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The Emperor at 60!

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Arjuna Ranatunga

by Rex Clementine  

Arjuna Ranatunga hasn’t spared any sacred cow. All those years ago, he targeted Shane Warne calling him an ordinary cricketer and there was no love lost between the two of them. Yet, when there was a ceremony remembering Warne in Galle last year ahead of the Australia – Sri Lanka Test match, he not only showed up but urged a few of his team mates to come along. Exterior is rough and tough but interior is soft and kind.

Sportsmen rewrite record books. But Arjuna more often rewrote the rule books. He also upset the apple cart, told the Board Chairman once to get out of the Sri Lankan dressing room, broke a few glass ceilings and was a pain for successive administrations of the sport both here and overseas. He turns 60 today.

As India cements owner N. Srinivasan made a regal entry into cricket governance, everyone was careful not even to talk anything out of turn. The business tycoon was known for his ruthlessness. Influential figures in cricket who knew inside out of the devout Brahmin warned that never to cross Srinivasan’s path. But Arjuna took on Srinivasan.

He was the only one. The rest of them, including the founding members of the ICC – England and Australia fell in line with him and agreed for the Big Three takeover of the ICC and a larger portion of ICC revenue to India. Only Arjuna spoke out. This is an unfair world and cricket is an unfair sport. It’s not supposed to be that way. Forget the world. At least cricket is supposed to be a fair playing field.

Srinivasan taught Arjuna a bitter lesson. He contacted Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge and promised a tour of India that would bring US$ 10 million to SLC. But only on one condition. The government had to get rid of Arjuna as the Board Chairman.

Lokuge said deal. Arjuna was out. That Lokuge went and signed a television deal with a backlisted company and plundered millions of dollars is a different story.

The rule of the day seems that in cricket everyone should make money. Ministers, Presidential Advisors, Lawyers, Law Enforcement Officers and even us reporters. To hell with cricket. Even if the national cricket team’s performance has hit an all time low it doesn’t matter as long as the board is making profits. It is fine if we don’t play international cricket for nearly three months when the IPL is on. The important thing is not to antagonize India.

You thought the Srinivasan episode would have taught Arjuna a few lessons. No. He has not learned a single thing.

Srinivasan though only had clout being the big boss of BCCI. His successor Jay Shah not only has clout, but he has even political power being the son of India’s Interior Minister and number two of the ruling BJP after the Prime Minister.

You knew what was in store for Arjuna when he ridiculed Shah. It was stupid. It was politically incorrect. The most sensible thing to do these days is to go with the flow. That is what Australian boss Mike Barid is doing. That is what Richard Thomson, the Chairman of England and Wales Cricket Board is doing, That is what right right is doing.

Why go and take on of all people Jay Shah? But that is Arjuna for you. He calls a spade a spade. Diplomacy is not his best trait. We all agreed that during the Asia Cup having a reserve day for just the India – Pakistan game was insane. But no body said a word. No one wants to antagonize the BCCI. Arjuna did. He called it ridiculous.

An Indian reporter asked him what he would have done if he were Sri Lanka’s captain. “I would have walked out with my team without playing the tournament. It’s not fair. Let them play an India – Pakistan final. This is not how I play cricket,” he said. How we long for those days. It would have been a nightmare for the ICC to deal with this guy.

At a time when our captains are happy to stand and take selfies with Virat Kohli, here’s one man who could have given Kohli as much as the Indian captain dishes out to others. At the age of 60 and being the grandfather of two, at least now you hope that Arjuna plays it safe. But that is not what he is. He has been always that combative kind of guy.

Playing his first game against his idol Sunil Gavaskar, Arjuna had goosebumps. It was a surreal moment. But the competitive nature in him compelled him to take on the Indian captain and get under his skin.

Gavaskar wasn’t upset but was impressed by what he saw in the teenager. He quietly went up to Board Charmian Gamini Dissanayake and told him, ‘Look after that boy. He will change Sri Lankan cricket one day.’

At times you tend to think that Arjuna is old school, but his observations on the game are quite sharp. India had come to Colombo for the Under-19 World Cup in 2006. One Rohit Sharma impressed him.

In subsequent years when the Indian senior team visited Sri Lanka and reporters interviewed him he kept on asking why Rohit Sharma is not part of the senior side. The Indians wondered why he is so obsessed with Rohit Sharma. The proof was there soon in what Rohit has gone onto achieve in the game.

Arjuna’s humour is quite unique too. For all these guys who have gone onto play the game at the highest level they have their humorous side.

