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Unfit, unprofessional, fat Sri Lankans

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by Rex Clementine

The fun filled festive season has many highlights and one of them obviously is the Boxing Day Test match. There were three happening at the same time and while the Indians turned things around remarkably to catch the Aussies off guard at the MCG, Pakistan stretched the game to the final day before going down fighting at the Bay Oval. At Centurion, the Sri Lankans, meanwhile, failed to show up. Not only did they suffer an innings defeat, half their side broke down as well making the Test match a mockery. The national cricket team has become a laughing stock.

It is not a sensible idea to run a team down before the series concludes. There have been instances where the Sri Lankans have turned things around remarkably after losing the opening Test match of a series. But the issue here is that we are left with too many questions and not too sure whose going to answer them.

The amount of pictures Sri Lanka’s cricketers post on social media of them doing gym work makes you believe that these are super fit athletes. But when they go onto the field, they are like the Kerawalapitiya Power Plant; always break down. The list is long. Given the lucrative insurance schemes now in place, you suspect that some may be even faking injuries. That simply is not cricket. Sri Lanka Cricket needs to investigate whether players are misusing the Insurance scheme and if so this needs to be done away with.

You also tend to get the feeling that trainers and physiotherapists feel that their future depends on the recommendations players provide and they may not be totally honest with their injury assessments.

As a result of the pandemic, little cricket was played this year. But all contracted players – some with retainers in excess of US$ 100,000 – were told to look after their fitness by coaching staff. It appears that not everyone was professional with the approach and they were well and truly exposed at the Centurion.

It started with Dhananjaya de Silva pulling a thigh muscle and he has been ruled out of the series. Kasun Rajitha lasted just two overs while Lahiru Kumara is making a habit of breaking down middle of a game. The previous instance it happened was last year in Brisbane. Dinesh Chandimal is also down with a groin strain and it’s not known whether he will be available for Wanderers. Suranga Lakmal and Oshada Fernando are on the mend and it remains to be seen whether they will be fit for the second Test.

There are huge question marks over the modern day training methods. A fast bowler during training does not send down more than 30 deliveries as the team management fears burn out. Perhaps they need to take a look at how some of Sri Lanka’s most successful bowlers trained to be supremely fit.

Chaminda Vaas played international cricket for 15 years and into the bargain played County Cricket in England for ten years but he had just one major injury throughout his career. His training methods were insane and ten kilometer runs were a daily routine for him. Today it’s such a shame that you find fast bowlers with excess weight and no body wants to put them in their place.

Not often teams lose a Test match leave alone by an innings after posting 400 runs in the first innings. When you make 400 runs, you give yourself a good chance to win the game. Had all bowlers been firing on all cylinders, this Test match would have been a closer contest than what it turned out to be. There were positives, like posting their highest total ever in South Africa and all-round skills of Wanindu Hasaranga. But the team was losing a player almost every session and it was painful to watch.

Sri Lanka were asking for trouble when they played a T-20 tournament ahead of a Test series. The gap between the LPL final and the opening Test was ten days. Mickey Arthur has conceded that in hindsight they would have been better off pulling out the fast bowlers from the LPL. Is there a better example of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted!

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What’s England doing right in Sri Lanka   

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Rex Clementine in Galle Fort

There was a time when England barely lasted three days in Galle. The extreme heat, tracks that turned square and skilful spinners brought misery upon successive England teams. But they have found a way to turn the tide. What is England doing right to succeed in Sri Lankan conditions? In the last ten years, England have visited the island on three occasions and have never lost a series.

The easy answer is to say that the Sri Lankan team has lost some big names and the team is in transition. That’s not the truth. When England squared the two match series in 2012, the big three – Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and T.M. Dilshan – were very much part of the side. So, they must be doing something right to do well here.

To start with England and Wales Cricket Board initiated a programme whereby their young First Class players performed in our domestic cricket. Some of the names that come to mind are Ben Foakes (Colts CC) and Moeen Ali (Badureliya CC). There were many others.  The experience these players gain by playing on our surfaces against some good spinners is invaluable.

Foakes for example made his Test debut in the last series in Sri Lanka and he looked pretty comfortable. He went onto top batting charts scoring 277 runs. His wicket keeping was flawless too and he was named Player of the Series.

How many of our players have gone onto represent county cricket in the last ten years?

The other important thing is that England’s development squads are constantly touring sub-continent. This prepares them well when they engage in Test match cricket. Sri Lanka rarely sends their ‘A’ team on overseas assignments these days. We had a former board president who went on record saying that ‘A’ team cricket was a futile exercise as they didn’t bring any money!

