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The Special One

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by Rex Clementine

When Jose Mourinho arrived in London from Portugal to take over as Chelsea’s Manager, he sat on that press conference chair at Stamford Bridge and told the reporters, ‘I am the Special One’. True to form Mourinho turned Chelsea’s fortunes. We too have a Special One. Not that he has turned around our cricketing fortunes. But every time he gets into trouble, he has some big shot waiting to bail him out; Danushka Gunathilaka is his name.

It is never easy when a sportsman is handed a lengthy suspension. But given Danushka Gunathilaka’s history, Colombo’s cricket circles was of the view that he deserved it; incorrigible.

A five member committee had recommended that along with Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis who had breached the bio-secure bubble should be banned for two years while Niroshan Dickwella suspended for 18 months. A reduced sentence for Dickwella as he had no previous record. A fine of US$ 25,000 also had been recommended but that was increased to US$ 50,000. But fines you are not too sure whether will drive home the point.

Gunathilaka is a serial offender, the two year suspension on him at least should have remained.

This is also not the first time he has been bailed out.

In 2017, he was suspended on the recommendations of the team management but then Board President Thilanga Sumathipala, a man who wasn’t afraid to take on Lasith Malinga during his peak, gave in reducing Gunathilaka’s suspension by half.

Chandika Hathurusinghe arrived in Colombo in 2018 with a reputation as a no-nonsense coach. After all, he had taken on Bangladesh’s star performer Shakib-al-Hasan. But he treated Gunathilaka with kid’s gloves. During the home series against South Africa in 2018, he was suspended for misconduct. Hathurusinghe decided on the punishment that should be meted out to his opening batsman and very cleverly he suspended him for the remaining white ball matches against Proteas and made sure he would be available for the tour of New Zealand that followed.

The current administration now has bailed him out. Why is that everyone fearing Gunathilaka like the plague? Is it his SSC connections? Can not be as in the first place why the board appointed an independent panel was because they wanted this issue seriously dealt with. Then why show leniency is a question in everyone’s mind.

The panel that sanctioned a two year suspension comprised some brilliant lawyers. The committee was headed by a retired Supreme Court judge. Apparently, they were going to hand out one year suspensions only, but they were not all that impressed by Gunathilaka’s conduct.

To start with, Gunathilaka lied to the panel. He had claimed that he returned to the team hotel by 11pm. But upon checking CCTV footage, the committee found out this to be false. This claim has been denied by Gunathilaka’s management team who say that he had pleaded guilty for breaking team curfew.

There was another thing that upset the panel; Gunathilaka’s dress code. He had walked in with his shirt out, wearing deck shoes. The inquiry panel observed lack of remorse. That could be a key point.

Gunathilaka is one of the finest young batsmen we have and there’s no doubt about it. That’s why the likes of Sumathipala, Hathurusinghe and the current administration have tolerated him. But the point is, he is never learning.

Nobody should think he is indispensable. After all, USA basketball team won the Olympic gold in 1992 without Isiah Thomas. Australia won the 2003 World Cup having sent Shane Warne home on the eve of their first game. England turned around their cricketing fortunes having sacked Kevin Pietersen. No one is bigger than the game.

 

 



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Gateway felicitates coach for making Sri Lanka proud 

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Gateway’s top coaches Tharindu Fernando, Thilanka Jinadasa and Pradeep Nishantha are pictured here

Pradeep Nishantha, Assistant Head of Sports of Gateway College Colombo was felicitated by the school for his remarkable contribution in producing two medal winners at the recently concluded Paralympic Games in Japan.

The national anthem was played for the very first time at an Olympics when Dinesh Priyantha Herath who was trained by Pradeep Nishantha won a gold medal with a new world record. Pradeep has been employed at Gateway since 2005 and he has been responsible for producing many national athletes from Gateway.

Gateway students are blessed to be coached and guided by professionals of the highest caliber. Thilaka Jinadasa, the Team Leader – Sports development for the entire group represented Sri Lanka in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

Among Gateway’s team of coaches are a number of top Sri Lankan coaches. Tharindu Fernando, who was recently appointed National Basketball Coach for the Under 23 Sri Lankan side is among them.

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Dialog and SLC release T20 World Cup song ‘Ape Kollo’ 

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Amali Nanayakkara, Group Chief Marketing Officer, Dialog Axiata PLC hands over the first CD of the ‘Ape Kollo’ song to Dr. Jayantha Dharmadasa, Vice President, SLC. Also in picture artistes and Dialog brand ambassadors who performed the ‘Ape Kollo’ song, (L-R) Madhuvy, Sanka Dineth, Sanuka, Sajitha, Santhush, Upul Nawaratne Bandara, Head of Marketing, SLC, Harsha Samaranayake, Senior General Manager, Brand and Media – Group Marketing, Dialog Axiata PLC, Bathiya, Umaria, Senali and guest performer, Roy. Absent - Yohan

The national cricket team’s sponsor and Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata, together with Sri Lanka Cricket, recently released ‘Ape Kollo’ the T20 World Cup song in support of the Team on their T20 World Cup campaign which will commence on the 18th of October 2021 in the United Arab Emirates.

