The English expedition: puzzles to unravel
The number five slot will be occupied by Dananjaya de Silva who is fast evolving in to Tilekeratne Dilshan lite version.
by Aravinthan Arunthavanathan
Nuwan Pradeep nails an accurate yorker. The ball trickles down to fine leg. It must be just two, but inexplicably turns into a three. The game that was almost sealed is yet alive. Next ball, the final ball of the innings, Pradeep cannot repeat the same. Liam Plunkett, England’s number ten smacks it over long off to tie the game. Early in the day England were six down for 92 and eight down for 235 requiring more than 50 from 28 balls. Still, they managed to tie. This is how the first game of the last bilateral ODI series Sri Lanka and England played in the UK began. This in a way symbolizes the journey both teams have taken ever since. England have found ways to win from hopeless situations whereas Sri Lanka have managed the opposite. This is mainly because England have always managed to find answers to all the questions they were faced with. In fact, they have provided distinction answers thinking out of the box, resulting in them being crowned as the World Champions in 2019. Sri Lanka on the other hand have not even figured out which subject the questions are being asked from. As both teams square off this week their priorities are opposite. England possess squads which outweigh Sri Lanka in every aspect. Most of them are hot picks in T20 leagues. Sri Lanka on the other hand is composed of a bunch of players who do not even find a mention during most auctions. Nothing to be disheartened. Sri Lanka have often punched above their weight when unnoticed. Post 2015, that is the only hope that has kept fans attached to a team which has forever being on life support. But there is hope, in fact plenty of it. The law of averages should correct the trend sooner rather than later. That statement too is more out of hope than conviction. The selectors have walked the talk for once. Almost the same team apart from Ashen Bandara have found a place in the flight to UK. Pathum Nissanka looked set to be another casualty, but thankfully the selectors have chosen otherwise. He need not play, but merely existing in the set up will benefit him. Consistency in policies will be the key to build trust in a broken system where mistrust is the norm. Sri Lanka have plenty of questions. The consistency at the top, combinations to overcome the middle overs muddle with bat and ball and players to step up under pressure at the death are problems of highest priority. With plenty of options at the top of the innings Danushka Gunetileke will be looked upon with keen interest. It’s time to put aside his inconsistencies and deliver. With a top-heavy unit Danushka isn’t indispensable. Avishka Fernando on the other hand ever since hooking Joffra Archer out of the ground in 2019 has grown not on only in stature but apparently in circumference too. Now that the latter is addressed, fans would hope Avishka would be in the news for his batting and not fitness. The two Kusals have been entrusted with massive responsibility of leadership and forming the backbone of the batting. Kusal Perera’s ambidexterity with the bat and Kusal Mendis’s fleet footedness have the potential to help Sri Lanka break the shackles in the middle overs as batsmen they can’t ask for more than the true surfaces of UK. It is worth noting Mahela Jayawardena too heralded a golden run for Sri Lanka in 2006 with some high-class batting on the England tour. It was a turn around for a struggling unit at that point. Both the Kusal’s can do well to orchestrate a revival following those footsteps. The number five slot will be occupied by Dananjaya de Silva who is fast evolving in to Tilekeratne Dilshan lite version. An ultra-lite version even would do a world of good for the team balance. Danajaya’s bowling adds much needed balance to the side. If Niroshan Dickwella is to play in the middle order it will be a race between Dickwella and Dasun Shanaka for the number six slot. Dickwella’s busy approach at the crease would make him an ideal option in the middle overs as well. A phase Sri Lanka have struggled for an eternity. He may well help overcome the spin strangle that often throttles Sri Lanka. Dasun and Dickwella whoever plays would play a huge role if Sri Lanka are to turn the tide. In a team which lacks muscle Dasun and Wanindu Hasranga have a major role in propelling the tail end of the innings. Being able to do so consistently under pressure will be the key for Sri Lanka’s turn around in fortunes. Sri Lanka would have to try different combinations to crack the code to succeed in this pivotal phase. All teams that are performing well are relying on a superstar allrounder. If there is one person who can be Sri Lanka’s savior in this regard it has to be Wanindu Hasaranga. Proper batting capabilities with a hard to pick googly makes Wanindu a hot stock in international cricket. How successful would he be on the biggest stage against the masters of white ball format makes a case for compelling viewing. The fast-bowling all-rounder’s role would be taken by Isuru Udana, who has promised a lot in recent past. So much so that even Virat Kohli and Mike Hesson entrusted him with closing the death overs for Royal Challengers Banglore not so long ago. Ever since his performance has been attracting denigration. But in the interest of Sri Lankan cricket, we shall hope Isuru finds his charm back leaving no room for the above. Isuru and Wanindu will provide the additional dimension Sri Lanka is looking for, to be a force to reckon with. Dananjaya Lakshan is a name sure to keep Udana on his heels. Especially following the praise heaped by Lasith Malinga who without a doubt has one of the best cricketing brains. Laskhan will surely get a look in at some point. How easily he graduates to international cricket is to be seen with interest.
