by Rex Clementine
Late Vijaya Malalasekara’s heroics on the cricket field for Royal and Cambridge are well documented. What’s less known is his remarkable tenure running cricket in the country. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga did not trust her Sports Ministers much. It was she who appointed the first Interim Committee and handpicked reputed banker Rienzie T. Wijetilleke to fix the cricket mess. Two years later when the sport suffered setbacks again, she chose Vijaya Malalasekara, one of her contemporaries (both were born in 1945). Vijaya with his cricketing pedigree and corporate background was of course the ideal choice to take the game forward.
Vijaya’s leadership style was unique. Soon after assuming office, he had to deal with a major crisis. WSG Nimbus who owned Sri Lankan television rights were delaying payments and after legal advice he took the bold decision to terminate the contract. This set the stage for a new company to enter the fray breaking the television monopoly. Dubai based Taj Sports that later became Ten Sports had a very good working relationship with SLC and later went onto acquire television rights of other cricket boards as well. Vijaya’s leadership style and legal background stood SLC in good stead in a moment of crisis.
Vijaya faced another major challenge as most leading employees of SLC were loyal to the members of the sacked Executive Committee and it was obvious that they were pulling in different directions. Vijaya didn’t take revenge from anyone or harboured grudges. In his own style, he appealed to the top executives to pull in the same direction. However, when he had to be firm, he didn’t waver. Eventually, everyone fell in line.
One of the main reasons for the Executive Committee to be dismissed was the construction of the Dambulla Cricket Stadium. Vijaya was a far-sighted man. Instead of going on a witch-hunt, he convinced his colleagues that now that the stadium is here, we should make use of it. During his tenure, matches were played at Dambualla and international audience were spellbound by the new cricket ground.
In July 2001, the Bandaranaike International Airport came under a terror attack. At the same time two cricket teams were in the island – India and New Zealand. While India gave a firm assurance to continue with the tour, the Kiwis were nervous and were in two minds. Had they cancelled the tour and gone back home, it would have been a killer blow for Sri Lanka as the tri-nation tournament would have been halted. Vijaya then appealed to the head of New Zealand contingent. Former captain Jeff Crowe was the Manager of the team. With Vijaya assuring security that is provided to a head of state to the visiting teams, the Kiwis stayed on and the series went uninterrupted.
During Vijaya’s tenure, a record number of teams toured Sri Lanka. He was quite keen on the development of a second string as well and provided lot of exposure for Sri Lanka ‘A’ team. So much so, Kenya’s national team comprising quality players like Maurice Odumbe and Steve Tikolo played a bilateral series in Sri Lanka.
Vijaya was also a simple man. At stumps on day three of the Galle Test between Sri Lanka and India, there was a reception for the teams at Light House Hotel. Sri Lanka were on the verge of a famous Test win. Vijaya spoke to each player encouraging them. He went up to Ruchira Perera, the young left-arm quick. He had said something to Ruchira on the lines of playing a supporting role to the team’s two premier bowlers – Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan. Ruchira quietly listened to everything and then inquired, ‘Thamuse Kauwda’ which means (who are you). Then Ruchira went to captain Sanath Jayasuriya, pointed at Vijaya and had inquired about the ‘stranger’ giving him tips. Only then he realized that he was in fact chatting to the Board Chairman. Vijaya had a laugh and shared the story with other board members.
Under Vijaya’s stewardship, Sri Lankan cricket reached new heights. The national cricket team won ten Test matches in a row in this period culminating in winning the Asian Test Championship beating Pakistan in their own den on a greenish Lahore track.
After leaving SLC, Vijaya did not think it was a come down for him to serve in the Royal College Cricket Advisory Committee, which he headed. Many are the players from outstations that he offered scholarships. The most prominent of them being Kusal Janith Perera.
Vijaya loved Sri Lankan cricket. He was there when Kumar Sangakkara delivered the Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s in 2011. That night, he was in tears, like most Sri Lankans who were fortunate to be there. If there was anyone who could match Sanga’s eloquence, it was Vijaya Malalasekara. May he attain the supreme bliss of nirvana.
Karunaratne solid in Sri Lanka reply after Mushfiqur heroics
Sri Lanka openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Oshada Fernando struck half-centuries to help the visitors end the second day of the first Test against Bangladesh on 143 for two in Dhaka on Tuesday. While Oshada Fernando fell for 57, Dimuth Karunaratne stayed unbeaten on 70 with Sri Lanka still trailing by 222 after restricting Bangladesh to 365.
The day, however, belonged to Mushfiqur Rahim, who struck an unbeaten 175, and Kasun Rajitha, who bagged his maiden five-wicket haul. Bangladesh had staged a remarkable recovery in the opening day when they went from being 24 for five to ending the day on 277 for 5.
Litton Das was the first to fall on the second day – for 141 – as the 272-run stand with Rahim came to an end. Taijul Islam resisted for a bit while Rahim kept the runs coming but Sri Lanka too kept chipping away. Asitha Fernando ended with four with Ebadot Hossain becoming the last man to fall – to a run out as Rahim was left stranded.
Both Fernando and Karunaratne came out attacking and scored 84 in the first 22 overs to take the side to tea without any loss.
