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So brightly fades the skipper



Usually, when the opponent was better than him, Arjuna had another way to win the contest; to get under his skin.

by Rex Clementine

In Australia, they run cricket like a business. In Sri Lanka there was a man who ran cricket like a family. Arjuna Ranatunga is his name and on a day like this, 19 years ago, he retired from the game with his swansong being at the ground that has been home for him for many decades – SSC.

It was an end of an era. Arjuna captained 56 of the 93 Tests he played. He ran the sport with an iron fist.

There was one golden rule in cricket. Never cross Arjuna’s path. He only knew two ways; my way or the highway.

Those whom he thought had a future had to comply and he would back them come hell or high water. Take the case of Sanath Jayasuriya. He was the original ‘bits and pieces cricketer’ having managed just one half-century in his first 50 innings. But the faith and perseverance that Arjuna had shown was such that once he found his feet in the internatioanl arena, he unleashed hell ending the careers of many a cricketer from Manoj Prabhakar to Kabir Ali. They never played cricket again. Arjuna had created a monster.

Not all players he backed were successful. Pramodaya Wickremesinghe for example. He played in more games than the wickets he took! But for Arjuna those players who made the team into a family mattered, more than match winners. Even those who were average cricketers played for Sri Lanka; Eric Upashantha and Suresh Perera to name a few. The only reason they played was they were in the good books of the captain.

Pity those who didn’t fall in line with Arjuna’s thinking. They hardly got a look in. It mattered to him that everyone who took the field with him was on the same wavelength. If he’d asked them to go through a brick wall, they would do it.

Of course, Arjuna could bat. Test runs he has over 4000. Some 1000 more he walked to finish with over 5000 runs.

His battles with leading fast bowlers of his generation were a treat to watch. He was comfortable with pace. Rather than taking them apart, he relied on using the pace to his advantage; nudging boundaries through third man or fine-leg with those late cuts and flicks. Alan Donald or Waqar Younis, the quickest of his generation never bothered him. Wasim Akram with his swing did. Usually, when the opponent was better than him, Arjuna had another way to win the contest; to get under his skin.

Against spin; sweep was his staple diet. Easily, he was the best sweeper of his generation. Of course there was Waruna Waragoda. But he committed a blunder. He had crossed Arjuna’s path, during a mercantile game involving HNB and Union Assurance. And he never played for Sri Lanka.

Arjuna had this knack to identify good potential. He picked Mahela Jayawardene soon after school at the age of 20. Sanath Jayasuriya isn’t the only monster he created.

Arjuna is the only player to feature in a nation’s first Test and its 100th. In between he had missed a dozen Tests. He had his share of injuries but a fair share of fights with the establishment too for which he was axed. In the end, he finished on 93 Tests.

The Board’s CEO was his elder brother and his father was right-hand man of President Chandika Kumaratunga. Had he wished, he could have gone onto play 100 Test matches, becoming the first Sri Lankan to do so. Instead, he opted to go on his terms having played two stunning knocks just before retiring.

In his last tour, in Rawalpindi, Waqar left him with a broken thumb. With the side in peril, with a Test match to be won, Arjuna walked in having taken a pain killer injection and saw Sri Lanka over the line in what was one of the most exciting Test matches ever. He was tough like Allan Border, cunning like Diego Maradona and skillful like Michael Jordan.

Then in his penultimate Test at Asgiriya against Proteas when the team had collapsed to 133 for six chasing 177, he produced another masterclass scoring 88 runs. The old fox had not lost his guile.

He was too good a player to have not scored more than four Test hundreds. But then, in his generation only Aravinda had won more matches than him.

Not everyone agreed with Arjuna’s thinking. But he commands huge respect. Even today, if he tells his team mates to be at his house for a meal on Friday at 7pm, Asanka Gurusinha would make sure he flies all the way from Melbourne to be there on time.


Chameera and Hasaranga to miss Oman T-20s due to IPL



by Rex Clementine

Sri Lankan cricketers Dushmantha Chameera and Wanindu Hasaranga will miss Sri Lanka’s tour of Oman next month due to their IPL commitments. The two Sri Lankans are with Royal Challengers Bangalore and they have been given clearance to remain with the franchise till 10th October.

Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur told The Island he had no issues in the players missing the two games in Oman.

“It’s a great opportunity for them and I have not raised any objections. They will join the team on the 10th of October and be ready for the first warm-up game on the 12th of October,” Arthur said.

The IPL was suspended in May due to the rise of COVID cases within the bubble with still 31 matches remaining. The tournament will resume in UAE on Sunday and will finish on the 15th of October, just before the ICC T-20 World Cup.

Sri Lanka will play two T-20 Internationals in Oman on the 7th and 9th of October and then travel to UAE to play warm-up games ahead of the World Cup. The two players are expected to join the team in UAE.

