Asian giants battle for supremacy
By Ranil Prematilake
It has been nearly seven years since a bunch of islanders
took the cricketing world by surprise pocketing the prestigious
world cup at Lahore.
Today they are in with a chance of refreshing memories of
that memorable triumph to a certain extent at the R. Premadasa
international stadium when the final of the third I.C.C. Champions
Trophy gets underway at 2.30 p.m.
Neighbouring India are on an all-time high and Saurav
Ganguly's men go as slight favourites to go one better from last
time around where the New Zealanders upset them in Kenya.
The 12-nation gala event held once in every two years
aimed at promoting the game globally, although having its share of
problems which is an inevitable factor in the conduct of a
tournament of this stature has been a tremendous booster for both
the organisers and the hosts for its future prospects.
The honour of hosting this tournament more importantly
will bring in a handsome cash benefit for the board of control for
cricket in Sri Lanka in the range of U.S. $ 200,000/= - a fact
which speaks volumes for the money involved in the game.
The first semi-final saw the Bengali tiger and co.
claiming victory from the jaws of defeat. Ironically, however, the
pathetic collapse did not even raise a hint of doubt as to the
aspect of match-fixing. Nevertheless the Lankans, taking a leaf
from the pro-teas' blunders did not press the panic button when
skipper Jayasuriya's stumps were shattered by a Shame Warne
India's formidable batting line-up which runs down
dangerously to the lower middle order leaves Sri Lanka with no
choice but to concentrate on strict discipline in bowling as the
remotest of waywardness could result in the ball making its way to
the ropes. The composition for today's final is certain to include
Sri Lanka's fastest man Dilhara Fernando in place of either
Pulasti Gunaratne or Kumar Dharmasena with Upul Chandana getting
the nod ahead purely on his fielding powers.
The Aussies started off impressively reaching the 50 run
mark in only 46 deliveries before
Aravinda de Silva showed what experience really means. The
36-year-old virtually initiated the Australian downfall as his
figures give ample evidence. Thus the vulnerability
of the Australians against quality spinners was once again
A worrying concern is the failure of the lesser known
teams to make any impact, though given a very limited opportunity.
Of the minnows, only the Kenyan batsmen made any impression
with two delightfully knocks from Steve Tikolo leading the way.
The wicket at the Premadasa stadium for the final is more
or less predictable as one being of a mix of uneven pace, slow
turn and run making difficult for even bastmen with a temperament.
The story was the same in the second semi final on Friday. In
other words experience would be a key factor to counter these
Elegant Kumar Sangakkara took the Australian attack
apart, following Jayasuriyra's departure, with able support coming
form Mr. Reliable, Marvan Atapattu. The pair ensured Lankas's path
towards today's' final.
The cricket crazy island is expected to come to a
standstill, this afternoon as the game commences with millions
glued to television sets all ever the country. Trump card Muttiah
Muralitheran whose visit to Jaffna for a friendly match earlier
this month which was received with tremendous
enthusiasm no doubt have the Sri Lankan
camp extended to the northern corner. Murali's quota of
overs will definitely have a bearing on a favourable outcome for
the host nation.
The final eleven for Sri Lanka will feature at least four
members of the Wills World Cup wining team namely skipper
Jayasuirya, Aravinda de Silva, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah
Saurav Ganguly, a man who does not take no for an answer
has voiced his confidence in taking the ICC champions trophy home
this time around, the only concern being their bowling attack
which lacks venom with the exception of a vastly improved Zaheer
Khan. The spinning duo of Anil Kumble and Harbjhan Singh have so
of expectations. In addition to the reputed trio of
Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid, the others Virendra
Shewag, Vangipurappu Laxman, Yurveraj Singh and Mohammed
Kaif become a nightmare for any opposition in the shorter version
of the game, one may wonder whether the glorious uncertainties of
the game leaves an exception in the form of this present lot.
As observed in the preceding games crowd support would be
divided in a way which will lend a decent backing for the Indians
and obviously a Lankan dominated packed house.
The availability of tickets for matches has been an issue
from day one of the tournament. It has to be stated that fingers
have been pointed towards the Sri Lanka's interim committee on
this aspect as being the responsible authority/.
