must not be blamed
Gamini Senadhira reporting from England
the axe will be ready to chop, the Lankan coach Dav Whatmore's head as
a result of Sri Lanka's sorry show on English soil, not only in the
power Test series but also in the Natwest one-day competition as well.
must not forget the fact that Dav was one of those who were
responsible for lifting Sri Lanka from nowhere to the summit of the
world's one-day ladder in 1996, when the Lankans pocketed the Wills
Cricket World Cup sans much fuss, winning all their games handsomely.
Dav was shown the door out, he was again recalled to guide the Lankans
out of the troubled waters in the recent past.
did his job quick admirably, and helped the Lankan skipper, Sanath
Jayasuriya and his outfit to become the Asian Test champions with nine
consecutive victories to their credit.
BCCSL had been experiencing rapid changes in its administration as a
result of politics getting involved in a game that has brought not
only honour and fame, but also big money to a nation that had been
struggling to survive.
big gun's greed for their personnel prestige and glory, today has
resulted in a team that was on top, crashing to the bottom as no
cricket supporter in Lanka had ever expected.
do not blame Dav Whatmore for other people's sins. He tries to push
his team to win back at least a bit of their lost prestige even if
Lanka is pushed out of the Natwest final at Lords on July 13.
quite naturally, will be desperate to turn around their flagging
fortunes with a solid display against England at Leeds on July 2 and
India at Edgbaston on July 6. Their failure to achieve it will
definitely see them out of the final.
comments on the eve of Lanka's clash with England at Leeds prove that
the coach is yet trying to give the much needed oxgen to a dying side
"We are not far away from getting our groove. If you look at the
level of fight, then it is quite evident, that the team shows a desire
to win. What we need is to give ourselves a little bit more of a
chance, score a few more runs at the right time and take the fight to
the opposition to get a winning result".
was so near, but so far
and the Lankan skipper, Surely must be most disappointed to see that
their gutsy efforts at Leeds against England to prove that they are
proven herocs bruised and battered but not yet knocked out disappeared
in to the dark clouds that surrounded Headingley.
whirlwind 112 in 87 balls with five sixes and nine fours on a rain
affected strip, a score of 241 runs in 32 overs, a somewhat of an
impossible target, still failed to produce a successful result. Why?
The Lankans are yet, not cool in crisis. The wrong bowling changes,
fielding, passengers on the field, wasting time on a quickly
deteriorating light, that will result in the opposition being adjudged
the winner - all should be accepted factors that again proves that we
just cannot hold a candle to the Englishman in their own den.
Sri Lanka cut cricketers of the calibre of Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan
Mahanama, Aravinda de Silva, pointing out that they are too old to be
in the profession, England's wicket keeper batsman again proved that,
he at 38 years, still can be a match winner.
let those who were out for the blood of many a knowledgeable and
efficient cricketer of Sri Lanka answer for the nation's sudden
debacle on the cricket arena. Sri Lanka in now, certainly out of the
I know that Aravinda de Silva at 36, is yet better than Nuwan Soysa
and Aviska, on the field.
is gratis, but-at what cost?
T M K Samat
of the divisiveness that has long dogged local rugby, officials cannot
reach unanimity on the question of whether Sri Lanka should or
shouldn't compete in the Commonwealth Games sevens tournament, this
month in Manchester.
country was not on the organizers' original list of invitees, but was
included when Zimbabwe dropped out. ''We were told of our inclusion
some three weeks ago,'' said Harsha Mayadunne, President SLRFU. It is
an all-expenses-paid trip and the union saw it as manna from heaven.
The invitation was promptly accepted. The team is scheduled to leave
on July 28 and return around August 10 _ but not before quite some
the Caltex league season in progress, the union's decision was always
going to attract criticism. Not surprisingly the first dissenting
voice heard was that of Kandy Sports Club, the leading contender for
the league title. The reigning league and knockout champions stand to
lose at least three key players, Sanjeewa Jayasinghe (the national
sevens skipper), Sajith Mallikaratchi and Radhika Hettiaratchchy
during the near fortnight the national team will be away. CR and FC,
another contender for league honours, is also likely to voice concern
as it also is expected to have quite a few of its better talents in
the 12-man squad.
is our duty to pick the best squad _ and you can't do that without
choosing the best players from the two clubs playing the best rugby
currently,'' said Tikiri Maramabe, chairman selectors. '' The three
Kandy SC players (Jayasinghe, Mallikaratchi and Hettiaratchchy) are
must selections _ they're so good.''
first sight, the issue looks to be an old hat _ of Kandy SC putting
club before country. In these commercial times, the fashionable clich‚
is, 'do as the paymaster says'.
club or country debate is a touchy one, though why it is brought to
the platform at all is baffling. Playing sport, after all, is all
about striving to represent your country. But attitudes have changed,
specifically after the handing of monthly envelopes became as
customary as the traditional after-match beer.
the protestations by the best paymasters in town, there are genuine
fears that they would insist on having first call on their national
players, which means they wouldn't be available for national training.
This could mean that either 1/ choosing Kandy SC players despite their
absence from national training or 2/ go to the Games without them.
