible for finding a winning combination. I must acknowledge that I had a very knowledgeable set of past cricketers in the selection committee who gave me a lot of assistance in putting together the best combination for the victory in Lahore.  

During that period each member of the committee was so committed to the task that when one started to make a move everyone understood exactly why it was being made. That was the level of knowledge the other selectors had. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to them. 

In 1995 Dav Whatmore and Alex Kountouris were introduced to the national team. I was there as a conduit between the players and these two gentlemen from Australia. Even though Dav was born in Sri Lanka, he had his schooling in Australia and went on to play Test cricket for Australia. Alex was new but we formed the management committee of the team. 

We made our start in 1995 in Pakistan where we beat them. We also had a very successful tournament in Sharjah. Later that year we went to Australia just before the World Cup. Our first game took place in Perth which was marred by ball tampering allegations.  We were later exonerated. Despite the odds, we had a very good tour of Australia. The boys started to believe in themselves. The tactics were laid down in Australia for the forthcoming World Cup.

Our success depended largely on our game plan of being aggressive in the first ten to 15 overs. This went onto change the way ODI cricket was played.  Our strategy took everyone by surprise. When the World Cup was in progress, all the other teams were still getting to know what we were doing. But before they could really know and counter our moves, the tournament was over and we were World  Champions.  

Celebrations went on for so many months. Now, after 25 years of that monumental achievement, so many memories come back. Although we are far away from Sri Lanka we still think of those good times when we had a brilliant team.  

I can still remember that day before the World Cup final in Lahore when everyone was talking about the dew factor. I and Arjuna went out to the ground at night and nobody knew about it, just to see the dew. We saw that there was a lot of dew on the ground and we knew that if we bowled at night we were going to find it difficult defending a total. So it was decided that if we won the toss we would bowl first.

In Arjuna, we had a captain, who was fearless and aggressive. A captain who wasn’t afraid to take decisions. He was well backed up by master tactician Aravinda, who was his deputy. We also had the fortune of having a set of brilliant cricketers around who knew exactly what to do when things were not going well for the team.  

I offer my sincere thanks to the whole team and to the Board at that time which was led by Ana Punchihewa for the wonderful memories that are coming back even after 25 years.  

I know that there will be celebrations today but unfortunately Dav, Alex and I will not be able to come due to the current situation (caused by Covid-19). We feel bad about missing this event but I hope you will have a wonderful time reliving the memories of 1996.



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Bringing cricket’s glory days back

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Rev. Br. Nimal Gurusinghe FSC

After several setbacks in cricket in recent years, the national cricket team is looking to regain past glories. I must congratulate the national selection panel headed by former fast bowler Pramodaya Wickramasinghe for some of the bold decisions they have taken over the past two months.

In the Caribbean, the selectors handed the first Test cap to Pathum Nissanka, who made a hundred on debut and then last week in the second Test against Bangladesh, the selectors blooded in Praveen Jayawickrama, who took 11 wickets for 178, a Sri Lankan record for a debutant. It is also the tenth best figures by a player on debut in the history of Test cricket.

There is no doubt that we have talent in the country and bold moves such as these throwing the players into the deep end will bring us desired results.

I would like to see continuity in selections and for this to happen the current lot of selectors need to serve for a longer period of time. Our present system where we change selectors every year simply doesn’t help.

One of the things that I would like to see is resource personal like psychologists being brought in to assist our players. The modern day game has changed so much and a psychologist will be able to help players meet modern day demands. I see that teams like Australia, England and South Africa make use of psychologists. Although we too have done so, there is no continuity in this vital aspect.

One of the modern trends that I have seen in Sri Lankan cricket is our tail is too long. We do not have many tail-enders who are able to contribute towards the team’s total. We need to emphasize a lot on the tail getting exposure during training sessions and as a result they will be able to contribute towards the team’s total.

I am also glad to see that the selectors emphasizing a lot on fielding these days. At the same time, I would like to see them giving equal importance to fielding. This vital area has been neglected so long and that is one reason why we do not do well at present in one-day cricket. Sri Lankan teams of the past were on par with teams like Australia and South Africa when it came to fielding. But not anymore.

When we stress the importance on fielding in selections, if players are able to take half chances and create run outs that is going to be so crucial in crunch games.

Another aspect that I would like to see improve is running between the wickets. I can not recall when the last time a Sri Lankan pair completed three runs was. Physical fitness is so vital for this to happen.

