Avishka Fernando returns to the side after being axed in January.
One of the joys of covering the Sri Lankan cricket team in the UK is that you get to go to all the small cricket centers of the country such as Cardiff, Bristol, Chester-Le-Street, Taunton and Canterbury while big boys like India and Australia frequent Lord’s, Trent Bridge, Old Trafford and Headingley. The Sri Lankans are in the Welsh capital of Cardiff where today’s first T-20 International will be played.
A two hour train ride from London and a ten minute walk from the train station to the ground passing Wales’ gigantic rugby stadium and the 12th century Cardiff Castle, the city is a mixture of modern marvels and ancient monuments.
The Sri Lankans don’t have much fond memories here though. It was here Thisara Perera put down a sitter off Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed to be kicked out of the Champions Trophy in 2017. Pakistan went onto win the title beating arch-rivals India and Sarfraz rubbed salt into Sri Lankan wounds by conceding that he would remember that drop catch for the rest of his life and Thisara would remember for the rest of his life.
It was also here that Sri Lanka were blown away just over a session for 82 runs in 2011, their lowest total ever against England.
The thing with Cardiff is that it always moves around and you are never settled. You can be 200 for one at one moment and 20 minutes later 225 all out.
This is a T-20 though so the batters will throw caution to wind.
If you ask the Sri Lankans, they will tell you that they want to win the series desperately. But to be honest, they have bigger things to worry about. Already forced to play the qualifying tournament of this year’s T-20 World Cup, the Sri Lankans will be getting their unit right for that challenge. A series win will be the last thing on their minds.
Avishka Fernando returns to the side after being axed in January having failed multiple fitness tests. He was overlooked for back to back international assignments and that forced him to get his act together. He is expected to open the innings with Danushka Gunathilaka with Kusal Perera slotted to bat at number three followed by Kusal Mendis.
There will be lot of focus on Dushmantha Chameera as well who with his raw pace has impressed many in recent months.
England have recalled all-rounder Chris Woakes and left-arm quick David Willey.
The first two T-20 Internationals will be played in Cardiff followed by the third game in Southampton.
(Probable XI): Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera (Captain), Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Isuru Udana, Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep, Lakshan Sandakan or Akila Dananjaya.
(From) : Eoin Morgan (Captain), Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.
Making Olympic dream a reality
by Rex Clementine
After Duncan White won the nation’s first Olympic medal in London, it took Sri Lanka 52 years to win their second Olympic medal in Sydney. If you believe in law of averages, our next medal should come somewhere in 2052. If you are over the age of 40 now, there is a good chance that you would be dead by the time the nation wins the next medal in Olympics. But then, there’s also something called if there’s a will there’s a way.
Perhaps, you don’t have to wait for as many as 52 years to win an Olympic medal if you can come across a genius like Susanthika. It is a well documented fact that she was a rare talent and she was destined for greatness from the moment her skills were spotted as a teenager. All what you need is someone with immense skill to break all the barriers and she remains an inspiration to millions of Sri Lankans.
But you tend to remember Arjuna’s words. Some players come along once in 50 years; Aravinda de Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan are the examples that he gives. The same is true with Susanthika.
However, some countries seem to be doing it with limited resources. Look at New Zealand. Despite a population of five million, they are among the top ten in the medals tally having already won six golds. Well, they have the sporting infrastructure, one may say. Fine, but what about Philippines, a developing country like us. They have already won two medals including a gold. Well, they have over 100 million population another may say. Then what about Cuba? With a population less than us (11 million), and an economy not so great, they have so far claimed 11 medals including four golds! Fabulous.
What prevents our athletes from reaching greater heights is an interesting question our readers may ask. One of the main issues that sportsmen in our country face is that the games they play are not professional. Except for cricket, all other sportsmen are amateurs. A good majority of them, thanks to their sporting skills find employment in the private sector and then instead of fine tuning their sporting skills, they do 8 – 5 jobs as business establishments are under pressure to perform constantly.
Businessmen who loved sports like Rienzie T. Wijetilleke, Hemaka Amarasuriya and late R. Rajamahendran are a rare breed who wanted their employees to train morning and evening and told them not to turn up for work. They will of course have an axe to grind if their sports stars didn’t perform up to expectations.
This is where the Sports Ministry needs to step in. Usually, the Ministry steps three months prior to a competition requests mercantile establishments to free the athletes to compete in global competitions. But sportsmen and women in other parts of the world are training six hours a day on a daily basis for four years.
Is there any possibility that the Sports Ministry identifies around five sports where there are medal prospects – ideally individual sports – and then offer these athletes annual contracts and ask them to train without worrying about earning a living. Surely, it’s not going to cost them an arm and a leg.
There’s three years for the next Olympics and with expertise coaching, the nation can have some hope of not waiting for half a century to win an Olympic medal. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
How lending a bat to Murali landed Flintoff in trouble
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.
Suresh who captained Thomians to President’s Trophy triumph passes away
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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