Either way, the Manchester-bound squad isn't going to be the best, in
terms of talent and preparation. National practices, by the way,
haven't yet commenced, and indications are that the squad would have
undergone roughly two weeks of togetherness in training. Preparation
for the inter-club sevens is far more comprehensive.
be fair, the SLRFU's helplessness to make better arrangements deserve
some sympathy. The invitation was thrust on them only the other day
and given the limited time, a perfect arrangement was never going to
be possible. Even so it will be hard to prevent charges that
Manchester is no more than a gratis holiday. That charge could've been
shrugged off, but for the fact that Sri Lanka isn't quite spoken of in
glowing terms in international rugby circles. It is not on the IRB's
list confirmed invitees for many of its sevens tournaments and,
contrary to expectations, was denied invitations to the Singapore and
Malaysia sevens of this year. This was despite making a reasonable
impression against teams like Scotland and Wales in HongKong and Dubai
respectively. Whether Sri Lanka can make a better impression in
Manchester (including powerhouses like Australia, New Zealand,
England, Scotland, Wales, South Africa and Fiji) is doubtful.
union, of course, will dwell on the virtues of international
experience, but here, it is a matter of preserving the little
credibility it still holds with the IRB. Showing the flag in
Manchester is well and good, but disgracing it can only damage
whatever future the country has in international rugby.
Sanna out of this hole
the breathtaking butchery of Jayasuriya didn't make a difference: Sri
Lanka again lost Tuesday. So, now there seems little else for
Jayasuriya's men to do but pack bags and look homewards. The incurable
optimists, of course, will refuse to write-off a place in the NatWest
final Sunday next. Technically, this is a possibility. Should Sri
Lanka win all of its three remaining matches and one of its two rivals
(at the time of writing both have two wins and a draw each) lose all
of theirs, then the final is possible. But this is stretching the
limits of possibilities a bit too much. Rationally, Sri Lanka's
qualification remains more in fiction at this point of time.
that seeming fiction is to be fact, then, Jayasuriya's men will have
to show the sort of grit and courage that make war heroes. Those
virtues have been conspicuous by their absence, never more glaringly
than on Tuesday night. 241 in 32 overs is an impregnable fortress and
if that was surrendered, then surely there isn't a case for our
presence in the final. So, the sad saga continues. The team, after
all, has yet to come out of the hole it fell into on that devastating
afternoon of May 30, the first day of the Second Test that was
eventually conceded on the fourth afternoon in Edgbaston. An imminent
draw in the next Test promised some redemption, but in allowing
England 50 runs from 30 legal deliveries, and the series, 2/0,
confirmed the team's disability to climb out of the dumps. Tuesday
only provided reconfirmation.
Test series conceded, there was much talk of turn-around in the
shorter tri-nation contest, but it has remained just that - talk.
Despondency from defeat apparently is an incurable ailment as
far as our team is concerned. It began, if you remember, with the thrashing at the hands of
Pakistan in the Sharjah final in mid April. Sri Lanka had been
unbeaten until then in Sharjah, having arrived in the desert-city as
the recently crowned Asian Test champions and Test-win no.9 just inked
into the history books. A
month in England and that splendiferous memory is all but dead.
reasons for the shambles in England have been wide and varied.
Opinions will differ, but a common thread runs through the lot:
Muralitheran's injury. It isn't an irony that the beginning of the
decline coincided with the minute the ace bowler made a horizontal
departure from the Sharjah playing field. Since then, the team's state
of wellbeing has been pretty much the same as that of a family
deprived of its breadwinner. While the indispensable qualities of the
genius are unquestionable, there clearly was a helplessness to accept
the fact that, with or without Muralitheran, the world has to move on.
As was the case in Sharjah that April afternoon, the sense of futility
in living in a world without Muralitheran shadowed the team in
England. Where other teams would strive to turn misfortune to triumph,
like England did without Caddick and Gough, Sri Lanka drifted with the
tide rather than row against it. It has to be quickly added however,
this wasn't intentional reluctance, but more a state of mind
conditioned by the team's years-long dependence on the ace.
does happen in the aftermath of a failed series, much of the blame
will be placed at the door of the captain. And it won't be a small
pile that will be left at Jayasuriya's door. The Sri Lankan psyche
isn't quite known for patience or rationality, and minds pickled in
politics can only be damn side worse. So any calls for Jayasuriya's
head wouldn't be altogether surprising given that his leadership in
England wasn't unflawed. All the negative aspects of his captaincy
have been dwelled upon to a point of exhaustion by critics, reputed
and sundry. His inability to inspire through example, the negativism,
the un-imaginativeness, his softness... the list is unending.
however, have spared a thought to the harsh situation Jayasuriya was
placed in, precipitated largely by the injury to Muralitheran only
days before the English tour. To recover from a disappointment of such
brutal suddenness isn't easy, if not impossible. It is easy to blame
it on Jayasuriya, arguing the responsibility is his' to inspire other
bowlers to fill the void of an attack without or with an one-armed
Muralitheran. But that is less than half the truth and ignores
historical facts or refuses to apply them in this context. The fact is
Muralitheran has been the sole bowling reason for all of the country's
successes since his entry in the early 1990s. Really, dwelling on the
importance of Muralitheran is superfluous here.
the indispensability of one of the world's best off spinner, if not
the best is unarguable, it logically follows that without him, the
team is going to struggle. And Jayasuriya's men did. The impact (of
the sudden realization that they will have to do without Muralitheran)
had on the minds of Jayasuriya and his men haven't got the
appreciation it deserves. His 400-plus-wicket haul is, after all, more
than what all his fellow bowlers, past and present, have managed.