Once he was captaining a World XI team against an Australian XI in Adelaide in an exhibition game. Ashwin Ferro, a reporter from Mid-Day newspaper from Bombay had gone to Adelaide for reporting.

A few World XI players were having niggles and the reporter had to play the game. Arjuna looked at him and said, ‘Hey you. You are bowling the first over.’ The poor reporter asked, ‘Why me.’  Arjuna replied. ‘You are from Bombay right. Most Ranji Trophy wins and all. Yes, you are bowling the first over.’

It’s been a glorious 60 for the captain cool. There are many wishes on his birthday and one of them is that he doesn’t change. You need that one voice to tell the powers that be to where to get lost.



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Hasaranga suspended for two T20Is for outburst against umpire

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Wanindu Hasaranga will miss Sri Lanka's next two T20Is in Bangladesh

Sri Lanka’s T20I captain Waniidu Hasaranga has been suspended for two matches by the ICC following his run-in with umpire Lyndon Hannibal in the third T20I against Afghanistan on February 21. Hasaranga was also fined 50% of his match fees and will miss Sri Lanka’s first two T20Is against Bangladesh next month.

The incident had occurred after umpire Hannibal did not rule a high full-toss from Wafadar Momand to Kamindu Mendis as a no-ball. Kamindu had shuffled down the pitch, but the delivery would have likely arrived higher than his waist had he been standing upright at the popping crease. This would constitute a no-ball as per the ICC’s playing conditions.

“That kind of thing shouldn’t happen in an international match,” Hasaranga had said. “If it had been close [to waist height], that’s not a problem. But a ball that’s going so high… it would have hit the batsman’s head if it had gone a little higher. If you can’t see that, that umpire isn’t suited for international cricket. It would be much better if he did another job.”

Sri Lanka needed 11 runs off the last three balls when this occurred and eventually lost the match by three runs to finish the series 2-1.

“Hasaranga was found guilty of breaching article 2.13 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to ‘Personal abuse of a Player, Player Support Personnel, Umpire or Match Referee during an International Match’,” the ICC said in a statement. “Hasaranga’s accumulation of five demerit points (he got three for this infraction) results in a conversion to two suspension points. This means he will either get a ban for one Test match or two ODIs or T20Is, whichever comes first, for the player or player support personnel.”

Afghanistan batter Rahamanullah Gurbaz was also fined 15% of his match fee and given one demerit point for “disobeying an umpire’s instruction during an international match.” Gurbaz’s offence was “altering the grip of his bat on the field despite repeated warnings against doing so,” the ICC said. Gurbaz’s demerit-points tally now stands at two.

(Cricinfo)

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Kamindu Mendis needs to be persevered with

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Kamindu Mendis playing his first T-20 International in three years almost put Sri Lanka over the line on Wednesday at Dambulla

by Rex Clementine

A decade or so ago, Richmond College, Galle was winning all the silverware in school cricket. They played by a different set of rules. Often scoring 1000 runs and taking 100 wickets in the season had been seen as hallmark of a good player. But Richmond didn’t care for the personal milestones. They played to win. There were bold declarations, attacking field settings, free scoring batsmen and ambidextrous bowlers. Richmond thought out of the box.

Many of their players graduated to the Sri Lankan side after school cricket. Some of them have gone onto become household names of the game. Kamindu Mendis could go onto become the next big name in cricket from Richmond.

With Sri Lanka having taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three match T-20 series against Afghanistan at Dambulla, Kamindu Mendis was given a break in the dead rubber. He proved his mettle with an unbeaten 65 off 39 balls and nearly pulled off a win. It was his first game for Sri Lanka in three years.

For a 25-year-old on a comeback trial, the pressure didn’t take to Kamindu. He rotated the strike well and waited for the loose balls. His judgements were pretty good something that you can not tell about many young players these days.

One problem facing Sri Lankan cricket is that in white ball cricket among the top seven players there are not many bowling options. If you take successful Sri Lankan teams, among the top seven there were at least three bowling options. These were genuine batsmen who could bowl and that helped the selectors to balance the side.

Kamindu Mendis solves this problem for the current side. He is ambidextrous and can bowl finger spin from both hands and the left-arm spin is quite impressive. It’s a pity that he doesn’t bowl much these days in domestic cricket.

We all marvel that Sanath Jayasuriya took more ODI wickets than Shane Warne. Sanath’s bowling was largely neglected too until a certain Duleep Mendis called him to a side and told him in no uncertain terms that he needed to work on his bowling. Gradually Sanath improved his bowling. Maybe it’s time for Sanath to borrow a leaf out of Duleep’s book and give Kamindu a piece of his mind.

