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Pune where one of cricket’s biggest upsets unfolded

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The majestic Cricket Club of India in Bombay

Rex Clementine
in Pune

Pune will host the second T-20 International between Sri Lanka and India and this city is famous for witnessing one of cricket’s biggest upsets. Two time World Champions West Indies were humbled by Kenya as Maurice Odumbe became the cynosure of all eyes during the 1996 World Cup.

That was the old ground in Pune though, known as Nehru Stadium in the heart of the city. Sri Lanka will be playing at the new ground known as Maharashtra State Association Stadium. The distance between the old ground and the new ground is like between Pallekele and Asgiriya.

Maharashtra is one of the 36 states in India. But it has three teams in First Class cricket because geographically the state is large and there’s too many cricketing talents. Bombay is one of the First Class teams from the state while Pune is the base for the Maharashtra team. There is also a team called Vidarbha who are based in Nagpur.

Pune has had some tough times in recent years. The authorities here in order to build the new stadium struck a deal with Indian company Sahara whereby they would get US$ three million and the naming rights of the stadium will be given to Sahara. The stadium was even initially known as Subrata Roy Stadium, after the founder of Sahara. Then the business tycoon got into trouble for defaulting payment and went to jail. Only 40 percent of the money that was promised to Pune cricket ground was paid and cricket here faced a crisis unable to pay bank loans. Even to date if BCCI transfers money for hosting cricket matches, it goes directly for settling the loan instead of being used on development of the game.

Despite the financial crisis, cricket in Pune has thrived. Maharashtra reached the final of Vijay Hazare Trophy, the one-day equivalent of Ranji Trophy for the first time last year. The current Indian team has two Pune based players in Ruturaj Gaikwad and Rahul Tripathi.

Pune is a three hour pleasant drive from Bombay. The Sri Lankan team travelled here yesterday by road. Bombay was a good experience for them with not many people giving them a chance. It is the middle order that has been a worry and while the middle order came good, the top order failed to fire in the first game.

The Sri Lankans would have had some time to dine in a few restaurants while in Bombay and if they had asked the locals one of the places that would have been recommended is The All-Rounder. It’s a restaurant inside the Cricket Club of India also known Brabourne Stadium.

A short walk from the Wankhede Stadium where the first T-20 was played, Cricket Club of India hosted the Sri Lankan Test match in 2019.

The All-Rounder offers some fine food options. There is also another Restaurant at the same premises called the Wet Wicket. That is where you would see reporters spending their time after a day’s play.

The All-Rounder has paintings of the five finest all-rounders to play the game; Sir Garry Sobers, Sir Richard Hadlee, Sir Ian Botham, Kapil Dev and Jacques Kallis. If you are curious about the surrounding you will notice that one portrait has been removed as the vacant area clearly shows. Make a guess whose painting it would be?

 In 2019, in Kashmir, a convoy of vehicles carrying Indian policemen came under a suicide attack and 40 cops were killed. The attack was carried out by a Pakistan based terrorist group. The incident is known as Pulwama attack and the Prime Minister of Pakistan at that time was a certain Imran Khan.

 So the missing picture is of the great man. Not everyone in Bombay or India condone the actions of the Cricket Club of India. Of course you should not mix sports and politics. But more than that, is it not India that taught us good virtues like tolerance?



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Leave aside revenge, work towards common goal says Mathews

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Angelo Mathews was Man of the Match in the second T20 International at Dambulla on Monday.

Rex Clementine in Dambulla

There has been a remarkable turnaround for the national cricket team in 2024 with Sri Lanka recording five series wins inside two months and have won all six games so far in the bilateral series against Afghanistan. The team has played some attacting cricket, a far cry from their World Cup campaign where players were sloppy on the field, awful with the bat and indiscipline with the ball.

Former captain Angelo Mathews, who was the star in the second T-20 International on Monday with an unbeaten 42 and two wickets, credited the new selection panel for the change of fortunes.

“The team has turned things around not with the dawn of the new year but with the dawn of new selectors. They have given lot of confidence for boys. Seem they have proper plans rather than doing things haphazardly. You see a massive difference out there with boys playing with freedom. Communication is a key aspect in international cricket. Forget about agendas, forget about differences, forget about revenge. Get together and think of Sri Lankan cricket.”

