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Panda and unfulfilled promises

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by Rex Clementine

There’s someone in the Sri Lankan cricket team who answers to the name ‘Panda’. The name was coined on Thisara Perera by the Australian players during his IPL days with Chennai Super Kings. We never saw his full potential on the cricket field although there were glimpses of his brilliance over a 12 year career. 

His first game was in Calcutta in December 2009 when Kumar Sangakkara wanted him flown in as an injury replacement. Thisara was flying on his own at a time there were no direct flights to Calcutta. He had a transit. SLC officials in Colombo and the team back in India were worried whether he would manage to get the right connecting flight and land the day before the game.

Given Panda’s mannerisms, he gives you the impression that he’s a bit backwards. That’s not the truth actually. He’s more childlike wanting assurances from authorities more than someone of his age should. It’s a trait that has not changed in his life. He loves simple things in life. He is someone who will not hurt another person willingly.  

After every game that he plays and after every training session, you can be assured that he will be roaming around the cricket grounds be at RPS, Suriyawewa, Dambulla or Pallekele looking for stray dogs. He packs all the remaining food in the dressing room and feeds the dogs. Not even Ambanis dogs get served food from five star hotels. But the dogs at Sri Lanka grounds have that luxury thanks to Thisara. This was something that was  evident when he started his cricket and he continued it even when he was captain.

Cricketers and their love lives are well documented. Most of them get hooked up to air hostesses and marry them. Some of them… well, let’s not go there. Thisara’s been with his childhood sweetheart for nearly two decades now. He’s only 32.

Thisara’s mother is a science teacher. When St. Joseph’s College came in search of him offering a scholarship for cricket, she was reluctant. Eventually she gave in. A decision that she doesn’t regret now for her son has gone onto become a household name although given his potential he could have achieved much more.

At St. Joseph’s Thisara got into trouble constantly. He played the first day of a school fixture and didn’t turn up for the second day’s play. He had been spending time with his girlfriend. He was in trouble and was asked to explain. Thisara came up with a cock and bull story that on his way to the ground, he was stopped at an Army check post and was held up as he did not carry an identity card. Rev. Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe, the Rector, a career educationist, didn’t buy his story. He was suspended. 

Chaminda Vaas, one of the finest products of St. Joseph’s made a plea to Fr. Sylvester  to allow Thisara at least play the Big Match. Fr. Sylvester agreed. The rest as they say is history as St. Joseph’s won the Big Match after 35 years.  Thisara was Man of the Match. The old boys were excited and gave the team a month long tour of Australia.  Which 18-year-old would skip an all expenses paid trip to Australia? Thisara would. Reason? He would be missing his girlfriend.

One of the cleanest strikers of the cricket ball, he will clear the boundary with little effort. But consistency was lacking. He would throw the bat for a few overs and hit it on the air and get out rather than grinding it out and completing games. His bowling was lively when he came onto the scene but in later years lacked penetration.

Thisara’s best moment came in the 2014 during the World T-20 in Bangladesh. All his  life, he had lived wanting to emulate Arjuna Ranatunga. As in, Arjuna had scored the winning runs in a World Cup final with a boundary.  So Thisara wanted to go the same way. So after a tensed run chase against India, with Sri Lanka one stroke away from victory, Thisara threw caution to wind. He finished a World Cup final better than Arjuna scoring a six. Ravichandran Ashwin nearly had his man. Sensing that Thisara would attempt a big shot, Ashwin bowled it wider, but Thisara had got enough wood and the ball cleared the boundary.

Thisara’s career could  have been perhaps more successful with someone to offer him better counseling. Hastily he quit Test cricket feeling that he wasn’t getting much opportunities. His figures are still the best by a Sri Lankan seamer at Pallekele.

This time though he was left with Hobson’s choice. The moment it was announced that he  will be not considered for ODIs, he chose to retire from international cricket. You will still see him in different franchise cricket tournaments.

During some of cricket’s dicey moments he has come to Sri Lanka’s rescue. Like when everyone refused to tour Pakistan in 2017. He agreed to take the team to Lahore without any conditions. He was a good player and a great human being.



