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Selling your skippers down the river

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by Rex Clementine 

Last month, Kusal Janith Perera was made to look like a superstar. Sri Lanka’s selectors got him to captain the side, keep wickets, and open batting.  Not even the ice cool M.S. Dhoni had been saddled with that many responsibilities. 

This month, however, it has dawned onto the selectors that KJP is no superstar. Not only has he been sacked as the captain, he is also likely to be relieved of wicket-keeping duties. Don’t be surprised if they tell KJP to bat in the middle order during the ODIs. 

Every defeat needs a scapegoat. We found a good one in KJP. Selling your skipper down the river, however, is nothing new. It is an age-old practice that successive establishments have used to make ends meet or even teach people lessons. Politicians have a lot to learn from our cricket. 

We all know that Bandula Warnapura is not the mastermind of the rebel tour to South Africa. Those who plotted got away but Warnapura bore the brunt of it all. The commonly known fact is that he was banned for 25 years but there are lesser-known factors. For example, the second tour to South Africa that Dr. Ali Bacher had promised when he wooed the unsuspecting Sri Lankans never happened. That left the players high and dry. Warnapura had taken on a powerful government minister by taking the team to South Africa and he was made to suffer as the government made sure that his appeal for electricity was repeatedly turned down. 

Simply because being the nephew of Bandula, young Malintha suffered too as he couldn’t get a school admission. None wanted to associate with the name of Warnapura. 

Marvan Atapattu was an exemplary leader. He was destined to lead the team for a few years but a back injury forced him out of the side. When he returned, the captaincy was never given back to him. He was in fact ridiculed. Picked for the 2007 World Cup but wasn’t given a game and instead made to carry drinks. His persecutors today are legends of the game. Cricket is a funny game they say. 

T.M. Dilshan took up the captaincy at a time when nobody wanted it. With Murali retired, Dilshan’s bowling resources were thin. He was in for a rude shock when the team’s premier fast bowler announced his retirement from Test cricket at the age of 27. Two of our captains on IPL duty in India justified the fast bowler’s retirement from Test cricket. The script and the plot had been written and planned at Perera Gardens. It was nicely executed too. 

With limited resources Dilshan was rebuilding the team. Then the unthinkable happened. Usually when Sri Lankan teams go to South Africa Test matches barely last three days and often the tourists lose by an innings. But under Dilshan, Sri Lanka recorded their first Test win on South African soil in 2011. Before the tour was over, he was sacked as skipper. There had been a coup. A bloodless coup. 

Poor Dinesh Chandimal was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea during contract negotiations ahead of the 2014 ICC World T-20 in Dhaka. He turned his back on the administration showing solidarity with seniors. Cricket’s bigwigs promised to teach him a lesson. Some seniors sensed the opportunity to settle old scores. So they slowed down the over rate. That resulted in Chandimal being suspended. The poor bloke suffered in silence and ever since has been a reluctant leader.  

Angelo Mathews is a smart kid. He knew what some of these chaps were up to. So when he was captaining he told one of our legends that unless he finished his six balls in a stipulated number of minutes, he is not going to get a bowl again in the game. The fast bowler behaved. No more slower over rates. 

Mathews, however, couldn’t win all his battles. He got fed up and gave up the captaincy in July 2017. Six months later there was a change in team management. They pleaded with Mathews to take up captaincy again. Reluctantly, he took it up and soon realized that it was a poisoned chalice with the very people who requested him to take up the role accusing him of under-performing. It’s just not cricket.



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How lending a bat to Murali landed Flintoff in trouble

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Muttiah Muralitharan and Andrew Flintoff were team mates at Lancashire. During a tour of Sri Lanka in 2003, Flitnoff lends one of his bats to Murali, a gesture that would get him in trouble with England hierarchy.

by Rex Clementine

Spin icon Muttiah Muralitharan is a fiercest competitor in cricket, but he is also known for his friendly nature. He is hugely popular among both team mates and opponents. You would hardly come across someone who has something nasty to say about Murali; it’s like finding a needle in haystack. Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya gifting a bat to his Sri Lankan counterpart Chamika Karunaratne made headlines both here and across the Palk Strait. However, much before this, England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff lending Murali a bat made headlines.

Murali and Andrew Flintoff were great mates. They were team-mates at Old Trafford when Murali was Lancashire’s overseas signing.

