When Finch inspired Sri Lankans to support Aussies
by Rex Clementine
Over the last 40 years, Australian captains of different styles have visited our island. Greg Chappell, who led them in 1983, was an artist with the bat but a ruthless sledger. Allan Border, the captain of the 1992 side after they pulled off an unlikely victory at SSC gave the press the best quote ever when he compared Australia’s win to the ‘biggest heist since the great train robbery.’
Steve Waugh was a man of steel. He had broken his nose at Asgiriya and went onto play the SSC Test against doctor’s advice.
Ricky Ponting’s first assignment as captain was here in 2004 and despite conceding first innings lead in all three Tests found ways to whitewash Sri Lanka 3-0. Michael Clarke is often crucified as a selfish fellow but brought an inexperienced attack here in 2011 and won the series. Then there was of course Steve Smith who lost the Warne-Murali trophy for the first time in 2016.
Aaron Finch, the last man to skipper an Aussie side on our shores was a different kettle of fish. He didn’t sledge, he wasn’t aggressive, he wasn’t a showman and by the time he left Colombo, he had won many hearts. So what did he do differently?
Finch’s Aussies arrived in the island in June last year with the people starting to feel the pinch. There were doubts about the tour going ahead in the first place but Finch like the late Martin Crowe in 1992 convinced his men that cricket should continue despite the turmoil.
The country had come to a standstill. There’s no fuel, there’s no cooking gas, there’s no essential medicine and there were long hours of power cuts. Gota’s vistas of prosperity were in full flow.
The Australian team bus travelled passed the Aragalaya site often while in Colombo and they could get a firsthand experience of people’s frustration. At times with protests turning violent and curfew imposed the tour was in danger. But the Aussies stayed on with their captain calling the shots. Not only did Finch say all the right things, he also never grumbled despite many hardships. He became an instant hero among the fans.
Spontaneously, the fans applauded Australia’s kind gesture by turning up in numbers for the final ODI at RPS wearing yellow. It didn’t matter to them who won the game. Some 35,000 adoring fans were there to just say thank you Australia. Finch was lost for words. It was a surreal experience. Something that they had never experienced outside Australia. He went on a victory lap after the game to thank the public. That’s not all. The Aussies gifted all the prize money for charity to help the most vulnerable.
Since the tour of Sri Lanka, nothing much has gone right for the Victorian. Finch stepped down as ODI captain last September after a string of poor scores.
Australia won their first-ever T20 World Cup under Finch in 2021 in Dubai. The following year when they hosted the event, they needed a good show but Australia failed to make it to the semis and the writing was on the wall for Finch.
Yesterday in Melbourne he announced that he’s stepping down from the T20 side so that Australia can rebuild for 2024 when the Caribbean and US will host the event.
Finch may be gone but his deeds will be remembered for years to come. Not often does an Australian team attract 35,000 fans clad in yellow rooting for them on foreign soil.
Where have all the mystery bowlers gone?
by Rex Clementine
It’s been a while since a mystery Sri Lankan spinner bamboozled the opposition batsmen. Not just batsmen but coaches went on a frenzy decoding these bowlers while Times of India and Daily Telegraph dedicated headlines praising how well Sri Lanka groomed these sensational talents.
Ajantha Mendis was the last global sensation with bit of mystery as his carrom ball humbled India’s fabulous batting line-up comprising Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly. After him T. M. Dilshan opening the batting with field restrictions on came up with a scoop shot over the head of the wicketkeeper that later became popular as Dilscoop.
Not exactly mystery but Sri Lanka promoting unorthodox style of play totally contrary to the coaching manual had been appreciated and encouraged. Not just Dilshan and Mendis but Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya all broke convention and were extremely successful.
Credit to selectors and captains for encouraging these natural talents and more importantly for the coaches, especially at lower levels, for not sidelining them for being different.
Mendis and Malinga weren’t hits at school cricket and they were more or less groomed after they left school. But Jayasuriya and Murali were entirely different. Thankfully their early coaches did not tinker too much with their style.
Coaches nowadays are too engaged in the sport. They roam around the boundary rope providing ball by ball instructions making the captain redundant. Imagine how much impact they’d be having on players at training and there’s little room for creativity.
Cricket Academies are mushrooming as well with little monitoring done and you sense that not many players with unorthodox style are going to be accepted and as a result succeed. There are few rare talents with unorthodox styles. Some bowlers have copied Lasith Malinga and Matheesha Pathirana has earned an IPL deal even before he’s become a permanent fixture in the Sri Lankan side.
Paul Adams earned a nickname ‘frog in the blender’ for his action and anyone who sees Sri Lankan spinner Kevin Koththigoda from down south will remember the South African wrist spinner.
