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.
Lashmika, Rusanda guide St. Peter’s to final
Under 19 Division I Tier ‘B’ Semi-Final
by Reemus Fernando
A vital knock of 96 runs by Rusanda Gamage and a six-wicket haul by Lashmika Perera powered St. Peter’s to convincing 105 runs victory over Mahinda in the Under 19 Division I Tier ‘B’ semi-final played at Thurstan College ground on Tuesday.
Chasing a target of 262 runs to win Mahinda lost wickets at regular intervals to be bowed out for 156 runs with nine overs remaining in their innings.
Introduced to the bowling attack as the seventh bowler, spinner Lashmika Perera rattled the batting line up with a six-wickethaul. After being 106 for three wickets at one stage, Mahinda collapsed dramatically only to see the last wicket pair of Arosha Udayanga and Kaveen Rukshan delaying the inevitable for ten overs.
They added 37 runs for the last wicket before Perera trapped Rukshan lbw for 23 runs to take his sixth wicket. His figures read 6-0-19-6.
Earlier batting first, Gamage was the key for St. Peter’s as he top scored with 96 runs. Gamage held their batting together till late facing as many as 125 balls before being stumped off the bowling of Tharusha Dilshan. Dilshan with a four-wicket haul was the pick of the bowlers for Mahinda.
Gamage also had the support of Sanshay Gunathilaka with whom he added a 100 runs partnership, while Shannan Rodrigo made a quick-fireknock of 49 runs inclusive of three sixes.
St. Peter’s will now meet Thurstan
in the Tier ‘B’ final.
261 for 9 in 50 overs (Vishen Helambage 26, Rusanda Gamage 96, Sanshay Gunathilaka 23, Shannan Rodrigo 49, Kavika Jayasundara 19; Tharusha Dilshan 4/47)
156 all out in 41 overs (Dinura Kalupahana 36, Dhanuja Induwara 20, Ranmina Hettiarachchi 22, Kaveen Rukshan 23; Lashmika Perera 6/19)
Sri Lanka’s direct World Cup qualifying chances fading away
Rex Clementine at Pallekele
Following Sunday’s torrential rain here at Pallekele, Sri Lanka’s hopes of winning the three-match ODI series against Afghanistan vanished and the hosts now can only hope of squaring the series by winning today’s final game. Afghanistan had won the opening encounter by 60 runs after Sri Lanka’s middle order failed to show up and although the second game looked to be in their hands after Afghanistan were reduced to a modest 228, rain squashed Sri Lanka’s hopes.
What’s a bigger headache for Sri Lanka is that their hope of qualifying directly for next year’s World Cup in India is fading away fast. Afghanistan secured automatic qualification for the sport’s showpiece event following Sunday’s result as both teams shared the ten points available from the game. They are currently placed seventh with 115 points while Sri Lanka are languishing at tenth place with 67 points and four games left.
Three of those games are in New Zealand and Sri Lanka need to win three of the remaining four games to have any hopes of qualifying directly. That will be a tough ask against a New Zealand side in their backyard.
In case Sri Lanka don’t make it, they will have to play a qualifying round involving West Indies, Ireland, Netherlands, Zimbabwe and five other teams that come through from a lower league. The top two teams in this ten-nation tournament will then progress to the World Cup.
It remains to be seen whether Sri Lanka bring in spin-bowling all-rounder Dunith Wellalage for today’s must-win game. The hosts had been backing seam-bowling all-rounder Dhananjaya Lakshan for the first two games.
The wicket looks dry, and Afghanistan could back left-arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmad for today’s clash. The Chinaman bowler is no stranger to Sri Lanka having featured in the Lanka Premier League.
Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka and Kasun Rajitha, who travelled home from Kandy for their engagements and wedding on Monday returned to Kandy the same day and were at training at Pallekele yesterday.
(Probable XI) Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dhananjaya Lakshan or Dunith Wellalage, Maheesh Theekshana, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara..
(Probable XI) Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Hashmatullah Shahidi (Captain), Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Yamin Ahmadzai or Noor Ahmad, Fazalhaq Farooqi.
Nitin Menon (India) and Lyndon Hannibal (SL)
Ravindra Wimalasiri (SL)
Straight bats and brickbats
Rex Clementine at Pallekele
People who never in their lives played with a straight bat want us to embrace ethics. Sportsmen all over the world are taught to maintain ethical behaviour although there have been few exceptions.
Australians play sport so tough that they hate losing. They are friendly people but they suffer from what people call ‘white line fever’. That means once they cross the boundary rope, they are a different beast. Certain eastern European countries are accused of providing dope to their athletes in a bid to win medals at showpiece events like the Olympics. At home, we have the classic example of Fr. Trevor Martin of St. Peter’s who adopted a win at any cost culture that prompted some to comment that Fr. Le Goc, a French Missionary and the founder Rector of St. Peter’s, must be spinning in his grave.
Sports teach you more things than winning. It teaches you to remain grounded. It inculcates the virtues of patience and perseverance. It helps you to build an attitude of hanging in there. It reminds you to be gracious in defeat and humble in victory. These are lessons that will stand you in good stead in life where you meet success and failures to a good share.
Those who have not played the sport in the right way when they were young are the ones who play spoil sport when they grow up. For example, we have a person who thought that carrying the captain’s bag would earn him a place in the side rather than talent alone. Eventually, he ended up playing more games than the wickets he took. Now he is talking of ethics in sport.
The same person plotted a bloodless coup to bring down Ashantha de Mel, who in his twin role as Manager cum Chairman of Selectors had to leave sooner than he was supposed to.
Then having ousted de Mel, the straight bat sought political intervention to get to the powerful position. General Shavendra Silva who had the final say in nominating people to sports bodies vehemently opposed. However, there was too much political pressure to ignore Mr. Straight Bat.
You may not have agreed with Ashantha all the time, but he had one virtue that is to explain his decisions and his expectations. When his methods didn’t work, he was the first one to owe up to his mistakes.
De Mel had little idea that men in his own committee were leaking information. Now the same men who adopted underarm tactics to seize power are preaching about straight bats.
The only thing they know in life and sports are brickbats and if they have got no skeletons to hide let them come openly and explain their decisions. Their flawed policies may have cost Sri Lanka automatic qualification for the next year’s World Cup. Let them be held accountable.
The same people who boast about the Asia Cup win and being ranked third in the Test championship have conveniently forgotten that under their watch Sri Lanka lost Mohali and Bangalore Tests inside three days. A nation’s reputation was ruined because they didn’t follow the simple rule that an injured player needs to return home without fiddling around dating apps. Having compromised on discipline and fitness, now they are washing their hands off without taking responsibility. Of course, you can talk discipline only with people who have discipline in their lifestyles. Not the ones who assault board officials who are your father’s age. Certainly not from those who cut acres of pristine forest land for banana cultivation or defraud government institutions by going against the tender process.
Cricket more than any other sport, reminds us of fair play and being above board. When people without an iota of self-respect are at the helm what more can we expect.
The same individual ran a campaign against the administration a few years ago with a newly formed body called Cricketers’ Association. He couldn’t win a cricket election so he came through an interim committee promising to look after the retired cricketers, a pension scheme for players, decent salaries for players and much more. Once he got power, all his pledges were forgotten and instead he was at daggers’ drawn with the players themselves.
The Cricketers’ Association was used as cat’s paw to gain power. Once they got the power the body ceased to exist. There’s no active cricketers’ association at present and many are the senior cricketers who have got to go around with the begging bowl to look after their medication and other needs.
Biting off the hand that once fed them is nothing new to these new rich. Their memories of Tichborne Lane have faded fast.
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