By Dharmakulasingham Aiyampilai
The stage is set for the eighth edition of the T20 World Cup in Australia. Host country Australia, the defending champion has put in place elaborate preparation and exceptional Australian hospitality awaits the participating teams and others. The proud moments of winning the world cup in 1996 at Lahore still resonate in the hearts and minds of Sri Lankans. A proud cricketing nation that produced outstanding players of the calibre of Sathasivam, HIK. Fernando, Abu Fuard, Michel Thisera, Anura Tennakone and many others is eagerly waiting to witness a thrilling performance from the young team. Like the once powerful West Indies, Sri Lanka too slipped from the peak. The stakeholders of the game came up with an excuse of transition of the teams after many legends retired. What are the chances for Sri Lanka this time is the question many Sri Lankan fans are saddled with.
Just completed Asia cup unexpectedly renewed the energy levels of the Sri Lankan team and the self-belief has been restored. More importantly, the fear of failure has been removed by the wise words of the coach and the involvement of master tactician Mahela Jayawardene as a consultant coach is considered as a huge positive. Highly respected Mahela’s successful involvement with Mumbai Indians and his achievements as a master tactician brought him many accolades and Mahela was inducted to the ICC cricket Hall of Fame in 2021. Mahela’s tactical acumen is definitely going to be a blessing to the young Sri Lankan team which can gradually and easily acclimatise to the Australian conditions with the input from Mahela since he has been familiar with Australian conditions. Team Management including coach Silverwood, Mahela Jayawardena and others are well aware of the fact that risk management plays a vital aspect in T20 games.
Playing in Australia is all about adjusting to the pace and bounce and the dimensions of the grounds are bigger than many grounds in Sri Lanka and UAE. Sri Lanka is coming off a very successful Asia Cup tournament where the islanders sent shock waves by defeating much fancied India and Pakistan. Sri Lanka do not have big hitters or T20 stars like Chris Gayle, Andre Russel, Hales, Buttler, Suryakumar Yadev, Bracewell, David Warner etc. It is generally believed that batters who can easily clear the boundary lines can win the games. However, the Sri Lankan teams without much fancied big hitters or a local league like IPL or Big Bash reached finals on three occasions and 2014 was another memorable year for Sri Lankan cricket as it defeated the powerful Indian team in the final in Bangladesh under the captaincy of Kumar Sangakara. World Cup winning team under captain cool Arjuna Ranatunga at the 1999 World Cup was disastrous. Seam and swing conditions in English, among many reasons, were attributed to the poor performance of the star-studded Sri Lankan team. In other words, Asia Cup glory in Dubai on 12 September 2022 by defeating the strong Pakistan team by 23 runs can’t guarantee the same competitive performance in Australian conditions. Being drawn in group B with Namibia, UAE and Netherlands in the qualifying round before progressing to the super 12 stage Sri Lanka have the opportunity of playing three matches in Australian conditions. Training sessions and official warm-up matches will help the Sri Lankan team to face the Namibian team in the tour opener on 15th October at Geelong. It is pertinent to ask the question whether Sri Lanka have ticked all the boxes in the checklist.
The batting department is more or less looks settled with openers and the top order. Pathum Nissanka’s technique against pace and bounce conditions and Kusal Mendis attacking instinct with his ability to play pace and spin at the top would provide space for the other batsmen to phase out their innings. Asalanka had a quiet series in the Asia Cup and he is backed by the management since he scored heavily in the 2021 World Cup. Danuska Gunathilake, Dhananjaya de Silva, Bhanuka Rajapakse are all in good form. Captain Shanaka, Hasaranga and Karunaratne could give the finishing touches.
The bowling department is, particularly pace bowling, a strong area for the current team with Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Dilshan Madusanka, and Promod Madushan with all-rounder Chamika Karunaratne and skipper Shanaka for whom Australian pitches may be favourable. The spin bowling unit is as usual very strong in the hands of Hasaranga and mystery spinner Theekshana. The presence of leg spinner Vandersay provides options for team management depending on the rival team’s strengths and weaknesses. Recent fielding efforts by young Sri Lankans in UAE Asia Cup matches have been hugely appreciated by the commentators.
What is of immediate concern to Sri Lanka at this early stage is whether Sri Lanka will continue their winning streak and earn entry to the super 12 stage. The first hurdle is in the qualifying round. Though it appears it is a cakewalk for the Sri Lankan team, the great uncertainties of the game might have a field day and spoil the expectations. Sri Lank has a history of heavily defeating the associate countries in big stages and the current young team’s chances of earning entry to the super 12 are bright.
Selection impasse continues
by Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka Cricket and Ministry of Sports are at daggers drawn and virtually naming of new selectors has become impossible after SLC submitted the same set of names to be reappointed. SLC wants a fresh term for Pramodaya Wickramasinghe under whose tenure the team won the Asia Cup. The Sports Ministry meanwhile wants Wicky gone. Among other things, they aren’t happy that he retained Danushka Gunatilleke on tour after he was injured during the World Cup. The top order batsman brought international shame to the country after his arrest in Sydney. He was charged with sexual assault. In order to break the deadlock, the Sports Ministry now wants to issue a gazette and call for interested former players to apply. The age old practice has been for SLC to advertise for the post and among the applicants, ten names are handpicked and sent to the Sports Ministry, which then chooses five out of those ten names and appoint them as selectors. But it’s all going to change now. The board will no longer have a say on selections. The selectors are answerable to the Ministry of Sports. But the board will pay their salaries. This is not an ideal situation and let’s hope it’s just a one off. SLC should have known better and instead of going on a collision course should have negotiated for a better deal.