More than skill what impresses you about Kamindu is his temperament. He seem to have got a good head above his shoulders and these kind of players are rare these days in our backyard. Kamindu is a former Sri Lanka under-19 captain and authorities should start grooming him for bigger things.

Kamindu did get a chance in the Test side when the Aussies were in town in 2022. He made a polished 61 in the only innings Sri Lanka batted and never got to play Test cricket again. Let’s hope he doesn’t suffer the same fate in white ball cricket.

A solid batsman, someone who gives you plenty of bowling options and a secure fielder, you can not ask for more than that in white ball cricket. Kamindu has covers all the bases and needs to become a permanent fixture in the T-20 format. With Sri Lanka’s openers in ODI and T-20 cricket being right-handed, a left-handed option at number three isn’t a bad idea.

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Dialog powers historic Royal – Thomian for 19th time

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Lasantha Thevarapperuma – Group Chief Marketing Officer, Dialog Axiata PLC handing over the sponsorship to Rev. Marc Billimoria – Warden, S. Thomas’ College and Thilak Waththuhewa - Principal, Royal College. Also pictured (L) Rehan Gunasekera – CoChairman, Royal Thomian Match Organizing Committee From RC, Arjuna Waidyasekera – Co-Chairman, Royal Thomian Match Organizing Committee from STC

Dialog Axiata PLC, Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, has extended corporate backing for the 19th year as official sponsor of the country’s blue ribbon cricket encounter, the 2024 ‘Battle of the Blues’ between Royal College, Colombo, and S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia—played for the prestigious Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake Memorial Shield on March 7, 8 and 9 at the SSC Grounds, Colombo. The limited-over ‘Mustang’s Trophy’ match will be on March 16, also at the same venue.

The 145th cricket encounter will be aired LIVE on Dialog Television – ThePapare TV HD (Channel Number 126), live-streamed on ThePapare.com and the Dialog ViU App.

Further, Dialog initiated the ‘Play for a Cause’ charity initiative with a mission to uplift school cricket across Sri Lanka. Through a generous pledge of Rs. 1,000 for every run scored and Rs. 10,000 for every wicket taken, last year’s encounter raised a substantial donation of Rs. 1,128,000. The proceedings were distributed in consultation with the Principal of Royal College and the Warden of S. Thomas’ College. This commendable effort helped support and empower four deserving schools in the country.

In this year’s encounter, the boys from Mt. Lavinia will be led by Mahith Perera, while the lads from Reid Avenue will play under the captaincy of Sineth Jayawardena, the U-19 Sri Lanka skipper.

The ‘Royal-Thomian’ series spans an impressive 144 years, making it the second longest uninterrupted cricket series in the world, behind the annual encounter between St. Peters College, Adelaide, and Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, Australia, which began just a year earlier. This esteemed tradition kicked off in 1880 with a match at Galle Face, where the Taj Samudra Hotel is presently located. Both teams are said to have rowed boats over the Beira Lake to compete in the match. This storied rivalry predates even the renowned Ashes Series between Australia and England, underscoring its significance in the world of cricket.

The historic rivalry has been a testament to the enduring spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie. The annual cricket match has been a symbol of excellence and mutual respect between the two institutions for over a century. The playing fields of the ‘Roy-Tho’ have the distinction of birthing cricketers who later became eminent heads of state, with S. Thomas’ producing the father of the nation, the late Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake MP whom the Shield is named after—and his son, the late Hon. Dudley Senanayake MP). Both were Prime Ministers of post-independent Ceylon. Meanwhile, Royal College produced the late Rt. Hon. (General) Sir John Kotelawala MP, also Prime Minister, and Sri Lanka’s first Executive President, the late J. R. Jayewardene.

The current tally between the two schools has Royal leading with 36 wins to S. Thomas’ 35, with the highly-debated match in 1885— where Royal College was all out for nine runs and refused to play on the second day—considered a win by S. Thomas’ and a draw by Royal (as described in the respective souvenir books of the two schools). In the 144th Battle of the Blues, under Dasis Manchanayake, Royal recorded a comprehensive 181-run win to register their first victory since 2016. The shield is presently displayed like a crown jewel amidst the silverware in the Royal College trophy cabinet.

Played in the highest tradition of excellence, the two schools have formed a bond of mutual respect, camaraderie, sportsmanship, and friendly adversaries on and off the field, which has stood for almost one-and-a-half centuries. As remarked by a yesteryear Principal of Royal College: “There is no Royal without S. Thomas’ and no S. Thomas’ without Royal.”

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