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Sanga anoints Asalanka as his successor  



Rex Clementine in Dubai

It took Sri Lanka three years to find Asanka Gurusinha’s successor at number three. In the year 2000, Kumar Sangakkara came along and he occupied the slot for 15 years breaking world records at will. For six years, Sri Lanka searched for Sanga’s replacement without much success. Given the way how Charith Asalanka went about things in the T-20 World Cup, there is enough evidence that we have found Sanga’s successor and the man himself confirms that.

“I think Charith Asalanka has done extremely well. He looks like the caliber of player who will have a long career, score a lot of runs and win a lot of games for Sri Lanka,” Sangakkara told Sri Lankan journalists during a virtual interaction from Colombo.

“His ability to deal with both good spin and good pace is terrific. He seems to have a fearlessness approach, which is good to see. When the side was in transition, there were various things that needed to be set in place. The things that will come into any player’s mind is a little bit of fear. Fear to fail; because you might feel the fear to take a risk as you could be dropped. The ability to take on the challenge puts reverses pressure on the opposition. Charith seems to have come to terms with all of that. He’s got poise. He’s got the game. From here on, it’s about getting his mental skills together; his game organization and adjusting from surface to surface, country to country, opposition to opposition. There’s a huge amount there already visible to say that he’ll be an excellent, excellent player,” Sangakkara added.

Sri Lanka’s campaign in the World Cup went beyond expectations. The team stormed through the qualifying round and beat West Indies and Bangladesh in the second round and narrowly lost to South Africa, England and Australia.

“Overall it’s been such an encouraging performance. Going in to this tournament everyone knew it was going to be a daunting task. There were questions in everyone’s mind, and rightly so, as to will this be the right team? Are these players capable of competing at the international level in such high pressure tournaments? It’s been such a heartening sight to see the way this team has gone about it. They’ve looked fearless. Unfortunately T20 is such a volatile format that a few deliveries, a run out can really cost you the game because there’s very little time for you to come back into a game when those mistakes occur.”

Not just Charith Asalanka but the emergence of a lot of young players augurs well for the game in the country. “The journey is just starting. All of you have spoken about Charith a lot. But if you take the whole unit in one, Hasaranga today is the number one T20 bowler in the world at such a young age. You see the beginning of a side if continuously and consistently developed; they have the makings of a side that will be a significant force, especially in white ball cricket.”

More than half of the team that came to UAE had played less than a handful of T-20 Internationals but they tested some of the strong forces like South Africa. The game against Proteas was decided in the penultimate delivery with Sri Lanka going down fighting. “Unfortunately, against South Africa, you had that one over against Miller. They were few options. One is to go fifth leg stump ball at the heel or go wider outside the off stump to Miller so that you are away from his arc. Sometimes the execution just doesn’t work. And that was a game that was really within our grasp to win. Then against England, you know about 38 runs needed in 20 balls, England were a side that looked in absolute control against every side that they played except us. England were completely under pressure and in a very desperate situation. In those games you see that we are capable of getting into situations where we can win games against the best opposition.”

Sangakkara was one of Sri Lanka’s most successful captains although his stint was brief. That was an extremely successful period as the team reached two World Cup finals and won a first ever series in Australia. Had he been in Dasun Shanaka’s shoes, would he have done things differently?

“I’m very reluctant to pinpoint areas like that because, you know, when you’re watching a game from the outside; you have the benefit of having a wider perspective. When you’re in the game and when you’re young and when you don’t have the same experience, sometimes things can get a little confusing. Not just confusing but it can get a little intense. Dasun has handled himself really impressively with this young side. There would have been a lot of pressure on him in terms of South Africa. I think the team had the plans right but unfortunately couldn’t execute in that last over. Perhaps in the England game Dasun not bowling himself in the 19th over maybe.”