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Decision on Asia Cup venue postponed to March 2023

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A final decision on whether Pakistan will host the 2023 Asia Cup is now expected in March, after an Asian Cricket Council (ACC) meeting in Bahrain failed to reach a breakthrough. They will meet again in a month’s time, around the next set of ICC meetings.

The uncertainty around the 2023 Asia Cup began in October when the ACC president, and BCCI secretary, Jay Shah said it will be held in a neutral venue because India can’t travel to Pakistan.

The PCB took particular exception to that and ESPNCricinfo understands that on Saturday their chief Najam Sethi told Shah that if India don’t play in Pakistan, Pakistan will consider not playing in India for the 2023 World Cup.

This has led to the deadlock which needs revisiting in March when the ICC and ACC meetings take place one after the other. The issues across tournaments, in the PCB’s views, are the same, whether it is the Asia Cup, the 2023 World Cup or the 2025 Champions Trophy, to be staged in Pakistan. Depending on what happens in those March meetings – and the PCB is likely to go in again with the same stance – a decision may be left to the Pakistan government to take a call on.

In addition, all ACC members are believed to have been asked to seek their own government’s positions on whether their teams could travel to Pakistan. *The PCB, however, clarified with a statement on Sunday, that “no such matters were raised in the meeting, nor did any member indicate any intention to seek government clearance for playing in Pakistan”.

The PCB added: “Sri Lanka has recently visited Pakistan in 2017 and 2019, while Bangladesh has toured Pakistan in 2020. In the 2023-2027 Future Tours Programme (FTP), which has been agreed and announced by all ICC Members, Afghanistan Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have confirmed their tours to Pakistan.”

After years of isolation following the 2009 attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore, Pakistan has returned to hosting international cricket regularly over the last three years, with nearly all full members (other than India) visiting the country for red- and white-ball cricket.

Pakistan-India ties have deteriorated over the years as a result of stormy political relations between the two countries. India and Pakistan have not played each other in a bilateral series since 2012-13, when Pakistan toured India for a limited-overs series. Their encounters have been limited to ICC and ACC events, and while the Indian men’s team has not played any match in Pakistan since 2008, Pakistan last travelled to India for the 2016 T20 World Cup.

The PCB is intent in its stance of hosting the 2023 Asia Cup with Sethi saying in January, “whatever the stance is, it will be according to the interests of Pakistan.”

The ACC executive board also approved the inclusion of teams from Japan and Indonesia in the ACC pathway tournaments and ratified ACC’s calendar of activities for the financial years 2023 and 2024.

(cricinfo)

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Jurgen Klopp: I’m ‘angry, disappointed’ after latest Liverpool defeat

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he has no explanation for his side’s 3-0 defeat at Wolves on Saturday, adding he was “angry” and “disappointed.”

Relegation-threatened Wolves humiliated the Merseyside club at Molineux with Craig Dawson, Ruben Neves scoring after a Joel Matip own goal.The result means that Liverpool have only secured one win in seven games in all competitions since the turn of the year.

“Obviously it was a horrible start. Two goals which cannot happen like that,” Klopp told Premier League Productions after the game. “But it happened and we were 2-0 down because of our own fault. We should have defended better. We were passive in that period. I cannot explain it. There is no excuse for it.

“You’re 2-0 down, the crowd is there but it opens up and we get some control. Then for about 45 minutes we play a good away game without scoring. That sums it up pretty much.

“Concentration for the first 15 minutes. Again, I cannot explain. But these 15 minutes cannot be allowed. It needs to change.

“That’s the thing. I stand here again and for the first 15 minutes I have no explanation, I’m sorry. In the end we lost 3-0 because the goal in the second half was perhaps the first time they crossed the halfway line. But it’s right because when you start like this you don’t deserve anything in a Premier League game.

