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Playing spin; Sri Lanka’s Achilles’ heel

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by Rex Clementine

Time was when the poverty-ridden areas of the city were called as ‘Korea’.  Today, Sri Lankans are heading to South Korea in numbers seeking employment. Then take Bangladesh for example. In the South Asian region, they were one of the poorest countries. They have come a long way and today are wealthy enough to provide Sri Lanka a loan. And they have a cricket team that is giving the Sri Lankans a real hiding.

The 103 run defeat that Tamim Iqbal’s side handed the Sri Lankans on Tuesday was a bitter pill to swallow. One of the irritating things in losing to Bangladesh is that they go bonkers with their celebrations.  Not anymore. Nowadays it seems that they are so confident of beating Sri Lanka and there was not much of a celebration.

Bangladesh are in a different league now. They are heading the points table of the ICC World Cup Super League having replaced World Champions England. We Sri Lankans are on the brink of playing the World Cup qualifiers; our slide in the last five years has been so rapid. The Sri Lankans need to win 12 of the 18 games left in the qualifying period to earn automatic qualification. With our opponents down the line expected to be England, India and South Africa, there’s little hope of that happening.

The scary part is that there is even the possibility of Sri Lanka not qualifying for the 2023 World Cup.

Some have argued that Sri Lanka should have been at full strength as Bangladesh were one of the easier opponents. Well, spin has been this young team’s Achilles’ heel. The seniors weren’t covering themselves in glory when England were in town with little heard Dom Bess, claiming a five wicket haul on Test debut. Arjuna Ranatunga said that with two days of training Aravinda de Silva at the age of 55 could hit the off-spinner out of the park. So you doubt whether the seniors would have made a big difference.

One positive has been the fielding and energy on the field. But that will be of little use if the team is losing in this fashion without any fight.

The youth policy was good but some aspects of it are highly flawed.  Kusal Janith Perera is one of the nicest guys you will come across in cricket. But not sure whether he is a leader. The selectors have argued that he is one of the few guys who can hold onto his place. But that is very defensive thinking. England would have never won the Ashes in 1981 had they followed similar strategy. Ian Botham was the golden boy of British sport in the 1980s. England’s selectors were bold and ready to sack Botham which forced the all-rounder to quit paving the way for Mike Brearley, an average First Class cricketer to be appointed captain. The rest as they say is history.

For a selection committee that was bold enough to drop as many as six seniors to stick to KJP as leader is like Maithripala Sirisena declaring war on drugs and then appointing Pujith Jayasundara as IGP.

There was in fact contradiction from the selectors. At one point they say that the captain has to be a permanent fixture in the side and then they appoint a deputy who is making a comeback to the side having picked up four ducks in a row.

The selectors, however, need to be given all the backing for they took some unpopular decisions at a time when it was much needed. Not many teams would travel to Bangladesh these days to play ODI cricket and will come home with their heads held high.

There are four Bangladeshis who have played 200 ODIs. Kusal Janith Perera is Sri Lanka’s most experienced but he has played barely 100 games.

Playing spin has been a major issue for the Sri Lankan batters and questions will be asked on the contributions that Batting Coach Grant Flower has been making. There’s been spotlight on Flower for some time now. In Sri Lanka, anyway, after a series defeat you need a scapegoat and all blame seem to be going Flower’s way these days. Poor guy!

Too many Sri Lankan batsmen seem to be attempting to clear the boundary and are dismissed as was evident by the second ODI. That’s the easy way out.  You need to have the discipline to grind it out, rotate the strike and then find the boundary when the opportunity is presented. Mushfiqur Rahim has been so good to watch in that regard.

Inability to play spin is so strange because Sri Lankans are brought up on turning tracks. Maybe, the team composition is flawed. Niroshan Dickwella is your best player of spin and he should have played. He will now on Friday in the final ODI but that is like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.  

 One thing that is clearly can be seen is that batting cracks under pressure and the reason for that is that in your domestic cricket players are not exposed to tougher challenges. The gap, as we keep saying, in domestic cricket and international cricket is too big.

 

 



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Pay disputes aren’t new but are they reasonable?   

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by Rex Clementine  

Pay disputes go back to the times of Bandula Warnapura, our first Test captain. But he was an absolute beauty. He is more of a working-class hero. There was a bit of Ian Chappell in him. He fought for his players. Not for seniority payment or anything.  

Sri Lanka Cricket at times have cut down pay for players significantly just to rein them in. There have been Sri Lankan teams in the past that have refused to sign contracts, but gone on tour, won the championship and then demanded the pound of flesh, which in a way is fair enough.  

So if Kusal Perera’s side beats England, the world’s number one ranked team, in the upcoming series, the cricket-loving public will not mind even if the players are paid triple the bonus they have been promised.  

But what is happening right now is bizarre. The players have said that they are willing to play free as long as their employers show them the formula with which the annual contracts were formulated. Surely, there has to be a better reason than that for you to go on war path with your employers. Mind you players have been warned with three years suspension from all forms of cricket which is quite serious.  

Past greats have taken on the board for reasons other than pay. There have been instances when some players have pulled out of tours when their colleagues have been unceremoniously axed from the side. Can’t remember anyone from the current side standing moral high ground when cricket’s beauty was butchered. Then, why suddenly show yourself as a paragon of virtue wanting to know the mechanism the contracts were formed on.  

Of course, the seniors have been made to go through pay cuts. Some of them will lose at least US$ 50,000. But that seems their least concern. If the mechanism is indeed your issue, did you have to put through such a drama where you even refused to sign a tour declaration?  So virtually, there’s more to it than players wanting clarity about how players were categorized into contracts. 

