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World Cup spot and series at stake due to poor planning

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Rex Clementine at Pallekele

When politicians have a say in making key appointments, they nominate kith and kin, stooges and in some cases total misfits. That’s what has happened when you look at the Central Bank, Ministry of Agriculture and National Cricket Selection Panel. We warned in these spaces on Sunday that playing five specialist batsmen in the ongoing three match ODI series is too much of a risk. A day later that became four with Minod Bhanuka ruled out with injury. The selectors should have addressed the issue by adding more cover in the batting department. But they were arrogant and thought that they had all bases covered and were taught a bitter lesson on Tuesday as Zimbabwe squared the three match series.

Sri Lanka had a good opportunity to seal this series 3-0 and move up to number three in ICC World Super League, but poor planning and lack of knowledge have been stumbling blocks towards the team making progress. The selectors have been quick to point fingers at players for not living up to expectations but have they done their jobs well? They are yet to address a single media briefing although there have been several debatable decisions. You can only come to the conclusion that they are hiding behind the pandemic.

This series is part of the ICC World Super League and all focus must be on automatic qualification for the game’s showpiece event to be hosted by India next year – the 50 over World Cup. Only hosts India and seven other teams who are top in the rankings go through automatically while the other five of the 13 teams will be relegated to play a qualifying round. A bit more planning would have seen Sri Lanka collecting all 30 points available in the series.

Sri Lanka opted for four specialist batsmen and three all-rounders. Among them, apart from Pathum Nissanka the rest were not in the best of form while Kusal Mendis was returning after a suspension.

Successful Sri Lankan teams in 1990s had Roshan Mahanama at number seven. A decade later Russel Arnold occupied that slot. To expect Chamika Karunaratne to deliver at seven is wishful thinking.

Sri Lanka’s one-day team resembles the England’s ODI teams of 1990s and 2000s where they relied on too many half-baked all-rounders. England hardly made any progress in white ball cricket those days. That’s exactly what’s happening to Sri Lanka at the moment as they are pinning their hopes on Kamindu Mendis, Dasun Shanaka and Chamika Karunaratne. Of the three all-rounders, only one can play in the side and if the selectors are not willing to accept the reality, let them learn the lessons the hard way.

Having said that, it was a remarkable fight back by Dasun  Shanaka and Kamindu Mendis after being set a stiff target of 303. Reduced to 63 for four, they did well to help Sri Lanka reach a score of 280.  In the post match media briefing, Kamindu admitted that had he stayed on till the 40th over instead of getting out in the 35th, the result could have been different.

Or maybe if Sri Lanka had more batting depth, the result could have been different too.

Another pertinent point that needs to be asked is despite you having so many bowling resources, how come the opposition is posting totals in excess of 300. Obviously the team has missed Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera making a comeback after COVID wasn’t the same bowler. The fielding standards were horrible. That has been that for the last so many years. Sadly, no one wants to address the issue. When Zimbabwe’s fielding is better than Sri Lanka’s, you can have a fair idea about our standards.



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Nestomalt presents sponsorships to marathoners

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Top performers of the National Sports Festival Marathon (front row- from left), W.M.S. Kumara, Muththusami Sivarajan, Thissa Gunasekara, Velu Krishanthini, Madhushani Herath and Samanthika Dilhani pose with officials after they received Nestomalt sponsorships. Officials in the back row are (from left) Madura Perera (Coach), Amal Edirisooriya (Director General – Department of Sports), Anuradha Wijekoon (Secretary – Ministry of Youth and Sports), Ruwan Welikala (Vice President, Ambient Dairy – Nestlé Lanka PLC), Sugath Sajeewa (Senior Manager, Sponsorships and Activations – Nestlé Lanka PLC) and Sajith Jayalal (Director – National Institute of Sports Science).

Nestlé Lanka’s flagship brand, ‘Nestomalt’ presented sponsorships to six national marathon champions at an event held recently. As a brand that has inspired many Sri Lankan athletes, Nestomalt offered financial assistance, athletic training kits and a year’s supply of Nestomalt to help power the winners of the marathon race at the 46th National Sports Festival held in March 2021.

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Let Test cricketers develop

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by Rex Clementine  

After half a decade of struggle in white-ball cricket, the national cricket team is gradually showing signs of coming out from the slump and they should be a force to be reckoned with at this year’s T-20 World Cup in Australia. The IPL allowed several Sri Lankans to showcase their skills and leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga was the biggest draw. He is Sri Lanka’s best hope when they take on Australia in the upcoming series.

There are several other players who have benefited from the IPL stint like Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana, and Chamika Karunaratne. It’s pretty certain that they will form the nucleus of the bowling attack as Sri Lanka will be using the series as preparation for the Asia Cup and the World Cup that is to be followed. The bowling in white-ball cricket looks settled and a lot of credit should go to former coach Mickey Arthur who through some tough times built up a competitive unit.

The same cannot be said of the Test team as they struggled to claim 20 wickets in the Test series against Bangladesh. Kasun Rajitha returning to the side from injury looked a class apart and an improved bowler but spin bowling was disappointing. Leave alone claiming wickets, the spinners were not able to keep things tight, create pressure and then pick up wickets. They offered too many hit me balls.

