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.’
How lending a bat to Murali landed Flintoff in trouble
by Rex Clementine
Spin icon Muttiah Muralitharan is a fiercest competitor in cricket, but he is also known for his friendly nature. He is hugely popular among both team mates and opponents. You would hardly come across someone who has something nasty to say about Murali; it’s like finding a needle in haystack. Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya gifting a bat to his Sri Lankan counterpart Chamika Karunaratne made headlines both here and across the Palk Strait. However, much before this, England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff lending Murali a bat made headlines.
Murali and Andrew Flintoff were great mates. They were team-mates at Old Trafford when Murali was Lancashire’s overseas signing.
In 2003, when England came to Colombo for their winter tour, Flintoff was a rising star. Three years later he would go onto become England captain. In his book ‘Second Innings’, Flintoff recalls his camaraderie with Murali.
“In that series, it panned out that I wasn’t bowling too much short stuff at Murali and he wasn’t bowling too many doosras at me. Which was a bit naughty, I can see that. I’d had dinner with him the night before one match. Murali said, ‘Fred, I haven’t got any bats left. Can I borrow one of yours?’ It was a bit tricky because Nasser Hussein had put a ban on us even talking to Murali. We were supposed to be freezing him out,” Flintoff recalls.
“Murali tried again on the morning of the match, asking for a word. Nasser was glaring at me from a distance, clearly very unhappy. So I said to Murali as quickly as possible, ‘When we go out to field, go into the England dressing room. Just nip in the back door and take one of my bats – but keep the whole thing under your hat.’
“Once the match was under way and we took a few Sri Lankan wickets, Nasser brought me on to bowl out the tail, as was the plan in those days. Out strides Murali, carrying my bat. Nasser, meanwhile, talks me through the plan. ‘I want you to go at him. Short stuff.’
“Hmm. Tricky one this, on lots of levels, especially given the status of bouncers and doosras for me and Murali.
‘Nasser, I think I can get a yorker through him, nice and full will do the job here,’ Flintoff tells Hussein.
But he doesn’t get an approval. ‘No, I just told you,’ Hussein says. ‘I want you to go at him.’
Flintoff doesn’t sour his relationship with Murali. So he decides to pin Sri Lanka’s number 11 with a yorker instead of a bouncer. ‘No, I’m going to try and bowl him. Hit the stumps. Job done,’ he tells himself.
“So, I ran in, trying to bowl a yorker, directly against instructions. Didn’t get through. In fact, it found the middle of the bat, my bat – good middle it had, too.”
“Nasser threw all his toys out of the pram. I was taken off. Then Murali started charging the other bowlers, smashing them.
“After one huge six, Murali walks between me and Nasser at the change of ends. I can see Nasser ready to explode. Murali has a huge grin on his face: ‘F****** good bat, Freddie.”
Sri Lanka won the match by an innings and 225 runs to seal the series. Any guesses about Player of the Series; Muttiah Muralitharan.
Suresh who captained Thomians to President’s Trophy triumph passes away
Former S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia cricketer Suresh Goonesekere who was the captain when the school won the Inaugural President’s Trophy passed away. He was living in the UK.
The S. Thomas’ Sports officials said that Goonesekere will always be remembered as a very good sportsman who brought honour to the school.
A batting opener Goonesekere played in the S. Thomas’ First XI team from 1990 to 1992, captaining the team in his last year. The names of both Suresh Goonesekere and his father P.N.W. Goonesekere are etched in the Battle of the Blues Big Match history.
The Thomians won when P.N.W. Goonesekere captained the team in 1964. When Suresh Goonesekere captained the school in 1992 the Thomians amassed massive 328 for nine wickets and restricted Royal to 145 runs in the first innings. While Royal had scored over 300 runs previously, it was the first time the Thomians had scored over 300 runs in the historic Battle of the Blues.
The Thomians were the winners of the Inaugurai President’s Trophy Day-Night Tourney when Goonesekere skippered team beat Ananda in the final in 1992.
Goonesekere also played for SSC in the Division I tournament.
Isuru Udana retires from international cricket
Sri Lankan left-arm pacer Isuru Udana has announced his retirement from international cricket, Sri Lanka Cricket confirmed on Saturday (July 31). Udana’s last appearance for the national side came in the second T20I against India earlier this week.
Udana first made his debut for Sri Lanka in the 2009 World T20 in England and played five games in the competition including the final. He made his ODI bow against India in 2012 where he played two games but had to wait for almost seven years to break into the XI again.
The pacer managed to feature regularly only towards the latter part of his career after developing a reputation for being a white-ball specialist. Apart from being a wily customer with the ball using his variations to good effect, the 33-year-old also was known for being a hard-hitter lower down the order that helped him fetch gigs in T20 leagues around the world. (cricbuzz)
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