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Sanath assault leaves General Musharraf stunned



Pakistan’s leader spent a good half an hour with the Sri Lankan boys. This is where he famously told Sanath Jayasuriya that he had never seen anyone giving the Indians a good hiding like that.

by Rex Clementine

General Pervez Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008 died in a Dubai hospital on Sunday aged 79. He was a cricket buff, a friend of Sri Lanka and a visionary leader.

The 2008 Asia Cup was the last major cricket tournament that Pakistan organized. With India too participating in the event, security was paramount and General Musharraf didn’t take any chances. The teams travelled from hotel to ground with roads fully closed to the public and maximum security had been provided to the teams. Pakistan failed to make it to the finals. Yet, General Musharraf turned up for the game. Security was tight at the stadium. Nobody takes smoking seriously in Pakistan but that day with General Musharraf arriving bags were thoroughly checked and lighters, boxes of matches, and cigarettes were confiscated.

Briefly, after the game started, General Musharraf appeared waving his hands at the packed stadium. The people of Pakistan loved their military dictator.

The game itself was a bit of an anti-climax. India were running away with it as Sri Lanka slumped to 66 for four. M.S. Dhoni was calling the right shots, Sanga, MJ and Dilshan were all back in the pavilion without doing much damage.

Dhoni perhaps knew the job wasn’t done as his team had to still dismiss a certain Sanath Jayasuriya.

Sanath was past his prime at the age of 39 but he wasn’t going to go down without a fight. With fielding restrictions over and more gaps to find in the 30 yard circle, Sanath started picking up singles and then the boundaries followed. He finished on 125 off 114 balls with nine fours and five sixes. It was some hitting. Nevertheless, it didn’t fetch him the Man of the Match award. But why? Because this was Ajantha Mendis’ game. Destiny would have it that the rookie spinner bamboozle the famed batting line-up comprising Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh and Robin Uthappa. Yuvraj wondering in disbelief after being bowled neck and crop is one of the best images in the sport. Mendis took six for 13 and Sri Lanka won by 103 runs to be crowned Asian Champions. Then, General Musharraf wanted to visit the Sri Lankan dressing room.

Our copies were delayed and the desk was screaming that we had failed to meet the deadline as the press conference was held up. This was before the WhatsApp era and you had to depend on IDD calls which were very expensive.

Pakistan’s leader spent a good half an hour with the Sri Lankan boys. This is where he famously told Sanath Jayasuriya that he had never seen anyone giving the Indians a good hiding like that. The military top brass who had accompanied the Pakistan President burst out laughing. The Sri Lankan players at that point didn’t understand what General Musharraf was trying to convey. Later they were told that Musharraf had fought two wars with India as a young soldier. Musharraf was born in Delhi in 1943 and moved to Pakistan at the time of partition.

In 1998, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sheriff had differences with the military, his close confidants recommended Army’s reigns to be handed over to Musharraf. Soon, he was made a four-star general and although he was third in command of succession, his academic brilliance and popularity among the public saw the PM elevating him to the top post of the army.

However, soon there were differences between the PM and the Army Chief. General Musharraf was in Colombo in 1998 to participate in Sri Lankan Army’s golden jubilee celebrations. When he returned home, the PM didn’t allow the aircraft carrying the Army Chief to land. Nawaz Sheriff did some moves to remove Musharraf as the Army chief. But Musharraf outsmarted the PM telling his generals to get hold of key strategic government institutions. Having gained control of the situation, his flight landed in Karachi and he went on to rule Pakistan for nine years.

General Musharraf fought Islam extremists and was a key ally of the US in their war against terror in Afghanistan. He is credited for modernizing Pakistan but his western allies were quick to criticize him for his human rights record. General Musharraf was a friend of Sri Lanka. During the height of the war, when the government felt the pinch unable to buy costly war equipment, he generously helped the Sri Lankan military. He was a maverick. A man ahead of his time. After losing power, he spent most of his time in Dubai where he passed away.

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Where have all the mystery bowlers gone? 



by Rex Clementine 

It’s been a while since a mystery Sri Lankan spinner bamboozled the opposition batsmen. Not just batsmen but coaches went on a frenzy decoding these bowlers while Times of India and Daily Telegraph dedicated headlines praising how well Sri Lanka groomed these sensational talents.

Ajantha Mendis was the last global sensation with bit of mystery as his carrom ball humbled India’s fabulous batting line-up comprising Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly. After him T. M. Dilshan opening the batting with field restrictions on came up with a scoop shot over the head of the wicketkeeper that later became popular as Dilscoop.

Not exactly mystery but Sri Lanka promoting unorthodox style of play totally contrary to the coaching manual had been appreciated and encouraged. Not just Dilshan and Mendis but Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya all broke convention and were extremely successful.

Credit to selectors and captains for encouraging these natural talents and more importantly for the coaches, especially at lower levels, for not sidelining them for being different.

Mendis and Malinga weren’t hits at school cricket and they were more or less groomed after they left school. But Jayasuriya and Murali were entirely different. Thankfully their early coaches did not tinker too much with their style.

Coaches nowadays are too engaged in the sport. They roam around the boundary rope providing ball by ball instructions making the captain redundant. Imagine how much impact they’d be having on players at training and there’s little room for creativity.

