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Spare the rod and spoil the child  

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by Rex Clementine  

There is something special about these cricketing talents from Moratuwa. They tend to throw caution to wind taking on the best of fast bowlers and often fortune favours the brave. Young Avishka Fernando, the latest sensation from St. Sebastian’s College was putting the world’s leading fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Antrich Nortje to sword very much like his predecessors Duleep Mendis and Rumesh Kaluwitharana had done in years gone by.

It was Avishka’s third ODI century. The previous two had come against the West Indies – at Hambantota and during the 2019 World Cup. However, the knock that most talked about is his counterattack on England during the World Cup at Headingley, where Jofra Archer was made to look ordinary.

Avishka has been destined to greatness from the time he piled up runs in the school season. His twin hundreds against England Under-19 helped Sri Lanka Under-19 record a series win in the UK in 2016. Soon, he was drafted into the senior side. Two attributes of Avishka stood out; the shots he plays and the time he has to play them. That flicked six off Kagiso Rabada on Thursday was stunning. There’s little doubt that this boy is Aravinda’s heir.

But Avishka’s success is not instant.  He had to be put through the mill. Hats off to Head Coach Mickey Arthur and then Chairman of Selectors Ashantha De Mel for putting their foot down and demanding that he gets his act together.

Avishka was going to make his Test debut in January when England were in town. But he failed a fitness test. De Mel, who was also the Team Manager, sent Avishka home.  There was a public outcry. Arthur stood firm.  They insisted that there is no coming back unless he met minimum fitness standards.

Damn shame that a 23-year-old could  not run two kilometers in eight minutes and  30 seconds and that his skin folds were high.

But Avishka got his act together. He missed out on three series in a row and having got a clear message he worked on his fitness and fought back to earn his place. His batting on Thursday was so breathtaking. Not only is he clearing the boundary, when bad balls are few and rare, he’s rotating the strike well with quick singles. He’s also converting two into three. For seven years, Sri Lanka have not beaten a team ranked at number five or higher in an ODI series. Avishka has given them new hope.

You wonder whether some of the troublemakers like Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka would have got their act together had they been shown the same firmness. Kusal and Danushka are not bad people. They are immensely talented young athletes who need guidance. But the problem was every time there was a misdemeanour, the authorities turned a blind eye and let them off the hook with a slap on the wrist.

When the bubble was breached in Durham, immediately after the names of Kusal and Danushka were mentioned, you wondered how Avishka missed out on the expedition. These are gentlemen who wine and dine together.

The difference was that having missed out on three tours, Avishka had learned some harsh lessons. He wasn’t willing to take any more risks.  Whereas the other three, particularly Danushka and Kusal, had been treated with kids’ gloves. They should have been taught a golden rule. ‘If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.’ Sadly, we have spared the rod and spoilt the children.



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Djokovic sets up Alcaraz rematch in Wimbledon final

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Novak Djokovic is trying to match Roger Federer's total of eight Wimbledon titles [BBC]

Novak Djokovic outclassed Italian underdog Lorenzo Musetti to reach the Wimbledon final and set up a showdown with reigning champion Carlos Alcaraz in a repeat of last year’s final.

The 37-year-old impressed as he stayed on course for a record-equalling eighth men’s singles title at Wimbledon with a 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 victory on Centre Court.

Musetti, 22, had one chance to get the break back in the final set but sent a forehand into the net and crouched down with his head in his hands, knowing the end was near.  Djokovic made sure his opponent did not get another opportunity.

Under pressure, Musetti sent a shot long before Djokovic walked to the net, knowing he had reached his 37th Grand Slam final and 10th at Wimbledon.

The Serb then moved his racquet over his shoulder and imitated playing a violin, in a gesture aimed at his six-year-old daughter Tara, with television cameras showing her grinning along.

Some fans, however, started booing, thinking Djokovic, who produced the same celebration following his win over Holger Rune in the last 16, was being disrespectful.

Alcaraz beat Djokovic in last year’s showpiece, winning 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-1 3-6 6-4 in a five-set epic, which lasted four hours 42 minutes and is regarded one of the best matches in the tournament’s history.

The pair meet again on Sunday in what could be another amazing chapter in Wimbledon folklore.

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Top ICC official Chris Tetley and Claire Furlong resign

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There was a lot of scrutiny of the matches in the US leg of the World Cup, particularly the games held in New York

A couple of senior officials from the International Cricket Council (ICC), who were closely involved in organizing the Twenty20 World Cup in the US and the West Indies, have resigned. On Friday, it came to light that Chris Tetley, the ICC’s Head of Events, and Claire Furlong, the General Manager of Marketing and Communications, have announced their departures from the organization.

The resignations, coming as they did immediately after the conclusion of the World Cup and just about a week ahead of the ICC’s annual conference in Colombo, are believed to be related to the conduct of the championship. However, ICC insiders say the resignations are several months old.

One particular source has claimed that both Tetley and Furlong decided to leave the world body at the end of the last commercial cycle itself but stayed on in view of the Twenty20 World Cup in the US. The source went on to add that the two quit quite some time back but will continue to be with the ICC for a few more months ‘to ensure smooth transition of charge in a crowded event cycle.’ They will also attend the Annual Conference in Colombo from July 19 to 22.

The World Cup in the US, and particularly in New York, was a major project of the ICC and the two officials were closely involved in it. Many members of the ICC were priming to raise the issue of the New York games, which were low-scoring affairs due to the ‘up and down’ nature of the drop-in pitches at the NY stadium, at the Colombo conclave. A key member of the ICC board is learnt to have raised the issue through a letter to the members.

The number of fours and sixes, which are generally expected to be high in numbers in the Twenty20 games, was significantly low in the New York games. The Indian team, the eventual champions, however, did not comment on the nature of the pitches, stating that the conditions were equal for all the participating teams.

The matches in the US were conducted by an entity called T20 World Cup Inc which had built a modular stadium in the Nassau County of New York’s Long Island in record time. The stadium was dismantled immediately after the NY leg of the championship. NY hosted eight of the 16 games allotted to the US.

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Junior National Athletics Championship commences today

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The spotlight will fall on the Under 20 age category when the Junior National Athletics Championship commences at Diyagama today as the four-day championship will be the final opportunity to qualify for the World Junior Championships.

Six athletes have already reached entry standards for the world event to be held in Lima, Peru in August.

Sri Lanka Athletics has spelt out the plan to form a team for the costly tour also leaving a space for those athletes who excel in the Under 18 age category. The World Junior Championship is open to Under 20 age category.

The day one programme includes at least ten events in the Under 20 age category.

However, it is not only the athletes in the Under 20 age category that will compete for honours.

The event will be vital for athletes in the Under 16, Under 18 and Under 23 age categories as well.

The Junior National Athletics Championship was earlier scheduled for June but inclement weather forced Sri Lanka Athletics to postpone the event to July. This postponement has affected athletes of some areas as some zonal championships commence during the Junior National.

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