search for self-belief
on the world: we're ready. Not quite in those very words, but
that was pretty much the message from skipper Marvan Samson
Atapattu as the Sri Lanka team set-off on their ICC Champions
Trophy campaign in England.
exact words: "We have the confidence and the spirit to
face any side on any given day." Clearly, optimism is on
a high, which is the ideal state of mind to be before the
battles. Atapattu, of course, must know that
"confidence" and ''spirit" alone won't win
matches. But that's not for him to say at this point in time.
Shrewdly, the 33-year-old pragmatist rather dwells on the
tangible, which presently is his team's historic conquest of
South Africa. It does make sense to squeeze out all that is
there to take from the stunning achievements of a few days ago
and keep confidence on high fire. After all, victory's
confidence lasts only until the next battle has begun.
part of the Sri Lanka team since 1990, and doing duty under
four different captains, the long experience has surely taught
Atapattu that the chasm between promise and achievement isn't
easy to bridge. He has seen more than once in the past
pre-tour optimism dissolve into anguish - no better example
than the 2002 tour of England. They went to battle with
confidence brimming, from ten successive Test victories, but
alas, that counted for nothing: The series was lost
that sort of history, it is excusable to think that Atapattu
might have shot his mouth off. But his nature is not given to
making empty boasts. He knows that there's every chance he
might have to eat back his words, and if he has to, so be it.
Because, the thinker he is, the intent of his words has to go
beyond this two-week tournament. Since assuming overall
leadership last April, the studious approach to his job is
clearly visible. In the 14 years as a player, doubtlessly, he
has formed ideas of his own on the dos and don'ts required to
meld a winning unit. Obviously there's a heap of dos to take
from Ranatunga's 1996 World champion team, which, though not
one of the eleven, he was a member of that squad. As well,
there's much good to derive from Jayasuriya's outfit that won
a sequence of ten Tests.
between those peaks, there were also times spent in the
valleys - and so, surely he must've deduced reasons for those
ups-and-downs. At the time of posting those ten Test wins,
Jayasuriya's men spent some months in the second rung of the
Test rankings. But a few months and a few series later, his
team plummeted to below sixth. Of course, one of the reasons
for the descent was the incapacity to cope with the differing
conditions overseas. But then, even winning on home shores,
too, became difficult, as happened last year. He has probably
concluded that a lack of talent and ability had less to do
with fortunes' vagary as state of mind.
apparently, was born the words: bring on the world, we're
ready. He is intelligent to know that confidence and
self-belief are two different things. Confidence born of
success can easily be killed-off by a defeat that follows.
Self-belief is sterner: it removes the definition of defeat
from the mind; there's no easy surrender, no capitulation in
the face of crisis. These distinctive features of self-belief
haven't quite been the characteristics of Sri Lanka cricket.
Atapattu wants to give his team a different profile by taking
confidence, in this case accrued from successes against S.
Africa, to the further point of self-belief. Evidence of that
is plentiful. Let's take his one-day leadership. The Asia Cup
triumph stands out, and that it was achieved with practically
the same players of four-five years ago, bar Mahroof and
Malinga, is an obvious reflection of Atapattu's ability to
inspire his men - to believe in themselves. Another example:
the one-day success in the Caribbean, 2/1 - two wins wrenched
out from the jaws of defeat, achievements that might not have
been but for self-belief.
the Test captaincy was added on to his list of duties,
Atapattu's influence on the team became even more profound.
The whitewashing of Zimbabwe's second-stringers isn't much to
trumpet about, but it did get Atapattu's leadership off to an
auspicious start. The series against Australia, in Australia,
might have been lost 1/0, but in performing far better than
was expected, mind you without Muralidaran, Atapattu's
captaincy perceptibly was directing his team to a different
destination. Confirmation of which was provided by the
outstanding gains obtained from the series against the South
is nice to think the winning ways of Atapattu's men will
continue in England. Recent statistics suggests it should: 15
of the last 16 matches have been won. But there are some hard
facts that ought to temper high expectations, none more
significant than the English conditions. Speak of them, and at
once images of the sufferings and humiliations in 2002 leap to
mind. In cold, damp conditions, Sri Lanka were thrashed out of
sight in two Tests and the one-day triangular, including
thought that then it was May and now it's September is
comforting. Both, officially, are summer months, but May can
so easily be yet the cold days of winter and autumn's chill
can descend in a hurry in September. Just how Sept 14 (v.