The other thing that England have done well is to plan properly. Last year when they were here, they spent more than two weeks before the first Test match and they were involved in two warm-up games. The tour was aborted after the outbreak of the pandemic. This time too, they spent nearly two weeks in Sri Lanka before the opening Test match although they didn’t have the luxury of warm-up games against local sides due to health restrictions.

Sri Lanka’s planning has been extremely poor. The gap between the LPL final and the first Test in South Africa was ten days. That sums up the story. In both Tests against South Africa and the first game against England, our batsmen have been in T-20 mode and we have had little momentum. When will we learn?

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Sharmal seeks fifth straight title against Yasitha

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2020 Tennis Nationals

by REEMUS FERNANDO

Defending champion Sharmal Dissanayake and number two ranked Yasitha de Silva advanced to the finals as the men’s singles of the 2020 Tennis Nationals went according to the pre tournament script at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday.

Dissanayake edged out number three ranked Sankha Atukorale 7- 6, 6-3 as he set sights on a possible fifth straight men’s singles title in the final which will be played on Sunday (17). Dissanayake has won four consecutive men’s singles national titles since 2016.

Yasitha de Silva, who was eliminated in the semi-finals by Heera Ashiq at the last edition, made sure that teenage heroics of Chathurya Nilaweera would not stop his promising start this time around at the penultimate hurdle.

He scored 7-6, 6-3 to beat the 16- year-old, who was the youngest player in the last four stage. In the rounds of 32, 16 and quarter-finals, Dissanayake beat Harieshwar Parameshwaran (6-1, 6-4) Archana Lokuge (6-2, 6-2) and Kavisha Ratnayaka (6-2, 6-3) respectively.

De Silva meanwhile beat Dinusha Wijesuriya (7-5, 6-3), Prasanna Athauda (6-2, 6-0) and Dilvan Herath (6-2, 6-1) respectively before advancing beyond the semis. The 2020 men’s singles draw featured some 50 competitors.

A Sri Lanka Tennis Association official confirmed that both men’s and women’s singles finals will be played on Sunday.

The women’s semi- finals featuring Anika Seneviratne and Savini Jayasuriya and 14-year-old Hasali Gajaba and Janali Manamperi will be played today

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England consolidate as Joe Root slams unbeaten 168  

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England captain Joe Root posted an unbeaten 168 in the opening Test match against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium yesterday. (Pic by Thusith Wijedoru/ SLC)

Rex Clementine in Galle Fort

England made Sri Lanka pay a heavy price for their reckless batting by posting a commanding 320 in their first innings at stumps on a rain curtailed second day, the tourists already have a lead of 185 with six wickets in hand. Sri Lanka need lot of catching up to do and it is going to be real hard work for them to save the game.

The home team batsmen were casual in their approach as most of them were in T-20 mood and England captain Joe Root gave them a good example of how to consolidate and put pressure back on the bowlers.

Root very cleverly rotated the strike and used the sweep shot to good effect forcing the bowlers to alter their lengths. He survived a couple of close reviews and went onto dominate the bowling.

A couple of England batsmen have left an indelible mark while playing spin bowling in Sri Lanka and names such as Kevin Pietersesn (2012) and Graham Thorpe (2001) come to mind. Root will join that elite club given the ease with which he played the three spinners.

The Yorkshireman playing his 98th Test reached his 18th hundred and the third against Sri Lanka with a single off Dilruwan Perera to short fine leg. His 168 not out is now the highest score by an Englishman in Sri Lanka with the previous best being Pietersen’s 151 at P. Sara Oval.

Root faced 254 balls for his 168 not out and hit 12 fours. The hallmark of his knock was the patience he showed applying himself to settle in. As the day progressed there were loose balls now and there and the batsman was quick to pounce on them.

Daniel Lawrence on debut was dropped three times and eventually his luck ran out on 73 when Kusal Mendis took the catch at forward short leg.

Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya finished with three wickets but Wanindu Hasaranga from whom much was expected was a disappointment. The leg-spinner gave away too many bad balls. Playing at his home ground, the former Richmond College player was expected to have an impact but Hasaranga was the least effective bowler.

There will be an early start today with play getting underway at 9:45 am. A total of 98 overs are scheduled to be bowled but there’s also prediction for rain after lunch.

 

Brief Scores:

Sri Lanka 135

(Dinesh Chandimal 28, Angelo Mathews 27; Dom Bess 5-30, Stuart Broad 3-20) trail England 320/4 (Joe Root 168*, Dan Lawrence 73; Lasith Embuldeniya 3-131) by 185 runs.

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