“We have to change it immediately in the next game. Everton won today and they are in a good moment so we have to prove a point again. For the moment, I’m so disappointed and angry about the first 15 minutes, I can’t find the words for it. Then we have chances we should score. It could have been 2-1 and that would have changed everything I’m sure. Wolves deserve the three points.

“Yes, definitely. That’s clear. We cannot go through that season that nobody did before but how long do we want to suffer? It is one explanation in general yes, but not for the first 15 minutes here today. What we make of it in this moment is absolutely not OK.”

After coming close to a historic quadruple last season, where they won two domestic cups and were runners-up in both the Champions League and Premier League, Klopp’s injury-hit side have struggled this term.

The result was the first time in a decade that Liverpool have lost three consecutive Premier League away games.

They have conceded more goals in the Premier League this season — 28 in 21 games — than they did in the whole of last season and remain 21 points behind Arsenal at the top.

“Same as the other games, we have no consistency at all through the 90 minutes, focused and doing what we have to do on the pitch fighting,” Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson said after the game.

“First 15 minutes we started the game not in a good way and we got punished for that. Conceding two goals, we are not in a good situation. They are confident, we tried, did a good second half but conceded again. Completely frustrated.

“Looks like in the game we went two steps behind then we make one step forward, we need to do more steps because of the results. Step forward was the second-half performance, two completely different sides first and second half. We have to take that for the next game and using the chances we have and stop conceding the silly goals.”

(ESPN)

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Why no Independence Cup?  

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By Rex Clementine 

When Sri Lanka turned 50, our heroes were Aravinda de Silva, Susanthika Jayasinghe, Nanda Malini and Victor Ratnayake and the Rupee was 60 to the USD. When Sri Lanka turned 75, our heroes remain the same but the Rupee has hit a whooping 370 to the Dollar. What Independence Day celebrations you may ask for a nation that has gone from pillar to post having become the laughing stock going around the world with a begging bowl.

Usually, when you travel to India for cricket, the locals come to you and ask, ‘How is Aravinda,’ ‘How is Arjuna’, ‘How is Duleep’, ‘How is Roy,”. This time around the Indians had only one question? ‘How is the situation in Sri Lanka now.’

For Sri Lanka’s golden jubilee independence celebrations in 1998, SLC put up a grand show hosting a tri-nation series involving India and New Zealand. Those days for sports sponsorships the go to man was Hemaka Amarasuriya. He came up with a generous sponsorship and the tournament was known as Singer Akai Nidahas Trophy.

It was one of the best cricket events held in Sri Lanka. India defeated Sri Lanka by six runs in the final and Aravinda’s century nearly took the team over the line. His dismissal triggered a sensational collapse as India snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.  A few people have some unkind things to say about the game conveniently forgetting it’s a game of great uncertainties. They also forget that Sri Lanka won the title the previous year when India had organized their Independence Cup. It was an event where India failed to make it to the finals.

In the best of three finals, Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in Mohali and Calcutta and the third final wasn’t even required. For the 70th independence celebrations too a Nidahas Trophy was organized at RPS in 2018.  The event brought a financial windfall for SLC although the team flopped not being able to make it to the finals in the T20 event. Sri Lanka lost a tensed game against Bangladesh and were knocked out. Yes, Shakib Al Hasan, broken dressing room windows and all, For the finals, RPS witnessed something very unusual. In Sri Lanka, Indian players have received little support over the years but that night every Sri Lankan wanted India to win. Bangladesh had the game in the bag but Dinesh Karthik became an instant hero with a last ball six. It was a final to be cherished.

Sadly for the 75th independence celebrations this time around, there’s no cricket event that has been mooted. Had India organized something last year to mark their 75th independence, our cricket bosses would have got excited.  But India’s priorities have changed and international cricket events hardly excites them anymore. They have a cash machine in IPL and the women’s IPL is set to bring them new riches as well. That’s their focus.

As for us, conducting an Independence Cup will help boost our finances especially if we are able to bring India down. A two week white ball tournament will create much interest, help small businesses and tourism will benefit too. SLC has been late in not being able to organize anything. But it’s better late than never.

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