by Rex Clementine
In late 1990s, there was a kid from Kandy who came to Colombo to pursue his studies in law. In 1980s, the universities had been closed due to the JVP insurrection and as a result there was a backlog in enrolling students to complete their degrees. The kid from Kandy had to wait for two years for his chance to enter university in a bid to become a lawyer going in the footsteps of his father. So with lot of spare time at his disposal, he decided to play some cricket and was employed by Informatics for a salary of Rs. 4000. Brendon Kuruppu was running cricket at Informatics.
Around the same time, the national cricket team fared so poorly in the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1999 in England despite being defending champions. Captain, seniors, cricket board and the selectors were all sacked. President Chandrika Kumaratunga wanted change. The new selection panel headed by Sidath Wettimuny was looking for youth. Kuruppu was part of the selection committee and told his colleagues about this immensely talented kid from Kandy at Informatics. He was a hit with Sri Lanka ‘A’ and soon ended up in the senior side. The nation may have lost a successor to Romesh de Silva (PC) but cricket found someone who could fill the big shoes of Aravinda de Silva. Kumar Sangakkara is his name.
On Sunday night Sanga became just the second Sri Lankan to be inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame. The Kandyans were having a field day on social media so proud of the fact that both inductees from Sri Lanka into that rare club are from Kandy. Muttiah Muralitharan was inducted in 2019 and two years later now Sanga has joined him.
Sanga’s first cricket coach was his father – Kshema Sangakkara, a leading lawyer in the Central province. As his son was growing up he hired Kandy’s best cricket coach – Sunil Fernando to tutor his son. A few years later, he raised the bar even further hiring of all people the legendary Bertie Wijesinghe.
Yet, young Sangakkara was nothing spectacular in school cricket. The standout performers in his age group were mostly Colombo based. There was little doubt that Mahela Jayawardene, Tilan Samaraweera, Avishka Gunawardene and even Upehka Fernando were going to represent Sri Lanka one day but Sangakkara was nowhere close.
But the basics of his game were rock solid thanks to some fine coaching. Success followed in international cricket after the selectors persevered with him patiently. Sanath Jayasuriya, Sangakkara’s first captain needs lot of credit for backing the young player under his charge and letting him express himself freely batting at prime number three slot.
Sangakkara would soon go onto become Sri Lanka’s most prolific batsman. He dominated bowling attacks in the world while his leadership skills were highly impressive. In his first assignment as captain, Sri Lanka reached the finals of the ICC World T-20 in 2009. In his next assignment, the team recorded their first series win against Pakistan at home.
There was more success as Sri Lanka won a first ever series in Australia under his leadership. His father Kshema remained unimpressed though. Even after he had smashed the most stunning double hundred against an attack that comprised Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akthar, Kshema Sangakkara would tell his son, ‘you batted like a donkey today’.
During a tour of Australia, Sanga had been woken up in the middle of the night by the hotel receptionist who informed him that he had received a fax from home. Bit worried as to what was happening back home he went to pick the copy of the fax. It was from his father. So what was in the fax? Dad had sent some batting tips from Sir Don Bradman’s book ‘The Art of Cricket’ and with that there was a message, ‘read it before you go out to bat tomorrow.’
Chathurya, Kiran, Anjalika reach quarter-finals
ITF Junior Circuit Week II Tourney
Chathurya Nilaweera, Kiran Viravanathan and Anjalika Kurera ousted their foreign counterparts to reach the quarter-finals of the boys’ and girls’ singles of the ITF Junior Circuit week II event continued at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Wednesday.
Nilaweera outplayed number two seed Caymus Hei Tung Choi from Hong Kong 6-4, 6-0 in his second round match, while Viravanathan beat Sergiy Rafiee from Great Britain 6-4, 6-2 to secure his quarter-final place.
In the girls’ singles, National Champion Kurera was the only local player to make the quarter-finals as she beat Kazakhstan’s Marina Omarova 6-2, 6-0 in the second round match.
In the boys’ doubles, Vichinthya Nilaweera and Zaidh Zihar edged out top seeds Hayden Khoo Menon from Malaysia and Caymus Hei Tung Choi from Hong Kong. They scored 6-7, 6-1, 10-5 victory to reach the semi-finals. Chathurya and Kiran reached the semi-finals of the boys’ doubles with a 3-6, 6-4, 10-6 win over Devaharshith Neelam (USA) and Arjun Premkumar (India).
