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NZ bag T20 series

Jesse Ryder who scored 52 in 37 balls
was named Player of the Match

New Zealand secured a 2-0 Twenty20 series win against Sri Lanka with a comfortable 22-run victory at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo Friday.

Openers Brendon McCullum (49 from 34) and Jesse Ryder (52 from 37) got the tourists off to a flyer, putting on 84.

Martin Guptill (32 from 20) also weighed in with useful runs as the Black Caps amassed 170-4.

Mahela Jayawardene (41 from 30) and Kumar Sangakkara (69 from 50) gave the hosts hope, but Shane Bond returning to international cricket after 18 months took 3-18 as Sri Lanka were restricted to 148-8.

The loss was Sri Lanka’s fourth straight T20 defeat.

T20 games could go either way 

New Zealand won the first T 20 game in a tight finish. It was a good effort by the Black Caps after the 2-0 defeat in Tests. The abbreviated game allows teams to come back. This form of the game is a spectators delight and is guaranteed to survive. Recall the debates when the 50 overs were introduced? Well, it is so many years since the purists have been challenged. Would anyone in their mid fifties and over ever have thought that T 20 would be a reality? The debate at present is whether the 50 overs should continue in the face of the T 20. Note: No one is questioning that Test Cricket should be replaced.

 T 20 is a further tightening of the 50 overs version and has at this point narrowed the difference between bat and ball. In a matter of one over a match could go either way. Since only four overs are allowed per bowler, the composition of the team also changes from that of a Test and 50 overs. Fielding also becomes that much more important as each run given away instead of earned could be the one on which a game is won. The bowlers have to alter the pace, line and length of each delivery. The batsmen need to come back if a dot ball is given away. Average of almost eight to nine runs an over is comfort zone. Of course the conditions of the wicket and when it is a day/night game things could turn out different. The Kiwis averaged seven in the end to win.

 Do not forget the umpires. One mistake means the match. They are under intense pressure and need to be sharp in the middle. Remember what I said about the senior players in an article previously? Well they have found new life in this format. Not before they get into pasture but because they can contribute positively with their experience. Younger players need to watch with more awareness how the seniors approach this form of the game. They will learn that there’s more than the slog in each ball.

Task now is to legitimise our No.2 status 

Sri Lanka’s rise to No.2 in the world Test cricket standings is cause for celebration, and there’ll surely be quite some trumpeting by officials in the days ahead. A bit of bragging isn’t a bad thing, and when there’s good reason for doing it, why not.

But overdoing the boast, which our officials are notoriously accustomed to, can have less desirable consequences. Apart from over-valuing the achievement, bragging induces a false sense of superiority, so heightening expectation beyond levels of reasonableness – all of which make unnecessary baggage for the team to bear. 

But our officials like the politicians who appoint them, must justify their jobs and so, aren’t going to pass up the chance to take a share of the credit for any success attained.      

Fortunately, skipper Kumar Sangakkara takes a more pragmatic view. Even though he holds the bragging rights, in that intoxicating moment of glory, he preferred to be guarded, lest his thoughts go to nourish a belief that we are better than what we really are. “The easiest thing is to get somewhere; the harder is to stay there,” he said. “The No. 2 position probably reflects how well we are playing but also says that we are second best, and that means we have a lot more to achieve to get where we want to be.”

Trumpet and drum

Not quite the words you’re likely to hear from the officialdom’s gasbags. Trumpet and drum they will the team’s triumph in the hope it earns a renewal of the term of office. It has to be said though; the promotion to No.2, to be sure, is something to crow about.

Only a few months ago Sri Lanka had resided in the fifth rung, so, the rapid rise to No.2 by any measure is quite astonishing – more so as it was achieved by a team that can hardly be said to be at its prime in terms of experience and maturity. The skipper himself is barely six months on the job. Not all its members have the sort of experience you’d expect of the second-best in the world; Mathews is yet a rookie while the likes of Kapugedera, Paranavitharna, Kulasekera, Thushara and Herath, were freshers not so long ago and are yet in the struggle for permanency in the playing eleven.

Skipper Sangakkara apart, all that remains of the old backbone are, of the batsmen, Mahela Jayewardene, Tillekeratne Dilshan and Samaraweera, and just Muralidaran of the bowlers. No Jayasuriya and Vaas, numerically it might be just two but their contributions over a decade-plus seasons have been the equivalent of probably four-five players.

It won’t be wrong to say that about half the national team personnel could pass for ‘A’ team players – and that they are now Test caps speaks as much for the commendable re-blooding policy of the selectors as the admirable honing of skills by ‘A’ team coach Chandika Hathurasinghe. So, Sangakkara’s team by definition is a transitional one, which makes their elevation to second-best in the world even more remarkable.