What one fails to understand is that the BCCSL plays only
a nominal part in this tournament and it is the international
CC) that decides upon each and every issue as the
ultimate authority in the functioning of this tournament.
The probable teams for today's final are as follows:
Sri Lanka: Sanath
Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda. de Silva,
Mahela Jayawardena, Russel Arnold, Upul Chandana, Chaminda Vaas,
Muttiah Muralitharan, Dilhara Fernando and Kumara Dharmasena or
India: Saurav Ganguy, Vrendra Sehwag, Vangipurappu Laxman,
Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuveraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif,
Harbajhan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zhaeer Khan and Aashih Nehara.
Odds have shortened between the fancied and others.
Colombo opens out World Cup race
AS the lights go out on the ICC Champions Trophy tonight,
from here on till the Real McCoy comes along in February-March,
the closing 15-match tournament will, no doubt, figure in any
prospecting of the coming one-day World Cup. The message coming
out of the Colombo event is fairly clear: things aren't quite as
certain as it once seemed.
A month or so ago, the popular candidates for the world
crown were Australia, South Africa and Pakistan, in that order.
India, Sri Lanka, England and New Zealand were spoken of as no
more than would-be contenders for a semi-final place. And the West
Indies and Zimbabwe at best could throw up a surprise or two,
which, even if they did, would prove inconsequential. So it was
Under new light
There isn't any studied research supporting these
ratings, but on the flow of performances over the past year or 18
months, these assessments look nearer to being pragmatic than
preposterous. But after a fortnight in Colombo, it is advisable to
think afresh. The odds have surely shortened between the fancied
and others, with Pakistan, probably, ousted from the favourites'
South Africa too doesn't look as safe a bet as they did.
India's remarkable semifinal triumph from the brink of defeat over
the South Africans, Sri Lanka's authoritative semifinal
qualification and the quick disposal of Pakistan have put the
World Cup calculations under new light, especially the claims of
the two nations either side of the Palk Strait. First a look at
the group matches, though. Admittedly, India encountered an
English side without a few of their better players, but the
Indians' superiority was so complete that, clearly, even England's
best would've made little difference. And the Indians also
reconfirmed their one-day summer supremacy over England.
More significant than this dominance is the rapid
advancement of India into an exceedingly combative one-day unit,
based mostly on the strength of a batting lineup second to none.
Their bowling may not be quite up there with the best, but with
the immensely talented Kaif slotted at no.7, their batting lineup
have the capacity to make amends for any shortcomings in their
bowling, as they have done more than once.
They overhauled a target in excess of 300 last summer in
England. And last Sunday, in perspiring Colombo, a challenging
task of 270 was incredibly brushed aside inside 40 overs. So, no
target is going to be too big for the Indians. The prospects for
semifinal with South Africa, however, were never going to be rosy.
Sure enough the Indians came under paralyzing pressure. But in
critical times Ganguly's men showed they had the inner strength
befitting a champion side, battling back into contention from more
than a few adverse situations - none more than when South Africa
were 190 for one in 37 overs pursuing a target of 269. With the
noose around their neck, India, it seemed, turned round, pinioned
the hangman and made good their escape.
As for Sri Lanka, whose semifinal with Australia Friday
night remains unplayed at the time of writing this, no one
would've argued against a lowly rating for Sri Lanka after a
summer of shambles in England. Their chances would've been placed
above Bangladesh and the associate-member qualifiers and equal
with Zimbabwe and probably the West Indies. In the
six-matches-per-side competition with England and India,
considered no world-beaters then, Jayasuriya's men managed only a
single win, over England. But after the Tangiers triumph and a
fluent semifinal qualification here, Jayasuriya's men have become
another proposition. The semifinal is never going to be easy, but
whatever fate awaited them, the Sri Lankans' self-belief will be a
whole lot more than it had been before the tournament. More on
It would be foolish, however, to write-off the Colombo
losers; assumptions and the capriciousness of one-day cricket are,
after all, notoriously incompatible. The West Indies made more
than a subtle reminder their chances deserve better appreciation
by taking the South Africans to the last ball of the match before
conceding the popularly expected victory. And the Windies, in
effect, lost only because the sixth ball of the final over was a
wide. Zimbabwe, after reducing India to 70-odd for 5, were then
left to ruminate on what-might-have been.
