30th June  2002, Volume 8, Issue 50

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Can an accountant be a surgeon?

The first ever three Test series offered to Sri Lanka by England had drawn disgraceful comments from the British media.

After rising high at Lords, the Lankans crumbled as soft cookies on English soil destroying the prestigious image they enjoyed after nine consecutive victories in the Test arenas.

Being a person who had wielded the willow in a small measure in Sri Lanka and jolly well knowing the glorious uncertainties of this gentlemen’s game it will be extremely sinful if I try to rumble an outfit who had been heroes in the recent past.

Winning or losing in any game in sports is a natural factor. But what draws the attention of the genuine fans of cricket, is the reason as to why the Asian Test champions, Sri Lanka is battered and bruised on European soil.

If there is no unity in any family its obvious that it will crash, Sanath Jayasuriya and his boys are suffering here as a result of a silly bunch of administrators that our government had appointed to rule a game that has earned big money and fame to a nation that is struggling to survive. 

If a selector does not know the difference of a leg or off break or the square cut and a cover drive, he should receive a jail sentence for being a con man.

I just cannot accept the reason as to why an efficient manger of the calibre of the former Thomian opener, Ajith Jayasekera losing his position to a 72 year old Chandra Schafter who yet is struggling to manage a team that has earned respect in the international Test and the one day arena Sri Lanka has admitted the fact that they just cannot win matches without the services of their ace spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

Exposing a fifty percent fit, best off spinner in the world has failed to give the anticipated results for Sri Lanka in the npower Test series.

Sri Lankan skipper, Sanath Jayasuriya’s good luck chum who had been helping him to achieve nine successive triumphs in the Test arena seems to have deserted him.

Flamboyant

Sanath Jayasuriya, the flamboyant batsman from Sri Lanka had proved to the cricketing world that he is more than capable of dictating terms to any venomous paceman. The current bad patch he is experiencing must not deteriorate his confidence. A grand knock by him occupying the number one slot in the batting order, in the Natwest one day series surely could restore the lost prestige that the Lankans had suffered in the npower Test series on English soil.

It is now left to Sanath, the captain of Sri Lanka to guide his battered and bruised outfit and prove that the Lankans 1996 world cup triumph is no flash in the pan. The Lankans are clashing with England and India in the one day series. India romped home victors against West Indies in West Indies in the recently concluded series.

 On seaming English wickets, the batsmen who are fluent one front foot can survive.

But unfortunately, the majority of the Lankan batsmen are solid on the back foot, thus their failure to match up to the English willow fielders had been the result of Lanka’s sorry show in the Test series.

In conditions in England, the selectors on tour must be capable enough to pick the best out of the available Lankan cricketers in England I don’t want to go into details, but the Lankan camp at present are faced with many a problem.

Can an accountant be a surgeon? Obviously not.

So, let us hope that for a successful operation in the one-day series let the specialised surgeons handle the guli and let the accountant bank the cash if Sri Lanka emerge victors in the NatWest one day series.

The knock-out punch

The curtain raiser of the Natwest one day series between Sri Lanka and England, played at Trent Bridge, again proved the factor that the Lankans cannot hold a candle to the Britishers on any soil.

Being a sports journalist specialized in cricket, I know why Sri Lanka is suffering humiliation on English soil.

It is an accepted fact that the Lankans possess ample talent in this gentlemen’s game to clout any nation who boasts to have fathered it.

But a small nation who had proved that they can rule the one day game by pocketing the 1996 Wills World Cup suffers today, as a result of silly beggars who even had not held a bat in life.

I am not referring to the BCCSL selection committee, but the interim committee who is instrumental in destroying that golden image that the Lankans had tattooed after gaining ICC status. Let an efficient outfit handle a job that is vital for Sri Lanka in the sports field. Dhel, kadala, bathala, mayokka many be a palatable breakfast but not in cricket.

I will be back in Sri  Lanka, sooner than the scheduled date. Reason, its extremely doubtful whether the former World Cup champions are capable of entering the final of the Natwest one day tournament. 


Re-build from B’desh

By T.M.K. Samat 

LET this not be another wasted chance at discovering fresh options for the future. What ever be the fortunes of Jayasuriya’s men in the on-going one-day tri-nation, the catastrophic consequences of the Test series against England have raised worrying concerns about the future. Life without or with half-fit Muralitheran was, as the recent series proved, a long foot-slog in a desert with no oasis. Vaas, Zoysa and co., disappointing in conditions they really ought to have thrived, aren’t match-winners. As well, Aravinda de Silva and Hashan Tillekeratne showed their playing days are near expiry date.

