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17th July,  2005  Volume 12, Issue  1

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Sports

Rain spoils day three

By Pelham Juriansz

Intermittent rain and bad light proved to be a spoiler on day three of what was expected to be a good day's play at the SSC grounds between the visiting West Indians and the home side, Sri Lanka.

If Chaminda Vaas took the spotlight on day two with a plucky 49, just missing out on a well deserved half century it was the rain and the poor light that took centre stage on this the third day of what is turning out to be an absorbing test provided the light stays good and the rain keeps away.

Only 14.4 overs were possible on this day and the West Indies met a tsunami of sorts when they were confronted once again with the swing of Chaminda Vaas who captured two wickets on the third afternoon when play only began at 1.10 p.m. West Indies resuming at 17 for 3(two of those wickets having fallen to Chaminda Vaas and the other to spinner Muthiah Muralidaran) were 21 when disaster struck. Two quick wickets and the visitors were up against it with the score reading a dismal 21 for 5. With half the side gone first innings debutant half centurion wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin joined skipper Chanderpaul to bring about a mini revival. A partnership of 27 between the two meant that the Windies crept along to 48 when spin wizard Muthiah once again got into the act and trapped the unfortunate Ramdin leg before for11.  

 The 50 of the West Indians innings came up in a laborious 150 mins with the going being tough, and after the umpires consulted once again, play was suspended at 3.25 p.m. with the tourists 59 for 6 and play was finally called off at 4.40 p.m.

West Indies now enjoy a lead of 116 runs with four second innings intact. If the weather keeps good on Saturday spectators are in for some good value for moment in an absorbing Test.

This being the First Test since in Sri Lanka since the tsunami hit the country last December two minutes silence was observed before the match began. Then the Interim Committee and the sponsors had a small opening ceremony to mark the 150th Test by the country. Past Test captains were present at this ceremony.

On the 1st two days of this 150th Test match at the SSC ground it was the West Indies who called correctly and called all the shots. Considered a rubbish team this team performed out of it skin and posted a good total of 285. At one stage, at the end of day one to be exact, the Windies looked like posting a total well in excess of 300 with skipper Chanderpaul at the wicket. But the Sri Lankan opening bowling pair of Vaas and Malinga Malinga ended with 4 for 71 while vaas dependable as ever took 3/35.combined well to make inroads into the batting.  

Sri Lanka started disastrously  losing 7 for 113, things looked bleak indeed, but the last three wickets with a blistering 49 from Chaminda Vaas who still looks good with the bat, and had received a promotion to number six, ahead of debutant Gayan Wijekoon, cracked 49 and Muralidaran (36) and Herath (24) swelled the score. The last three wickets took the score to 227 with Murali and Vaas involved in a partnership of 66 for the 9th wicket.

The West Indies pacies in particular troubled the batsmen and got plenty of lift and speed.  

 When the Windies batted a second time they were up against a charged up Vaas and an equally pumped up Muralitharan who seems to have recharged his batteries since the first innings. Vaas ended up with 4 for 12 and "Murali" with 2 for 17.

Scoreboard

West Indies 1st innings 285, Sri Lanka 1st innings 227.  West Indies overnight 17/3 contd.

N.Deonarine lbw Vaas 07, S. Chanderpaul not out 29, D. Smith lbw Vaas 00, D. Ramdin lbw Muralidaran 00, O. Banks not out 00,

Extras (B-8) -8 Score for 6 wickets 59.

Fall of wickets: 1-3(Marshall), 2-3(Morton), 3-15(Joseph), 4-21(Deonarine), 5-21(Smith), 48(Ramdin).

Bowling Vaas 12-4-12-4, Malinga 6-4-2-0, Muralitharan 11.3-6-17-2, Jayasuriya 06-1-20-0.


Fine tune 'a' cricket to precise national needs

by T.M.K. Samat

SRI LANKA'S 2/1 triumph over the West Indies in the just-concluded A series is not likely to get the credence it deserves - thanks to the winds from an acrimonious battle between the Caribbean Board and its cricketers blowing across here. 

The protracted turmoil over players' contracts went some way to influence the outcome of the Colombo series. The unwelcome winds first blew in soon after the visitors had performed quite splendidly to win the first 'Test'. In the next two 'Tests', though, they disintegrated quite dramatically - a crumbling that is difficult to explain away as another of cricket's glorious uncertainties. Rather, it had more to do with the unfolding events back home and its effects on those on duty in Colombo. After all, to be suddenly told that more than half the A squad would have to be forfeited to their arriving national team can't do a lot for morale, approaching the second 'Test'.

Not surprisingly, skipper Darren Ganga gave public expression to the disappointment caused by the enforced forfeiture. "We had a situation of where the entire A side was just split in half because of eight players having to go across to the senior team . it was very detrimental to the success of the team because we went on to lose that game (second Test) in exactly three days." Ganga's reasoning will surely find a lot of sympathy. But it would be unfair to conclude that his team, sundered and dispirited though it was, merely went through the motions under the white flag of surrender.