Zimbabwe) and 17th (v. England) turns out will be known on the
day itself. The England match will be played closer to the
north, where the winds can be most chilly. Atapattu's hope
will be to have the sun on their backs. If not, Atapattu's
motivating skills will be tested in trying to get his men to
put mind over matter.
advantageous to be playing Zimbabwe before England, presently
on the crest of a wave of success. Atapattu, of course, knows
the perils of assumption, even against the lowly Zimbabweans.
It's best to set a benchmark for Zimbabwe game - that is to
try and overcome them by a better margin than what England did
last Friday. And take that psychological advantage in to the
make-or-break game of Sept. 17. A lot will ride here on how
much our top six batsmen (Gunawardena/ Jayantha, Jayasuriya,
Atapattu, Sangakkara, Jayewardene and Dilshan) will
contribute. It would be wonderful if they can continue to
prosper they way they did in the series against the South
Africans. But that won't be easy on the seaming English
pitches against the likes of Harmison, Gough and Flintoff.
there's no reason to think what England seamers can do, ours
can't. Vaas, Zoysa, Mahroof/ Malinga/Fernando. All of them
have experienced English conditions, and fortified with their
newfound confidence, one hopes they'll be potent enough to
cause anxiety in the English batting.
cricket, though, is a game conceptually not far removed from
snakes and ladders. So, just as much England can win Friday
next, so can Sri Lanka. Of course, clinching the ICC Trophy
will provide the ultimate joy. If, however, Atapattu's men
return without it, but with self-belief stronger, then, that's
what would be all right for the future.
launch pad of Asian under 14 series
Lanka was chosen to kick-off the Asian Under 14 Series, a new
development initiative for Asia by Australian Open, an arm of
Tennis Australia, in association with the Asian Tennis
Gee, the Asia/Pacific Marketing Manager for Australian Open,
said that the new series will be made up of eight tournaments
to held in five regions in Asia, and the September 21-25 event
on the SLTA courts, Green Path, would be the launch. ''The
honour of opening the series went to Sri Lanka because its
president, Suresh Subramaniam, was the first to bid for an
event," said Gee, who was in Colombo last week to give
the SLTA the organizational guidelines.
Lanka is one of two tournaments allotted to South Asia by
Australia Open; the other is New Delhi. Similarly, Beijing and
Seoul are venues for the East Asia sector, with Bangkok and
Manila playing host to S.E. Asia's countries. Qatar and
Uzbekistan will host the West and Central Asian sectors
respectively. Future events will be rotated among willing
Colombo event, as well as New Delhi's, will be open to players
from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan and
Sri Lanka. The boys and girls singles champions of each
tournament will eventually play in the Asian Series final in
January-February in the prestigious Melbourne Park, venue of
the Australian Open Grand Slam. As well, they will be invited
to compete the Australian Under 14 National championship in
aim of the series basically is to develop tennis in the Asian
region by giving more opportunities for the juniors. The
Australia Open is offering the 16 winners (from the eight
tournaments) an all-expenses tour of Australia to play in the
Asian Series final. That's just one of the prizes," said
Gee. "The more valuable one will be the access to the
Australian Grand Slam, where they could likely share the same
dining table with a Federer, Roddick or Agassi. There's a lot
of inspiration a junior can get out of meeting their
Australian Open Grand Slam event dates back to 1905. One of
the reasons why Tennis Australia created the Australian Open
in the late 1990s is to fulfill its responsibilities to
countries in the Asian and Pacific region being the Grand Slam
country of the region. ''We are one of only four countries in
the world that have been given Grand Slam status. And the
Australian Open is the Grand Slam for Asia/Pacific, and we
realize we have to commit ourselves to development of the
sport in the regions. The Asian under 14 series is one those
responsibilities we are fulfilling," said Gee.