In the spin department mystery is mysteriously missing in a nation that churned out masters of spin. Ramesh Mendis looked impressive in the final game in Bangladesh. With confidence behind him, Mendis deserves at least a run in the first few games. Akila Dananjaya and Lakshan Sandakan have promised for long but not yet become reliable. Will they ever graduate is an eternal question plaguing many fans. If England provides a hint regarding the answer either way, it would be a welcome relief. Pravin Jayawickrama can wait. It would be in the best interest of the youngster not to expose him to a monster line up. The same can be applied to the other youngsters who have got a well-deserved look in as well.
In the fast-bowling department, Dushmantha Chameera will be expected to lead as he did in Bangladesh. The rest of the slots will be up for grab on rotation. Death bowling and breakthroughs in the middle remain a concern. Whether the selectors will fall back on Nuwan Pradeep’s experience going forward will be interesting to see. Sri Lanka have enough ammunition. Who decides to take the opportunity is what is left to be seen. England haven’t been a happy hunting ground for bowlers. Hence the hopes can be subdued. Attitude and the heart for the fight would be what fans would love to see. Hasaranga will be the key in the middle with Chameera and Udana expected to look after the death overs. Overall Sri Lanka’s present state is not a reflection of scarcity of resources. It is instead an outcome of a messed up eco system. It’s not a problem arising out of scarcity but a problem arising out of no clear-cut role descriptions and lack of trust. Talent is plenty but that’s the least that matters on the international stage. The bigger nations have thrived upon proper systems being put in place, supplemented by carefully crafted strategies built upon big data. While we have no insight about the later, Sri Lanka clear lacks a framework. For long we have been the troubled child who promises but fails to deliver. The child has the genes to succeed but the chaos at home is not providing the ideal launching pad. We have spoken a lot about getting the home in order, nothing seems to have changed. Chances are it may not any time soon. But at least there is a group of decision makers in selectors who are showing signs of consistency. Would that be adequate to make the English tour any better? Only time will reveal. But for the diehard fan there are enough puzzles to be unraveled to make a compelling case to view the proceedings in UK sacrificing precious sleep
(The Author’s blog can be found at Cricketing perspectives on facebook)
Moose signs up as cricket’s clothing partner
by Rex Clementine
Singer had been a loyal sponsor of Sri Lankan cricket but a little heard company called Dilmah outbid Singer when the sponsorship was up for grabs in 2002. Singer boss Hemaka Amarasuriya wasn’t whinging and went on record saying that he welcomed local companies coming forward to back the sport.
Within a few years, Dilmah, an entity that was hardly known by most Sri Lankans became a global brand. That exactly is the strategy that Moose have adopted in their bid to become a global brand.
Moose a clothing company that is becoming quite popular among youth for their denims and t-shirts have been associated with cricket sponsorships in the last five years. On Thursday, they announced a four year deal with SLC to be clothing sponsor of the national cricket teams – both men and women.