“It is all about planning. In a cycle you get two years or four years to plan things out. With the new selectors they have planned well. The new captains are doing a great job. They are giving confidence to youngsters and senior players. The guys are playing with freedom and enjoying their cricket rather than worrying about things. We are in good shape.”

Mathews was a doubtful starter heading into the game and had to prove his fitness on Monday.

Sri Lanka were struggling at 121 for five during the 15th over of the innings and Mathews reserved the best for his last taking Sri Lanka’s total to 187 for six hitting Azmatullah Omarzai for three consecutive sixes in the penultimate over.

“The plan was Sadeera to bat deep so that I could bat with freedom. Last game we didn’t bat 20 overs and it was a disappointment. Glad we got our act together. Sadeera was superb today.”

Mathews praised young Matheesha Pathirana, who was making a comeback to the side during the series and bowled some unplayable deliveries. The former captain expected a bright future for the 21-year-old.

“Facing Matheesha Pathirana at the nets is the biggest challenge. He bowls consistently at 150. It’s difficult to bowl that speed when someone is bowling straight but to bowl with that action makes things tougher. He has gained experience in franchise cricket and at 21 if you tell him to defend 12 in the last over he will do the job in nine out of ten games. He is a disciplined cricketer. We have to look after him well.”

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CR sit on the rugby throne after 26 years!

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Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club (CR&FC) team celebrates winning the men’s division in the inter-club league rugby tournament. (Pictures courtesy Sri Lanka Rugby)

By A Special Sports Correspondent

Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club (CR&FC) produced rib bruising rugby last Sunday (February 18) to end Kandy’s winning streak and be crowned as the new men’s champions in domestic rugby. The women’s tournament was won by Sri Lanka Navy.

Turn the pages of time to the launch of this tournament and there were predictions that the game would find a new winner in the men’s segment. And that’s just what the sport did. In a way these are the results that serve the game well; results that end a regime and usher in a new king. Kandy was winning it for too long and the educated spectator probably had to motivate himself to travel to the venue and catch the action when he can already predict the result while sitting on his sofa at home.

But the crowds came in their numbers to Longden Place; which is a good sign because the sport has lost a chunk of its spectators already. This is probably due to the fact that games are less exciting and ticket prices are so high. CR&FC must be lauded for many things. One is that they celebrated 100 years in rugby last year and were generous enough to open the gates free of charge for spectators at the final this year. If there are attempts to bring back the crowds to the venues and stop them from watching matches on TV or their mobile phones then CR must be given pat on their backs. Believe this writer! Nothing can beat the thrill you get out of watching a gripping rugby match through the naked eye.

Players in the likes of Adeesha Weerathunga, Lasindu Karunathilake, Manilka Ruberu, Gemunu Chethiya, Zubair Dooray, Raveen de Silva, Randy Silva and KushanTharinduhave raised their game to the next level. All these players have delivered in the try scoring department as well; apart from performing in their allocated roles without blemish. Weerathunga, a former Isipatana College schoolboy, has come of age. From his school at Havelock Town to Navy SC and at present with CR&FC he has reached a level in his playing which guarantees a berth in the national side as well as in any other domestic club side which extends him an invitation. This guy needs not be surprised if Kandy SC makes an offer for him to do a switch next season; given that the Nittawela side is struggling to put its forwards in order and is looking for a pack leader. Another player who caught the attention of spectators was Dooray for his breathtaking runs and quick thinking on the field. All on all the forwards combined well with the backs and produced a smashing 33-25 win in the Cup Championship decider against Kandy SC. In the first round game CR beat Kandy 38-26; which was by a bigger margin.

We have to talk about Dushanth Lewke, the CR&FC coach, for turning this side around. Lewke is now set to add more feathers on his cap as a rugby coach and what’s important is that he seems to have made the whole rugby set-up at CR listen to him. This probably has to be the case because when a coach gets all the support from the club and given that the players are both willing and able the result is a resounding victory. He is the son of a top cop and accomplished rugby coach Nimal Lewke, a former Senior DIG in the Police who also excelled in rugby, rugby refereeing, boxing, pistol shooting and spent the best years of his life in the war front. His son only has to concentrate on rugby. This writer doesn’t wish to compare the two individuals nor the different eras they were present in, but what has to be told must be told.