Another thing that I would like to see happening is our players doing well not just at home but overseas as well. We are yet to win Test matches in Australia and England although we have been a Test playing nation for 40 years now.

I wish Pramodaya and his team good luck and look forward to see them transforming Sri Lankan cricket. Pramodaya is a member of the World Cup winning team and he knows what is required to become a champion team.

 

 

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National badminton players dominate Summer Season Tournament in the hills

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The hills were alive with the swish of rackets and smashing shuttles as the popular Summer Season Badminton Level I Championships came to a close last week. What was noteworthy was the performances of Sri Lanka’s top shuttlers who left no room for contention by winning all the plums of the scintillating competition. With Olympic prospect Niluka Karunaratne away on the international qualifying circuit and brother Dinuka domiciled in the UK on an advanced training program, the rest of the Elite Squad were equal to the task.

Ranthushka Karunatilake, for long in the shadows of his more renowned exponents came out fighting to get the better of the seasoned Buwaneka Gunetileke. The hunger Ranthushka displayed was plain to see for after giving up the first set, he clawed his way back to surprise the senior partner with a nerve wracking battle that went to the wire with a 21-19 score in the two following sets. Earlier, he partnered Buwaneka to clinch the men’s doubles with an overwhelming victory against evergreen contenders Clarence Homer and Hasitha Chanaka.

In the Women’s Open, Dilmi Dias had no major opposition clinching the women’s singles with ease against the up and coming Ranithma Liyanage before taking the women’s doubles with her partner, Kavindika de Silva. Young Ranithma just 13 years of age, though beaten in the final, is certainly making an emphatic statement in the sport. Badminton fans are sure to hear about her in the not-too-distant future.

Other top ranked players to impress were Rasindu Hendahewa and Viren Nettasinghe in the men’s category, while Panchali Adhikari and Madushika Dilrukshi were notable in the women’s category. Many others in the elite squad were not present due to on-going examinations, the likes of Lochana de Silva and Thulith de Silva and yesteryear champions Thilini Hendahewa and Kavidi Sirimanage. Sachin Dias and Hasini Ambalangoda are nursing injuries following the Nationals and are expected to return to the courts in the Southern Open, late May.

Watching their charges keenly were the National Coaches led by Pradeep Welagedera assisted by Yukthi Perera, Rajitha Dahanayake and Subash Chanaka, while Chairman of the National Pools, Palitha Hettiarachchi had a good look at the National Pool players, especially those in the Elite Squad who have undergone a very high-level training and conditioning over several months.

SLB President Rohan de Silva who is always seen among the Badminton Masters winning several medals both here and abroad was at hand to witness the performance of est players in the country and also give the Summer Season event a big boost by ensuring all arrangements were fully supported to achieve a very high level of organization amidst the stringent Covid 19 protocols.

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Bangladesh-Sri Lanka ODI series to be held in Dhaka

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The upcoming three-match ODI series between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will be held at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka, the BCB has announced.

The matches, part of the ICC’s ODI Super League, will be held on May 23, 25 and 28, within a bio-bubble stretching between the team hotel and the ground.

Sri Lanka will arrive in Dhaka on May 16, shortly after the Eid ul Fitr weekend, and complete a three-day quarantine. Their first practice session will be on May 19 at the National Cricket Academy ground, adjacent to the stadium. The visitors will then play a practice match at the BKSP on May 21. At the conclusion of the ODI series on May 28, the Sri Lankan team will depart on the following day.

This will be Bangladesh’s third ODI series within the ICC’s World Cup qualifying campaign. They are currently in seventh place, having beaten the West Indies 3-0 at home in January, but lost to New Zealand 3-0 in March. Sri Lanka lost to West Indies 3-0 last month, are now in 9th place.

The two teams only last week played out their final World Test Championship series, which Sri Lanka won 1-0 after a 209-run win over Bangladesh in Pallekele.

Sri Lanka will become the second international team to arrive in Bangladesh since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The BCB successfully hosted West Indies in January-February this year, in a three-ODI and two-Test series in Dhaka and Chattogram.

This will however be a different situation, since Bangladesh are in the middle of a strong second wave of Covid-19 cases. The country has been under a lockdown since April 5. The international flight suspension ended on May 1, but the country’s lockdown has been extended till May 16.

Bangladesh will be without their fast-bowling coach Ottis Gibson, with the team opting to use a local coach instead. (ESPN Cricinfo)

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