Sangakkara was part of the Cricket Advisory Committee headed by former great Aravinda de Silva that persuaded ex captain Mahela Jayawardene to join the team in an advisory capacity during the qualifying round. “Mahela being there had a huge impact on getting those tactics and strategy refined, fine tuned and game ready. Adding to the experience of the coaching staff Mahela would have brought in an immense wealth of knowledge in terms of working with the analytics team, working with the players individually and getting those plans all set.”

With the white ball team constantly underperforming, early this year, the new selection panel adopted an aggressive youth policy shutting the door on six seniors. With a new bunch of players coming in there seems to be new energy in the side.

“I think the change of culture has to come a lot from within the team as well from the players themselves. I think the players have to take some time to really think about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and really get together as a leadership group. If you want to set a culture, it has to have the players who buy into it. The coach or whoever else can come and demand things from the team. But if the team doesn’t buy into it, it’s very difficult to change the status quo. Sometimes it looks from the outside that maybe there isn’t the same passion, but I’m very reluctant to say that because I have been inside dressing rooms where we’ve had terrible losses and a few bad tournaments. But I know that every player has a burning passion to play the game. If you have a culture where you have to look over your shoulder and wonder whether you are going to get into the next team. What’s going to happen if I don’t score runs. If that continuous doubt is there in your mind it is very difficult to break out of that especially if you have a team with a lot of youngsters. So this new culture is giving them more certainty and more consistency. Telling them that we value them as players and individuals and this is the brand of cricket we want to see. This is the kind of excellence we want to have in the decision making process and in the way we play. The players seem to have really bought into that and really set that culture again where you see there is this positive energy on the field, always trying to fight  always trying to win. It’s good to see.”

When the national selection panel launched their aggressive youth policy, the backbone of their batting was going to be Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis (vice-captain) and Niroshan Dickwella. But their suspension meant that it was back to square one. The trio are expected to return to domestic cricket shortly with their international suspension ending in June next year. What does Sangakkara expect from them when they return.

“Perhaps, a little bit of common sense would be good. Three extremely talented players and what a loss it has been for Sri Lanka cricket in terms of not having their services available. But at the same time, a strong message has been sent by SLC. Their commitment to the team, discipline and expectations as cricketers is important. It’s non-negotiable. They have been handed significant bans and fines. I just hope that they learn from this and come back stronger. I am sure everyone will welcome them back and also hope that they will start thinking better not just on the field, but off the field as well.”


Dambulla Giants cruise to comfortable win in LPL




Welshman Philip Salt was the star for Dambulla Giants as he top scored with 62 off 34 balls with eight fours and two sixes to help his team post the competition’s highest score of 195 for six. Image: SLC.

Dambulla Giants cruised to a comfortable 18 run win in their Lanka Premier League fixture against Colombo Stars yesterday at R. Premadasa Stadium. Some big hitting by Giants batsmen powered them to a huge 195 for six and Stars in reply could only manage 177 all out in 18.5 overs.

Stars needed a big knock from one of their top order batsmen to challenge Giants but their batting did not click. Tom Banton (23), Kusal Perera (20), Pathum Nissanka (12) and Sherfane Rutherford all got starts but were not able to post a big score.

A 38 run stand between Dhananjaya de Silva and Dinesh Chandimal for the sixth wicket kept the Stars interested but the scoreboard pressure saw them taking too many risks. Dhananjaya made 21 while Chandimal went onto top score with 26 runs in 16 deliveries with two fours and two sixes.

Giants may not have any big international names in their ranks but their batting is firing on all cylinders coming up with formidable totals. Their 195 for six yesterday is the competition’s highest total so far. They improved on their previous best of 190 for seven against Warriors on Monday. Explosive Welsh batsman Philip Salt continued his excellent form in the competition smashing 62 off 34 balls with eight fours and two sixes.

Salt, who has already represented England in white ball cricket, batted only for ten overs but that was sufficient to give his side an explosive start and a solid foundation. Dushmantha Chameera was called back to the attack with things getting out of hands for Stars and he provided the breakthrough by dismissing Salt.

