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Sword of Damocles hanging over Dasun’s head



Dasun Shanaka pictured leaving BIA yesterday. Sri Lanka will play two T-20 Internationals in Oman and then will travel to Abu Dhabi to begin preparations for the ICC T-20 World Cup.

by Rex Clementine

Given his brilliant oratory skills, you expected much more from Kumar Sangakkara when he entered the commentary box. A sharp brain; well-read on any subject be it history, economics, politics, geography, or art, his press conferences were like blockbuster movies; a huge hit, be it at RPS, Lord’s, MCG, Wankhede, or Newlands.

Ahead of the Asia Cup final between Sri Lanka and India at Dambulla, the Editor of this newspaper wanted the Sports Desk to get a comment from the Sri Lankan captain on the discolouring of Sigiriya frescoes. The Sports Desk felt that it was a bad idea, but our Editor had studied the captain well.

Sanga spoke so well giving several theories for the discolouring and eventually pinned it down to the chemicals used to chase the wasps away as the contributory factor. This news item received wide publicity. Not just in Sri Lanka, but Hindustan Times, Times of India, The Hindu, and Indian Express carried it on page one.

One of Sanga’s best press conferences was when he spoke on selectors. He said, ‘Like God, selectors move about in mysterious ways.’ This was when Sir Richard Hadlee had overlooked him as the wicketkeeper for the ICC Super Test between World XI and Australia in 2005 and instead given the gloves to his compatriot Brendon McCullum.

It would be very interesting to hear Sanga’s frank opinion on selections in his own backyard at the moment. One is reminded of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s assessment of Ajith Nivad Cabraal when he was first appointed as Governor of Central Bank. The then Opposition Leader said that it was like appointing ‘a donkey to run in a Derby.’

Ironically, the same Central Bank appointment ten years later crashed Ranil’s Yahapalana government leaving him a political refugee.

As the Sri Lankan cricket team left for Oman yesterday, you felt that skipper Dasun Shanka was not breathing easy. A string of low scores has brought enormous amount of pressure on him; no half-century in his last 18 international innings.

Either way, failure over the next six weeks be it as a batsman or captain will result in the selectors pressing the panic button. You feel that Sword of Damocles hanging over Dasun’s head. For every defeat, the selectors need a scapegoat. In their short tenure so far, they have found plenty of them; Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Thisara Perera, Kusal Perera, Dimuth Karunaratne and the list goes on.

When you groom a side, you need to show a lot of patience. Everyone in cricket circles believes that Dasun has exhibited exceptional leadership qualities. But he has to fire with the bat, now that he hardly bowls his full quota of overs.

Irrespective of the outcome of the T-20 World Cup and whether Dasun fires or not, he needs to be backed and the authorities must have the conviction that he will be able to turn things around for the team.

Not all captains need to be exceptional players. Did you know that Mike Brearley never scored a Test match hundred? He averaged a mere 22 in Test cricket. But he was the ideal man to bring the best out of a host of England stars. The dressing room is not an easy place to manage when you have the likes of maverick Botham, selfish Boycott, overweight Gatting, flamboyant Gower, and laconic Willis. Brearley was there for one specific reason; to put a messy house in order.

Now then, Dasun Shanaka is no Mike Brearley. He is actually a poor man’s Darren Sammy. Dasun and Sammy are similar type of players. But they know the art of captaincy. After all, Sammy won two ICC T-20 World Cups despite limited credentials as a batsman and towards the end hardly bowled.

Sammy’s success did not happen overnight. It took time. West Indies selectors had the patience to persevere with Sammy although he was a disaster at the start. A similar ploy could put our cricket back on track. Forget scapegoats. Let’s live in hope.


Sri Lanka level series with big win in second ODI 



Dushmantha Chameera wheels away in celebration

Rex Clementine
at Suriyawewa  

Sri Lanka bounced back to beat Afghanistan by 132 runs on Sunday to square the three-match one-day series in Suriyawewa yesterday. It was Sri Lanka’s biggest win over Afghanistan in ODIs and makes amends for its disappointing performance in the first ODI on Friday, which they lost by six wickets,

Having set Afghanistan a stiff 324-run target, fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera dismissed the dangerous Rahmanulah Gurbaz cheaply for two runs to give his side an early advantage. Although Afghanistan put together two strong partnerships after that, the required run rate kept climbing and the Afghans lost their way trying to keep pace.