Open is also offering another incentive to the singles
champion of the annual Asian Championship: a wild card to the
main draw of the Australian Open Grand Slam. "We know a
career in professional sport gets less priority than studies
in this part of the world. By giving the Asian champion a wild
card to the main draw of our Grand Slam, hopefully, will
contribute to altering attitudes to professional tennis in
Asia," said Gee.
Colombo event next week will feature four events _ singles and
doubles for boys and girls. The main draw for the singles will
be 32 players and the doubles, sixteen.
story in the way only Bertie can tell it
book on cricket by Bertie Wijesinha was long over due. He was
the country's best cricket writer in the 1950s and 60s, as
readers of the now defunct Ceylon Observer of those days will
vouch. He was also Sri Lanka cricketer from 1948 to '56, and
his playing days with the SSC prolonged into the early 1970s.
He had, no doubt, many stories to tell from all those long
years spent on the playing fields. So, it was only natural to
look forward to a book from Bertie.
long last that book arrived a fortnight ago: Love of a
Lifetime (Publisher Sidath Wettimuny. Rs.500). Its' lateness
makes it all the more welcome, especially to those of us
who've long admired his writings.
prior to the book's launch a fortnight ago, told me that his
writing would trace the growth of game here from beginning to
the present. The book at hand, it was a happy discovery that
history doesn't preponderate the book. As I did suspect, much
of the 194 pages is devoted to the era he knew and played in -
of players of the 1940s and 50s and of the idiosyncrasies of
those who he knew more intimately.
of them was Lucien Edward de Zoysa, his twin commentator on
radio for decades. A chapter of eight pages is given de Zoysa,
entitled Man for All Eventualities. And a delicious anecdote
from the 1949 tour here by the West Indies speaks of one of
those de Zoysa-eventualities. The West Indies of that year had
Prior Jones and Trim who had struck fear in the hearts of
batsmen the world over, as the likes of Hall, Griffiths,
Marshall and Holding did in later years.
Bertie tell the story himself: The Ceylon team, selected in
some hurry, (for the first game in Galle) had only one opening
get your pads on," came the command of the Skipper who
knew Lucien well.
Me!" pleaded Lucien.. And so he went out to the
'slaughter' as he called it to face Jones and Trim. His
partner, averred de Zoysa, played the 'dirty' on him by going
to the safe end of the first vital over.
looked worse when he noticed wicket-keeper Clyde Walcott
standing half way to the fence!
point of this interlude is that when it came to the (next)
match in Colombo Lucien reverted to his rightful place - at
in turn provoked Walcott to remark: ''Number one in Galle!
Number eleven in Colombo? Mighty strong batting side!"
Wijesinha's way of telling a story. And that's how he relates
his stories of past greats Derek de Saram, M Sathasivam, Ben
Navaratne, Sargo Jayawickrema, C I Gunasekera et al., replete
course, to maintain the faade of beginning-to-now history, an
omission of the Sri Lanka cricket's finest hour that day in
1996 would be a grave error. Wijesinha has a two-page text on
it, in which he hands Arjuna Ranatunga a tremendous tribute.
He writes: Ranatunga was the equal and would bear comparison
in performance and influence for Sri Lanka cricket with C K
Nayudu of India, Frank Worrel of the West Indies, Imran Khan
of Pakistan and, perhaps, Sir Donald Bradman of Australia, all
of whom shaped their countries' cricket destinies.
describes Aravinda de Silva as a ''modern day wizard",
and ranks him ''one of the leading batsmen in his generation
in the World; Tendulkar, Azaruddin, Lara, Inzamam
to Ranatunga, de Silva and the first ever Lords Test, Sidath
Wettimuny's Test really, are as expected not sparkling as
those anecdote-filled stories of players of Wijesinha's era.