Eleven win streak

Critics might ask why a song and dance is made of last week’s elevation when the No.2 position had been visited before, in 2002 under Sanath Jayasuriya – a view that’s only half-true. Unlike the present outfit, the 2002 personnel were maturity personified: Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Hashan Tillekeratne, Vaas, Muralidaran, Dharmasena and occasionally Aravinda de Silva (all carryovers from the ’96 World Cup winning team). Mahela Jayewardene and Sangakkara were then pretty much equivalents of the Mathews, Kapugederas and Paranavitharanas of now. Quite a formidable team which, it should be reminded, rode to No. 2 in 2002 after an amazing unbroken 11-win streak.

Last week’s promotion, from No. 5 earlier this year, came with less difficulty: i.e. after four wins in the last five Tests – which is reason why Sangakkara’s team has a lot more to accomplish to legitimize its world’s no.2 status, a standing it might not have enjoyed had third-placed India not been on holiday from Test cricket since last March while we were engaging the Pakistanis and Kiwis.   

Test cricket rankings are determined by pretty much a ceaselessly ongoing league competition, which means, theoretically, standings can vary with the completion of every series. That being so, it’s fair to say that Sri Lanka’s current perch is a tad fortuitous. And being no.2 does not necessarily mean we are better than those nations residing in less loftier heights, like no.4 Australia or no.3 India. That is something to be decided when we contest them on the field.

Crucial importance

So, our next three-Test series in India in December will be of crucial importance, deciding as it will the duration of our residency at no.2. Sri Lanka might dearly have wished this issue were left to be resolved on home shores. Because historically, battling down India across the waters has proved pretty much impossible. In five series, 1982 to 2005, Sri Lanka has not managed a single win in 11 Test  encounters; India won five while six games have ended in draws.

The challenge Sangakkara’s team will encounter in India is going to a lot tougher than that Pakistan and New Zealand presented recently. It will be recalled that, because of protracted violent turbulence it was an underdone Pakistan team which we encountered here. The visitors had never conceded a Test series to Sri Lanka on the island’s shores – and that they did, 0/2, last July, was due as much to their Test cricket absence for more than a year as the combative spirit of the home team. As for the Kiwis, a majority of players were newcomers – and the resultant deficit in experience combined with alien tropical conditions made the Kiwis challenge much less formidable to overcome.

God forbid, the Sri Lankans’ journey to India becoming similar to what the Kiwis’ endured in their travels here. The dust, noise and the teeming crowds of India is a world away from the tranquility and sparseness of Sri Lanka. The extraneous discomforts however would be no more than minor irritations in comparison  to the on-field discomfiture likely to be caused by a proud and highly-motivated bunch of Indian cricketers.

Battle-hardened Sri Lankan teams have failed to overcome India in Indian conditions; the best it could do was to force a 0-0 draw in the three-Test series of 1997-98, a time when Sri Lanka cricket was at the peak of its powers and was the reigning one-day World Champions.

Sangakkara’s team is a transitional one, and as aforementioned, its’ rise to no.2 in the world is quite staggering. Bragging officials might have a field day(s), but the truth is, the new-found status has now to be endorsed through continuing successes. 

This is not to infer that the rise of Sangakkara’s team is unmerited. If anything, it deserves nothing less than full-marks for the manner in which the skipper has shaped little or untried players into what is a determinedly combative unit. Sangakkara is undoubtedly an inspiring leader and clearly, the team to man is responding to his every call. But the battles ahead are going to be a lot more severe than the ones he’s won so far, five of six and the other a draw. For a team in transition that is dramatic advancement. The future is hopeful, so, let’s not bragging officials spoil it. 

Renault called to face ‘fix’ charge 

Formula One’s governing body has summoned Renault to a hearing to answer charges that they fixed the outcome of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

The French team are accused of plotting with driver Nelson Piquet Jr to crash in the race to deploy the safety car.

The incident aided Piquet’s team-mate Fernando Alonso, with the Spaniard going on to claim victory.

If found guilty, the team face severe sanctions which could include expulsion from the current F1 world championship.

“Representatives of ING Renault F1 have been requested to appear before an extraordinary meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on Monday, 21 September 2009,” read a statement on the FIA website.

“The team representatives have been called to answer charges, including a breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, that the team conspired with its driver, Nelson Piquet Jr, to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix with the aim of causing the deployment of the safety car to the advantage of its other driver, Fernando Alonso.”

Renault said they would not make any comment until after the hearing.

Alonso won the Singapore GP in 2008 when Piquet crashed two laps after the Spaniard had come in for a routine pit stop. That meant that when race officials sent out the safety car to clear up the debris from Piquet’s car, Alonso was alone among the front-runners in not having to stop for fuel and tyres.