Young Kaif, with a brave century, took India into the
280s, a target that Zimbabwe all but overhauled. In those matches,
the pendulum stopped just short of the West Indies and Zimbabwe.
Had it been otherwise, they might well have not been cooling their
heels in the final week in Colombo. But even so, they did enough
to feel less insecure for The event.
New Zealand finished far short of expectations, but
that's excusable. It was their misfortune to be grouped with
Australia, and the thrashing at the hands of the world champions
might have been more severe than they would've liked. But the
truth is that at least three of their better players were
unavailable. With their best outfit, including a fit Chris Cairns,
and the growing threat of new paceman, Shane Bond, the Kiwis might
just fly in South Africa. England, though mauled by India, can
find consolation in the fact that they were not at full strength.
With Gough and Flintoff back in the fold they have reason to think
they'll do better.
Kenya did more than Bangladesh and fellow
associate-member countries to show that they can do a little more
than make up the numbers in the World Cup. None of the minnows
came even within sniffing distance of their seniors opponents, but
Kenya did much to strengthen their claim for Test status - as much
through some admirable batting against South Africa and the West
Indies as the impoverished displays of Bangladesh.
The newest addition to the Test ranks, the Bangladeshis'
elevated status was again questioned after being bundled out for a
historic low of 77 by the Kiwis. It is logical conclusion: if
weaker Bangladesh are recognized so should Kenya.
That eventuality will put more problems on the table for
the ICC. A crowded Test-match calendar with 10 countries has
engendered quite some noisy moans and groans from the
participants, saying that the schedule is taxing. Kenya's
inclusion can further compound the problem. The ICC, of course, is
bent on globalization, and any decision to frustrate a country's
ambitions can earn it all sorts of accusations, exclusivity,
discrimination, whatever - the sort of dirt that wouldn't wash
with sponsors. Just how sensitive the world body is to the ways of
sponsors was best illustrated by the controversy that dogged the
Colombo event till nearly its start.
With Kenya's admission looking unavoidable it would seem
necessary to make the Test program more manageable for the
countries. The ICC might have to give a thought to some sort of
grading in the Test ranks. But that is another story.''
Closer home, a place in the final for Jayasuriya's Sri
Lankans would provide a huge stimulus, but if that doesn't
materialize, there are yet some positives to take from the
semi-final qualification. The new blending experimented in
Morocco, again proved a winning one, though Australia would've
provided the ultimate test. The medium pace combination of
Vaas-Gunaratne-Fernando is the most effective we've had in a long,
long while. It says a lot for the trio's worthiness that the
champion spinner Muralitheran has been virtually a forgotten
bowler until the 20th over has neared. Then Aravinda de Silva is
again in supreme touch and his occupation of no.4 has brought
profitability - and tranquility - that was never consistently
forthcoming during the years the old maestro lived in banishment.
His rehabilitation and return, visibly, has had a calming
influence on the team. Then there's the re-making of Jaysuriya,
who, after a summer of discontent, was determined to be another
leader. His modus operandi was simple: sort his own problems out
first. He has found his missing runs, and his leadership has
acquired a refreshing boldness. He is now less inclined to consult
others, taking his own decisions and making the team respond to
them. Loyalty of his subjects was something he never lacked
through good times or bad. He now functions in an air of
Of course, the conditions in South Africa, in comparison
to those here, will be as different as night and day. The likes of
Akram, Akthar, McGrath, Gillepsie, Lee, the lot, are going to be
doubly troublesome than they were in Colombo. But then Sri Lanka
could not have asked for a better five months - divine providence,
really - leading up to the World Cup. They would've played 10
matches, including two Tests and five ODIs, in many of the World
Cup venues in South Africa in October-November.
To Australia in mid Dec.
Then they fly off to Australia in mid December for a
10-match (13 if a qualifier for best of three final) one-day
triangular with the host country and England. At the end of that
tournament, the Sri Lankans fly directly to the World Cup. With
the fast pitches at the Premadasa Stadium now commissioned for
practice and the sustained exposure to the bouncy pitches of South
Africa and Australia, October to January, Jayasuriya's men ought
to have no hang ups taking on the likes of McGrath, Akram and
Spared of injuries and any mischievous undermining of
Muralitheran's confidence on the Australian-leg, Sri Lanka's World
Cup challenge will deserve respect. The chances don't look half as
bad as they were in the 1999 campaign. Repeating the 1996 campaign
in Rainbow country isn't exactly as unreachable as the fabled pot
of gold, either.