The rise and fall of teams are inevitable, but there’s unusual anxiety accompanying Sri Lanka’s descent. Things may not quite be like the end-of-the-world scenario Arjuna Ranatunga imagines as he despairs over the lack of suitable successors. The truth, however, is the team is essentially young. Though de Silva and Tillekeratne are on the far side time, the other seniors — Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Muralitheran and Vaas — are yet some years away from retirement contemplation. Jayasuriya, 34 years, is the eldest of the seniors. He has a good three playing-years more and the others, a lot more.

So, there’s time enough to re-build, but re-building doesn’t mean merely filling in the holes left by the retirees — probably the easiest part of the selectors’ job. The more important part is to build a reservoir of replacements potentially as accomplished and committed as the regulars. The presence of such a pack, provided they are given the opportunities to snap at the heels of the established, creates a competitive environment for selections. With the demanding schedule modern cricketers have to keep, the risk of injuries is a continuing one — all the more reason for having reliable replacements waiting in the wings. As well, there is the not too insignificant matter of replacing players hopelessly out of form — something selectors have been reluctant to do because the replacements themselves didn’t inspire faith they would succeed. Which is why the likes of Dilshan, Gunewardena, Nawaz, Chandana, de Saram, Bandaratilleke, Herath have, like summer storms, come and gone from the national side. 

In this situation it is easy to ask why things can’t be like what it is in Australia, whose grassroots enthusiasm is no different to that of Sri Lanka. But the similarities end there. Administratively, we run a distant second, thanks to politics, but the most glaring discrepancy is in the respective domestic competitions. Australia is blessed with a vastly rich picking-ground because of its extremely competitive premier inter-state tournament. It is one heck of struggle to graduate from club to state level while the crossing to the national side is doubly more difficult. Suffice it to say that our premier domestic competition is only at a club level. And the inequalities of strength among the 16 competing clubs are so pronounced that the actual fray for honours has been confined to among only half dozen clubs, mostly from Colombo. But I digress.

Bottom line 

The bottom line is that our premier domestic competition is a dinosaur as far as service rendered to national cricket is concerned. It contributes little to prepare Test cricketers of the future.  Against this backdrop, special emphasis was given to activating the talents of the fringe players via the Sri Lanka A team. Three A series were undertaken this year — against the national Kenyan side, and the second elevens of Pakistan and India. The likes of Dilshan, Gunewardena, Chananda and co. came to the fore in these series, but no one new of exceptional promise. This is not to question the wisdom of exposing the fringe players to second eleven international competitions; time and more A series will no doubt bring better results. But the A series of this year (rain rendered the Indian one meaningless) will be of little help to tackle the problem of a lack of worthy replacements in the short term.

That quite some fringe players have already won their Test caps doesn’t make things easier. Dilshan, Gunawardena, Chandana, Vandort and co. ambitions are about establishing permanency in the national side, realization of which can come from only playing in a Test match. That chance is a rarity, except of course if the opposition is feeble enough to offer the luxury of experimenting with those in waiting. Bangladesh are the only such opposition. 

In the one-off Test against Bangladesh earlier this year the then selectors fielded the established line up with the exception of Michael Vandort. The likes of Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Jayewardene, Sangakkara, Muralitheran and Vaas proved much too strong, Sri Lanka winning with much to spare. It reduced Test cricket to a bit of a joke with more than one Sri Lanka batsmen retiring after completing centuries. On reflection, greater profit would’ve accrued had more of the fringe players been given a turn. Not that any likely outstanding contributions would’ve brought them permanency. But they would’ve been given a chance to advance their cause from a Test level — far better than doing the same from level A. The counter argument would be, had it been a team laden with fringe players, victory would’ve been less certain and the historic nine-win streak might not have been.

Will the new selectors see the two-Test series against Bangladesh beyond the sole intention of winning it?  Of course, no one would want our team to be defeated by Test cricket’s newest addition. But do we have to put out all our best men in quest of success? If we do, that would be like choosing a blunderbuss to kill a flea, given the disparity of strengths between the two barely six months ago. There are reasons however, why the new selectors would resist inclusion of the fringe players — none more compelling than the need to rid the hangover of English series. Self-belief, so high before the English tour, is at floor level. Not that a 2-0 success over Bangladesh will be an all-curing tonic, but at least the expected would’ve been delivered. So, there will be the temptation to include the established line-up, adding to the frustrations of those in waiting. 

Such an attitude isn’t going to help the future. In the short term, two replacements for de Silva and Tillekeratne have to be found, if not for immediate service then certainly as of next year. As well, the long neglected question of a spin partner for Muralitheran has to be addressed with the seriousness it demands. The continuing usage of the ace as the solitary workhorse will only lead to a depreciation of his future value, something the country cannot afford. Adding a few more to the bank of medium pace bowlers would be useful as well.