After the excellent start, captain Dasun Shanaka and Najibullah Zadran provided the innings the much needed impetus in the death overs as they added 77 runs for the sixth wicket in 49 deliveries. Najibullah posted 54 that came off 40 deliveries with six fours and two sixes while Shanaka finished on 38 having faced 25 deliveries and hit three sixes and two fours. Chameera was on the money again sending down the penultimate over and his extra pace accounted for both batsmen.
Guyanese all-rounder Keemo Paul was the costliest with his three overs going for 48 runs.
With that win, Giants are second in the points table.

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Himasha Eshan suspended for doping




Himasha Eshan won the men’s 100 metres and established a meet record in the medley relay at the Army Athletics Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium recently.

by Reemus Fernando

Former national 100 metres record holder and South Asian Games medallist Himasha Eshan has been suspended from track and field activities after being found positive for a banned substance during a random test conducted by Sri Lanka Anti-Doping Authority (SLADA).

The sprinter, coached by Chaminda Perera, played a key role in Sri Lanka Artillery’s victory at the recently concluded Army Athletics Championships. Incidentally, the SLADA has collected Himasha’s urine samples at the Army quarters at Narahenpita on the final day of the Army Athletics Championships where he was involved in record breaking feats. He was part of the Medley Relay team that established a new meet record at the event and also ran a wind assisted 10.29 seconds to win the men’s 100 metres.

The SLADA letter addressed to Himasha Eshan states that his ‘A’ sample test has indicated an adverse analytical finding and he has been found positive for an anabolic androgenic steroid norandrosterone.

It is the second time the former Kalutara Vidyalaya sprinter has been found positive for a banned substance during an otherwise glittering carrier. “Since it is the second time that he had been found positive for a banned substance it will make it difficult for any disciplinary committee to treat the matter leniently,” a source conversant with the proceeding told The Island on condition of anonymity.

The 26-year-old has been requested to appear for an initial inquiry at the SLADA headquarters on December 15, where he would be able to request his ‘B’ sample to be tested.

However, sources close to Sri Lanka Army and Sri Lanka Athletics said that the sprinter had left the island for Italy after the Army Athletics Championship.
Himasha who holds the current national record in the men’s 4×100 metres was also the national record holder in the 100 metres until his 10.22 seconds feat was beaten by Italy based Yupun Abeykoon in September 2020.

Himasha was still a teenager when he rose to prominence winning the national title but was first found positive for banned substance methylhexanamine in 2012. His doping violation was treated leniently on that occasion as he was still a school athlete. When he was first tested positive for a banned substance it was reported that the young athlete had been advised by his coach Chaminda Perera to take a supplement available in the market and doping authorities suspected the adverse findings were a result of taking the supplement.

While Himasha was banned for one year, Perera continued to train young aspirants and was the sprint coach of many top athletes.
A source close to anti-doping authority said “according to 33/13 convention against doping in sports criminal charges can be raised against members of the support staff for doping violations in sports.”

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Dialog Powers the Battle of the Saints




(L-R) Rev. Fr. Ranjith Andradi – Rector, St. Joseph’s College, Trinesh Fernando, General Counsel/Vice President, Group Legal and Regulatory, Dialog Axiata PLC, Rev. Fr. Rohitha Rodrigo – Rector, St. Peter’s College.

87th Joe-Pete next week at SSC

Sri Lanka’s premier Catholic boys’ schools, St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and St. Peter’s College, Colombo are set to battle it out for the Rev. Father Maurice J. Le Goc Trophy, on 13th & 14th December 2021, at the SSC Grounds, Colombo.

The ‘Battle of the Saints’, which is renowned for its exciting and competitive brand of cricket is the only annual two-day cricket encounter that strategically limits the first innings to 60 overs each to create greater interest and result orientation. In the 2021 encounter the lads from Darley Road will be led by Sri Lanka Under 19 Captain, the brilliant allrounder Dunith Wellalage, while the boys from Bambalapitiya will be under the captaincy of the stylish batsmen and 5th year Coloursman, Nipunaka Fonseka.

