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.
West Indies campaign in disarray after back to back defeats
Rex Clementine in Dubai
Lack of genuine pace in their bowling department hurt defending champions West Indies as they suffered a heavy eight wicket defeat at the hands of South Africa in the ICC T-20 World Cup in Dubai yesterday.
The Windies may have lot of experience at their disposal possessing plenty of globetrotters who play franchise cricket but their bowling lacked penetration and a target of 144 proved to be too little to defend as South Africa won with ten deliveries to spare.
Both teams had lost their opening encounters earlier in the competition and badly needed a win and South Africa will be pleased with their effort. As for West Indies, two time World Champions, a semi-final spot seems to be slipping away from them. But you cannot completely write off the Caribbean kings, who have a remarkable record in the shortest format of the game. For that to happen, their batting needs to fire.
Batting was a flop yesterday as they managed only 143 runs and looked to be some 20 runs short.
Opening batsman Evin Lewis laid the foundation for West Indies top scoring with 56 off 35 balls with three fours and six sixes. West Indies had got off to a good start with Lewis and Lendl Simmons adding 73 runs for the first wicket.
Despite possessing some of the finest big hitters in the game, West Indies innings did not get the impetus it needed during the death overs and 143 did not look a safe score.
Anrich Nortje showed why pace matters finishing with figures of one for 14 in his four overs and was named Man of the Match.
During the run chase, South Africa captain Temba Bavuma tested Andre Russell’s arm hurrying for a quick single having pushed one to mid-on and was run out.
Reeza Hendricks and Rassie van der Dussen then added 60 runs for the second wicket to set the platform for the run chase. After Hendricks was well caught by Shimron Hetmyer in the deep, Aiden Markram joined van der Dussen and sealed the deal for South Africa.
South Africa’s number three van der Dussen looked to be playing through the innings while Markram was the aggressor finishing with 51 off 26 deliveries with two fours and four sixes while van der Dussen needed 51 deliveries for his 43.
Markram brought up his half-century by pulling Andre Russell for six and in the next ball brought up South Africa’s victory with a single to mid-wicket.
Shan: Legend to most; simple brother to me
Ironically my first association with Shan was not as a teammate but as an opponent in 1983.
Called in by Kandy Sports Club at the end of the school season to take on newly crowned A Division Champions CH in the knockout tournament at Nittawela, whereas a naive schoolboy I was told my task was partly to “take care” of Shan Perera head on, in order to not provide him any space, not realizing there weren’t many takers at Kandy who wanted that job. I can’t remember how many times I “took him on” that wet muddy evening but Kandy ended CH’s campaign that evening for the double.
Not too long after that, I found myself playing in between Simon Hunter and Shan Perera at CH; a baptism into the big league that young rookie players could only dream of. The opportunity although not fully appreciated at the time because it was “normalized” and not seen as me playing with legends, without doubt, accelerated my progress as a player and shaped me into the player I went on to be.
Shan from thereon was an integral part of my life as a fellow teammate, mentor, and big brother; a friendship that went into its fourth decade at the time of his passing.
The last few years of his life were hard on Shan, and to us his band of brothers it was difficult to watch this colossus of a man reduced to the condition his illness had taken him; but Shan fought it without complaint, with his usual inimitable nonchalant style which reflects on the man he was.
But his final years are not what I will remember of Shan. It will only ever be over a decade of watching his prowess on the field at Maitland Crescent, the years playing for our country, and the simple human being he was, irrespective of his superstar status. I saw all of this from the best seat in the house literally right next to him on the field.
It might not be known that Shan originally never picked CH as the default team to play for on his return from the UK in the very late 70s. When looking for a club to play for he was directed to Havelocks, and by a simple twist of fate the cab driver on being asked to take him to the park club mistakenly dropped him off at the steps of the crescent club. And as they say, the rest is history.
Shan went on to become a legend of the game but his talent was not limited to his abilities with the oval-shaped ball. Shan opened the bowling in first-class cricket for a few seasons as well in Sri Lanka and without a day’s proper athletic training turned up for the nationals and came second in the 100 meters losing only to the national sprint record holder at the time. Shan was never ambitious for himself be it anything he did in his life. If he was I am certain he could well have been a triple international for Sri Lanka with the uncanny talent he possessed.