Cricket Academies are mushrooming as well with little monitoring done and you sense that not many players with unorthodox style are going to be accepted and as a result succeed. There are few rare talents with unorthodox styles. Some bowlers have copied Lasith Malinga and Matheesha Pathirana has earned an IPL deal even before he’s become a permanent fixture in the Sri Lankan side.

Paul Adams earned a nickname ‘frog in the blender’ for his action  and anyone who sees Sri Lankan spinner Kevin Koththigoda from down south will remember the South African wrist spinner.

Funnily Richmond College, Galle seem to be nurturing these special talents and Kamindu Mendis is another player who can  make a big impact. He’s nowadays mostly in the Test squad and nearly featured in the second Test in Wellington. He’s there in the team for his batting but he’s ambidextrous and bowls both left-arm spin and off-spin with good accuracy. That makes him an ideal candidate for shorter formats of the game and that’s where he should perhaps focus more at succeeding.

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Gateway wins Netball Championship



The victorious Gateway College under 18 Netball team

Gateway College emerged Under 18 Netball Champions at the Inter International School tournament organized by Colombo International School (CIS) played at the Sugadadasa Indoor Stadium.

Gateway College, led by calm and composed Rithika Srikanth, beat Lyceum Wattala 16 -8 in the final after leading 9 – 6 at the breather. Gateway entered the final by beating their counterpart in Kandy 12 -6. At the Group stages, Gateway beat ILMA 16– 5, Lyceum Nugegoda 12 – 1, CIS Colombo 17 – 0 and the British School in Colombo 18 – 0.

Gateway’s young star Shenoshi Abeygunawardena was crowned the Netball Queen and Cloe Thillakaratne was adjudged as the Best Defensive player. Mawrya Liyanage did the vital turnarounds to keep Lyceum Wattala under check and Goal Attack Onadhi Samarakoon was outstanding with her accurate shooting.

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2023 Asia Cup likely in Pakistan and one other overseas venue for India games



“Which visa do we have to apply for?”

The 2023 Asia Cup is likely to be played in Pakistan with another overseas venue to host India games. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that both BCCI and PCB, after an initial standoff, are moving swiftly towards brokering a resolution which could have both teams playing their tournament matches against each other outside Pakistan. The overseas venue is not confirmed but the UAE, Oman, Sri Lanka and even England are potential contenders to host five matches including at least two India-Pakistan contests.

India and Pakistan have been grouped together along with a qualifier in the six-nation Asia Cup, scheduled to be held in the first half of September this year and in a 50-over format. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are part of the other group. A total of 13 matches will be played across 13 days including the final. As per the format for the 2022 Asia Cup, the top two teams from each group advance to the Super 4s and the top two teams then contest the final. The possibility of India and Pakistan playing three times remains.

As it stands, a small working group has been formed with the brief of creating a schedule and travel plan agreeable to all participating countries as well as the broadcaster before a final call is taken. The weather is likely to play a key role in determining the second venue outside of Pakistan, though there will be keenness among the Asian venues to host high-profile India-Pakistan games. Temperatures in early September in the UAE usually hover around the 40-degreee centigrade mark, though that has not prevented cricket from being played there: the 2021 IPL was played there late September, but Pakistan have played international matches in early September. In Muscat, Oman’s capital, temperatures remain lower and it did host the first round of the 2021 T20 World Cup. The option for England remains an ambitious one, though the prospect of big crowds in a city like London is likely to be an attractive one.

The option of staging part of the Asia Cup outside Pakistan was agreed in principle as the most favourable by all members of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) when they met last weekend in Dubai, on the sidelines of the ICC’s quarterly board meetings. Having failed to reach a resolution mid-March in Bahrain at the ACC meet, members converged for two further rounds of informal discussions in Dubai. The PCB, which has the hosting rights for the 2023 edition of Asia Cup, was represented by its chair Najam Sethi while the BCCI team comprised its secretary Jay Shah and Arun Dhumal, the IPL governing council chairman.

Last October, the PCB was caught off guard by Shah who said that the 2023 Asia Cup would be held in a “neutral” venue. The PCB, then under Ramiz Raja – Sethi’s predecessor – immediately responded that Pakistan would pull out of the tournament altogether if it was taken out of the country. Sethi reiterated that stance both in the Bahrain and Dubai rounds of discussions. Shah said he had made the statement in his capacity as the ACC president. During the Bahrain meeting, the BCCI pointed out that as hosts it had successfully conducted the 2018 edition of Asia Cup at a neutral venue – in the UAE – after it became clear Pakistan could not travel to India due to the strained political ties between the two neighbouring countries.

Relations continuing as they are, Shah had told the ACC that India wouldn’t be able to travel to Pakistan for the Asia Cup. As discussions began in Dubai, he reiterated the position. The PCB did likewise, saying that if the entire tournament was taken out of Pakistan, they would pull out of the event altogether. At one point Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had offered to swap the hosting rights with the PCB, willing to stage the entire tournament, but that was rejected by the PCB.

With a stalemate all too apparent, a second option of splitting the tournament across two countries including Pakistan emerged over the course of informal discussions and was eventually presented and discussed at the formal ACC meeting. It is understood both PCB and BCCI were open to such a plan, subject to details and logistics being worked out that satisfied everyone. The plan will also be taken to their individual governments before a formal schedule is worked out.


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