In 2003, when England came to Colombo for their winter tour, Flintoff was a rising star. Three years later he would go onto become England captain. In his book ‘Second Innings’, Flintoff recalls his camaraderie with Murali.

“In that series, it panned out that I wasn’t bowling too much short stuff at Murali and he wasn’t bowling too many doosras at me. Which was a bit naughty, I can see that. I’d had dinner with him the night before one match. Murali said, ‘Fred, I haven’t got any bats left. Can I borrow one of yours?’ It was a bit tricky because Nasser Hussein had put a ban on us even talking to Murali. We were supposed to be freezing him out,” Flintoff recalls.

“Murali tried again on the morning of the match, asking for a word. Nasser was glaring at me from a distance, clearly very unhappy. So I said to Murali as quickly as possible, ‘When we go out to field, go into the England dressing room. Just nip in the back door and take one of my bats – but keep the whole thing under your hat.’

“Once the match was under way and we took a few Sri Lankan wickets, Nasser brought me on to bowl out the tail, as was the plan in those days. Out strides Murali, carrying my bat. Nasser, meanwhile, talks me through the plan. ‘I want you to go at him. Short stuff.’

“Hmm. Tricky one this, on lots of levels, especially given the status of bouncers and doosras for me and Murali.

‘Nasser, I think I can get a yorker through him, nice and full will do the job here,’ Flintoff tells Hussein.

But he doesn’t get an approval. ‘No, I just told you,’ Hussein says. ‘I want you to go at him.’

Flintoff doesn’t sour his relationship with Murali. So he decides to pin Sri Lanka’s number 11 with a yorker instead of a bouncer. ‘No, I’m going to try and bowl him. Hit the stumps. Job done,’ he tells himself.

“So, I ran in, trying to bowl a yorker, directly against instructions. Didn’t get through. In fact, it found the middle of the bat, my bat – good middle it had, too.”

“Nasser threw all his toys out of the pram. I was taken off. Then Murali started charging the other bowlers, smashing them.

“After one huge six, Murali walks between me and Nasser at the change of ends. I can see Nasser ready to explode. Murali has a huge grin on his face: ‘F****** good bat, Freddie.”

Sri Lanka won the match by an innings and 225 runs to seal the series. Any guesses about Player of the Series; Muttiah Muralitharan.

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Suresh who captained Thomians to President’s Trophy triumph passes away

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The Thomians won the inaugural President’s Trophy Day-Night Tourney under Suresh Goonesekere’s captaincy

Former S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia cricketer Suresh Goonesekere who was the captain when the school won the Inaugural President’s Trophy passed away. He was living in the UK.

The S. Thomas’ Sports officials said that Goonesekere will always be remembered as a very good sportsman who brought honour to the school.

A batting opener Goonesekere played in the S. Thomas’ First XI team from 1990 to 1992, captaining the team in his last year. The names of both Suresh Goonesekere and his father P.N.W. Goonesekere are etched in the Battle of the Blues Big Match history.

The Thomians won when P.N.W. Goonesekere captained the team in 1964. When Suresh Goonesekere captained the school in 1992 the Thomians amassed massive 328 for nine wickets and restricted Royal to 145 runs in the first innings. While Royal had scored over 300 runs previously, it was the first time the Thomians had scored over 300 runs in the historic Battle of the Blues.

The Thomians were the winners of the Inaugurai President’s Trophy Day-Night Tourney when Goonesekere skippered team beat Ananda in the final in 1992.

Goonesekere also played for SSC in the Division I tournament.

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Isuru Udana retires from international cricket

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Sri Lankan left-arm pacer Isuru Udana has announced his retirement from international cricket, Sri Lanka Cricket confirmed on Saturday (July 31). Udana’s last appearance for the national side came in the second T20I against India earlier this week.

Udana first made his debut for Sri Lanka in the 2009 World T20 in England and played five games in the competition including the final. He made his ODI bow against India in 2012 where he played two games but had to wait for almost seven years to break into the XI again.

The pacer managed to feature regularly only towards the latter part of his career after developing a reputation for being a white-ball specialist. Apart from being a wily customer with the ball using his variations to good effect, the 33-year-old also was known for being a hard-hitter lower down the order that helped him fetch gigs in T20 leagues around the world. (cricbuzz)

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