Surgery 'must' for
Sanath - Dr. Zylva
THE good doctor, Quintus de Zylva, Sri Lanka Cricket
Board representative in Australia, is in town _ and as ever
playing Santa Claus to local cricket. But he also has some
worrying news for Sri Lanka skipper Sanath Jayasuriya concerning
his troubled shoulder.
Having examined the effects of Jayasuriya's dislocation,
sustained in the Morocco Cup final last month, Dr de Zylva says,
"Surgery is a must _ it's up to Jayasuriya when he wants it
done. The Sri Lanka Cricket Foundation of Victoria, of course, is
there with all the help required." The skipper isn't quite
decided on the date, but some officials have suggested that he
undergo surgery soon after the present tournament as the recovery
to normalcy takes about six weeks. That will leave him fully fit
for the tour of Australia in Jan-Feb next year and the World Cup
that follows soon after. But there will be doubts over his
availability for the entire October-November series against South
Africa, though his joining the team mid-tour is a possibility.
The goodie: two schols
The goodie, meanwhile, in his bag this time is two
scholarships to one of Melbourne's most prestigious schools, Carey
Baptist Grammar School. Eligible candidates will be aged 16 years,
Year 11 students, be competent in written and spoke English and,
of course, be talented cricketers. The scholarship is for one
term, Jan 31 to April 11 next year, with the school providing
accommodation, uniforms and tuition fees.
"Internationalism is a part of the school culture
and it has students from many parts of the world. They have
offered two scholarships to Sri Lanka and have asked me to look
for suitable candidates. We have told the different old boys
associations in Melbourne to spread the news of the offer to their
schools and their recommendations are with me now. Tony Greig has
agreed to help me with the interviews and selections," said
Dr de Zylva, who is here to watch the ICC Champions Trophy
competition as guest of the Sri Lanka Cricket Board.
The scholarship is not all about playing cricket for the
school alone, according to Dr de Zylva. ''Studies will be serious
and won't be less important than cricket. The greatest advantage
is the exposure the Sri Lankan boys will get by studying and
playing in an international environment," said de Zylva.
The first step
The scholarship is the first step by the school to
establishing closer links with Sri Lanka. "The school has
plans of bringing out their cricket team to Sri Lanka next summer
and play matches against a few Sri Lanka schools. The parents and
teachers too are expected to join the tour, which should help the
tourism here," said Dr de Zylva, a former Kingswoodian who
migrated to Australia in the early 1960s.
Melbourne's involvement in Sri Lanka cricket became
deeper after the formation of the Sri Lanka Cricket Foundation of
Victoria in 1985. The Foundation was possible after a grant of
Aust.$ 12,000 was obtained from the Victoria state government,
thanks to the efforts of Fred Van Buren, a Sri Lankan who was then
a member of the Victorian Parliament. The founding trustees
included Dr de Zylva, Edward Gray of boxing fame and Bob Parish,
former chairman of the Australian Cricket Board.
The Foundation has been a solid backer of Sri Lanka
cricket. It can claim some of the credit for the successes of
Aravinda de Silva and Roshan Mahanama as the Foundation was
instrumental in securing contracts for them with leading Melbourne
clubs to play in competitive club tournaments. As well, many Sri
Lankan cricketers with serious injuries were mended in Melbourne
through arrangements made by the Foundation, notably Arjuna
Ranatunga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Nuwan Zoysa and more recently,
"Having the services of Dr David Young is a
tremendous asset. He is Melbourne's leading sport orthopaedic
surgeon and did such good job with Murali's fractured
shoulder," said Dr de Zylva. ''Obviously, we'll be requesting
him to attend to Jayasuirya as well and there's no reason why he
will say no. He is quite a fan of Sri Lanka cricket."
