Lankan fielding hits a new-low
By Bernie Wijesekera
Sri Lanka was tagged as one of the best teams when it came to fielding at international level. In recent times, however, it has hit a new low despite a coach assigned by the Cricket Board. The shocking fielding in the just concluded first test between Sri Lanka and New Zealand is now water under the bridge.It's best to forget the past and start anew.

As Eric Simmons, the S.African coach modestly says, that his career started as a fast bowler and a No.11 batsman, but climbed the ladder in the hard way to emerge as a utility all-rounder. One has to work on every aspect - be it batting, bowling and fielding. He is now the national coach.

Especially fielding no coach could coach, but the individual has to apply himself with his own initiative. The fielding and catching was pathetic. Of course some of them were half chances that went a begging. At times the ground fielding, too was ragged (unfit) to stand a long endurance battle. Fleming after being let off the hook played a typical 'Rock of Gibraltar' knock.

Comfortable living Unlike in the past the present day national cricketers are professionals (well paid) to enjoy a comfortable living. One has to work hard with total commitment to be a good sportsman to earn a good living. Forget about your personal and family chores. Be fully committed and give off your best whilst on the field. Don't dream about your outings over the weekend.. Be loyal to the game and for the country. A good example is Glen McGrath, the stout-hearted fast bowler. His wife Jane has breast cancer. Despite this he's giving his heart out on the field - even with his agile fielding compared to some of our locals who look a spent force.

Apparently their minds are only plagued with material gains. If a player is losing his mental bearings and confidence then lay-off for some time and fight back to regain your place. Otherwise don't hang, on but make way for a youngster. Be happy with what you have and concentrate with your growing family. Sri Lanka had some great fielders in the past the likes of Hector Perera, George Rajapkse, Vernon Prins (a good close-in fielder),T.D. Rajapakse, David Heyn, Nihal Ameradasa, Silva, Michael Tissera, Lalith Kaluperuma Anura Polonnowita - just to name a few.

The World Cup winning team '96 was due to some outstanding fielding, where Roshan Mahanama was the pick. Since then there has been ups and downs in this all important department. In the 1996, tour of Australia - this scribe asked Greg Chappell about Sri Lanka's performances. Look your frontline, batsman are not fielding in the close-in cordon (slips), but they are fielding in the deep. It could improve their reflexes and their batting too. Frontliners Steve and Mark Waugh and Mark Taylor are all in the slips. They must work hard, on their own to achieve their objective.

In recent times some senior players shun fitness training. I am okay he says. The coach too is helpless as a result. The players have to train on their own. Gone on tour with national teams. How many of our players in the tour party who are not playing make use of their time to indulge in some sort of training at the nets, but just idling and dreaming. The touring teams on tour make use the time in indulging some sort of training to be in trim.

Jonty Rhodes who puts his team-mates on their toes at home and abroad. Today the S.A. team is world class in fielding, thanks to their total commitment. In the last tour of S. Africa Rhodes was playing his last series against Lanka (one-dayers) after retiring from test cricket. Asked him how do become an agile fielder and to be rated the best in the world and most popular on and off the field. I practise in a specific way, I have more roasties grass burns and sore hands in practice than in the game. It was practise on my own that made me a good fielder. It was not the coach or the captain, that made him world class. It was Jonty's ethics - it was nerve racking, but paid dividends and helped the country's cause, but not on mere faith.

Whatmore, no more the coach, but was giving commentaries saw the pathetic fielding display by the Lankans, who were made to look a country team on this day when it came to fielding.

Even two outstanding fielders like 'Murali' and 'work Horse' Vaas, were made to look tired after a long bowl. Chandana who came in as a substitute impressed, just for few minutes on the field. It should do well manager Ajith Jayasekera who has played first class cricket with much success spend some time with the players on the field than confining to management alone. This was brought to his notice whilst this scribe was in S.Africa at (Wanderers Park). Ruchira Perera was overstepping the danger zone (batting crease).

He was banned from bowling after two warnings in a one-dayer. Being a keen cricketer himself Ajith should do well to help the coach with his knowledge than confining to off field admin. When the team fails its a sore-eye. The team management too is to be blamed.

Lahiru, Sukitha return with success
Two young cricketers Lahiru Peiris of St Peter's and Sukitha Senaratne who went on a two month cricket schorlarship to Australia returned to the island having successfully finished their contract with the Carey Baptist Grammar School in Melbourne.

Both were outstanding cricketers having represented their respective schools over here and were selected by none other than the former Sri Lanka player Roshan Mahanama from many hopeful recipients from schools around the island.

They began their scholarship by playing for the Carey Baptist Second XI team where they established their class by putting some wonderful batting display which later earned them a place to the senior team. Lahiru in contrast with his hard hitting qualities went on to win the best batsmans trophy.

He cracked an unbeaten 109 in his first match and missed out on two more centuries being unbeaten in the nervous nineties on both occasions. He also scored a stylish 86 helping Carey to win the final game of the season. At the end averaged an astonishing 76.25. -MSA

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