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Remembering Dalmiya on Silver Jubilee of Sri Lanka’s World Cup triumph

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by Rex Clementine

A new term has entered cricket terminology – SENA countries – it stands for South Africa, England, New  Zealand and Australia. Apparently, winning there or doing well in those countries is the yardstick to measure how good a player is or a team is. 

SENA countries would not agree but it was Jagmohan Dalmiya who changed cricket’s finances. The business tycoon from Calcutta who was a key figure in forming the Asian Cricket Council in 1980s was instrumental in identifying the huge marketing potential of the sport especially through television rights. Dalmiya became the first Asian President of ICC and was instrumental in moving the game’s headquarters from Lord’s to Dubai.

Dalmiya was also a dear friend of Sri Lanka. It is a little known fact that he became the President of ICC before becoming the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. It was as the Secretary of BCCI that Dalmiya made many of his smart moves that SENA countries loathed. He was the head of PILCOM – Pakistan, India and Lanka Committee that was set up to run the 1996 WILLS World Cup.

Dalmiya’s letters to the then Sri Lankan cricket board Secretary Neil Perera reveals much details about behind the scene moves of the Asian block in securing the 1996 World Cup to Asia. Sri Lanka’s representatives for the ICC meeting in 1993 were given clear instructions from President R. Premadasa to vote for South Africa. South African sports associations were using the immense popularity of Nelson Mandela for them to secure global sporting events. They had already secured the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The Cricket World Cup was going to be another feather in their cap.

However, South Africa’s bid had some serious issues. England wanted to host the event and so did Pakistan. With them unable to garner enough support, South Africa withdrew. Neil Perera saw the opportunity and convinced Pakistan to withdraw their bid too – because India would not support them. Instead, Perera wanted India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to put out a joint bid. This proved to be a masterstroke. Pakistan was reluctant initially but later on agreed on one condition. Lahore should host the World Cup final. It was then agreed that India would host both semis. Cricket’s Asian stakeholders had a deal.

Like in every global sporting event, the organizers had to face many challenges. The biggest of them was the refusal of Australia and West Indies to honour their World Cup fixtures in Colombo. Their security concerns was summed up when Shane Warne said a ‘bomb might go off in Colombo’ while he was shopping. It was to Dalmiya that Sri Lanka turned to bail them out.

The Sri Lankan government convinced the Indian cricket supremo that the visiting teams would be presented with security accorded to the Heads of States. Dalmiya then in haste went onto put out a joint India-Pakistan team to come to Colombo and play a friendly match.

Now, convincing the Indian captain to play under a Pakistani captain or vice-versa was such a hard task; the fans would not simply accept something of this sort. Dalmiya had a smart move.  First he appointed someone to manage the team. He needed a high profile figure. So he chose former Pakistan captain Intikhab Alam.

Dalmiya then called up Alam and said, “Now that Pakistan has the post of Manager, it is only fair that India gets the captaincy. I hope you agree. You have got to convince Wasim Akram to play under Mohammad Azharuddin.” 

Dalmiya was able to put out a star-studded side. There was one more issue.  In signing up WILLS as the sponsor, it had been agreed upon that two weeks prior to the tournament there would be no international cricket matches taking place. So, technically this match could not happen. Dalmiya solved that puzzle too. He called up WILLS and said, ‘Never again are you going to get a situation where India and Pakistan playing as one team.  I am going to name this team WILLS World XI. So you better pay me more money.”

The game at RPS was a  huge success and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar attended to greet the players.

With that the fact that Colombo was safe to host cricket matches was established. Dalmiya then demanded Australia and West Indies to honour their World Cup commitments. They refused. Both boards then accused Sri Lanka of refusing to relocate their games to India and wanted full points for themselves. When Sri Lanka board chief Ana Punchihewa disagreed, West Indies and Australia wanted points shared. But sanity prevailed as Dalmiya ensured fair play. As the head of PILCOM he advised ICC to award full points to Sri Lanka.