Moose CEO Hasib Omar is a soft spoken young man who reminds you of the great Aravinda de Silva. But like in Ara’s case, beneath the soft exterior lies a sharp brain.
MAS had been the clothing sponsor of SLC for the last 16 years and Moose has outbid them signing a four year deal that will take them through all bilateral series, ICC events and Asian Cricket Council tournaments. The partnership brings together two of the nation’s main strengths – cricket and apparel industry.
Dimuth’s return to ODIs, a welcome move
by Rex Clementine
After more than two years of stubborn resistance, the selectors have been forced to bite the bullet and admit that their strategies have been faulty and the top order of the ODI outfit needs stability. Hence the return of Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne for white ball cricket for the upcoming three match series against Afghanistan and he should retain his place for the World Cup qualifiers later next month in Zimbabwe too.
One of the troubles with the 50 over side is that the batting department has been found wanting not able to bat out the 50 overs. Dimuth provides the stability opening the innings with his ability to bat through the 50 overs. Other stroke makers can bat around him.
In 2021 April, Dimuth Karunaratne posted his career best Test score of 244 against Bangladesh. A month later, Sri Lanka’s white ball team was touring Bangladesh and Dimuth was sacked from the captaincy as the leadership of the white ball teams was handed to Kusal Perera. It was a left field choice. That was an experiment that didn’t last long.
Not only was Dimuth removed from the captaincy he lost his place in the side as well. It didn’t dawn to the selectors that the batters will be encountering the same bowlers and in Karunaratne they had a man who was in good touch, having smashed a double hundred against the Bangladeshis. The result was catastrophic. Sri Lanka lost the series and in both games they lost, the batting had collapsed.
It is these senseless moves that has resulted in Sri Lanka being forced to play the qualifying round of the World Cup. By the time the selectors wisened up, the horse had bolted. The recalling of Dimuth is an admission by the selectors that they had got their act wrong in axing him.
It will be early winter in Zimbabwe in June and with day games teams will encounter some dew in the morning and need to adjust accordingly. On paper, Sri Lanka should go through, but they are a team that has got everything to lose having won the World Cup once and featured in two other finals. For smaller nations, this is a massive opportunity and if they win, there’s nothing like that but if they lose, they can always try next time. Not for Sri Lanka though, who have featured in every World Cup since the tournament was launched in 1975.
Complacency is the only thing that Sri Lanka need to guard themselves against. A mindset that this is not a tough challenge could see them losing the plot as we have seen it happening to many teams time and again.
In Chris Silverwood the team has someone who knows what to expect in Zimbabwe as he started his coaching stint there having overseen Mashonaland (Harare). The Head Coach will be tapping into the brains of his contacts in Zimbabwe as to what his team can expect when they travel for the qualifiers.
Russian doubles player cleared of match-fixing two years after Roland Garros arrest
Russian doubles player Yana Sizikova has been cleared of match-fixing two years after her arrest at the French Open, according to her lawyer.The 28-year-old was arrested at Roland Garros in 2021 as part of an investigation into match-fixing allegations dating back to the 2020 edition of the Grand Slam.
Sizikova, ranked 50th in doubles, has continued to play on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour since her arrest and will compete at this year’s French Open, which starts today.
“After two and a half years of investigation, the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office definitively closed the case on 11 April 2023, considering that criminal proceedings could not be initiated, as the facts of which Sizikova was accused could not be established,” her lawyer Frederic Belot told Reuters.
Officials began investigating in October 2020 after suspicions of “organised fraud” and “corruption in sports”.
A source close to the investigation told the BBC at the time the inquiry focused on a first-round match in which Sizikova and American partner Madison Brengle lost 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 to Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig.
Suspicions were reportedly raised after betting companies noticed hundreds of thousands of euros had been wagered on a break of serve in the second set.Sizikova was released a day after her arrest in 2021.In July 2022 she and fellow Russian Anastasia Potapova won the Prague Open, while Sizikova reached two other finals last year.
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