What the outcome might have been were the visitors spared of the mid-tour changes is pointless, as any hypothetical argument is. This much is certain, though: an exciting series was thrown down the sink.

Sri Lanka, however, would like to think that they earned the series-win, a thought that's unlikely to find ready acceptance. On the face of it they did win the second and third Tests - and the series - by the sort of convincing margins that suggests a lack of opposition will. But then it has to be remembered the home team had lost the first. And there's nothing quite as demoralizing as beginning a series with defeat. Neither should it be forgotten that the West Indies had all of their original selections for the second Test, and had to make-do with replacements for only the final Test. Ironically, the second Test was won with a day to spare and the third, with just eight balls to spare.

Undeservedly though, the many distractions will mist over what really was a fine achievement by Sri Lanka. It spoke a lot for the implacable resolve of Arnold's men that they battled back from behind to win the series.      

The most gladdening aspect of this win is, it follows two encouraging showings against the A teams of England and Pakistan this year. In both, Sri Lanka A fought back admirably to square the series. More so as our 'A' cricket hardly got the attention it deserves from administrators over quite some years. The neglect clearly was a product of the frequent change of administration - eight, including six interim committees, over the past six years. Either, past regimes didn't give the care second-string cricket deserves, or, if attention was given, incoming administrators tended to disregard it, only because it was an initiative of the previous regime. But that's not a new story.

Anyway, the Mohan de Silva administration of 2004-05 did wisely to give A series cricket the deserved priority; promptly five series for the year ahead were inked in, Michael Tissera was appointed manager and Australian Stan Nell, coach. The upshot: tied series with England and Pakistan and this win over the West Indies so far this year - by any measurement a praiseworthy job. If there's such thing as world rankings for international second elevens, then, our A team would likely earn a position higher than our national team's fifth place in the official Test rankings.

But international A cricket has a different perspective. It is about assisting emerging cricketers to make the crossing to Test cricket and so serve as an ongoing feeder to the national level. Given the absence of A series international cricket over the past few years and the resultant lapsing into idleness of our fringe players, the re-activating of A cricket, in theory, was going to be beneficial. And the results show that the investments in resources and time made in A cricket haven't been a waste. But whether it has been profitable is arguable.

There's no denying that A series does keep fringe players meaningfully occupied, as they must while pursuing bigger aspirations. But is it delivering what is desired, i.e. feeding the national team?  Given that it became a high-priority initiative only lately, a judgement on its success or otherwise will have to be reserved for another day. The signs are hopeful, though, not quite convincing.

It is true batsman Kalavitigoda, for the New Zealand series, and medium paceman Wijekoon, debuting in the current Test, graduated from A team. Their inclusions are welcome in so far as they help establish a corridor between A team and the national team, which is far more a credible passage than choosing from the club level, as was the case for long. Test cricket is quite another thing, as Kalavitigoda found out in Wellington, and was promptly demoted back to the A squad. Wijekoon, too, would come to realize there's some way to go before he can secure a place in the permanent cadre.

What this means is, the journey from A team to Test cricket is going to be a long, hard slog. That being the fact, it makes sense for administrators to tailor A cricket into serving more precisely the needs of the national team. That the careers of nearly half the present lot of national cricketers are nearing end doesn't need reminders. If you're looking for durability beyond the 2007 World Cup, then your count wouldn't go beyond Jayewardene, Sangakkara, Samaraweera and probably Dilshan, all in their 20s.  

The thought is a scary: even though the clock begins to wind down on Jayasuriya and Atapattu (J 'n A), no potential successors have yet emerged. vanDort looked a worthy candidate, but he was not persisted with despite reasonable success in a Test or two. But then, J 'n A is an indispensable pair. That being so, it's not the easiest of problems to sort out, and best left alone since J 'n A are doing a good job of it, most times.  But as the careers of J 'n A recede, the problem of questing their replacement takes on serious proportions - which gives Asantha de Mel's outburst last year about the stifling of emerging players by the team management some credence. There was much truth in what de Mel said, but the way he amplified it in public wasn't at all decorous. That's an old story.

Of course, a series against the likes of Australia is no occasion to experiment with replacement-candidates. But there are other countries suited for experimentation, the present series against the depleted West Indies, for instance, or the next, versus Bangladesh. And as said before, the experimentation ought to directly address future's needs - beginning with a serious search for future openers.

It is somewhat a travesty of justice that Russel Arnold, with a 44-Test log, has spent a year in the wilderness. He earned a recall to the squad for the ongoing Test series, but was one among the three left out of the eleven. His problem is breaking into a middle order that looks firmly established: Sangakkara, Jayewardene, Samaraweera and Dilshan - a lineup that's going to be around for a long, long time. In that scenario, there's nothing wrong about looking at Arnold as an opener for the future. He has the credentials for that role, the best being his century and half century in England in the final Test of the 2002 series. He came in as protection to the failing Jayasuriya.