RCB have seven games left in the competition and will take on Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday. Their last league game is on the 8th October.

RCB are currently third in the table with ten points behind Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings.

If they make the plays offs, the tournament will go beyond 10th October. If necessary, RCB will ask clearance from SLC to have them in the franchise set up and the board is unlikely to object as Sri Lanka’s first game in the World Cup is on the 18th of October. The IPL final is scheduled on the 15th of October.

No Sri Lankan had been picked for this year’s IPL at the start of the season, but after Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa and left-arm quick Daniel Sams pulled out, the franchise signed up the two Sri Lankans for the remainder of the competition. Both Chameera and Hasaranga had done well when India visited Colombo for a bilateral series last month.

Meanwhile, SLC has agreed to a request by the national selection panel to carry five additional players to UAE in case of injuries. Kusal Perera is doubtful for the World Cup and Lahiru Madushanka has been ruled out. SLC will bear the additional costs for the extra players.

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CFSL ready to organize its biggest Online Chess Championship 



Western Asian Youth Chess Championship 2021 

Sri Lanka has the luxury of fielding a World Champion in their team when the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka (CFSL) organizes the Western Asian Online Youth Chess Championships from 18 to 20 September on the Tornelo Platform.

Ferguson High School, Ratnapura player Oshini Devindya Gunawardena, who won the Under-10 title of the FIDE Online Youth Chess Cup 2021 recently, is among some 300 participants fielded by Sri Lanka.

Luxman Wijesuriya, the president of the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka said that his federation was ready to organize the biggest Asian Online Event, the Western Asian Online Youth Chess Championships and the event which is conducted by the Asian Chess Federation has attracted more than 1000 players from 14 Western Asian Countries.

The event open for girls and boys will be held under six age categories, namely, the Under 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18. The Asian Chess Federation has categorized, South Asia, Arab and Russian-speaking countries of Asia as Western Asian Countries. More than 1000 players from the region have fielded their entries to participate in the event.

India has fielded the biggest contingent of 378 players while Sri Lanka field more than 300 players. Iran has entered a team of 161 players. Other countries registered for participation are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, Oman, Kuwait, Palestine, Jordan and UAE. One player is joining under FIDE, the World Chess Federation flag.

Sri Lanka team includes players who excelled at recently held online competitions and at the CFSL Online Youth Chess Championship 2021.

The Championships will be conducted on the Swiss System in nine rounds, having three games a day. The Newly approved FIDE Online Chess regulations will be followed and the time control will be 15 minutes a side with 10 seconds increment for each and every move played. Only the laptop/desktop computers are allowed to be used while all games will be closely monitored by the arbiters via zoom. Players will be switching on two cameras during the competition. According to CFSL one camera (Webcam) will monitor the player while the other will observe his or her surroundings.

The Virtual Opening Ceremony will be held at 11.00 a.m via Zoom on Saturday. Namal Rajapakse, the Minister of Sports is expected to participate as the Chief Guest with Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nehyan, the President of Asian Chess Federation.

The CFSL will be awarding attractive cash rewards to the Sri Lankan players who win medals of any colour.

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Wheelchair tennis team to leave for World Team Cup on Saturday 



The Sri Lanka Wheelchair Tennis team led by Tokyo Paralympian Suresh Dharmasena will leave for the World Team Cup on Saturday.

The BNP Paribas World Team Cup is the premier team competition for Wheelchair Tennis with four qualifiers and two wildcards joining the top ten teams in the world for the 16 nation competition being held in Sardinia, Italy.

Great Britain, France, Japan, Argentina, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, USA, Korea Rep. and Brazil are the top ten teams.

When the Team Cup qualification event was held in May, Sri Lanka beat Croatia 3-0 in the quarter-finals to be in the last four alongside Israel, Greece and Poland but was beaten by Israel in the semi finals.

In the qualifying event Gamini Dissanayake beat Croatia’s Sven Maretic 6-0, 6–2, while Suresh Dharmasena beat Anto Joskic 6-2, 6-0, before joining Lasantha Ranaweera to oust Anto Joskic and Sven Maretic 6-0, 6-0 in the doubles.

The World Team Cup will be held from October 4-10.

The Sri Lanka Tennis Association said that the team were engaged in final preparations at Green Path, ahead of their departure to Europe. The team comprising of Suresh Dharmasena (ITF Rank #64), DM Gamini (#81) Lasantha Ranaweera (#85) have been undergoing specialist training under coaches Jagath Welikala and Guyanga Weerasekera since July.

The Wheelchair Tennis Program is a project run by the Sri Lanka Tennis Association initiated in 2002. The project is overseen by the President of SLTA Iqbal bin Issack, General Secretary Pradeep Goonasekera, VP Wheelchair Tennis Major General Shiran Abeysekera and principal sponsor Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT).

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