Shan was also not conventional. his legendary “nikan inna bari exercises”; NIBX which he aptly went on to call them were an integral part of the psyche of the CH team during the golden years at the club. How can one forget that in the huddle before the team ran out to battle he would call for a thumb bending exercise drill or call a highly charged testosterone tongue exercise drill which brought out the best “imaginary fantasies” of the youthful boys in the team. To most, they were fun and games but Shan had the ability to relax and bring together the boys and focus us as ONE with these unconventional Shan centric mind games. I never failed a wry smile many moons later when I saw him working as a professional trainer when I passed the club and saw him take many through their paces in the scorching hot sun.
Shan was also a gentle giant. I don’t think I have ever seen Shan lose his temper or get excessively agitated on the field let alone off it. If a teammate irritated him or took the mickey out of him his most irate response would be “umbe amma kalu da“. An irony not lost by the fact, that to the boys at CH he was our “kalu sudda“. Not many understood him in the team and that I would more often than not have to interpret what he said to some of the boys especially to the front five ones. How many times would I have heard him say “A BEE” which he called me all through our association “tell those idiot props” what I said.
A gentle giant story I learned the hard way was when we took on Havelocks in a President’s trophy game. After an altercation I had with Salu Salu he chased me around the park to knock my head in. Shan being the strongest and best physical specimen in the team I ran next to him with the assurance he would protect me; but Shan in his laid back way whistled and said “A BEE just keep running” ……it did not end well for me .
There are many stories about Shan. They are countless and go far beyond the legend he was to all who loved and supported him for the player he was. To us, at the Club he was a big brother and to me, he was literally that, notwithstanding that to many who did not know better thought we were brothers, as they saw an uncanny resemblance in our appearance.
Shan will live forever among his band of brothers at CH. He is one of the greatest who ever walked the hallowed rugby fields of Sri Lanka but to us he is far more than that. He is one of the nicest and most simple guys you would ever meet and know. He was a good friend. He was a brother.
To plagiarize Pepper Potts words to Tony Stark in Marvels End Game.
“Shan; you can rest now”.
With legal battle over, hockey’s glory days are set to return
With senior police officer Kamal Pushpakumara overcoming a legal battle that challenged his eligibility to head Sri Lanka Hockey Federation, the glory days of Hockey are set to return as he is free to contest the upcoming AGM for the post of President.
Pushpakumara, a multi-talented sportsman, has got plenty in his plate as a senior police officer, but that doesn’t prevent him from dedicating time for the sport he loves as he is confident of turning things around for a sport that has lost its glamour over the years.
Some may say that it is wishful thinking to make Sri Lanka the best hockey playing nation in the Asian region above India, Pakistan, South Korea and Malaysia but that is going to be the vision of Pushpakumara.
A Senior Superintendent of Police, Pushpakumara has a few tricks up his sleeve in order to make Sri Lanka a force to be reckoned with in the region in hockey.
Pushpakumara represented Police in both cricket and hockey and made several tours overseas. Sri Lanka won the Police Cricket World Cup in Worcestershire in England under his captaincy.
One of his main plans to improve the game of hockey is to increase the number of kids playing the game by reaching out to new schools to join the game and sustaining them in the sport without giving up halfway through.
Improving the infrastructure at grassroots levels, making the role of umpires and technical support professional are other areas that have been looked at in a bid to create interest and make improvements in the game. Virtually, this can be termed as the short-term goal.
There will be an Elite Pool established comprising 100 children from the age group of 16 to 19 to undergo a long-term training program targeting future international events.
The main fan base of Hockey is at Matale, Kandy, Colombo, Wennapuwa, Kalutara, Jaffna, Matara, Gampaha, Badulla and Galle. One of the main areas that have been looked at is to promote the game in the areas where the game is existing and to take the game to districts which do not play hockey.
Developing the game all around the island will not only help identify players with exceptional skill levels but it also increases awareness on healthy life styles. The player development will be focused on two areas – schools and districts.
The development efforts will be done by qualified coaches with the help from International Hockey Federation and Asian Hockey Federation.
He also intends to establish an IPL like domestic franchise-based tournament with the participation of foreign players and he believes that this will create lot of interest on the game. The help of Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa in this regard is highly valued.
Sri Lanka were ranked number four in Asia in the 1960s but currently the team has suffered huge setbacks to be ranked 11th. More recently, the sport has run into problems and a fresh face is needed to address the burning issues of the game. SSP Pushpakumara with a visionary attitude and a desire to work hard is the ideal person to do the job.
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