At the time, Piquet attributed the crash to a simple error, but he was dropped by Renault after July’s Hungarian Grand Prix and has since been outspoken in his criticism of Renault team boss Flavio Briatore.

He said the negative publicity might lead Renault to pull out of the sport, following the departures of manufacturers Honda and BMW Sauber.

The Brazilian specifically cited unequal treatment between himself and two-time world champion Alonso as the source of his discontent.

Former world champions Renault have already been in the FIA dock this season.

They were banned for one race after a wheel flew off Alonso’s car at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

However, the suspension, which would have ruled Alonso out of his home race in Valencia in August, was lifted on appeal.

SLTA helps heal wounds of war 

By T.M.K. Samat 

The Sri Lanka Tennis Association has joined forces with the Women in Sport Committee of the National Olympic Committee to bring tennis into the lives of the inmates of IDP camps in Vavuniya.

The SLTA’s initiative attempts to unburden the camps’ young inmates of the horrible legacy left by the long and brutal war.

This initiative comes within the broader sphere of nation building, creating pathways for children to overcome social barriers and facilitate an easier entry into the mainstream of society.

The Committee commenced a pilot project from July 10 to 12, paving the way for the programme’s forward movement. It had been duly endorsed by the Peace Secretariat, at the Veerapuram Transition Resettlement village in Vavuniya. 

The project will engage children in tennis as well as other sports so as to help them overcome war’s trauma in the short term. The ultimate aim is to assist them to reach national level in the sport and so help in the creation of united and disciplined communities.

SLTA has already introduced the game in the camps and has provided a layout of a tennis court, racquets and balls. As well, the SLTA has trained a coach and a young assistant to handle participants.

Tamara Dharamkeerthi of the NOC heads the project while the SLTA is represented by Zarina Saleem and Diana Alles.

Old Petes win Quadrangular

Old Peterites Over 40 cricket team continued their good form of the current season to annex the Annual Quadrangular amongst Catholic schools worked out in Kandy recently.

Old Petes entered the final by comfortably beating the host the Antonians whilst Old Bens beat the Old Joes in a thriller. The final was an absolute thriller and  the Old Petes who handled pressure better on the day won the Trophy after a lapse of 8 years. Skipper Ranmore Martinez was in outstanding form and was adjudged the Man of the Match.

Old Peterites SC  162 for 9 in 25 overs

Ranmore Martinesz      51

Priyankara Abeyratne  27

Susan Bandara            24

Ranil Perera     3 for 29

Lorenzo Jayasinghe     2 for 30

Old Bens SC  156 for 8 in 25 overs

Lalith Fernando            41

Ranil Perera     26

Shathilal De Silva         19

 Keerthi Gunaratne      2 for 22

Sudath Kuruppu           2 for 28

Speed Drome ready for launch 

The Speed Drome in Battaramulla is all set to launch Sri Lanka’s first outdoor Go-Kart centre later this month. This initiative, long awaited by fans of this entry-level motorsports category, will see an international class track layout along with electronic timing equipment, trained staff as well as quick, yet fun to drive Go-Karts.

For Dinesh Jayawardana, CEO of the Speed Drome, the launch of the kart centre has been the culmination of a dream that he has been working towards for a long time. “I’ve always believed in promoting karting as it is the most cost-effective way of going racing. Having raced Go-Karts competitively in India as well as in Sri Lanka in the past and having seen the progression that young karters abroad have made, I know for certain that the Speed Drome will play a huge part in the motorsports ladder in Sri Lanka,” said Jayawardana.

 The venue will also play a significant part in the local motorsports arena as Sri Lanka will now be able to host regional karting events similar to the 24-Hour Endurance Kart Race held in Goa, India last year. The electronic timing equipment will be able to relay drivers’ timings direct to the timing stand so that drivers interested in improving their skills and abilities will be able to understand where they can gain or how they lose time on track.

In addition to hosting track championships and conducting international meets, the Speed Drome is also geared to host corporate team-building events as well as the recreational karter. However, a more serious initiative of the Speed Drome is the development of the next generation of Sri Lanka’s racing drivers. “If we can find 20 talented young drivers and prepare them to make the transition to Formula Fords or a similar entry-level Formula, we will consider our investment a success. Through Go-Karts we will be able to identify local talent and then ensure that they are given the best training in terms of specialized driving techniques, driving etiquette, maintaining sponsor relationships and the technical understanding of race cars. Our long-term goal is to provide opportunities for these drivers to race internationally and become professional racing drivers if they have the talent and determination to succeed,” said Jayawardana.







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