Getting selectors to apply is never the ideal thing. Greg Chappell was a selector of Australia for a long period of time and if someone had asked him to apply he would have given that person a piece of his mind. Chappell’s role was a unique one from rest of the panel. He was responsible to alert the selectors on the next biggest talent in the country having scrutinized a player.
Similarly a Sidath Wettimuny, an Aravinda de Silva or a Marvan Atapattu aren’t going to apply for the post of selector. They’ll come and serve if protocols are followed and obviously they would want a free hand. That’s the best way forward too. Surely you don’t want your best brains left behind simply because they didn’t apply for a post. What’s it with Wicky that he wants to hold onto this post so much. He needs to learn to let go. He’s anyway known as someone who’ll not take a backward step but what about little Kalu? Now that’s a man who is very conscious about his reputation. If the system doesn’t want you, then there’s no point in hanging around. Take a break and make a comeback when there’s an opportunity. The present selectors maybe feeling that they have done a good job and need a fresh term. Well it doesn’t always happen that way.
Duleep Mendis is a case in point. Through meticulous planning, he had helped the national team for a maiden Test win in South Africa in 2011. The whole county was excited at what the team had achieved. Yet, two weeks later he was sacked along with captain T.M. Dilshsn and Head Coach Geoff Marsh.
Bangladesh selectors okay if Hathurusingha is included in selection panel
There’s been a buzz after BCB president Nazmul Hasan announced that newly-appointed coach Hathurusingha will have a say in selection, although a decision on whether he will be officially included in the selection panel like in the past is yet to be made.
“Whether Hathurusingha will be included in the selection panel will be decided by the board. There are two selections: preliminary (squad) and final selection (playing XI),” said Nazmul Hasan, BCB President. “The final selection is always made by the captain and coach, and the captain decides whereas the coach gives suggestions but basically it is the captain.”
Many feel that if Hathurusingha is included in the selection panel, that will take away power from the selectors. However, BCB’s chief selector Minhajul Abedin and his long time associate in the selection panel Habibul Bashar disagree with it.
“I am not sure whether he will be included in the selection panel or not but I don’t think it will be a problem and we didn’t have any problems last time too,” Minhajul told Cricbuzz on Thursday, adding that he is in regular touch with the Sri Lankan to keep him updated.
Habibul told Cricbuzz that he has seen Hathurusingha working from close quarters and feels that there are lots of misconceptions floating in the air about him.
“It is not true that he had given us a paper” said Habibul. “We always discussed about our team with the head coach and always take his suggestion whether he is a part of selection panel or not. And it was the same with him as well.
“I don’t think he is any kind of strict headmaster. Instead what I feel is that he always looked at the cricketers equally.”
Khaled Mahmud, current team director and a close ally of Hathurusingha, feels that Hathurusingha is now much more matured than before.
“He has worked in Bangladesh before. There were a lot of good performances during his time. He is more mature now, which is good for the team. I think it is a positive thing that he is coming for a second time. He understands us well, as he is also from the subcontinent.” said Mahmud, who had worked as team manager during Hathurusingha’s first stint
Hathurusingha spent three years from 2014 to 2017 before leaving abruptly for the Sri Lanka role. He is expected to arrive by January 20 and his first assignment will be against England at home.
SportUnleash Schools Sports Awards 2022
Fifteen outstanding school sports persons were felicitated at the inaugural SportUnleash School Sports Awards 2022 held at the BMICH recently.Minister of Education Susil Premajayanth was the chief guest at the awards ceremony while MP Eran Wickramaratne was the guest of honor.
The award winners for 2022
Track events-Nadun Kaveesha Bandara of Royal College, Colombo,
Field events –
Ashmika Keshan Korala of Yoshida International School, Sapugaskanda,
BADMINTON: Viren Nettasinghe of St Peter’s College,
BASKETBALL:GG Minoli Mariya Direkze of HFC Bambalapitiya,
BOXING: Pasindu Umayanga Mihiran, Nalanda College,
CHESS: LM Susal T de Silva, Nalanda College,
CRICKET: Dunith Wellalage, St Joseph’s College,
KARATE: CA Tharuki Sashindi, Sapugaskanda Visaka Vidyalaya,
Hiruni Heshani, HFC Kurunegala,
ROWING: Shaylon Shayan Gunaratna, Asian International School,
RUGBY: Dinupa Seneviratna, DS Senanayake College,
SWIMMING:Ganga Seneviratne, Visaka Vidyalaya,
TENNIS:Dinara de Silva, St Bridget’s Convent,
VOLLEYBALL:Kavishka Madushanka, Rajasinghe Central College, Ruwanwella,
WRESTLING: Nethmi Ahinsa Fernando, Welpalla Sangharathana Maha Vidyalaya, Giriulla,
COACH OF THE YEAR: TS Suranga Kumara,
SPORTING SCHOOL –Nalanda College.
The Jury Medals for Sports Excellence, were awarded to Danindu Chirath Sellepperuma of Ananda College and Vishmi Gunaratne of Rathnawali Balika Vidyalaya, Gampaha for their noteworthy performance in cricket and to Tharushi Karunarathne of A. Ratnayake MMV, Walala in Athletics.
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