is unfortunate that Wijesinha, with his exceptional writing
skills and knowledge acquired as player and coach, doesn't
write on the game now. Had he, his comments would certainly
have served modern cricket well. Cricket has many columnists
these days, but few as admirable as the ones penned by Rohan
Wijeyaratna. Cricket deserves another columnist of that kind;
I can't think of anyone better than Wijesinha to fill the
void. But then the call of the pen is less appealing than feel
of bat and ball on palms. At 84, Wijesinha is yet a coach - at
the SSC Junior Academy. Cricket is his love of a lifetime.
racing brings Pannala alive
showers of blessings began to drop as the picturesque Pannala
track began the countdown. for what was to be a spectacular
motor racing event in the annals of the sport in Sri Lanka.
And on cue, .sharp (just 2 mts to go) at 10 am on a balmy
Sunday, 5 September, the President of the AMRC, Trevor
Reckerman switched on the start lights that set off what will
be an historic motor racing meet, in motion.
Director, Bri Ponnambalam took over from there and ran all of
the 11 events (with concurrent events too) in his inimitable
clockwork style. Not for a moment did the race organization
falter, events after event, run to schedule, so much so, that
motor sports veterans like Mr. T B Herath were heard to say
'looks like we have turned the corner'.
the track, the excitement was surprisingly muted, but several
events brought out the challenge in its classes. Rohan De
Silva and Rizvi Farouk battled it out in the Formulas,
conceding one each to the other, as did Dinesh Deheragoda and
Riyaz Farook in the Super Cars. The final event indeed brought
the curtain down with a flourish, when a downpour slowed the
race down, and Dinesh cautious in the slippery conditions,
gave way to Riyaz who dared to win in a fitting thriller.
Richard De Zoysa, the starter aptly commented that it was the
conditions that "separate the men from the boys." In
between, Dinesh Jayawardane, got the better of Elly Gerson in
the Group SL-N event, after a cat and mouse contest, when
Gerson left the racing line and settled in the sandbags.
the track, the event organizers had rewritten the script The
gates were more orderly, the paddocks more streamlined, and
the centre island more out of the society pages. Sponsor
marques were all neatly laid out with CCTV binging all section
of the track to the guest, and slick catering providing a
F&B service which would have done a five star proud.
secretariat was run elegantly by the rose of the management
team Ramani Ponnambalam, whose precise and clinical approach
kept the race plan ticking. The media was well located and
well supported with prompt results released by the stewards,
except for two disputed events.
thus SPEED 2004, went very smooth and very fast, but also in
great fashion. Obviously, there were the touches of grandeur,
not just from the drivers, but also those from the back office
who know what they are doing. The Indian team of timers were
greatly impressed "this is an eye opener" they said,
promising to get an Indo-Sri Lanka meet on the cards soon.
those who may dwell on the shortcomings, all one could say is
there is infinitely more to look forward to when the SPEED
2005 Series gets going next year.
- Australia favourites
and Australia start as favourites to win the Champions'
Trophy, or whatever the latest shindig is called. Not that
anything can safely be predicted about a knockout tournament
except that it will have more surprises than an episode of a
soap opera. Each team plays two matches in a league whose
winner advances to the semi-finals. Any team losing a
match might as well catch the next flight home. It will
be all over in about the time it takes our beloved postal
service to deliver a letter.
a month the entire thing will have been forgotten. No sane
person can remember who won the last Champions' Trophy or even
where it was played. Still every respectable team in the world
will be playing - and a few dubious types- so the tournament
will have a measure of credibility and the cricket ought to be
fun provided the weather holds. But nothing of significance
can be decided by a competition played in an English autumn.
Australia has the strongest team and everyone knows it. They
proved the point in March 2003. These issues cannot be
revisited every five minutes.
might take the trophy because it has home advantage and has
been playing some fine cricket over the last few months. At
present England is more convincing in the longer version of
the game owing to a tendency to play jacks of all trades in
these briefer encounters. Nevertheless Michael Vaughan has a
spirited side at his disposal and can call upon an improving
fast bowler in Steve Harmisson and the game's
hardest hitting batsman in Andrew Flintoff.
has not won much in the last forty years, especially in
cricket in which it cannot spend most of its time playing
neighbours still recovering variously from the battle of
Culloden, the potato famine and the closing of the mines.