There are issues with the spin bowling department in Test match cricket and the only way you are going to address the issue is by backing the guys whom you have trusted. Ramesh Mendis and Praveen Jayawickrama had quite a bit of success at home in their short careers but overseas they have struggled.

Usually what we have done is when one set of players do well in one format we take them and let them play in a different format.  That doesn’t unfortunately work that way in cricket as young players need to develop temperament to succeed in other formats. As a result, players lose their bearings. It has happened with so many of them and eventually, they are dropped from the format they are really good at.

Oshada Fernando is a case in point. Barely known to many when he was picked to play the Test series in South Africa in 2019, he came up with some solid efforts against an attack that comprised Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada. His efforts helped Sri Lanka win a Test series in South Africa. A classical Test match number three batsman he should have been allowed to play Test matches alone. But he was rushed into the white-ball teams and he was like a fish out of the water.

Oshada is the type of player who will take his time, show patience in abundance, and rarely plays a rash stroke. But suddenly pushed into the T-20 side, he was trying to manufacture shots and as a result cut a sorry figure. Angered by his failure in the T-20 side, he was axed from the Test team too.

Oshada went back to domestic cricket, scored heaps of runs, and made a comeback to the Test side in Bangladesh and did reasonably well. But you do get the feeling that the rashness of the T-20 format is still there in him. Not many players adjust to the formats so quickly unless you are a Sanath Jayasuriya.

So let Test match players develop. We have enough stocks in white-ball format and therefore Praveen Jayawickrama and Ramesh Mendis should only concentrate on red-ball cricket. But selectors rarely agree with those rational thinking. They play by a different set of rules.

We also have the classic example of Lahiru Kumara. He broke down in the middle of the Mohali Test match in March. He has not played any domestic cricket since then and he is in the preliminary squad for all three formats against Australia. First of all, Lahiru Kumara is no Richard Hadlee and then, this bloke has serious fitness issues that need to be addressed.

Every time Kumara plays a Test match, be it Gabba 2019, Centurion 2020, Pallekele 2021, or Mohali 2022, he broke down during the game and it was a massive blow for the team. But we never seem to learn our lessons. Let him go through proper Firsts Class cricket; prove his fitness over four days before being brought into the longer format. Rational thinking is very much needed as arrogance is going to cost us dearly.

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Naseem, bowlers take Pakistan to series win against Sri Lanka

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Pakistan survived an early wobble with the bat to ease to a seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka, wrapping up a series win with a game to spare. In a game that almost felt like a carbon copy of the first, Sri Lanka won the toss and batted first, only for a tight, disciplined bowling performance from the hosts, limiting them to a sub-par 102. Just like the first game, there was a touch of circumspection about Pakistan’s chase to begin with, losing three early wickets. But a classy partnership between Ayesha Naseem and Bismah Maroof took control of the proceedings, their unbeaten stand yielding 70 runs off 58 balls, and a game that looked like it would get bogged down finished in a hurry.

As in the first game, Sri Lanka lacked intent at the start, and Pakistan were all over them in the powerplay. The first five overs saw just 14 runs scored, and Anam Amin removed Chamari Athapaththu once more. Nida Dar struck soon after to dismiss Oshadi Ranasinghe, leaving Sri Lanka to try and regroup while they were well behind the asking rate.

Last match’s star Tuba Hassan was responsible for the removal of Sri Lanka’s top scorer Hasini Perera, and was the pick of the bowlers once more, allowing just 13 runs in her four overs. As each of the Pakistan bowlers chipped in with a wicket, the Sri Lankan batting began to fall away. In a somewhat insipid, uninspiring innings, the visitors stumbled to 102.

Pakistan lost Gull Feroza early, thanks to a sensational diving catch from Nilakshi De Silva, and for a while, it looked like that might charge Sri Lanka to a spirited defence of a low total. Muneeba Ali, who wasn’t quite able to find her timing, fell trying to sweep Inoka Ranaweera to fine leg, and soon after, the belligerent Iram Javed got a leading edge of Ranasinghe, leaving Pakistan tottering at 34 for 3. The asking rate, too, had begun to flirt with a run a ball, meaning Maroof and Naseem, two new batters, had significant pressure on their shoulders.

They, too, began with caution, aware that taking the game deep would only help the hosts. Once they got their eye in, the pair seemed to have set defined roles for themselves, with Maroof taking a back seat while Naseem took the attack to Sri Lanka. It was after the 15th over that Pakistan really began to move through the gears, a stunning back-foot six by Naseem setting the tone for what was to come. Sloppiness crept into the Sri Lankans’ game, too, epitomised by five careless overthrow runs that brought Pakistan to within ten runs of victory.

The win was sealed with an aerial slap off Ranasinghe by Naseem that landed just inside the rope as she finished with an unbeaten 45 off 31 balls, with the last 28 runs coming off just ten balls. The result means Pakistan have the chance to seal a clean sweep when the sides meet again for the final T20 on Saturday.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka Women 102 for 6 (Hasini Perera 35, Tuba Hassan 1-13) lost to Pakistan Women 104 for 3 (Ayesha Naseem 45*, Bismah Maroof 22*, Achini Kulasuriya 1-11) by seven wickets

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