24th December 2000
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Commentator as Manager 

It has been reported that the Board of Control for Cricket has revived the Sri Lanka A Team's tour of Kenya after postponing it for March 2001 citing that it coincided with the domestic season.

There was much speculation that the real reason was that the National Selectors had not followed the directive of interested parties in choosing the captain.

However, the tour itinerary has been shortened; this is unfortunate since one of its objectives was to provide experience of foreign conditions to the second string players and to afford an opportunity for those ex-national players to revive their international careers.

However, what is surprising is the Board's nomination of a professional commentator as Manager for the tour. Is it not against the Board's own constitution to engage anyone who is a paid employee of any media organization? This is an issue, which has come up before, but has been inconsistently applied to individuals depending on the personal whims and fancies of Board officials.

The onus is on the Ministry of Sports under stewardship of a new Minister who is a lawyer by training, to pressure the Board to uphold its own constitution. This particular constitution is perhaps the most violated sports charter in the world. The time is opportune for the Minister to act in the best interests of the cricket and sports in general. -Fair Play

Police power at U-19 

I refer to Mr. Frank Dissanayake's article under the above caption which appeared on 17th December. 

I am a Master-In-Charge of Sports attached to a leading rugby playing school in Colombo. I feel it is my duty to enlighten the rugby enthusiastic on the selection of the U-19 Sri Lanka team, where Mr. Dissanayake has referred to the selection of four Police officers' sons to the U-19 Rugby team. I firmly believe that it is very unfair that the positions of their fathers have been dragged unnecessarily to this issue as these players have been outstanding players who have represented their schools at the highest level except for one. 

Three of them are coloursmen and one of them due to captain his college next year and the other not only represented his school but he was also a member of the U-21 Champion CH&FC team this year where he had an outstanding tournament.

Mr. Dissanayake has further stated that one of the players who has played full back has been included in the side as a Scrum-Half. If my memory is correct the player referred to has represented his school from Junior level up to first XV as Scrum-Half and later played as full back. 

The fourth player is a question which the chairman of selectors will have to answer as to how he is in the Sri Lanka U-19 First XV when he has yet to represent his school. 

However the selectors will have to explain as to why not a single player from Kingswood College was included and only one player from S. Thomas' College was included, whereas these two schools were the Champions of the local tournament. But to the surprise of many, six players from a leading school has been included even though they faired very badly this year. Is it because the Manager of the U-19 team happens to be their coach. Over to you Chairman of Selectors. -Upali Silva

President for ever? 

As members of the only rugby playing club in the Central Province we have received the notice convening the Club Annual General Meeting to be held at the Kandy Sports Club on the 7th January 2001. 

In the past this A.G.M. was held in the second week of December, but this year it has been postponed for January because the Treasurer has failed to finalize his accounts for the current year, we now understand that the Treasurer has manipulated his books and is with the Auditor at a leading hotel to rush the audit before the A.G.M. Normally an audit is done in the place of business to independently investigate and check all books and records before finalizing the Audit, but in this case it is the reverse. We are made to believe that the Treasurer has been instructed to do so by the President and Secretary to supress any shortcomings or malpractice that has happened during the year where major activities took place in the club and large sums of moneys donated by sponsors and well-wishers to reconstruct the Club House at a high cost. 

It is because of these reasons that the President keeps continuing his services as President year in and year after. As per the rules and regulations of the Club in page 07 item 09 it is very clearly stated that the President and Vice-President shall hold office for one year from date thereof. They shall thereafter be eligible for re-election in succeeding years limiting up to 5 years. The President elect has exceeded the 5 years rule and still continues being President with his clients in the Committee to re-elect him with unanimous vote of the Committee. We can understand if this President has any Rugby background or an inspiration towards the Club where members could introduce better products for the benefit of the Club and its future.