The song will be sung by a stellar line-up of artistes and Dialog brand ambassadors including, Bathiya and Santhush, Umaria, Yohani, Sanka Dineth, Sajitha, Sanuka, Madhuvy and guest performer, Roy Jackson. With lyrics written by Triad, the Sri Lanka Cricket T20 World Cup song is an initiative powered by Dialog Axiata connecting the wishes of every Sri Lankan.

Dr. Jayantha Dharmadasa, Vice President of Sri Lanka Cricket said, “I would like to thank Dialog Axiata for materializing the T20 World Cup song into existence. This tribute will be an immense morale boost for players and fans alike. The team over the past few months have been playing tourneys and trial games which have been instrumental in selecting the best combination for the T20 World Cup in UAE.”

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Sri Lanka will qualify, but can they reach semis?  

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by Rex Clementine

The cricket fans of Sri Lanka are truly amazing. They know pretty well that the chances of the team reaching the semi-finals in UAE is as low as that of Maithripala Sirisena winning a future Presidential election, but they keep believing that their team will deliver. It is only fair that the players come up with a decent show, unlike Maithripala.

If the IPL is any indication, there aren’t going to be too many high scoring games over the next four weeks and spin is going to play a huge part. That will certainly be a good indication for Sri Lanka’s bowlers.

Their batsmen, however, it remains to be seen what lessons they have learnt on sweeping. Grant Flower seemed to be having little tricks up his sleeve on the advantage of the sweep, both the conventional, paddle and reverse. Hopefully, now that Sri Lanka have a fine sweeper in their coaching staff in Mahela Jayawardene, the issue has been discussed at length.

Lack of smart options against spin has been one reason for Sri Lanka’s decline in the shorter formats of the game. Ours was a team where the sweep was the batsmen’s bread and butter and it’s quite perplexing how the current lot have forgotten to sweep and the coaching staff have failed to address the issue.

Avishka Fernando has been tremendous to watch. He has always been an exciting player and such a shame that he failed a fitness test in January and was banished from the team hotel. He was so close to making his Test debut against England and failing the fitness test was a bitter pill to swallow. But glad that the selectors and the coaching staff had the conviction to do it. They have spared the rod and spoilt too many young children. Avishka has bounced back; leaner, fitter, stronger and hungrier. IPL teams will be watching and the gut feeling is we are talking of a future billionaire in this space.

There is some school of thought that Avishka should bat at number four. He has come up with some consistent performances in that position this week. It’s true that he is Aravinda’s heir apparent, but Sri Lanka has to make the most of the Power Plays and Avishka should open batting with Kusal Perera to make most of the field restrictions. You sense that you have enough fire power in Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga and Chamika Karunaratne to take care of the death overs.

Oppositions will focus a lot on Hasaranga’s leg spin as he has had quite a bit of success in the lasts 12 months and ended up earning a contract in the IPL. World Cup is a superb occasion for him to stamp his authority as one of world’s leading wrist spinners.

Maheesh Theekshana, the new kid, has a bit of surprise element in him and could trouble teams that have not seen him much as he proved during his debut against Proteas last month. It will be interesting to see how teams that do not play spin that well handle him.

The last minute decision to include Akila Dananjaya while axing Praveena Jayawickrama hasn’t gone down too well with some supporters. But it’s a smart move. There’s no denying of the fact that Akila has looked a pale shadow of his former self since remodeling his action and in recent months has looked awful. But then, Sri Lanka have to qualify. The team is thin on experience after our selectors chased away half a dozen seniors and Akila has a surprise element about him and that could come in handy; particularly in the qualifying round.

The spin trio is not Sri Lanka’s only strength. Their main weapon is pace with Dushmantha Chameera picking up wickets with the new ball consistently and he will be their key weapon. Such a shame that the team will miss the services of Nuwan Pradeep, a clever bowler in death overs.

All hope is not lost for Sri Lanka though. One good thing is that they are not playing any Asian teams. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are all in Group ‘B’. Sri Lanka will have Australia, England, West Indies, South Africa and one more qualifier and if their spin fires, they could spring a few surprises. Can they go onto book a semi-final berth?

In T-20 cricket anything can happen. So don’t just rule out the Sri Lankan team. The same can be said of our voters. Don’t rule out Maithripala.

A land like no other!

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