Ironically, Sri Lanka would defeat India in the World Cup semi-final in Dalmiya’s backyard stunning 110,000 fans to silence. While Dalmiya would have been disappointed that India did not progress to the final, deep down he would have been happy for the tiny island of ours. He had played a huge role in Sri Lanka’s development in the world stage.



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Scoops, ramps, paddle and reverse sweeps no good for ODIs  

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by Rex Clementine  

Anybody who attempts to scoop Kagiso Rabada’s first ball – a thunderbolt clocked at 150 kmph – over the wicketkeeper’s head must be out of his mind; unless he is Niroshan Dickwella. This was not on the slow surfaces of Dambulla or Suriyawewa, but at The Wanderers, a fast bowler’s paradise. Dickwella with his fearless approach and cheeky batting should be a must in the ODI team but in Sri Lanka he is a Test match specialist. His last ODI was more than two years ago – in March 2019.  

It was confirmed that Dickwella will be snubbed during the Bangladesh ODIs as well after captain Kusal Janith Perera admitted that he will keep wickets. But here’s are a few points for the selectors and Head Coach Mickey Arthur to ponder.  

Dickwella has cemented his place in the Test team and more recently has shown maturity as well. He’s been so good with the bat that in 2021, he’s the sixth highest run getter in the world in Tests. 

Not that Dickwella has suddenly transformed himself as a Test batsman. He has cut down a few high risk shots but still provides entertainment. Sri Lanka from a few shaky positions have gone onto consolidate thanks to Dickwella whose biggest strength is not being afraid to play shots. He is someone who is quickly able to put pressure back on the bowlers.  

When he is able to pull off such tricks in a format where there are few fielding restrictions, imagine what he is capable of doing when restrictions are on. To be fair, Dickwella’s best returns have come in ODI cricket as he has scored two hundreds and nine fifties in 49 innings at an average of 32 and strike rate of 93. Well, true, it’s nowhere near M.S. Dhoni class who averaged 50 in ODIs.  

Dickwella is pretty good with his glove work too. Is he the finish product yet? Of course not! Someone needs to sit down with Dickwella and have a long chat on a few things. Let’s start with reviews. The wicketkeeper’s input is so valuable in reviews and Dickwella misleads his captain. The expert opinion of Dickwella during reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt, very much like input of the nation’s intelligence chief during the Yahapalana regime. Both are flawed, highly.  

When England whitewashed Sri Lanka 3-0 in 2018, Dickwella’s reviews were outrageous. At occasions he had exhausted all reviews before the team’s best bowler – Rangana Herath had come onto the attack. Impulsive and immature, Dickwella has never learned and it has reached a point where the captain doesn’t trust him anymore. 

Still, he’s got to be part of the ODI side. He is fearless to the extent that he does some crazy stuff. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread they say. Dickwella is like the fool who is willing to go any distance just for the sake of winning.  

His infamous fight with Virat Kohli in Calcutta in 2017 surprisingly earned the Indian captain’s applause.  “I like to see that character. I liked that competitiveness on the field. He is a very feisty character and that works for his game. Credit for him for maintaining that and I am sure he will do many good things in Sri Lankan cricket,” Kohli said.  

In that same series, in Delhi, Sri Lanka were battling to save the Test match. Entering into the last hour, they had an outside chance to win – requiring 110 runs in 15 overs. Dickwella urged his partner Roshen Silva to have a crack but the senior opted to play it safe. 

Sri Lanka were 1-0 down in the series. Dickwella’s attitude was to square the series and in the process if the team ended up losing 2-0 tough luck. Here’s a guy who plays to win. You need chaps like that moving forward.   

KJP has already got too much on his plate. This is a young side. He has to lead from front and why take up the additional burden of keeping wickets too. Let him give it to the nation’s best wicketkeeper – Dickwella.  

We are yet to see Dickwella’s best – both cricket skills and madness. Sometimes madness is required to get under the skin of someone like Virat Kohli. Not often does the Indian captain get into an ugly altercation with an opponent and then praises him.  

