When sport clean-bowls politics
by Rex Clementine
With Chennai Super Kings storming into this year’s IPL final, two Sri Lankans have become the toast of the south Indian city of Madras as Matheesha Pathirana and Maheesh Theekshana claimed two wickets apiece against Gujarat Titans.
Time was when Sri Lankans were personae non grata in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Not anymore. From Madras to Madurai, everyone is now cheering the two Sri Lankan boys. Sport has delivered a telling blow to divisive politics!
In 2013, after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jayaram protested to the central government against Sri Lankan players’ participation in IPL matches held in Madras, the Board of Control for Cricket in India was forced to withdraw Sri Lankans from Madras games.
Accordingly, the then nine franchises were told not to play any Sri Lankan in Madras. Stars like Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, T.M. Dilshan, Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis and several others had to pull out from Madras games.
Sadly, the ban applied not only to players but also to the Sri Lankan match officials.
Sri Lanka played their first Test match on Indian soil in cricket-crazy Madras in 1982, the famous game, where Duleep Mendis scored twin hundreds.
Thereafter, every time Sri Lanka visited India, a game in Madras was a must. There were many memorable games over the years in Madras, but after 2005, Sri Lanka have not played a single game there.
However, a 20-year-old rookie, Matheesha, has changed it all and the fans of southern Indian state have embraced him like one of their own.
Maheesh Theekshana too has come up with several match winning performances and the fact that he has an army background has been forgotten.
These indeed are welcome signs. This means that there are chances of the Sri Lanka team returning to M. A. Chidambaram Stadium also known as Chepauk after 18 long years later this year when India hosts the World Cup.
Chepauk is an iconic cricket ground having hosted Test match cricket for 90 years and was the venue for the tied Test of 1986 between India and Australia.
Kipyegon breaks world 1500m record with 3:49.11 in Florence
Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon captured the world record she had been hunting, winning the women’s 1500m in a stunning 3:49.11* at the Golden Gala, the third Wanda Diamond League meeting of the season, in Florence on Friday (2).
The two-time Olympic and two-time world champion was already the second-fastest women’s 1500m runner of all time thanks to the 3:50.37 she clocked in Monaco in August, when she missed the world record of 3:50.07 set by Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba in 2015 by just 0.3.
This time, Kipyegon blew the mark apart, becoming the first woman to break 3:50 in the discipline and taking almost a second off the previous record.
Kipyegon had been open about her world record ambition in 2023. “The record is in my heart and on my mind and I hope this will be a perfect year for me,” she said on the eve of the Golden Gala.
She has started it in sensational style.
On Friday evening Kipyegon followed the pacemakers Brooke Feldmeier and Sage Hurta-Klecker through 400m in 1:02.37 and Hurta-Klecker was right on schedule through 800m in 2:04.00, with Kipyegon on her shoulder.
As Hurta-Klecker moved to the side, Kipyegon forged on and reached 1200m in 3:05.28. In a race of her own, she pushed again and was roared over the finish line, past a clock showing 3:49.11. She raised her hands to her face and then dropped to the track in delight.
Behind her, Britain’s Laura Muir finished second in 3:57.09, while Australia’s Jessica Hull was third in an area record of 3:57.29, and the field came together after the race to celebrate with Kipyegon.
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Afghanistan cruise to comfortable win after Zadran 98
Opening batsman Ibrahim Zadran scored a fine 98 to help Afghanistan to a comfortable six wicket win with 19 balls to spare in the first ODI against Sri Lanka at Suriyawewa on Friday. Chasing a target of 269, the tourists reached home in 46.5 overs with Zadran sharing a second wicket partnership worth 146 runs with Rahmat Shah. Zadran one of the brightest young batting talents to come through from Afghanistan has already scored three hundreds in nine games and he nearly had a fourth one on Friday before being dismissed two runs short of the milestone.
The 21-year-old was expected to play the anchor role but he wasn’t afraid to punish the loose balls as he raced to his half-century in just 35 balls. He whipped Matheesha Pathirana for two sixes in an over as the debutant fresh from his IPL heroics failed to live up to the expectations conceding 66 runs in his 8.5 overs.
A bouncer by Kasun Rajitha helped Sri Lanka claim the key wicket of Zadran as the batsman attempted a pull shot but couldn’t keep it down and was caught in the deep. Zadran made a run a ball 98 and hit 11 fours and two sixes.
Rahmat Shah went onto post 55 that came off 80 deliveries with three fours.
Nothing much went right for Sri Lanka who are using the series as preparation for the World Cup qualifiers later this month in Zimbabwe. Fast bowler Lahiru Kumara had to pull out after sending down just 4.3 overs with a hamstring strain.
Sri Lanka got off to a poor start losing four wickets for 84 runs inside 20 overs before Charith Asalanka rescued them top scoring with 91 runs. Asalanka added 99 runs for the fifth wicket with Dhananjaya de Silva, who chipped in with a half-century.
When captain Dasun Shanaka was dismissed with the total on 215 for six with seven overs remaining, Sri Lanka were in danger of getting bowled out without utilizing their 50 overs. But Asalanka found a solid partner in debutant Dushan Hemantha as they added 48 runs for the seventh wicket.
Asalanka was run out in the last over with his 91 coming off 95 deliveries with 12 boundaries. Left-arm quicks Fazalhaq Farooqi and Fareed Ahmad picked up two wickets apiece. The second ODI will be played on 4th June followed by the final game on June 7th. All games will be at Suriyawewa.
Sri Lanka 268 all out in 50 overs (Charith Asalanka 91, Dhananjaya de Silva 51, Pathum Nissanka 38, Dushan Hemantha 22, Fazalhaq Farooqi 2-58, Fareed Ahmad 2-43.
Afghanistan 269 for four (Ibrahim Zadran 98, Rahmat Shah 55, Hashmatullah Shahidi 38, Kasun Rajitha 2-49)
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