Ex-rugby players are deprived of memberships because they don't fall in line with the whims and fancies of the President. To add to the episode they have fired a long standing Admin. Assistant paying him a paltry salary of Rs. 4000/- and recruited a lady from a Corporation who has been fired from service for introducing false tenders and taking commissions, with her services. It will be now even easier to manipulate with her and fill in the pockets of the officials doing nothing. Another member of the staff is engaged without a letter of appointment and paid a salary for doing CID work for the President and the Secretary. One may wonder how the Club is surviving and the infrastructure upgraded rapidly. This is not on the initiative of the President but solely on the rugby interest of an individual sports promoter, sponsor and well-wisher, if not for this individual we pity the Club and its image. 

We therefore appeal to all sports lovers and members to attend the AGM and raise objections against the present management and take proper steps to discontinue the services of those unwanted persons for the better of sports and survival of the Club. 

- C.S. Fernando, Kandy. 

South African pitches,a far cry from Lanka's

By Aubrey Kuruppu
That the South African tour was never going to be a doddle was known in advance. On their own pitches which, by the way, are a far cry from the dead, docile, grassless tracks used in Sri Lanka, the home team has begun to call the shots with their battery of diverse pacemen. Complementing the bowlers are a set of attractive batsmen and, topping them all off, a sharp fielding unit led by the peerless Jonty Rhodes.

The mention of Rhodes brings to mind a hoary chestnut that occasionally a player is worth a place in the side purely on the strenght of his fielding. That is a fallacy. On top of his fielding, Rhodes contributed 61 not out and 50 in the last two ODIs. Obviously he's multi-talented and multi-dimensional. Take the case of Ricky Ponting. He is almost as brilliant as the South African in the field, yet he's a better batsman. Some of his shots in his 92 against the West Indians at Adelaide took the breath away.

The Sri Lankans find themselves two down with four to go after the two initial jousts. There can be no qualms we were beaten by a side that played superior cricket, especially in the second match. Kallis was looking good when Arnold conjured up a catch out of thin air as it were. Rhodes simply played his shots seemingly without a care in the world while Boucher opened out, sometimes in black-smith style. His reverse sweep off Sri Lanka's main weapon was exceedingly well executed.

McKenzie, who is supposed to have many a superstition, had a barren period when opening the batting in Sri Lanka. However, the transformation was remarkable. It may be that his recent maiden Test hundred against the Kiwis has injected the much-needed confidence. He anchored the innings perfectly and unselfishly while some of the others laid about them.

Zoysa produced the ball of the match, a real throat-tickler, to dispose of Kirsten. But he was subsequently taken to the cleaners. Muralitharan was not his usual self; most probably he was not allowed to settle by batsmen who went after him, most notably in his second spell. Suddenly, the Sri Lankan bowling looked woefully below par in the face of such a blistering assault.

The itinerary gives the Sri Lankans some measure of solace. Had the one dayers been played all in a heap, the South Aricans may well have continued to call the shots, their confidence having been blown sky-high. But with a fractured schedule, if the Sri Lankans are able to produce impressive showings in the two intervening Tests, they could well get back on even terms in the ODI series. Admittedly, it does look a bit of a long shot at the moment. The performance of Jayasuriya is all important: Sri Lanka could never dictate terms to the South Africans in the absence of that sizzling blast-off provided by the Sri Lankan skipper.

The case of Sangakkara is an interesting one. Here is a young batsman, obviously talented, with just a few Tests and around twelve one dayers under his belt. By exposing him in the early stages of his career to both forms of the game are we guilty of killing a goose that could lay a golden egg? Would his long-term prospects as a Test player be impaired? One's gut feeling is that he should be given a run solely as Test player and, once established, he could be an integral part of the shorter game. Food for thought indeed.

And so to the Test. In Donald's absence, there is a suspicion that the South Africans will struggle to dismiss Jayasuriya's men cheaply twice. 

That is taking for granted that the Sri Lankans will bat up to potential. On the other hand, with the entry of Cullinan and the recent form, of both McKenzie and Dieppenar, the home team's batting assumes a more formidable aspect.

As ever, Muralitharan holds the key. His probing prodigious spin aided by the looking presence of a few close in fielders will make life rather uncomfortable for the Proteas batters. Like the mills of God, they will have to grind it out slowly and exceedingly hard.

