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Sri Lanka will be a force to be reckoned with next year – Darren Sammy   

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Rex Clementine in Dubai 

There’s nothing spectacular about Darren Sammy the cricketer;  just one five-wicket haul to his credit and no half-centuries in T-20 cricket. But there’s something special about Darren Sammy, the captain. No cricket captain has won two T-20 World Cups as Sammy has done in 2012 (Colombo) and in 2016 (Calcutta). When West Indies stunned Sri Lanka in the 2012 final at RPS, 20 million Sri Lankans went to bed thinking it was a bad dream. But the next morning, the fans had got over the defeat. There’s no harm in losing to West Indies. There’s certainly no harm in losing to a side that is captained by Darren Sammy, one of cricket’s most loved guys.

“I will never forget that World Cup final. We defended a small target of 140. I actually felt for the Sri Lankan fans. You see most of the Asian teams they support their team first and then they support West Indies.” Sammy recalled during an interview with a group of Sri Lankan journalists.

“But you know what happened at the next World Cup in Bangladesh. Sri Lanka knocked us off in the semis on Duckworth Lewis. Mahela and Sanga had announced their retirements. So I could sense the Gods were smiling on them. You remember that hailstorm in Dhaka. Just out of the blues it came. It was Sanga and Mahela’s time to enjoy. They have been good servants of the game of cricket and the cricketing gods were not going to let them down,” Sammy added.

Since winning that 2014 World Cup, Sri Lanka’s slide in cricket has been steep. Does their downfall surprise Sammy?

“Well, look at West Indies we have been sliding down for a longer time. The caliber of players like Mahela and Sanga it is impossible to fill those big shoes. You are not going to get another Murali. It won’t just happen like that. What you can do instead is to have a good structure and a system where youngsters will come and learn. You can help them become better cricketers. West Indies had a team that dominated for many years. But after Lara and Ambrose we are struggling. What we need to look at is how do we develop the next generation? West Indies have fallen short in doing that. If you don’t put in the work at grassroots you will struggle.”

Sammy was a commentator during the World Cup and said that he was very impressed with the young players who were on show in UAE. “Really impressed with the way Sri Lanka played. Sometimes, it is not all about winning. You could see the development and maturity among the players. I am looking forward to seeing these guys in the next World Cup. They will be a force to be reckoned with in Australia. You guys have Wanindu Hasaranga, Charith Asalanka and Pathum Nissanka. All these youngsters are superb. If you see, as the tournament progressed, they got better and better. If they go home, put in the hard yards, and show commitment they will be a powerhouse soon.”

Sammy is a popular character all over the world, but in the Caribbean, he has had a lot of criticism. It may be because he doesn’t come from one of the bigger islands. Sammy is from tiny St. Lucia, a country that has a population of less than 200,000 people. The criticism was so intense that at one point he said, ‘2000 years ago there lived a man called Jesus. He did no wrong but yet they crucified him. Who is Darren Sammy compared to him.’ It was a quote that went viral.

“That’s part of life I guess. My mother raised me in such a way that I give full credit to her. When you are in a job where it is being judged by the public, you have to expect criticism. Some of them are unfair but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I had to learn that early. At the end of the day, I am still smiling. They didn’t break me down. To any youngster, the advice that can be given is understand the road ahead of you.”

It is an incredible stat that West Indies have never won a Test match in Sri Lanka. In the 1980s when they were cricket’s strongest force, they never toured Sri Lanka. Their first trip was in 1993 for a one-off Test and since then the teams have played in Sri Lanka on 11 occasions with Sri Lanka winning seven and four Tests being drawn.

“Sri Lanka is tough especially at home. We have always struggled to compete. I remember Brian Lara scored almost 700 runs in that 2001 series and we still lost 3-0.

West Indies are currently in Colombo for a two-match Test series that will be played in Galle. Can they reverse the trend this time? “They have the caliber of players. I expect a good series. Jason Holder is a top all-rounder and they will rely on him heavily. Interesting to see how Rostan Chase goes about things in Sri Lanka. To me, he is one of the better players of spin. In order to win cricket games in Sri Lanka, playing spin is crucial. So Chase is the key man. Craig Brathwaite, the way he bats time is going to be a crucial factor too. Then there’s Shai Hope who has returned to the side. The fast bowlers we have are pretty good and it will be an interesting series.”

Sammy has been coming to Sri Lanka since 2003 and loves the country. “Sri Lankans are very friendly, warm-hearted and genuine people who make you feel at home. The first time I went there was in 2003 with MCC Young Cricketers. I remember going up to the hills and it was the first time I saw tea plants. I had never seen tea before. It was also the first time I saw elephants. Just travelling around the coastline was superb. It was like in my hometown in St. Lucia,” Sammy concluded.



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Dimuth on the verge of several batting milestones

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Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne will equal the World Record for most consecutive fifties in Test match cricket if he scores a half-century in the first innings of the second Test against West Indies in Galle starting Monday.

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne has hit a purple patch this year and the 147 he scored against West Indies in the first Test in Galle this week was his fourth hundred in 2021. The 33-year-old came up with an equally solid 83 in the second essay as Sri Lanka won by 187 runs and a session to spare.

His exploits have seen him accumulating 854 runs this year in Test cricket at an average of 77. Only Joe Root and Rohit Sharma have scored more runs in 2021 although they have played more games with the England captain featuring in 12 Tests and the Indian star appearing in 11 games compared to Dimuth’s six Tests.