English sport is enjoying a revival largely due to the
discovery of a few outstanding rugby players and the emergence
in many sports of the sort of brilliant black athletes that
South Africans crave. "Daniel" Defoe is the
latest example-he scored against Poland last week whereupon
the players refused to talk to the benighted English press, a
manoeuvre that ought to be encouraged.-
the long run England will be the strongest cricket nation in
the world because it can combine without complication or
artificiality stoical anglo-saxons, a vibrant Indian community
and committed black Africans. South Africa has the same
opportunity but will first have to sack allits sports
administrators and start again.
Australians cannot be discounted in any competition. Collect a
few blokes off Bondi Beach and they will put up a fight so
long as they aren't drunken English tourists or Japanese
visitors worrying about sharks. Despite lacking what they are
pleased to call a " fair dinkum" all-rounder and
missing a certain leg-spinner the Australians will be hard to
beat provided they can overcome New Zealand in the first
lot of nonsense is talked about the Aussies. The idea that
they are constantly tossing youngsters into the pot is a
fallacy spread by them and swallowed by rivals. In fact
Australia sets a high store by experience. Apart from a few
obvious candidates , most of the current crop.established
themselves in their late twenties and in some cases in their
thirties. Of course the Australians are right. As the Bard
pointed out long ago the period between 14 and 24 is
invariably unproductive owing to an obsession with wenching,
drinking and music played by chaps evidently having a rotten
looking for a dark horse might consider a Kiwi team that is
desperate to confirm its powers by winning an international
competition. New Zealand and England might have challenged for
the World Cup had they not indulged themselves in fatuous
boycotts against danger and the monster Mugabe. Stephen
Fleming's team contains most of the game's leading alrounders.
After 30 years or one-day cricket it had been anticipated that
every player would be able to bat and bowl. Instead the game
has been reminded that it is difficult to master one craft let
challenge can be expected from the subcontinental sides.
Pakistan is ably led and coached and plays as a team which has
not always been the case. India will miss its best batsman but
can field Rahul Dravid and Irfan Pathan,
worthy winners of recent awards. Dravid was the right
choice as Player of the Year.because he produced numerous
towering operformances at crucial times. Pathan pipped Hasim
at the post, two youngsters who play with spirit and skill.
Lanka has been playing superbly at home but might not be as
effective overseas. Vaas has been in fine form
and deserved his recent recognition. . Murali must not
worry about his exclusion from the team chosen by the
worthies.He has missed some matches and Warne did outbowl him
when they pair met face to face. His record speaks foritself .
South Africa and West Indies include some top-class performers
but have been giving too much away in the field.
course five or six teams have a chance.
Yet it is a truth not universally acknowledged that
even minor fifty over tournamants are usually won by the
strongest and best prepared team. Australia is the strongest,
and England is the best prepared.
(Sri Lanka) Ltd, the largest retailer in the country will be
pledging their support to the sport of rugby yet again amidst
the Singer Sri Lankan Rugby Sevens being played in Kandy this
weekend. This milestone is the inauguration of the Singer
Pavilion at the Kandy Sports Club grounds in Nittewela today.
the Singer Sri Lankan Airlines Rugby Sevens which is the IRB
World Cup qualifier being played at Nittewela the organizing
committee was left with the task of upgrading the venue to IRB
Sri Lanka who has been the proud sponsor of the Kandy Sports
Club champion rugby team for the past four years came forward
in pledging their support to the game by donating funds for
the construction of a pavilion at the Nittawela grounds.
Amarasuriya, Chairman Singer, Sri Lanka will be inaugurating
the pavilion amongst a distinguished gathering of
International Ruby Board officials who will be down for the
World Cup qualifier, Kandy Sports Club Patron Malik
Samarawickrama and club. officials, the international media
covering the tournament and rugby fans from across the country
will be present for the final day play of the Singer
Sri Lankan Airlines Rugby Sevens.