Fernando successfully reviewed a caught-behind decision against him to survive a close call while Karunaratne fetched his first boundary of the innings when he flicked Hossain behind square. The start was completely in contrast to the one Bangladesh made against the new ball on the first day. With wickets not appearing to come anytime soon, Mominul Haque turned to spin as early as in the eighth over as he brought on Shakib Al Hasan and Mosaddek Hossain.
Bangladesh finally struck in the fourth over post tea when Fernando fell to a poor shot against Ebadot. The pacer could have had two in the over but the team decided against a review against Karunaratne on the second ball of the over. Karunaratne was then given another reprieve when a sharp chance was dropped by the short leg fielder off the bowling of Taijul Islam.
Three overs before close, Kusal Mendis fell lbw to Shakib al Hasan after a patient 49-ball 11as Bangladesh managed to even things out but will be well aware there’s plenty of work remaining to be done on the third day, especially on a good track.
Kamil Mishara expelled from Dhaka after having ‘visitor’ in hotel room
Promising wicketkeeper batsman Kamil Mishara has been expelled from the national cricket team currently involved in the second Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka. In a statement, Sri Lanka Cricket said that Mishara, who turned 21 last month, has been withdrawn from the 18 member tour party for breach of code of conduct and he will face an inquiry after arriving in the country.
Players and coaching staff in Dhaka are in what’s called a ‘semi-bubble’ and although their movements are not as strict as what they used to be during the height of the pandemic, there are certain protocols that the players need to follow.
A cricket official told The Island that Bangladesh authorities had complained about the player taking a ‘visitor’ to his hotel room, an area considered out of bounds for outsiders. The incident had been recorded in CCTV footage. The Island learns that the team management in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka’s senior cricketers too had expressed their disappointment at the distraction during a keenly contested Test series.
There was anger and disappointment among cricket officials as only last year they had to deal with three players including the team’s vice-captain breaching the bio-security bubble during their tour of UK. The three players were withdrawn immediately and were handed heavy penalties and suspensions although the suspensions were later reduced. A cricket official told The Island that some players had not learned their lessons and Mishara will face sanctions.
Ironically, Mishara had been drafted into the squad to keep regular wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella on his toes. Dickwella has faced his share of disciplinary issues in recent months.
Mishara has a prior having been handed a one year suspended sentence and a one match ban after being found drunk along with some of his under-19 team mates during the Asia Cup in 2019.
An immensely talented young player, Mishara made his debut against Australia at the MCG early this year during the T-20 series. He also was part of the side that toured India in February and was expected to be retained for the upcoming home series against Australia and possibly for the ICC T-20 World Cup as the selectors had backed quite a few young players.
Liton, Mushfiqur slam centuries to put pressure back on Sri Lanka
Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton Das hit centuries and shared a record stand to turn the tide for Bangladesh in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Dhaka on Monday after a disastrous start.
At stumps, Liton was unbeaten with a career-best 135 with Mushfiqur on 115, his second hundred in as many innings, as Bangladesh reached 277 for five on the first day after electing to bat at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium. The two added 253 in their unbroken sixth-wicket stand after Sri Lanka’s pace bowlers Kasun Rajitha and Asitha Fernando shared five wickets between them to leave Bangladesh in tatters on 24 for five in a chaotic first hour of play.
Mushfiqur played a part in Bangladesh’s previous highest sixth-wicket stand when he shared 191 runs with Mohammad Ashraful, also against Sri Lanka at Galle in 2013. Liton brought his third Test hundred off 149 balls owing to a misfield, which yielded Bangladesh five runs.
Mushfiqur, who also scored 105 runs in the drawn first Test in Chittagong, then reached his ninth Test hundred off 218 balls.
The two gave the only chance to Sri Lanka during their partnership for over two sessions when Liton lofted a catch on 47 off Fernando. But substitute fielder Kamindu Mendis dropped the chance at backward square leg.
Kamindu came to the field after Kusal Mendis left for hospital after complaining of chest pain. Mendis was cleared later to continue playing as his physical condition was found not to be serious, according to Sri Lankan management.
The host made a nightmarish start to the game as Kasun Rajitha bowled opener Mahmudul Hasan for a duck with the second ball of the morning. Fellow opener Tamim Iqbal, who scored a century in the drawn first Test in Chittagong, also fell for a duck as he sent a leading edge off Fernando in the next over to be caught brilliantly by Jayawickrama at backward point.
Skipper Mominul Haque tried to settle the nerves with two fours, including one off the first ball he faced, but soon edged Fernando to wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella when on nine. Rajitha then found a big gap between the bat and pad of Najmul Hossain, sending his middle-stump cart-wheeling with an inswinger as the left-hander was dismissed for eight. Rajitha delivered a body blow next ball to trap Shakib Al Hasan leg-before for a first-ball duck, leaving the Bangladesh batting line-up in disarray.
Rajitha finished the day with three for 43 while Fernando claimed two for 80.
Sri Lanka had rewarded Rajitha with a place in the eleven after he impressed in Chittagong by taking four for 60, playing the match as a concussion substitute for Vishwa Fernando. He was one of their two changes, with Jayawickrama replacing Lasith Embuldeniya.
Bangladesh made two changes from the first Test as Mosaddek Hossain and Ebadot Hossain replaced the injured Nayeem Hasan and Shoriful Islam.
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