Dimuth has now scored six consecutive half-centuries and a 50 in the second Test starting on Monday will see him equaling a World Record shared by six other players. Everton Weeks, Kumar Sangakkara, Andy Flower, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Chris Rogers and K.L. Rahul have all scored seven consecutive fifties in Test cricket.

In the list of most runs in Test cricket for Sri Lanka, Dimuth went past former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga this year and he is currently the ninth highest run scorer. He’s on 5406 runs and if he scores 96 more runs in the second Test, he will knock off three more Sri Lankan greats; Tilan Samaraweera (5462), T.M. Dilshan (5492) and Marvan Atapattu (5502). That will see him sitting at number six among the highest run scorers for the country.

Dimuth is hungry for runs and he wants to finish his career with 10,000 Test runs. Only two other Sri Lankan greats have achieved the milestone. Kumar Sangakkara with 12,400 runs and Mahela Jayawardene with 11,814 runs are the only members of the exclusive 10,000 club.

“Scoring 10,000 runs is my dream. I don’t know if I’ll be able to achieve that, but that’s what I’ve got in my mind. If I can continue this form, I’ll be able to get close to 10,000 runs. I like to improve as much as I can, and whenever I finish a match, I’ll go and check where I am on the Sri Lanka run charts, to figure out how many I need to score to pass someone,” Karunaratne explained.

The Sri Lankan captain was Man of the Match as Sri Lanka took a 1-0 lead to retain the Sobers-Tissera Trophy. The win also enabled Sri Lanka to collect 12 points in the ICC Test Championship.

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Amasha smashes Susanthika’s Army record, Roshan dazzles with hurdles feat

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Amasha de Silva smashed Susanthika Jayasinghe’s meet record in the women’s 100 metres.(Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

57th Army Athletics Championships  

by Reemus Fernando  

Sprinter Amasha de Silva smashed Olympian Susanthika Jayasinghe’s longstanding Army Athletics Championship 100 metres record and Roshan Dhammika Ranatunga came almost close to breaking his national record in the 110 metres hurdles as they blazed the track on the final day of the Army Athletics Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.

Amasha clocked 11.67 seconds to win the women’s 100 metres final ahead of Susanthika’s niece Medhani Jayamanne in the afternoon. She broke Susanthika’s 1994 hand-timed record of 11.6 seconds. With yesterday’s feat, Amasha has now taken both the 100 and 200 metres records of the Army Championships under her belt. The athlete trained by Sanjeewa Weerakkody has a personal best of 10.55 seconds from 2020 and is the fourth fastest athlete in history in the 100 metres behind Susanthika, Damayanthi Dharsha and Rumeshika Ratnayake.

In the morning, Roshan Dhammika produced the second-fastest legal time ever run by a Sri Lankan in the men’s 110 metres hurdles.

Dhammika, who broke Olympian Mahesh Perera’s 24-year-old 110 metres hurdles record at the National Championships four weeks ago, clocked 13.91 seconds to win the gold in the 110 metres hurdles final. The SLEME athlete’s effort had a minus 1.9 wind reading as he finished the event just two milliseconds slower than his national record.

His coach Thiron Gamage was confident that Dhammika would improve his national record once again and he almost achieved the target running against the wind. “He missed the record but with this feat, Dhammika has proved beyond doubt that his national record was not a fluke,” Gamage told The Island after the new meet record performance.

How much he has got to offer was evident from the time Dhammika ran a relaxed heat in the morning. Despite breaking the second hurdle he was still leading when he cleared the last hurdle but slowed down to finish third in the heat.  In the final his only blemish was breaking the last hurdle. Still, he was metres ahead of the rest. With his third sub 14 seconds run (13.97 secs and 13.89 secs at the Nationals) the former Kularatne Central, Godakawela athlete has become the only Sri Lankan to run the distance under that mark legally.

All three athletes who had previously run the distance under 14 seconds, namely Chaminda Fonseka, Supun Viraj Randeniya and Mahesh Perera had wind readings above the legal limit.

Those were not the only impressive track performances as Pabasara Niku produced his personal best with a 46.36 seconds to finish first in the men’s 400 metres final which was minus national champion Kalinga Kumarage and the other leading contender Aruna Dharshana. Dharshana pulled out from the competition due to injury in the semi-finals on Thursday. Harsha Karunaratne who won the 800 metres, finished second behind Niku in a time of 46.83 seconds. In the corresponding women’s event, Nadeesha Ramanayake bagged the gold medal. She clocked 54.54 seconds.

There were two other individual meet record performances from Sarangi Silva in the women’s long jump and Samith Fernando in the men’s shot put.

Sarangi cleared a distance of 6.14 metres to win the long jump. Fernando cleared 16.60 metres to create his record.

Nilani Ratnayake, whose steeplechase feat was adjudged the most outstanding performance in the female category won her third individual gold medal when she clocked 4:25.20 seconds to finish the 1,500 metres. While Samantha Pushpakumara (RMS) won the men’s 10,000 metres in a time of 31:12.28 seconds, H.A.M. Dilrukshi was the winner in the women’s discus throw. Men’s 100 metres winner Himasha Eshan (10.29 secs), who was involved in many victories for the Artillery regiment- the winners of the championship- won the award for the most outstanding performance in the men’s category.

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From the Army Athletics Championships

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The 57th Army Athletics Championships concluded at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday. The five-day event witnessed several record breaking performances by leading national athletes. Here are some action pictures from day five of the championships.

(Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi) 

 

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