Funnily Richmond College, Galle seem to be nurturing these special talents and Kamindu Mendis is another player who can make a big impact. He’s nowadays mostly in the Test squad and nearly featured in the second Test in Wellington. He’s there in the team for his batting but he’s ambidextrous and bowls both left-arm spin and off-spin with good accuracy. That makes him an ideal candidate for shorter formats of the game and that’s where he should perhaps focus more at succeeding.
Gateway wins Netball Championship
Gateway College emerged Under 18 Netball Champions at the Inter International School tournament organized by Colombo International School (CIS) played at the Sugadadasa Indoor Stadium.
Gateway College, led by calm and composed Rithika Srikanth, beat Lyceum Wattala 16 -8 in the final after leading 9 – 6 at the breather. Gateway entered the final by beating their counterpart in Kandy 12 -6. At the Group stages, Gateway beat ILMA 16– 5, Lyceum Nugegoda 12 – 1, CIS Colombo 17 – 0 and the British School in Colombo 18 – 0.
Gateway’s young star Shenoshi Abeygunawardena was crowned the Netball Queen and Cloe Thillakaratne was adjudged as the Best Defensive player. Mawrya Liyanage did the vital turnarounds to keep Lyceum Wattala under check and Goal Attack Onadhi Samarakoon was outstanding with her accurate shooting.
2023 Asia Cup likely in Pakistan and one other overseas venue for India games
The 2023 Asia Cup is likely to be played in Pakistan with another overseas venue to host India games. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that both BCCI and PCB, after an initial standoff, are moving swiftly towards brokering a resolution which could have both teams playing their tournament matches against each other outside Pakistan. The overseas venue is not confirmed but the UAE, Oman, Sri Lanka and even England are potential contenders to host five matches including at least two India-Pakistan contests.
India and Pakistan have been grouped together along with a qualifier in the six-nation Asia Cup, scheduled to be held in the first half of September this year and in a 50-over format. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are part of the other group. A total of 13 matches will be played across 13 days including the final. As per the format for the 2022 Asia Cup, the top two teams from each group advance to the Super 4s and the top two teams then contest the final. The possibility of India and Pakistan playing three times remains.
As it stands, a small working group has been formed with the brief of creating a schedule and travel plan agreeable to all participating countries as well as the broadcaster before a final call is taken. The weather is likely to play a key role in determining the second venue outside of Pakistan, though there will be keenness among the Asian venues to host high-profile India-Pakistan games. Temperatures in early September in the UAE usually hover around the 40-degreee centigrade mark, though that has not prevented cricket from being played there: the 2021 IPL was played there late September, but Pakistan have played international matches in early September. In Muscat, Oman’s capital, temperatures remain lower and it did host the first round of the 2021 T20 World Cup. The option for England remains an ambitious one, though the prospect of big crowds in a city like London is likely to be an attractive one.
The option of staging part of the Asia Cup outside Pakistan was agreed in principle as the most favourable by all members of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) when they met last weekend in Dubai, on the sidelines of the ICC’s quarterly board meetings. Having failed to reach a resolution mid-March in Bahrain at the ACC meet, members converged for two further rounds of informal discussions in Dubai. The PCB, which has the hosting rights for the 2023 edition of Asia Cup, was represented by its chair Najam Sethi while the BCCI team comprised its secretary Jay Shah and Arun Dhumal, the IPL governing council chairman.
Last October, the PCB was caught off guard by Shah who said that the 2023 Asia Cup would be held in a “neutral” venue. The PCB, then under Ramiz Raja – Sethi’s predecessor – immediately responded that Pakistan would pull out of the tournament altogether if it was taken out of the country. Sethi reiterated that stance both in the Bahrain and Dubai rounds of discussions. Shah said he had made the statement in his capacity as the ACC president. During the Bahrain meeting, the BCCI pointed out that as hosts it had successfully conducted the 2018 edition of Asia Cup at a neutral venue – in the UAE – after it became clear Pakistan could not travel to India due to the strained political ties between the two neighbouring countries.
Relations continuing as they are, Shah had told the ACC that India wouldn’t be able to travel to Pakistan for the Asia Cup. As discussions began in Dubai, he reiterated the position. The PCB did likewise, saying that if the entire tournament was taken out of Pakistan, they would pull out of the event altogether. At one point Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had offered to swap the hosting rights with the PCB, willing to stage the entire tournament, but that was rejected by the PCB.
With a stalemate all too apparent, a second option of splitting the tournament across two countries including Pakistan emerged over the course of informal discussions and was eventually presented and discussed at the formal ACC meeting. It is understood both PCB and BCCI were open to such a plan, subject to details and logistics being worked out that satisfied everyone. The plan will also be taken to their individual governments before a formal schedule is worked out.
Showers in Western, Sabaragamuwa and North-Western provinces and in Galle and Matara districts during the afternoon
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