“The global pandemic has crippled the world and yet, we are fortunate to embrace a unique tradition, a game of cricket which helps protect and preserve traditions, values and history” Rev. Fr. Rohitha Rodrigo, the Rector of the hosting school, St. Peter’s College, Colombo, said. “The Joe-Pete fosters a unique sense of brotherhood, unity, peace and harmony and this year, even without spectators at the grounds the spirit will prevail. Let me express my gratitude to all who fought back with courage, discipline and responsibility during the pandemic to overcome the challenges. My sincere thanks to our Principal sponsor Dialog Axiata for their support for our inspirational brand”

Rev. Fr. Ranjith Andradi, Rector, St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, said, “We have, through divine intervention and the hard work of so many, succeeded in preparing the stage for another Joe-Pete cricket encounter which brings together a spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie that exists in an unbroken chain for generations. Our students have practiced hard, and we intend to give them this momentous opportunity to showcase their talents. I would like to thank the sponsor, Dialog Axiata and wish both teams the best of luck.”

St. Joseph’s College leads the series tally with 12 wins, their last win coming under the captaincy of Ruwantha Fernandopulle in 2008, while St. Peter’s College were the winners of the 2016 encounter under Vinu Mohotty, bringing their tally to 10 wins, which ensured the Rev. Father Maurice J. Legoc Trophy was kept securely in the trophy cabinet at Bambalapitiya.

This year due to the pandemic to ensure the health and safety of all, spectators will not be present, but it is expected that large numbers of passionate past and present students will watch safely from private, remote locations. Additionally, all the very important requirements and safety protocols of the Ministry of Health will be followed.

The highly anticipated Josephian-Peterite limited overs match played for the ‘Fr. Peter A. Pillai Memorial Trophy’ which was the first one day encounter among schools commencing in 1975, has always attracted the highest number of spectators for a school’s 50 over cricket match is scheduled to be played on the following Thursday, 16th December 2021 and will also be played behind closed doors at the same venue. The Josephian’s lead the one-day encounter 23-20 with 2 matches ending with no result.

Adding excitement to the games this year is the fact that six players – Dunith Wellalage, Shevon Daniel, Sadeesh Jayawardena from St Joseph’s and Wanuja Sahan, Danal Hemananda, Lahiru Dewatage from St Peters played against the touring Bangladesh U19 team and five of them are presently playing against the touring English juniors. Dunith Wellalage, Captain of St Joseph’s was appointed the Sri Lanka U19 Captain for both tours while Wanuja Sahan of St Peter’s and Shevon Daniel of St Joseph’s were regular match winners during the two series. The five playing in the English tour are tipped to be in the Sri Lanka squad which leaves on the 19th December for the U19 Asia Cup in The UAE and the U19 World Cup in the West Indies.

The two schools have produced many National Caps. Current Sri Lanka test skipper Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews, Chaminda Vaas, Thisara Perera, Ashley De Silva, Michael Van Dort, Roshen Silva, Priyamal Perera and Sadeera Samarawickrama are the Josephians who represented Sri Lanka while the Peterites are Roy Dias, Rumesh Ratnayake, Vinodhan John, Amal Silva, Russel Arnold, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Malinda Warnapura and Angelo Perera.
As the principal sponsor, Dialog Axiata has made arrangements to LIVE stream the match via in the interest of all present boys, old boys, parents, supporters, well-wishers and the cricket-loving public who are encouraged to watch the match in safe and secure locations and ensure all safety protocols are maintained.

One of Sri Lanka’s largest banks, Hatton National Bank has also come forth as a co-sponsor for this year’s prestigious ‘Battle of the Saints’ encounter.
Dialog Axiata is the proud sponsor of the Sri Lanka National Cricket, Volleyball and Netball teams. The Company also has a close association with the President’s Gold Cup Volleyball, Junior Volleyball, National Junior and Senior Netball tourneys, Schools Rugby League, Knockout and Sevens tourneys, Premier Football and Paralympic sports – by powering the Army Para Games, National Para Games and the Sri Lankan contingent to the World Paralympic Games.

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