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‘We can turn the tables on England. This series is 50-50’ – Mahela Jayawardene

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Jayawardene isn’t keen on taking up a permanent role in the Sri Lankan setup despite his status(Getty)

Sri Lanka are raring to go ahead of facing an under-prepared England for a two-Test series, and the hosts see an opportunity for an upset. 

England head into the series without Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes and with less than two days of match practice, while Sri Lanka are keen to bounce-back after a series defeat to South Africa. 

Sportsmail’s Nasser Hussain caught up with Sri Lanka legend and Mumbai Indians coach Mahela Jayawardene ahead of the series. 

 

NH:

I know Sri Lanka have asked you in the past, and you felt they hadn’t taken on board some of your proposals, but in the long term would you like to coach the national side?

MJ:

For me the biggest hurdle is to be involved full-time, whether it’s franchise cricket or a national team. I don’t see myself being a coach who’s going to be involved with one team for 12 months a year. That’s not enjoyable for me.

It’s got nothing to do with Sri Lanka Cricket as such, and I’ve always said I’m happy to contribute and help the team — as long as what I see is wrong has been corrected. It hasn’t happened over the years.

I don’t want to walk in and be a figure in a process where I know the system hasn’t allowed cricketers or the team to evolve.

NH:

The talent in Sri Lanka has always been remarkable. What is it like at the moment?

MJ:

The raw ingredients are there. It’s just that a lot of the guys struggle with the pathway after school. The domestic structure has so many teams, so the quality gets diluted pretty quickly, and people make wrong decisions.

Not all the coaches are good enough, so we lose a lot of talent in that process. It’s not a professional setup at that level, and a lot of the guys give up and do other things, like league cricket in Australia or England.

NH:

Is Test cricket still financially viable in Sri Lanka?

MJ:

We still have an appetite for Test cricket. Because of the history of Sri Lanka’s Test team, they all want to play cricket at that level. But if you don’t improve and evolve, five or 10 years down the line we will have guys who only want to play white-ball cricket.

The recent T20 Lankan Premier League was good. We’ve needed something like that for the last 10 years, to make the game at that level financially viable.

NH:

The Test team have just come back from South Africa with a lot of injuries. Where are they at the moment?

MJ:

I was pretty pleased with the way they started in South Africa, putting nearly 400 on the board at Centurion. But the bowlers broke down, and that was a real issue. Guys who played at the LPL still had niggles, and they went into the second Test quite depleted.

For the English tour, we’ve got Angelo Mathews coming back after the injury, and Dinesh Chandimal should be fit as well — two experienced guys in the middle order to support Dimuth Karunaratne at the top. It’s about that discipline in the longer format: how do you cope with pressure for four to five days?

NH:

Any promising players England fans might not have heard of?

MJ:

It’s unfortunate that Dhananjaya de Silva has a long-term injury, but Kusal Mendis is a talent, and has scored seven hundreds in his short Test career. He knows how to go big.

And Sri Lankan have found two all-rounders: Wanindu Hasaranga, the leg-spinner, who bats at seven, and seamer Dasun Shanaka, who bowled really well in South Africa.

NH:

Is Mickey Arthur the right man to coach them at the moment?

MJ:

Yeah, he’s one of those guys who’s quite methodical and regimental, but he’s a good coach — a players’ coach. We need to give Mickey some time with the team, because he’s proven himself with a lot of international teams.

NH:

And he tends to speak his mind. He did an interview the other day when he said ‘I don’t think the pitch at Galle will turn: I know it will turn.’ Are you expecting a bunsen burner at Galle?

MJ:

You know Galle: it’s going to slow down, and start turning. So those first two days are crucial, and after that it’s going to be a grind. It will be quite interesting to see how the second Test match is going to pan out, because you’re playing at the same venue.

They’ll definitely make sure Sri Lanka have that advantage of playing at Galle, but the England boys have played there many times.

NH:

Where do you see England at the moment, and in particular their playing of spin. Is that still a nemesis for them?

MJ:

I think it can be. It depends on the tempo they want to play. The modern England team plays at a different tempo, but you still need someone to grind out an innings — Cooky (Alastair Cook) has done that in the past. Someone has to do that now, whether it’s Rooty (Joe Root) or someone else.

The other guys are much more high-tempo players, so how you balance that is crucial. And which way do you go with the bowlers? You don’t have the pace of Jofra (Archer), so who’s going to take up that role on a slow wicket? Sometimes you need extra firepower to get something going.

NH:

As you say, there’s no Jofra, no Ben Stokes, and Moeen Ali is ill. Is this an opportunity for Sri Lanka, on a turner, to get payback for England’s 3-0 win there in 2018?

MJ:

Yeah, it is. Even though Sri Lanka didn’t do well in South Africa, they’ll see this as a very good opportunity.