Clearly, the thought that he wouldn't be on the field did cause a
mental paralysis, which is why Vaas and Zoysa probably weren't the
bowlers they were expected to be. There will be arguments that they
didn't put the ball in the right spot or in directions unaligned to
the field placements, which, with a functioning Muralitheran, they
consistently did. It is an undeniable fact that our attack for over a
decade has been built around Muralitheran. Remove the pillar and there
was always going to be a serious dislocation _ mental and physical.
problem was further compounded by the controversy that erupted no
sooner than Ruchira Perera had claimed two wickets in two balls in the
first Test. The team sank deeper in despondency. Probably nations
toughened by a longer history in Test cricket could've battled again
these crippling odds, but it's a bit much for a country just 20 years
in the real world _ more so with a team yet negotiating a transition.
At times the team of the new millenium did outstrip the deeds of
Ranatunga's formidable outfit of the 1990s, but clearly, it has yet to
acquire the experience, and with it consistency, to battle out of
crunch situations. England 2002 is a new lesson learnt.
Ranatunga would've done better is subjective. But comparisons are
unfair, as the situations each was placed were different. Of course
there were times Ranatunga too coped without Muralitheran, but on
those occasions victory wasn't achieved either. But what Jayasuriya
had to contend with on this tour, Ranatunga never had to. The present
leader undertook the country's first ever three-Test series in
England, and at the unkindest time of the season, especially for
cricketers from the tropics. And given the string of misfortunes that
had to be endured, Muralitheran's injury not the least of them, it is
doubtful a captain by another name could've done better.
change of administration in mid- tour didn't help relieve the burdens.
Team spirit is an unexplainable thing, but any lack of it is easily
identifiable. Jayasuriya's air of loneliness, for example. That a
captain and his team ought not to be influenced by changes in the
boardroom may be a nice old theory, but the reality is different _
more so when we have administrators who are wary about not treading on
political corns. One does not have to be an exceptional intellect to
understand that frictions at the top inevitably reflect at the lower
levels, be it in corporate or state governance. In the case of the
board, the friction over who calls the shots _ Chairman Hemaka
Amarsuriya or the politically powerful Thilanga Sumithipala _ is
that rivalry, one way or other has infected the players is difficult
to say. But this much is fairly certain: the Sri Lanka dressing room
isn't the happy place it was not long ago. The body language on the
field says so _ the high fives aren't the spontaneous expressions of
joy they used to be, neither is the embracing warmth among the
players. These things don't happen without reasons. One story doing
the rounds is that Jayasuriya was unhappy with the one-day squad
selections, hinting the absence of a meeting of minds with selectors.
The story is given some credence by the late changes made to the
original squad, reportedly at the behest of the sports minister. It
wouldn't be wrong to think, as is popularly rumoured, the skipper
himself spoke to the minister and had the squad re-changed. To be
critical of Jayasuriya for getting in touch with the minister, if he
did, is justifiable. But there's a question to be asked before he is
judged. Is there any one in the present interim committee he could've
spoken his troubles to? To be fair, the new administrators were
appointed only the other day and establishing the crucial rapport
between players and officials requires a longer period of time. The
previous interim committee, it has to be said, maintained a meaningful
relationship with the players. This may not be the only reason for the
team's string of remarkable performances under the previous regime,
but it has to a crucial one.
hasn't been the best of tours in many respects, the sagging team
spirit the most worrying. Looking ahead, it is worth noting that when
the Sri Lanka team leave for South Africa in late October they'll
arrive back only after the February-March World Cup. In between the
two journeys to South Africa is a one-month one-day series in
Australia in January. Being four-five months away from home can easily
grate the nerves and tax the patience of men pining for home company
and comforts. God forbid the irritants of the ten-week tour of England
accompanying the team on this four-five months journey of two
continents. It begs the present board to investigate, identify the
points of friction and then condition minds for what will be an
odyssey, climaxing with the World Cup. Cool heads rather than angry,
enflamed minds are required to help Jayasuriya's men out of the hole
they tumbled into some three months ago in Sharjah.
Night - 2002
annual reunion of Trinity College OBA, Colombo branch to felicitate
the Bradby in Colombo.
CR & FC, Longden Place.
Saturday 13 July
7.30 p.m. onwards.
and dinner stalls at club rates
Corner, Giant Screen, Games and DJ Music
your tickets: Horace Jacob 681220, Sharm De Alwis 910180, Andrew
Thevathasan 647567, Anil Goonatilake 300437, Romesh Jayawardena
434488, Prabath Harshakumar 329681, Anura Ratnawardana 577943.