 Opening batsman Ibrahim Zardan continued his good form, posting 54 runs while captain Hashmatullah Shahidi top scored with 57 runs, but once Sri Lanka dismissed the top order there was not much resistance from the rest of the batters.From 146 for two, Afghanistan collapsed to be bowled out for 191 runs in 42.1 overs, losing their last eight wickets for just 45 runs.

Spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Dhananjaya de Silva shared six wickets between them to seal a comprehensive win for the home side.   Sri Lanka’s batting put on a show giving the team confidence ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe this month.

Afghanistan have already qualified for the World Cup and despite the heavy defeat on Sunday, will feel positive with star Rashid Khan expected to feature in the final game on Wednesday. The leg-spinner was ruled out of the first two games with a back injury.

Half-centuries by Kusal Mendis and Dimuth Karunaratne helped Sri Lanka post their commanding total. While Mendis top scored with 78 runs off 75 balls with seven fours and one six, Karunaratne, who was recalled for this series to stabilize the batting, made 52 off 62 balls with seven fours. Opener Pathum Nissanka contributed 43 runs while Sadeera Samarawickrama, featuring in an ODI for the first time since 2019, made 44 off 46 balls.

There was some big hitting by the lower middle order with captain Dasun Shanaka chipping in with 23 runs while Wanindu Hasaranga finished things off in style with an unbeaten 29 off 12 balls with four fours and a six. Dhananjaya de Silva was named Man of the Match for his unbeaten 29 and three wickets.

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Tharushi wins silver, Uththara clinches bronze at Asian Junior Athletics Championships  



By Reemus Fernando  

Ratnayake Central, Walala runner Tharushi Karunaratne and Holy Cross College, Gampaha sprinter Jayeshi Uththara shared the silver and bronze medals respectively of the women’s 400 metres to give a winning start to Sri Lanka’s Asian Junior Athletics Championship campaign on day one of the event in South Korea on Sunday.

Karunaratne and Uththara reached the final as the second and third fastest from the heats held in the morning and those positions remained unchanged as they finished second and third respectively in the final.

Karunaratne clocked 53.70 seconds to finish second behind India’s Rezoana Mallick Heena who returned a time of 53.31 seconds for the gold. Uththara clocked 55.51 seconds for her bronze.

Commenting on their achievements Sri Lanka Athletics in a statement said that it was the first time in almost three decades that two Sri Lankan female athletes had won medals in a single event at the Asian Junior Championships.

The track and field governing body was referring to the gold and silver doubles of legendary Susanthika Jayasinghe and Damayanthi Dharsha who shared the gold and silver medals in the 100 metres and 200 metres with championship records at the 1994 edition held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

At the last edition held in Gifu, Japan Sri Lanka’s men’s pair of Aruna Dharshana and Pasindu Kodikara won the gold and silver medals in the men’s 400 metres.  Karunaratne who is trained by veteran coach Susantha Fernando is set to compete in the women’s 800 metres final today where she will be the favourite for gold.

She returned an Asian leading time of 2:01.39 seconds at the selection trail held in March though her preparation for the event was plagued by a sickness forcing her to skip the recently held Junior National Championships. Tharushi will enter today’s race as the third fastest 800 metres runner in the world this year.

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Dominant Sri Lanka claw back to level series




Sri Lanka came up with a dominant show with both bat and ball to stage a strong comeback and level the three-match series against Afghanistan on Sunday (June 4). Having lost the first ODI, the hosts staged a commendable comeback with their top four laying the platform for a 300-plus total which was then defended with ease as Afghanistan fell short by 132 runs.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 323/6 in 50 overs (Kusal Mendis 78, Dimuth Karunaratne 52; Mohammad Nabi 2/52) beat Afghanistan 191 in 42.1 overs (Hashmatullah Shahidi 57, Ibrahim Zadran 54; Dhananjaya de Silva 3/39) by 132 runs

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