The first two days will set the tone. But England have two good experienced bowlers in Broady (Stuart Broad) and Jimmy (Anderson), who understand what needs to be done in these conditions. They will fall back on them. It’ll be interesting to se if they pick both in the same Test.

NH:

How much did the 3-0 defeat hurt Sri Lanka, and how much is it feeding into their mindset now?

MJ:

It did hurt Sri Lanka a lot, although it feels like a lifetime ago now. They had opportunities in that series, but never grabbed them, and England had that experience to control sessions. They were dominant.

But these two Test matches are at Galle, whereas last time it was in three different places, and Sri Lanka have a much better record at Galle. It will suit the current group of players. I don’t think Sri Lanka will be thinking too much about last time around.

NH:

Do you worry about the mental and physical wellbeing of players when they’re spending so much time in bubbles?

MJ:

Yeah, that’s something you have to look at. We used to have three weeks’ R&R with our families between tours, but now they’re straight into another bubble.

That’s when player management is important. When you see guys who aren’t mentally fresh, you might have to let them go home for two or three weeks. Going bubble to bubble is always going to have an impact. If this runs through 2021, that’s going to be a long stretch for a lot of cricketers.

NH:

When I went to Sri Lanka, England were never favourites. Do you see this England as favourites?

MJ:

With Stokes missing, England don’t have that same experience in the top order, so I make it 50-50. I don’t think they’re going as favourites. I think Sri Lanka have something in them. (Daily Mail)



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Devapathiraja stun Isipatana, Mahinda oust St. Joseph Vaz’s

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Under-19 Cricket

by Reemus Fernando

Devapathiraja secured their first ever semi-final place in an Under-19 Division I tournament with a six wicket victory over Isipatana and Mahinda cruised to the semis with a crushing 131 runs victory over St. Joseph Vaz’s in the Tier ‘B’ quarter-finals played on Thursday.

An unbroken 94 run stand for the fifth wicket between Jeewaka Shasheen (56n.o.) and Sudeera Weerarathna (31n.o.) helped Devapathiraja turn tables on Isipatana as they recovered from 58 for four wickets at one stage to seal their semi-final place with six wickets to spare.

Mahinda posted 252 runs in 43 overs thanks to a quick fire half century by Dhanuja Induwara, who hammered 73 runs (in 32 balls) inclusive of six sixes and six fours. St. Joseph Vaz’s were shout out for 121 runs as Kushan Madusha , Navod Paranavithana, Subanu Rajapaksha and Kavidu Lakshan shared bowling honours.

Mahinda will now meet Ananda in the semi-final, while Devapathiraja take on Dharmasoka.

Results

Division I Tier ‘B’

Mahinda beat St. Joseph Vaz’s by 131 runs at Moratuwa

Mahinda

252 for 8 in 43 overs (Navod Paranavithana 62, Subanu Rajapaksha 62, Dhanuja Induwara 73; Kaushan Wijerartne 2/28)

St. Joseph Vaz’s

121 all out in 38.2 overs (Chamath Fernando 18; Kushan Madusha 2/25, Navod Paranavithana 2/23, Subanu Rajapaksha 2/11, Kavidu Lakshan 2/08)

Devapathiraja beat Isipatana by six wickets at DSS ground

Isipatana

151 all out in 39.5 overs (Tharusha Nethsara 31, Naveen Kanishka 23, Themiya Gunaratne 18; Sasanka Nirmal 2/21, Sudeera Weeraratne 2/24, Irushka Thimira 3/28)

Devapathiraja

152 for 4 in 43.2 overs (Irushka Thimira 32, Jeewaka Shasheen 56n.o., Sudeera Weerarathna 31n.o., Thevindu Dickwella 4/28)

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Daunting task ahead after Bangladesh pile up runs

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Rex Clementine at Pallekele

Twenty years ago, Test matches against Bangladesh were a cakewalk for Sri Lanka. There was a game at SSC where Marvan Atapattu scored  a double hundred and retired followed by Mahela Jayawardene who retired on 150. Sanath Jayasuriya was least bothered smashing 89 off 59 balls with 11 fours and four sixes. The entire Bangladesh team managed one run more than Jayasuriya in their first innings. Now the roles are reversed. Bangladesh seem to be giving the Sri Lankans a taste of their own medicine. Has Bangladesh cricket really improved or has Sri Lankan cricket become so bad?

You can not say that Bangladesh cricket is on a high. They lost a recent Test series to West Indies at home and last year lost to Afghanistan. Some 90 percent of their wins in Test cricket have been against Zimbabwe. So why is Sri Lanka playing catch up in this game is an interesting question. The answers will be known by stumps on day three when Sri Lanka get a chance to bat.

It was a remarkable effort by the tourists who are without their main match winner Shakib Al Hasan and their lead bowler Mustafizur Rahman, both of them are at IPL.