Given that the SSC Test didn't quite run the way it was expected to, at least at the time of this writing, Arnold's inclusion for the Kandy Test isn't a guarantee. Sangakkara and Dilshan, relatively speaking, were the only specialists to acquit themselves on that dismal Thursday; Atapattu, Jayasuriya and Jayewardene were disappointing and Samaraweera self-destructed. All in all, the batting was thoroughly unconvincing - a consequence of the three-month holiday. That being the official explanation to the first innings failure, one can only assume the batting will remain intact for the second Test. Which begs the question: what purpose the A squad?

Selectors ought to insist on bold changes, in the batting particularly. If not the A and national teams will reside in two different, unrelated worlds - and that would be a prescription for disaster.


Sri Lanka nears davis cup promotion

SRI LANKA kicked-off their Group Three Davis Cup campaign in great style by notching convincing victories, without conceding a set, in their two opening encounters at Hong Kong's Victoria Park Tennis Complex in Causeway Bay.

On the first night, Wednesday, the Sri Lankans brushed aside bottom seed Qatar, 3 matches to nil, and duplicated the score line against Bahrain on the next day.

These wins mean that Sri Lanka retains its status as a Group Three Davis Cup nation for another year. As well, the country's promotion to Group Two is a realistic proposition. "We have three more matches to play - against Vietnam and the two top teams of the other group, which most likely will be Hong Kong and Malaysia. If we win two of those three matches, then, we would have won promotion to Group Two," said SLTA president Suresh Subramaniam, whose declared ambition was to achieve promotion to Group Two, from the Group Four it resided when he assumed SLTA presidency four years ago.

The four-member Sri Lankan team's dominance so far is illustrated by the fact that they have yet to drop a set, winning all their six matches in straight sets.

In their 3/0 rout of the Qatari challenge, 19-year-old Harshana Godamanne produced the most impressive performance. He disposed of Sultan Khalfan, 6/2,6/1 in about 35 minutes and then, in partnership with fellow teenager Oshada Wijemanne, 17, whipped Abdulla and Haijji, 6/1,6/1. Sri Lanka's no. 1 singles player, Renouk Wijemanne, had to beat off some stiff resistance from Mohammed Abdulla in the first set before winning 6/4. In the next set, however, Wijemanne, ran ragged his opponent to romp home, 6/0.

On Thursday night, Sri Lanka maintained their cracking form to bundle out Bahrainis, 3/0. Godamanne again played impressively to dispose of Abdul Rahman Shehab, 6/1, 6/4; Wijemanne won just as comfortably over Khaled Al-Thawadi, 6/2,6/4.

The doubles victory was, however, achieved the hard way, albeit in straight sets. Godmanne was rested and veteran Rajiv Rajapakse, playing in his first competition match, partnered Oshada Wijmanne. The pair had experienced some difficulties in combining in the first set, but still won 7/5. But in the next set their blending was more harmonious and won, 6/4.

Sri Lanka encounters their toughest opposition yet when they take on Vietnam late Friday night. "If you remember we lost to Vietnam in 2003 in Colombo. But our present team is a different lot, and if they can maintain the momentum of the past two days then I am confident that we can overcome the Vietnamese," said SLTA President Subramaniam, who saw his team's successes in Hong Kong.

RESULTS:

Sri Lanka beat bottom seeds Qatar 3 - 0 
Singles: Hashanah Godamanne beat Sultan-Khalfan 6/2, 6/1; Renouk Wijemanne beat Mohammed Abdulla 6/4, 6/0.
Doubles: Harshana Godamanne/Oshada Wijemanne beat
Mohammed Abdulla/Abdulla Haijji, 6/1, 6/1

Sri Lanka beat Bahrain, 3/0. 
Singles: Harshana Godamanne beat Abdul Rahman Shehab  6/1, 6/4; Renouk Wijemanne beat Khaled Al - Thawadi, 6/2, 6/4,
Doubles:  Rajive Rajapakse/Oshada Wijemanne beat  Abdul Latif Mohamed / Abdul Rahman Shehab, 7/5, 6/4.


Dejan creates history

By  Pelham Juriansz 

Dejan de Zoysa has become the first Sri Lankan to compete in a world motor sport final. A young man who has just turned 20, having left his alma mater, S.Thomas College, Mount Lavinia recently, Dejan has shown the traditional Thomian grit by performing at absolute peak and grave danger.

He has the distinction of being the youngest double international at 19 and thrives on balancing on that thin line between absolute peak and grave danger.