Kusal and Asalanka star in big Colombo win
Kusal Mendis (67) and Charith Asalanka (52) posted half-centuries as Colombo beat Dambulla by seven wickets in a National Super League one-day match at P. Sara Oval yesterday.
Dambulla were shot out for 143 inside 40 overs with Prabath Jayasuriya claiming three wickets and in reply, Colombo hardly broke a sweat winning in the 21st over.
Mendis was in superb form smashing 67 off just 44 deliveries with six fours and four sixes. After his dismissal in the 16th over, Asalanka ensured that Colombo reached the target with plenty to spare. His 52 came off 48 deliveries and contained eight fours.
Meanwhile, at SSC, Kandy chased down a 247 run target with more than ten overs to spare after an excellent batting display by Niroshan Dickwella (69), Pathum Nissanka (32) and Kamindu Mendis (57*).
Dickwella and Nissanka added 105 in just 86 deliveries for the first wicket and that set the tone for the run chase. Kamil Mishara (34) and Oshada Fernando (18) made useful contributions before Kamindu (57*) and Sahan Arachige (28*) finished things off adding an unbroken 68 runs for the fifth wicket.
Colombo beat Dambulla by seven wickets
143 all out in 40 overs
(Lasith Abeyratne 41, Prabath Jayasuriya 3/35, Kalana Perera 2/18, Charith Asalanka 2/19)
144 for three in 20.4 overs
(Kusal Mendis 66, Charith Asalanka 52*)
Kandy beat Jaffna
247 for eight in 50 overs
(Lahiru Thirimanne 56, Janith Liyanage 41, Santhush Gunathilaka 45, Nipun Ranskia 3/41)
248 for four in 39.4 overs
(Niroshan Dickwella 69, Kamindu Mendis 57*)
Wellalage leads World Cup wicket tally as team meet Afghanistan
ICC Under 19 World Cup quarter-finals
by Reemus Fernando
When Sri Lanka Under 19s met Afghanistan in an Under 19 Asia Cup semi-final in 2018, Dunith Wellalage played second fiddle in the spin department taking a solitary wicket in a crucial victory. Now more than three and half years later, the St. Joseph’s College spinner will be leading Sri Lanka Under 19s against the same opposition as the leading wicket-taker of the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup.
Sri Lanka Under 19s can rely on the leading wicket-taker of the ongoing Under 19 World Cup and the rest of the bowling attack when they take on an ‘unpredictable Afghanistan’ in the quarter-finals of the biennial event in Antigua today. But Wellalage said that the ‘self-confidence’ will be the key to their success.’
“Self-confidence is our key. All 15 of us are confident of our abilities. We always keep faith in our abilities and are going to do our best to accomplish something that will be good to Sri Lanka,” said Wellalage in an online interview with Sri Lankan media on Tuesday.
Wellalage currently has 13 wickets from this World Cup. That is three wickets more than that of the next highest wicket-taker Joshua Boyden of England. Boyden has ten wickets against his name.
Wellalage played key roles with his spin bowling in all three Group matches and strengthened the middle-order batting with a crucial half-century in the match against Australia when some of the top-order batsmen failed to deliver.
Team coach Avishka Gunawardena said that he was expecting one of the top-order batsmen to bat throughout the innings. Except for Sadeesha Rajapaksa, who scored a half-century in the last group match, the top-order batsmen are yet to come up with big knocks, though the likes of Shevon Daniel, Raveen de Silva and Chamindu Wickramsinghe have made 20s and 30s.
Gunawardena said that Afghanistan were an “unpredictable team’ and his charges were not taking any team lightly in this knockout stage. The team were expecting to consider combinations after inspecting ground conditions in the evening yesterday, hence it was not clear whether Pawan Pathiraja who was dropped for the last two matches would make a comeback.
Sri Lanka emerged champions in group ‘D’ beating Scotland, Australia and West Indies to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2016 and are expected to clear that hurdle to reach the semi-finals. In 2016, Sri Lanka Under 19s reached the semi-finals where they were beaten by India.
Afghanistan, who are likely to bank on spin, were the runners up to Pakistan in group ‘C’. They beat Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea to earn their quarter-final place.
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