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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.

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Dushmantha Chameera’s four wickets leads bowlers’ party as Sri Lanka wrap up series




Dushmantha Chameera finished with 4 for 63

Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara blasted out Afghanistan’s top order, the spinners took care of the lower order, and then Sri Lanka’s top three raced to the target of 117 in 16 overs. It wasn’t much of a workout ahead of the World Cup Qualifier, which starts on June 19; but having lost the first match of this series, the resounding nature of their victories to end the series will nevertheless give Sri Lanka some confidence.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 120 for 1 (Dimuth Karunaratne 56*, Pathum Nissanka 51; Gulbadin Naib 1-19) beat Afghanistan 116 (Ibrahim Zadran 22,Mohammed Nabi 23, Gulbadin Naib 20; Dushmantha Chameera 4-63, Wanidu Hasaranga 3-7) by nine wickets

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Novak Djokovic & Carlos Alcaraz to meet in French Open 2023 semi-finals




Carlos Alcaraz won his first Grand Slam title at the 2022 US Open (pic BBC)

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz will face Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals after crushing Stefanos Tsitsipas to set up the highly anticipated clash.

Spain’s Alcaraz, 20, won 6-2 6-1 7-6 (7-5) against the Greek fifth seed.

Serbia’s Djokovic survived a quarter-final scare from Karen Khachanov to keep his bid for a record 23rd men’s Grand Slam singles title alive.  Djokovic, 36, was in danger of falling two sets behind against the Russian but prevailed 4-6 7-6 (7-0) 6-2 6-4.

The third seed could become the first man to win all four majors at least three times. But if he is going to do that he must come through his toughest test yet when he meets US Open champion Alcaraz in the last four on Friday.

(BBC Sports)

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Sri Lanka confident World Cup qualifiers will go well



Angelo Mathews bats during training at Suriyawewa ahead of the third ODI against Afghanistan.

Rex Clementine
at Suriyawewa

Having failed to qualify automatically for the World Cup later this year, Sri Lanka will be flying shortly to Zimbabwe to secure one of the two remaining slots for the sport’s showpiece event. But before that they have got to finish off the ODI series against Afghanistan and the former champions will be hoping that they will be able to clinch the series prior to flying off to Harare.

After losing the first ODI by six wickets, Sri Lanka bounced back to square the series with a 132-run win on Sunday. That was a match where they basically produced the perfect game and ticked all the boxes.

The top order gave a solid start before the middle order capitalized on it and the lower middle order finished things off in style scoring 109 runs from the last ten overs. Sri Lanka piled up 323 for six and Afghanistan were never in the hunt as they were shot out for 191.

“The last game was a perfect exhibition of our plans. Everything was executed well. Since we had wickets in hand we could take risks. We could double the score and that was the plan. That’s what we want to do,” Sri Lanka’s Batting Coach Naveed Nawaz told journalists.

Prior to this series, we had a free period and we worked a lot on players’ fitness at the High-Performance Center. During this series we brought in a dietician and planned our food patterns. There is also a psychologist around. This is all done in a bid to establish whatever we have lost in the last few years,” Nawaz added.

While Sri Lanka are fretting over World Cup qualifications, there’s no such trouble for Afghanistan. Their captain Hashmatullah Shahidi told journalists that they will be one of the dark horses during the World Cup.

“Our ratings are improving day by day and match by match. We believe that we can do something special in this World Cup. We will be one of the best teams in the World Cup. We are the dark horses. The Asian conditions will suit our spin bowlers and we are excited,” Hashmatullah Shahidi said.

For today’s series decider leg-spinner Rashid Khan is expected to make a comeback having missed the first two ODIs due to a back injury.

“He is obviously our star performer. We didn’t want to take any risks with him as we have the Asia Cup and the World Cup. We will assess his situation during training and make a call whether he is ready to feature in the final game. It will mean a lot to us to come here to Sri Lanka and beat them in their own backyard,” the Afghan captain said.

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