Kandy SC just couldn’t come to terms with how CR played the game in a fast, open and threatening manner. Many seasons ago they were playing this same form of rugby and had the opposition in shambles, but that was possible only with better and more accomplished players. It was Kandy’s speed that shattered the opposition, but not anymore. Take the Ratwatte brothers Nigel and Tharinda out of Kandy SC and you’ll see an outfit which can be beaten by any other side in the tournament. The Nittawela side played especially around Tharinda Ratwatte, easily the best player in the tournament and the country at present. He is an individual who has raised his game while being in a set-up which doesn’t know how to progress in 15-a-side rugby. If you analyze sides in the past like Police, CH, CR, Havies and even Air Force (during the times when a try gave a team four points and there was no lifting allowed in line outs) every side improved as the season progressed.

There were far less learning tools back then and the internet was unheard of. But people knew the intricacies of how common sense worked and also details of subtle communication methods; like the lines on the palm are read in the subject of palmistry. People or coaches were open to the ideas of others and thanks to human kind there was no smart phone to make you think you know it all. The Kandy side was not a bad side and even had one of the most experienced and seasoned campaigners in the game like Srinath Sooriyabandara. There were players like Jason Dissanayake, Dinal Ekanayake, Danushka Ranjan, Dange, Kavindu Perera, Shanushka Abeywickreme and Thilina Bandara to carry Kandy’s hope this season. But they collectively failed to lift this Kandy side one notch up. Coaches Marija and Viraj Prashantha (two rugby stars during their playing days) may be thinking hard, but hard work and application only produces a human result, not a miracle.

As for Kandy it’s now back to the drawing board for analysis and reviewing the season. Unlike in school rugby, Kandy Sports Club, which has buying power, knows how to strengthen the side when homegrown talent cannot keep the Kandy SC flag flying. It’s interesting to see how Kandy SC recovers from this big loss and looks to the future; the Clifford Cup Knockout tournament is next.

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Thomians rout Trinity to clinch Ranil Abeynayake Memorial Trophy

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Nathan Caldera bagged eight wickets.

Under 19 Cricket

by Reemus Fernando

S. Thomas’ registered crushing innings and 114 runs victory over Trinity as Nathan Caldera and Yatindra Siriwardene collected match bags of eight and seven wickets respectively to dismiss their visitors for meager totals in the traditional Under 19 cricket encounter at Mount Lavinia on Thursday.

The Thomians first win over Trinity since 2018 was achieved in dramatic fashion as they dismissed the Trinity batting line up within 19 overs in the second innings.

The win was sealed in the seventh over in the post lunch session as Thomians grabbed the last five wickets within that period. Trinity had only nine batsmen in the second innings as open batsman Dimantha Mahavithana did not bat due to an injury.

Paceman Caldera who bowled with fire in the first innings completed a match bag of eight wickets. It included an impressive five wicket haul in the first innings where he gave away just six runs.

Thisen Eheliyagoda was the star in the batting department as he top scored with 94 runs on a wicket where Trinity’s top score was Tharana Wimaladharma’s 23 runs.

Scores

Trinity

64 all out in 33.3 overs (Tharana Wimaladharma 23; Nathan Caldera 5/06, Yatindra Siriwardene 5/19) and 58 all out in 18.5 overs (Nathan Caldera 3/15, Yatindra Siriwardene 2/14, Ashen Perera 2/10, Kavindu Dias 2/18) and 58 all out in 18.5 overs (Nathan Caldera 3/15, Yatindra Siriwardene 2/14, Ashen Perera 2/10, Kavindu Dias 2/18))

S. Thomas’

173 for 7 overnight 236 all out in 76.2 overs (Mithila Charles 27, Sadev Soysa 22, Senadhi Bulankulame 23, Thisen Eheliyagoda 94, Ashen Perera 26; Tharana Wimaladharma 4/47, Malith Rathnayake 4/52, Thisal Yapa 2/53)

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