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Playing spin; Sri Lanka’s Achilles’ heel



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.




Decision on Asia Cup venue postponed to March 2023



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.


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



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.”


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Why no Independence Cup?  



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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