Bangladesh finished day two on 474 for four after resuming on 302 for two with Mominul Haque and Najmul Shanto posting big hundreds. The pair shared a record 242 run stand, a new record for Bangladesh in Test match cricket. It’s also a joint record at Pallekele for the third wicket with Younis Khan and Shan Masood posting 242 runs six years ago.

Sri Lanka’s  bowling lacked venom as no wickets fell in the morning session. Lahiru Kumara provided the breakthrough when he took a return catch to dismiss Shanto. The left-hander who posted his maiden Test hundred on Wednesday finished on 163 having batted for seven minutes short of nine hours. He faced 378 deliveries and hit 17 fours and a six. Niroshan Dickwella’s dropped catch early on in his innings proved to be costly.

For Mominul it was his 11th Test hundred and the first overseas. He was dismissed when he edged part-timer Dhananjaya de Silva to Lahiru Thirimanne at first slip.

The scoreboard doesn’t look good for Sri Lankans but their bowlers did a decent job to stop the run flow on day two having sent down too many loose balls on day one. Suranga Lakmal in particular was impressive bowling some tight spells. He was unlucky and needed more backing from others.

Play was called off early due to bad light and 25 overs were not bowled. The game will resume today 15 minutes early.

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May the educated continue to run cricket!

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by Rex Clementine

While the Test series  involving Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is on at Pallekele in a bio-secure bubble, the media has been allowed to cover the series in what is called the  ‘outer bubble’. The press can file their stories from the press box and carry on with their day today activities. The only thing that we can not do is to come face to face with players and support staff.

Sri Lanka Cricket is at the moment run by a respected doctor – Professor Arjuna de Silva. Apart from being a brilliant physician, he is proving to be an outstanding administrator as well. Glad he does not wish to avoid the press like the plague in these testing times.

The press discussed a similar method during the England series, but it fell on deaf ears of those who were running the sport at that time. Leave alone giving us a fair hearing, it took SLC more than a week to respond to our collective mail.

Then there were lies all around.  SLC first said that it was impossible to accommodate the press as the England and Wales Cricket Board had objected to our presence. We referred the matter to the ECB, who denied it outright saying that they had no issues with press covering the series. Then there were more lies, even misguiding the Minister of Sports.

The same SLC Executive Committee a few weeks either side of the England series had requested the media to cover their press briefings and they were well attended. But cricket matches for some mysterious reasons were out of bounds for us. Obviously, SLC hierarchy were getting advice from the wrong people.

South Africa, Australia, England, Pakistan and even India where COVID cases are at a staggering high had allowed the media to attend cricket matches but SLC was an exception. Did they have an axe to grind with the press for constantly highlighting daylight robbery at Maitland Place?

There was a storm of protest at the treatment meted out to the media. Former players, administrators and fans expressed their disappointment at what was happening but SLC bosses were thick skinned. Its President boasted that he was going to get more than 100 votes at the AGM. He was all too powerful. But the law of the land proved to be more powerful than him as the entire Executive Committee was dismissed on technical grounds. The CEO continues, although his time is hanging by a thread.

Further woes followed at the COPE hearing as the Parliamentary watchdog found large scale corruption and no accountability. The Secretary to the Sports Ministry was informed to initiate legal proceedings against officials who were responsible for corrupt deals that included money that broadcasting partners owed the board being transferred into offshore accounts.

It remains to be seen what action the Sports Ministry intends to take with the game suffering several blows both on and off the field in the last five years. The slide started during the Yahapalana regime and not much has been done to address the woes under the present government. The Sports Minister backdating a letter legalizing the term of the Executive Committee was the last straw. The move was opposed and the Minister was forced to dismiss the Executive Committee and bring in fresh faces amidst much criticism.

The same Ex Co did not bother to take disciplinary action against misbehaving players. This coupled with poor on field performances saw cricket’s ardent fans turning away from the game. While the national cricket team was involved in a series in the Caribbean, the retired players were featuring in a Legends tournament in India. Strangely, the fans preferred to watch the former players in action than their national team. This was extremely disturbing news.

Soon after the administration was changed, a clear message has been sent that misconduct will be sternly dealt with. An opening batsman who had got into constant trouble was hauled up for an inquiry on Tuesday and has been warned to behave or pack his bags. This is the way forward. When there is discipline, results will follow automatically.

The elected officials who were in power before that had double standards. For example, captain Dimuth Karunaratne who was involved in a late night accident was fined Rs. one million. This was despite him buying a brand new three wheeler to the other party involved in the accident. Kusal Mendis who was involved in a hit and run was treated with kids’ gloves. The board closed the case claiming it was a personal matter. That a poor man on his way to work was killed wasn’t a serious enough issue for them. That was not on.

Thankfully, the attitude of the administration has changed now. The powers that be need to ensure that the educated run cricket. Let the corrupt rot in jail.

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