Sojourning back in time, to his debut race he recalls that he was plagued with adversaries where he was on his back brakes while throttling and this was corrected only in his third round of the Championship. He then had to face engine failure in Malaysia at the Sepang F1 circuit where he was running fifth in lap 2. Then in Thailand he was running fourth when a competitor who went off the track rejoined crashing in to Dejan's Formula wrecking his suspension. But when the going gets tough the tough get going.

So, despite this turn of events he has brought honour to Sri Lanka by qualifying for this spectacular world final in Bahrain to be held in December 2005.

But sad to say he lacked support from the corporate sector in terms of sponsorship, even though personal appeals have been made by the President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Sports to support this talented young sportsman.

Dejan who has a realistic chance of breaking into the Formula 1 circuit needs national support to get reach this pinnacle.

Dejan is also an oarsman of repute having won SAF games for Sri Lanka and is a recipient of the Thomian "Blue", which is the highest award for a Thomian sportsman. This award, which was awarded recently, was first given to cricketer Jeevan Mendis.

A young man of multiple talents, he is also a cricketer of repute, who has been coached by former England skipper Keith Fletcher.

Pelham Juriansz


Desire to remain forever young

Australian Cricketer Shane Warne with his wife Simone in 1995. 
Warne's marriage is on the rocks

Greatness requires a willingness to grapple with reality, and to accept responsibility for mistakes. Genius allows a man to inhabit a fanciful world of permanent adolescence. On the field the genius can write his own script. Off it, the magic is lost.

Shane Warne has been a cricketing genius, a player of outstanding commitment, a performer of the utmost brilliance who has had the courage to express his entire talent. He has failed, though, to distinguish between the artifice of the arena, where his legend has been built, and lift itself with its emotions and relationships and dependencies. Dietrich Bonhoffer argued that the mark of adulthood was the ability to control one's passion. Warne has failed that test.

Now his life has taken a turn that will provoke little surprise but universal regret. Warne is far more vulnerable than he appears. During a recent Test match he rang a friend to ask how his bowling was looking and, before any response could be made, provided the answer, which was, as usual, that he was bowling superbly and just could not get a beak. Bluff counts among his weapons.    

But some things cannot be bluffed away.

Throughout his career Warne has tried to balance the camaraderie of the rooms with the solidity of domestic life. Great sportsmen, often marry young. Sensing the colossal gamble they are taking, feeling an insecurity they dare not reveal, they build a home and a family and return to it as needs demand.   

Warne wanted the best of both worlds and for time managed to get his way. Ultimately, though, cricket has exerted the stronger pull. For better or worse, it has allowed him to explore every aspect of his character, every inch of his exceptional talent. Sport has been his blanket, cricket as been his home. He belongs in a team. It is his natural habitat. He relishes the camaraderie of the field, the isolation of the competition, the shine of the spotlight.

Most particularly he yearns for the eternal boyhood of sport. His smoking, drinking, eating, golden locks, stubbed face, blue eyes, roguish charm, tempting of the fates and extraordinary skill, all of them are better suited to the gamble of the field than the routine of the kitchen sink. He is not alone in his desire to remain forever young. Sportsmen, musicians and their performers plucked from ordinariness before time has worked its wonders upon their minds and tend to lock themselves into the happiest period of their lives as a way of keeping the world at bay. Loneliness stalks them. Obscurity whispers its terrible tidings. Of course they are scared of growing up for that is to enter an unknown and painful world. Michael Jackson is forever 13. Sharne Warne is 18. It is not an insult, merely an inevitability.

Warne's entire life has been a risk. He is a leg-spinner, and might not have made it. Throughout he has danced with danger. He has the nerve of a bullfighter and the hide of an ox. Judgement and restraint have not entered his soul. Of course it has put him in peril. Unfortunately, his friends have not been of much help. Harsh truths told by someone close at hand have a stronger impact than a thousand lectures. Perhaps they have merely encouraged his follies. Or maybe his ears have not been working properly. Some men need the danger.

Warne has also been a fool. He has saved his worst for England of all places, a land burdened with puritanical and prurient newspapers. He might as well have cut himself and gone to swim amongst sharks. Now he faces the disintegration of his adult life. Not that he is alone in that either. Most marriages end badly.

It is a rotten business. No one preparing adulthood is interested in anyone else's private affairs. Few things are more contemptible than the sight of the wild dogs of the press as they feed upon the carcasses of the exposed. Newspapers chastise a man for some misbegotten indulgence whilst themselves behaving like schoolboys peeping through a hole in the girl's showers. The high horse of sanctimony is better mounted by those whose own consciences are clear, if such can be found.

Still. Warne's marriage is on the rocks and now he must depend on his other home, in the dressing -room. Over the years he has survived numerous setbacks and can be counted amongst the most resilient of sportsmen. Beyond doubt he will rally. It is not the ashes series that will concern him, but its aftermath.

Peter Roebuck


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