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Dimuth, Mathews, Lakmal and others get pay cuts

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Several Sri Lankan cricketers have refused to sign central contracts after significant pay cuts.

Dickwella and DDS secure US$ 100,000 contracts  

by Rex Clementine

Former captains Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal and Dinesh Chandimal along with current Test skipper Dimuth Karunaratne and a few regulars will not sign contracts offered by Sri Lanka Cricket after they were forced to undergo significant pay cuts, The Island learns.

The biggest gainers in the new contracts that will be announced shortly will be wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella and Dhananjaya de Silva, who will each earn US$ 100,000. In fact, they are the only two players in the top category.

Mathews will lose as much as US$ 50,000 after his retainer was cut from US$ 130,000 to US$ 80,000. He will turn 34 next month and with the selectors indicating that they intend to move on with a younger crop of players for limited over games, there will be little motivation for him to accept the contract especially with Sri Lanka set to play just two more Tests for this year.

Dimuth Karunarante, who has made rapid strides in Test match cricket this year, will also receive a pay cut of US$ 30,000. Following his stunning hundred at the Wanderers in January and after finishing the Bangladesh series with 427 runs in three innings, Karunaratne, would have at least expected to stay on par with his previous contract of US$ 100,000, but his pay has been brought down to 70,000.

Suranga Lakmal will also get a pay cut of US$ 45,000 having been demoted to the second category from the first tier where he earned US$ 100,000 the previous year.

Everything about the contracts are not gloomy though with someone like Pathum Nissanka, who made a stunning debut in the Caribbean two months ago receiving a retainer worth US$ 55,000.

Kasun Rajitha would consider himself that he has won a lottery with him finishing with US$ 50,000. The quick from Matara, who recently shifted clubs, represented Sri Lanka in just two games last year across all three formats but he ends up with a lucrative pay package. Dinesh Chandimal is in a lower category than Rajitha earning just 45,000 US$.

Danushka Gunatilleke probably gets the unkindest cut of all having been lowered to the last category where he will earn a mere US$ 30,000. The left-hander has emerged as the most consistent batsman in white ball cricket in recent times having had a good tour of West Indies.

 

 

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Yupun clocks year’s third fastest time in Asia

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Breaks national 100 metres record

Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon improved his Sri Lanka National record in the 100 metres with Asia’s third fastest time of the season at the 10th edition of the Memorial Giulio Ottolia at the Fontanassa Sports Centre in Savona, Italy on Thursday.

Abeykoon clocked 10.15 seconds to break the national record in what turned out to be his first competition of the year at the northwestern Italian city.

Abeykoon bettered his previous record by 0.01 seconds. His previous record of 10.16 seconds was established in September last year.

Competing in Thursday’s final he was placed second behind Italian sprinter Lorenzo Patta who clocked 10.13 seconds to win in the absence of European indoor 60m champion Marcell Jacobs who stole the show early with a new Italian national record in the heats.

Jacobs clocked 9.95 seconds to break the Italian record in the heats but pulled out due to a calf cramp. Abeykoon too clocked a wind assisted faster time in the heats.

Abeykoon’s performance is just 0.10 seconds shy of the direct Olympic entry standard but it is the third fastest time by an Asian sprinter this year.

China’s Bingtian Su with a feat of 9.98 seconds (in April ) has the fastest 100 metres time in Asia this year. While Japanese sprinter Ryota Yamagata’s 10.14 seconds (also in April) is the second fastest time, Yupun’s time of 10.15 seconds is ranked third above Zhenye Xie (China 10.16 secs) and Tosin Ogunode (Qatar 10.21 secs).

Abeykoon’s feat is the second Sri Lanka record registered within days after US based high jumper Ushan Thivanka broke the national record in his event. While European and US training and competitions have helped the duo produce their best, lack of quality competitions due to the Covid 19 pandemic have held back the progress of a number of top local athletes who are on the edge of Olympic qualifying standards.

(RF)

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