Spare the rod and spoil the child
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.
Jadeja’s nerveless hitting gifts Chennai Super Kings fifth IPL title
Chennai Super Kings became IPL champions for the fifth time in a game befitting a title clash. With 10 needed off the last two deliveries, Ravindra Jadeja smacked a six down the ground and a four to fine leg off Mohit Sharma to seal one of the most dramatic finales in the history the tournament.
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Chameera returns after surgery but no place for KJP
Fast bowler Dushmanta Chameera returns to the side after a seven month layoff having undergone ankle surgery as the selectors picked a balanced squad for the three-match series against Afghanistan starting later this week at Suriyawewa.
Although Chameera has been named in the squad, there was no place for top order batsman Kusal Janith Perera, who had returned to 20 side in New Zealand two months ago. KJP on that occasion had only been picked for T-20s and there are question marks about his fitness for the 50 over format.
Fans will be hoping that by the time the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe begin next month, KJP will be cleared to feature in the 50 over format as well. One of the most destructive batters in the side, KJP has been in and out of the team due to injuries.
Opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne also makes a comeback to the ODI outfit having been axed from the 50 over format two years ago. Sri Lanka’s problems of not being able to bat out 50 overs in recent times is seen as the reason for Dimuth’s return to the side.
Uncapped leg-spinner Dushan Hemantha has also been named in the squad but now that Wanindu Hasaranga has recovered from an injury, he’s expected to play ahead of the 29-year-old.
There’s no place for left-arm quick Dilshan Madushanka either although there was lot of excitement when he first made an impact during last year’s Asia Cup. Young all-rounder Dunith Wellalage has also been overlooked for the three-match series.
The selectors are not expected to do too many changes from the 16-member squad chosen for the Afghanistan series for the World Cup qualifiers.
The first ODI gets underway Friday (2nd June) followed by games on June 4th and 7th. The series was drafted in to give the Sri Lankan team some competitive games ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.
Sri Lanka Squad:
Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Kusal Mendis (Vice-Captain), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya De Silva, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Dushan Hemantha, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha
Hashmatullah Shahidi (Captain), Rahmat Shah (Vice-Captain), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Riaz Hassan, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Ikram Alikhail (wk), Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujib ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad, Abdul Rahman, Fazal Haq Farooqi, Farid Ahmad Malik.
Yupun out of competitions for few weeks due to injury
by Reemus Fernando
Sprinter Yupun Abeykoon who suffered an injury during last week’s 100 metres final of the Savona International Meet will ‘stay away from competitions for few weeks.’
“After the MRI test which I took after my race in Savona, it is unfortunate that I have to inform you all that due to a minor hamstring injury I have to stay away from competitions for a few weeks due to medical advice given by experts,” said the Italy based sprinter in a statement yesterday.
Abeykoon was placed second behind Reece Prescod of Britain in the final of the Savona International Meet last week. The national record holder returned a wind-assisted 10.01 seconds (+2.7) performance to open his season in the 100metres. However, despite placing second in the final, he was seen struggling during the last few metres of the race. The injury means he must skip one of the major 100 metres events this week.
The first South Asian Sprinter to break the ten seconds barrier in the men’s 100 metres, Abeykoon was expected to compete against a star-studded lineup at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea in Florence later this week.
The world-class lineup includes world champion Fred Kerley and Kenyan world leader in the 100 metres this season, Ferdinand Omanyala.
“I have already started my rehab process with my physio, doctors and the rest of the staff and I am looking forward to coming back stronger than I was in the upcoming competitions,” he further stated.
The highest-ranked Sri Lankan male athlete, Abeykoon is the prime medal hopeful at this year’s Asian Games. Sri Lanka Athletics is relying heavily on Abeykoon to end the country’s medal drought in track and field at the quadrennial event.
He is also the only male athlete to be in the required range in the world rankings to be eligible for selection for this year’s World Championships.
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