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Twenty-five years on from Sri Lanka’s most acrimonious tour

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By Rex Clementine

Australia’s support to develop and nurture the game of cricket in Sri Lanka is unparalleled. From voting in favour of granting Sri Lanka Test status in 1981 to donating US$ 100,000 so that the board could afford a qualified foreign coach in 1994, the Australian Cricket Board has been a pillar of strength to us. But Arjuna Ranatunga’s side’s tour of Australia in 1995 was a bitter pill to swallow. Twenty-five years later, many admit that this tour was the one that transformed Sri Lankan cricket – from also-rans to fierce competitors.

Leading television personality Brian Thomas once asked Steve Waugh about sledging as his side was notorious for what they called ‘mental disintegration’ of the opposition. Waugh’s reply was interesting. He said, “Arjuna Ranatunga is the biggest sledger in the world. One Ranatunga is equal to 11 Australians.”

The 1995 tour brought out the ugly side of Australians. The Sri Lankans responded with uglier stuff and players of both sides remained at daggers drawn for years. It is the tradition in Australia that the losing side visits the winners for a beer after a game. That protocol was breached. Sri Lankans didn’t buy into the argument that you play hard on the field but cooled things off at stumps. They took the Aussies head on.

There were controversies – plenty of them. During the opening Test in Perth, the tourists were accused of ball tampering. But later they were exonerated. Then in the second Test at MCG, Murali was no balled for throwing. There were some 55,000 fans witnessing the Boxing Day encounter and later it emerged that some officials of the Australian board were aware that the spinner was going to get a public humiliation. But the greatest thing about Australians is that they owe up to their mistakes. Of all people, Steve Waugh in his autobiography ‘Never Satisfied’ admits that it shouldn’t have happened.  

Then there was horrendous umpiring and many felt Sri Lankans were hard done by. The other great attribute about Aussies is that they call a spade a spade. Former captains Richie Benaud and Ian Chappell in commentary didn’t mince any words about the standards of umpiring.

Amidst the chaos, the competitive nature of the Sri Lankans was almost forgotten. Their bowling was one dimensional those days and was not able to take 20 wickets. Batting, however, was classy.

Hashan Tillakaratne posted a hundred in the opening Test. To date, he is the only Sri Lankan to have scored a hundred in Perth, considered the fastest wicket in the world. Asanka Gurusinha came up with a back to the wall hundred at MCG in the Boxing Day Test. The tour also proved to be the arrival of Sanath Jayasuriya as a Test match opener following his century at the Adelaide Oval.

It was quite a formidable attack too with Glen McGrath and Shane Warne in their prime and Sri Lankans returned home with their heads held high, something that you don’t find happening too often when going down under.

Aravinda de Silva was a disappointment. Much was expected of him and the way the Aussies celebrated his dismissal each time gave you an indication how much they valued his wicket. In six innings, he managed only 98 runs with a highest score of 28.

Aravinda did finish up as the highest run getter for the team in the tri-nation competition that took place simultaneously along the Test series. But the team expected much more from him.

West Indies were the third team in the tri-nation competition and they were quite a strong force at that stage. To their credit, the Sri Lankans defeated West Indies and qualified for the finals.

The tour ended late January and the World Cup was just two weeks away. This outing had toughened up the Sri Lankans like any tour of Australia would do.

After Sri Lanka qualified for the finals of the 1996 World Cup, Arjuna was asked which opposition he would prefer in the final. He said, bring on the Aussies. Not many teams wanted to play the Aussies in a World Cup final at that stage. But the Sri Lankans were up for it. And the rest as they say is history.



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Sri Lanka Cricket appoints Olympic medalist Susanthika Jayasinghe to promote women’s cricket

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Sri Lanka Cricket announced the appointment of Olympic Silver Medalist  Susanthika Jayasinghe as the ‘Consultant—Mentoring and Development of Women’s Cricket.”

Jayasinghe, one of the most decorated athletes produced by Sri Lanka and the only female athlete to win an Olympic medal for her country and the only Asian woman athlete to have won an Olympic medal in sprint events, will use her story of grit and determination to inspire the present and future generations of women cricketers in Sri Lanka.

Her appointment took effect on February 1, 2023.

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Sri Lanka leave out injured Hasini Perera for T20 World Cup

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Sri Lanka will be without Hasini Perera during the T20 World Cup

Sri Lanka have left out experienced campaigner Hasini Perera from their 15-member squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup after she suffered an injury. Perera, who was named in the original squad, was forced out after injuring her finger during a practice session.

She has been replaced by Sathya Sandeepani, whose only appearance for the national side came in the 2020 T20 World Cup encounter against runners-up India. Apart from the forced change, the Asian side have also made a couple of changes to their squad from the one that reached the Asia Cup final last October.

Rashmi Silva and Madushika Methtananda, two players who didn’t get an opportunity in the Asia Cup, have been left out of the squad for the World Cup in favour of Vishmi Gunaratne and Ama Kanchana. 17-year-old Vishmi made her debut in both T20Is and ODIs last year for Sri Lanka and the experienced Ama Kanchana, who made her T20I debut almost 10 years ago, has been recalled for the first time since the Commonwealth Games.

Chamari Athapaththu will lead the 15-member squad once again. Sri Lanka are in Group A alongside New Zealand, Bangladesh, hosts South Africa and defending champions Australia. They begin their campaign on the opening night (February 10) against South Africa at Newlands.

Squad:

Chamari Athapaththu (C), Oshadi Ranasinghe, Harshitha Samarawickrama, Nilakshi de Silva, Kavisha Dilhari, Anushka Sanjeewani, Kaushini Nuthyangana, Malsha Shehani, Inoka Ranaweera, Sugandika Kumari, Achini Kulasuriya, Tharika Sewwandi, Vishmi Gunaratne, Ama Kanchana, Sathya Sandeepani.

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President’s Mahara and Sri Parakrama NS Kobeigane declared joint champions

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The captains of the two schools Mihilsara Oshan (President’s College) and Adeesha Lakshan (Sri Parakrama NS) are seen with the trophy here.

Under 13 Division III Cricket Final

President’s College Mahara and Sri Parakrama National School Kobeigane were declared joint champions of the Under 13 Division III cricket tournament after the final between the two schools ended in a no-decision at Ananda Sastralaya ground Kotte yesterday. In reply to President’s 183 runs, Sri Parakrama National School were 133 for five wickets when rain prevented further play.

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