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



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.


Tharushi shocks seniors, breaks own record and sets world-leading time



Tharushi Karunaratne erased her own national junior record as she beat national record holder Gayanthika Abeyratne to win the women’s 800 metres yesterday.

By Reemus Fernando

Ratnayake Central, Walala prodigy Tharushi Karunaratne blazed the track with the country’s second fastest time ever in the women’s 800 metres to provide a sensational start to the 2023 season proper as the Junior and Senior track and field trials commenced at Diyagama on Monday.

The athlete trained by Susantha Fernando clocked 2:01.39 seconds to beat reigning national champion and national record holder Gayanthika Abeyratne. The 18-year-old’s winning time was only 19 milliseconds shy of the national record established by the veteran runner last year.

Incidentally, Karunaratne’s feat is the world-leading time in her age category this year.

Abeyratne led the race for a better part but Tharushi beat her in the last few metres in the home straight to produce one of the fastest 800 metres races on home soil.

Tharushi who emerged as a future prospect with notable performances at the Under 16 level at Junior school competitions has been on a record-breaking sphere.

Competing in the senior category she shattered her own National Junior Record and announced her readiness even to make her senior debut for Sri Lanka at international competitions.

Her winning time yesterday stands out as it ranks above the women’s 800 metres Asian Junior Championship record. No one has run the women’s 800 metres faster than China’s Lang Yinglai (in 1997- 2:02.66 secs) at Asian Junior Championships.

Tharushi, who has represented Sri Lanka at back-to-back World Junior Athletics Championships has not only secured a place in Sri Lanka team for Asian Junior Championships but has also emerged as a strong contender to make the teams for the Senior Asian Championships and the Asian Games.

Sri Lanka Athletics conducts the two-day event as a precursor for the final selection for the Asian Junior Championships, Asian Senior Championships and the Asian Games taking place this year.

Meanwhile, in yet another notable feat Janindu Lakvijaya broke the national record in the men’s 110 metres hurdles as he clocked 13.82 seconds in the heats.

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After Big Match duties Sineth, Tharupathi guide Sri Lanka U19s to big win



Just a day after finishing their Big Match duties Royal College batsman Sineth Jayawardena and Richmond College spinner Malsha Tharupathi featured prominently in Sri Lanka Under 19s five-wicket victory over their Bangladesh counterparts in UAE on Monday.

Chasing a target of 230 runs to win Sineth Jayawardena top-scored with 101 runs to secure a five-wicket victory with 33 balls to spare. Jayawardena put on a first-wicket stand of 95 runs with St. Joseph’s batsman Hirun Kapurubandara who scored a half-century.

When Bangladesh Under 19s decided to bat first, Sri Lanka bowlers did well to restrict them to 229 runs. Tharupathi with three wickets was the pick of the blowers.

Sineth Jayawardena scored a century
for Sri Lanka Under 19s.

Sri Lanka Cricket had given exemptions for Sri Lanka Under 19 players Jayawardena, Tharupathi and Mahinda College Galle player Dinura Kalupahana to join the team in UAE after completing their Big Match duties.

Jayawardena took two wickets in the second innings though he was off colour with the bat in Royal College’s victory at the historic 144th Big Match. Tharupathi took six wickets for Richmond in the drawn Lovers’ Quarrel Big Match against Mahinda. All rounder Kalupahana who scored a half century and took three wickets for Mahinda in the Big Match, contributed with 10 runs yesterday, while his five overs could not yield wickets.


Bangladesh U19s

229 for 8 in 50 overs (Chowdhur Md Rizwan 38, Jishan Alam 40, Ahrar Amin 50; Malsha Tharupathi 3/35)

Sri Lanka U19s

234 for 5 in 44.3 overs (Hirun Kapurubandara 52, Sineth Jayawardena 101, Hiran Jayasundara 35; Jishan Alam 3/31)

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New Zealand seal 2-0 whitewash despite Sri Lanka’s lower order resistance



Southee and Tickner picked three wickets each.

Despite a strong resistance by Sri Lanka’s lower order, three wickets apiece by Tim Southee and Blair Tickner helped bundle out the visitors for 358 to help New Zealand clinch the second Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington by an innings and 58 runs, on Monday. With the win, the hosts also sealed the two-match Test series 2-0.

The visitors, who were asked to follow on after bundling out for 164 in the first innings, in response to New Zealand’s 580 for 4, provided a strong fight for most parts of the first two sessions, led by Dhananjaya de Silva’s 98 – and well supported by Dinesh Chandimal’s 62 and Nishan Madushka’s 39. However, on either side of the two partnerships – for the fifth and sixth wicket respectively – the hosts triggered collapses.

They struck in the first over of the day itself, with Kusal Mendis mistiming a pull off Matt Henry to mid wicket, without adding to the overnight score. The short-ball which got them the success early in the day, was used rather generously by the New Zealanders throughout the day, especially Blair Tickner who filled in that role in the absence of Neil Wagner.

In the fourth over of the day, the other overnight batter – Angelo Matthews – departed pulling Tickner to square leg. Despite losing two wickets early in the day, Sri Lanka continued to be on the offensive, with Chandimal and Dhananjaya taking on the short-pitched attack. The duo stitched a 126-run stand for the fifth wicket, in what proved to be a high-scoring session where Sri Lanka picked 136 runs.

The attacking approach that the two batters maintained also helped them quickly take advantage of the loose deliveries as well. However, late in the morning session, Chandimal eventually fell to the ploy, top-edging a pull off Tickner to the fine leg fielder.

Madushka, on debut, got off the mark by going down the track off Michael Bracewell and hitting the offspinner for a six in the last over before Lunch. He attempted to drive the next delivery, but was tricked by the dip and eventually hit it just short of the fielder. The approach post Lunch though was rather cautious. Against the moving new ball, the batters were tested by Matt Henry and Tim Southee. However, apart from a couple of leg before appeals and a few beating the bat, there wasn’t much threat posed to them.

They slowly kept chipping away at the deficit with a 76-run partnership for the sixth wicket before Madushka fell at the stroke of Tea – yet again dismissed pulling against Tickner, this time caught at mid on.

Sri Lanka’s chances of wiping off the deficit took a massive hit when Dhananjaya was dismissed in the second over after tea. Looking to sweep Michael Bracewell, he got a top edge to the short-leg fielder. Thereafter, the lower order only delayed the inevitable. They kept the New Zealand bowlers at bay for nearly two and a half hours from thereon to hand them the last three wickets, two of which were eventually scalped by Southee.

Kasun Rajitha played out 110 deliveries in the company of Prabath Jayasuriya and Lahiru Kumara, both of whom added 45 balls each. Rajitha’s dismissal – caught at second slip poking at an away-going delivery – ended Sri Lanka’s innings soon after play was extended for the day.

Brief scores:

New Zealand

580/4 decl. in 123 overs (Kane Williamson 215, Henry Nicholls 200n.o.; Kasun Rajitha 2-126)

Sri Lanka

164 all out in 66.5 overs (Dimuth Karunaratne 89; Matt Henry 3-44, Michael Bracewell 3-50) and 358 all out in 142 overs (Dhananjaya de Silva 98, Dinesh Chandimal 62; Tim Southee 3-51, Blair Tickner 3-84)

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