Not quite ethical

With a Test match label attached, it compels the selectors to pick a team that wouldn’t give it an impression of a ‘seconds’ — not quite the ethical thing to do. But neither is it obligatory to put out the best eleven. A balance titling slightly more on the fringe players would be beneficial. Compulsory inclusions from the list of established batsmen would be skipper Jayasuriya and Sangakkara, both looking to rediscover their form after failures in the series against England. Assuming the selectors opt for the customary six batsmen, one in-form player (Jayewardene, Atapattu or Arnold) could be included, leaving three spots for those on the fringe. If this is the formula for the two Tests, then, if need be, six freshers would have the chance to register their names for future permanency. It would be helpful too if the likes of uncapped batsmen like Mubarak and Daniel are handed Test caps so that the right signals will be sent out to the young hopefuls. 

Mubarak and Daniel were key players in the Sri Lanka under 19 team that finished no.2 in the 2000 Junior World Cup. But whatever happened to the others, like spinner Lokuaratchchy and allrounder Kaushalya Weeraratne, who played in a few one-day internationals, was injured and then not even thought of.  For someone who coached D S de Silva (never the sort to hand out easy praise) described as the coming Lance Klusner of Sri Lanka cricket, the all rounder’s consignment to the wilderness is sad — and hints of flaws in our coaching/development schemes. Lokuaratchchy was thought of as the most promising young prospect to partner Muralitheran — two years ago that is. Last year, playing for the Board President’s eleven against Nasser Hussein’s England at Moratuwa, the leg spinner from St Peter’s claimed four wickets and won a place in the squad for the first Test in Galle. Thilan Samaraweera, an off spinner, was preferred for the playing eleven — and given just seven overs in the entire match. Samaraweera is now a virtually established Test player, though not as partner to Muralitheran. Ironically, Samaraweera is the seventh batsman as a precaution against the failure of the top order. Lokuaratchchy, like Weeraratne, meanwhile resides in the forgotten world — not good enough even to play against Kenya.

If two years ago our juniors were second best in the world, it is rather mysterious why a rich supply of emerging players is not surfacing at the national level. The clues to this mystery are likely to be found not so much in the paucity of talent as an administration that is so be-devilled by politics and politicians that matters concerning cricket have become secondary. Sadly, the fine cricketing around here are treated with much the same respect as pearls are by swine.


Kiriella’s fine gesture...

Tea Board sponsors Busan ruggerites

By Ranil Prematilake

Ceylon Tea Board have confirmed the sponsorship deal with the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union to look after the interests of the national rugby team at the 14th Asian Games to be held from 29 September to 15 October 2002 in Busan, Korea.

A sporting gesture initiated at the instance of the Minister of Plantations, Lakshman Kiriella has thus brought in rupees one million five hundred thousand (Rs. 1,500,000/-) for a union running on a tight budget, to release itself of its burden of finding the finances to feature a national side at the biggest sporting event in the region.

The secretary of the S.L.R.F.U. Group, Capt Nalin. De Silva commenting on the obtainment of this sponsorship was a grateful man and thanked the Tea Board for making a contribution of this nature and showing interest in being involved with rugby football in this country. 

De Silva speaking to the Sunday Leader sports desk expressed the mode of expending these monies in building up a squad for the Asian games.

“The preparational work before leaving for the games is vital and the squad has to be put through a residential camp. Then comes the aspects of nourishment, medicine, insurance etc, all of which costs would have to be essentially borne by the union if not for this commitment by the Ceylon Tea Board which falls under the purview of the ministry of plantations. No doubt that the sponsors would also benefit by the promotional work involved in an event of this magnitude.” De Silva also said that only accommodation and meals would be met by the Games organisers. This sponsorship will cover up most of the expenses and is a real booster for us (the union) and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ceylon Tea Board for their contribution on behalf of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union, concluded the secretary.

Sri Lanka will be finding two teams, namely a “Fifteen-A-Side” and a “Seven-A-Side” team each at the Asian Games. The squad will comprise 26 players and four officials. This sponsorship means that the jerseys worn by the national players during the games will carry the Tea Board logo on the left hand sleeve.

Hashitha De Alwis, Director Ceylon Tea Board commented that this involvement with the national rugby team for the Asian Games was a manoeuvre which has succeeded purely due to the efforts of Minister Kiriella (whose good deeds during his reign as the top man in the sports ministry needs no explanation), an ardent follower of the game of rugby football. He further said that they were planning to negotiate a similar agreement for the Rugby Asiad scheduled to take place in the first week of November this year.

This news undoubtedly is an encouraging factor for the game of rugby football in this country, which still attracts tremendous spectator interest despite declining standards of performances and administration.

 

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