Asian Games starts
By Hishan Welmilla
The 14th Asian Games is ready to get underway from today
(29 September) in Busan, South Korea. The games will run for 16
days till 14 October at venues in Busan, Ulsan and other adjacent
cities located on Koreas's southeastern coast. Final set of
athletes of the 120-member Sri Lanka contingent left for Busan
A lot is expected from the Asian gold medallist and the
Olympic bronze medal winner Susanthika Jayasinghe. Jayasinghe did
well in the 14th Asian championships held in Colombo claiming two
gold medals in the women's 100m and 200m events. After a lapse of
eight years Sri Lankan sprint queen will look for a gold at her
pet event this time at the Asian games and is very much confident
in doing so.
She is in very good form after winning the women's 200m
finals at the super track and field meet in Yokohama, Japan and
also winning a bronze in her pet event finishing fourth in the
women's 200m finals at the same meet. She clocked 22.28 seconds,
which is her season's best timing. Jayasinghe won a silver in the
200m at the 12th Asian Games held in Hiroshima in 1994 and
Damayanthi Darsha claimed a bronze.
In addition to Susanthika the other medal prospect is
Asian gold medallist Sugath Tillekeratne. Tillekeratne who won a
gold and bronze at the last Asian Games in 1998 expects a tough
fight in his attempt to retain the Asian Games men's title. The
other Sri Lanka athletes are also expected to perform at their
best. The sports minister stressed that this time the athletes
should deliver the good results to consider themselves for future
prospects and hoped that the bitter experience at the last
Commonwealth Games should not be repeated when he met the Sri
Lankan contingent officially last week.
Sports and participating nations
An estimated 18,000 athletes, officials and journalists
from 43 OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) countries will converge in
Busan to participate and view 38 sports. Athletics, swimming,
archery, badminton, baseball, basketball, billiards, bodybuilding,
bowling, boxing, canvening, cycling, equestrian, fencing,
football, golf, gymnastics, and ball, hockey, judo, kabaddi,
modern pentathlon, rowing, rugby, sailing, sepak takraw, shooting,
softball, soft tennis, squash, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis,
volleyball, weightfting, wrestling and wushu will be the 38
Busan, the host city
Busan is the second largest city in South Karea. Located
on the southeastern tip of Korea, and it also the largest trading
part in Korea with a four million population. Busan is a beautiful
city with an area of 750 sqkm featuring beaches, hot springs and
attractions. Of the 13 stadiums, needed to stage the Asian Games,
the main stadium and 11 others were newly built, while existing
facilities were refurbished to meet the needs of the Games. The
main stadium was built on a 3330.000 square metre plot in Busan
and opened on July 2001. It is capable of accommodating 80,000
spectators and also used for 2002 score World Cup. Further, it
features a gymnasium, baseball stadium, swimming pool and a tennis
The emblem & the mascot
The emblem of the 14th Asian Games represents Taeguek as
a motif. It embodies the spirit of the city of Busan. It also
expresseds the development and the unity of the Asian people. The
mascot of the Asian Games is an ace gull, the city bird of Busan,
which emphasizes the dynamic image of Busan. The name of the
mascot is "Duria" which means "you and I
together" in Koreas and express the ideal of Games that
promote unity and partnership among Asian countries.
Eddie Grey canvasses
support for Susanthika
When our Susie is on the east track challenging the
world, for one fascinating moment, all Sri Lankans, wherever they
maybe in the world, are brought together, as one family. That is
the wonder. The magic of being Susanthika !
Eddie Grey domiciled in Melbourne, Australia is back on a
short holiday in Sri Lanka. The Olympic boxer and loyal Royalist,
highly taken up with the outstanding
performance of Sri Lanka's pride and Asia's fastest woman,
Susanthika, has canvassed support for her from his friends and Sri
Lankans in Australia.
At a simple ceremony held on Wednesday at the Colombo
Club, Hotel Lanka Oberoi, Gray made this presentation through the Duncan White Foundation which supports athletes of
Women's squad for
Star Trans, a premier freight forwarding company is
sponsoring the women's indoor cricket team on their world cup tour
to New Zealand which opens today.
The team participated in a Test series in India earlier
this year and comprehensively won the series 3-0.
Pictured here is Vanessa De Silva, captain women's squad,
Romesh Kaluwitharana, director sports, CICA accepting the
sponsorship from Chris Halangoda, managing director, Star Trans,
Colombo and vice captain Chamani Seneviratne.