We aren’t saying that the contracts offered to the players are without loopholes. Take the case of Niroshan Dickwella for example. He had not featured in an ODI for more than two years but ended up on a topmost contract. Then there is Kasun Rajitha who played just two games across all formats of the game and ends up with a C1 contract.  

SLC has said that the pandemic has forced it to suffer major financial losses and pay cuts are inevitable. However, none of the top executives of the board have taken pay cuts.  

As Director of Cricket Tom Moody tried to explain it is far better to stick to a performance-based payment structure than doling out money on a seniority basis. It is certainly unfair on some of the players who have represented the country for over a decade now but sadly, the team’s performance has been so poor that our global rankings have hit rock bottom in recent times.  

The system needed a shake-up and the players a huge wake-up call to get their act together. Cricket is something that we Sri Lankans love so dearly and the game can not suffer more setbacks. Professional sportsmen cannot finish two kilometers in eight and half minutes while others can’t give up chocolates. True that someone like Arjuna Ranatunga would have never survived the current fitness regime. But do keep in mind that he never let his performances drop. He was one of the fiercest competitors on the cricket field.   

Also, there’s a hue and cry about the salary of Tom Moody. It is said that the Director of Cricket is paid a princely sum of US$ 1900 daily. People have little clue that Bangladesh’s spin bowling coach is paid US$ 1500 daily. The common man on the streets just wants one thing now that is to fix the current cricket mess. Hopefully, we will come out of it sooner.  

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Dates announced for India’s tour of Sri Lanka

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by Rex Clementine

India will send a second string team to Sri Lanka later this month for a six-match bilateral series. The teams will be involved in three ODIs and three T-20 Internationals with all games taking place in a bio-secure bubble at RPS. It is unlikely that spectators will be accommodated for the series due to current rising numbers of COVID cases. RPS underwent extensive renovation recently and hasn’t hosted a game in two years.

India have made tremendous progress in the game in the last ten years that they are able to send their main team to England, that too an extended squad and then send a second string team that looks not too bad on paper to Sri Lanka. IPL has opened up a whole lot of new opportunities for India.

India must be confident of winning in Sri Lanka even with a second string side. For example, their main team whitewashed Sri Lanka 5-0 in ODIs when they toured here in 2017 and the following year at the Nidahas Trophy, they sent a second string team and won the competition where Sri Lanka even failed to make it to the finals.

Sri Lanka’s players or SLC will not be complaining. Tours by India will result in huge profits for SLC. Board of Control for Cricket in India has been extremely generous in helping out Sri Lanka coming in for hastily arranged series previously to bail out SLC that was feeling the pinch. This tour, however, was part of the Future Tour Programme.

In the three match ODI series, 30 points will be up for grabs in the ICC World Cup qualifiers and pitted against a weaker Indian team, Sri Lanka will be fancying their chances to win and boost their opportunities of automatic qualification for the sport’s showpiece event. At the moment Sri Lanka are languishing last at 13th position.

India will arrive on the 28th of June and after mandatory quarantine they will be allowed to train. The ODIs will be played on the 13th, 16th and 18th of July followed by the T-20s on the 21st, 23rd and 25th of July.

 

1st ODI

– 13th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

2nd ODI

– 16th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

3rd ODI

– 18th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

1st T20I

– 21st July – RPS – 7.00pm 

2nd T20I

– 23rd July – RPS – 7.00pm 

3rd T20I

– 25th July – RPS – 7.00pm

 

India’s squad:

 Shikhar Dhawan (Captain), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (Wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (Wicket-keeper), Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Vice-captain), Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya 

Net Bowlers:

 Ishan Porel, Sandeep Warrier, Arshdeep Singh, Sai Kishore, Simarjeet Singh. 

 

 

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Ranindu draws with grandmaster, settles for third place

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Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021

National Champion Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage fought hard to secure a draw against grandmaster Enamul Hussain on the final day as he settled for the third position of the Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021.

Starting with the Sicilian Defense the grandmaster sacrificed a pawn and got a strong knight against Ranindu’s bad bishop early in the game. He used all tricks available to earn points as a win would have earned him the gold medal and the possibility to play in the Chess World Cup 2021. But Ranindu had other ideas as the Anandian achieved the third spot winning six points from nine games.

Bangladesh grandmaster Ziaur Rahman (2434) also secured a draw in a hard fought game against 11-year-old, Manon Reja Neer who is also from Bangladesh and settled for eight points. Bangladeshi grandmaster Enamul Hussain needed a full point to tie with the leader but finally settled for the second position as he drew with Ranindu. He had 7 ½ points.

Grandmaster Ziaur won the gold medal and the ticket to the FIDE Chess World Cup. A total of US$ 3,000.00 is distributed among the winners. While the champion receives US$ 1,000.00, the runners up wins US$ 700.00. Ranindu is entitled for US$ 500.00 as he was placed third.

FIDE master Susal de Silva of Nalanda College met his colleague A.A.C.B. Amarasinghe of SJP Chess Club and the game ended in favour of Amarasinghe. Amarasinghe scored six points out of nine games. There were five other players who had scored six points each but he was placed eighth according to the tie breakers. Susal had a total of five points after nine games. Amarasinghe too is entitled for US$ 100.00.

The Asian Zonal Chess Championship 2021, the preliminary event for the FIDE World Chess Cup 2021 for the South Asian region started on June 1 and was held on the Tornelo platform. A total of 39 players from South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka participated in the event. India is considered a single zone by FIDE and has a direct entry to the FIDE World Cup.

The Bangladesh Chess Federation conducted the event from Dhaka and the Sri Lankan players competed from the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka headquarters, Gangodawila, Nugegoda. The event which concluded on Wednesday was conducted according to the Swiss System of nine rounds.

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