Life could be a bit easier for the Sri Lankan stroke players in the absence of the charismatic Rhodes. Not only will his daring shot- making not be in evidence, his intimidating presence at point or short mid-wicket will also be missed. The South African fielding will as a result be less formidable. 

That could serve to put the two teams on a more even keel.

Lanka miss an opportunity 

A much discussed topic connected with Sri Lanka's tour of South Africa is the pace and bounce of the pitches over there. However, the pitches at East London and Port Elizabeth where the two countries were engaged in the opening one dayers, did not have those characteristics. In fact the pitches at the S.S.C, C.C.C and the P.Sara Stadium are often much quicker and bouncer. The playing conditions were familiar to home condition for Jayasuriya's men but they could not capitalize on it. 

On the run of play they had the opportunity to beat the home team in the first game. Romesh Kaluwitharana taking chances batted well, then got out at a crucial stage. Similarly, Dilshan got run out when he and Sangakkara were on course for the last stage assault. This deprived the Sri Lankans of collecting another twenty valuable runs which in the end would have mattered very much. . 

Having got runs they had the home team on the mat at 6 for 143. Another wicket would have made it very tough for the South Africans. They let it slip with some not very tight bowling. 

Pollock, Telemachus, Klusener and Kallis are good one day bowlers. Where they excelled on that uneven paced pitch was by using the slower ball and the yorker cleverly. Two essential weapons for quick bowlers in One Day Cricket. Vaas and Wickremasinghe to a great extent and Zoysa to a lesser extent failed to do that. In fact it was the combined effective bowling of this trio that contributed to the team's success in Sharjah. Of course the South Africans play pace better than the Indians and Zimbabweans. 

South Africa completely dominated the second game. They capitalized on every mistake the Sri Lankans made. It was a rare bad day on the field for Sri Lankan. They grassed three possible catches. The bowling was not consistently accurate. It allowed the relatively inexperienced Niel McKenzie to notch up his first One Day International century, following his maiden Test ton against the Kiwis. 

McKenzie is a vastly improved player from what was seen of him on the tour to Sri Lanka some six months ago. He is now confident with his stroke making, is displaying superb temperament and concentration. Should he continue in this fashion then he will become a permanent fixture in the South African team. His fitness too is of the highest level, running everything possible with Rhodes and Boucher. There was no perspiration smudging the face, no doubling up to regain breath, no sign of the arms tiring to hit the ball. The posture was the same from start to end. 

Jonty Rhodes played a major role for his team in both wins. Now retired from Test cricket he obviously wants to enjoy every minute of what is left of his One Day career. That is allowing him to play with much freedom, making maximum use of all the wealth of experience he has. The South African selectors will make the most of Rhodes in this form of the game. 

Kumar Sangakkara was a class act during that innings of 84, he is lovely to watch when in full cry, making batting look so easy. The success of that innings revolved around Sangakkara moving his feet to play the ball. When he does that he has complete control for his stroke play. His downfall in the second game came as a result of a half drive with the foot not upto the pitch of the ball. 

Shaun Pollock continued his form as one of the best quick bowlers in world cricket. Bowling close to the wicket he sneaked through Sanath Jayasuriya's defense twice. Pollock won that battle and both games too. Now Jayasuriya and the Sri Lankans are against the canvass having missed the opportunity in the opening two rounds. It will be a lot of hard work for them in the Test matches and one dayers to come. 

Gavin here after 15 yrs.

By Bernie Wijesekera
Former Sri Lanka's tough granite-hard prop forward, Gavin Stevens is back here from Australia after 15 years. Stevens migrated "Down Under" in 1985, Stevens one of the best prop forwards during his time played his heart out for Kandy SC, Sri Lanka and Havelocks SC. interviewed by the Sunday Times he said. 

"In 1969, played in the Clifford Cup final for Kandy SC against CR & FC. In the front-row there was burly Y.C. Chang and hooker Mohan Balasuriya. 

It was a privilege to play with Y.C. and Mohan, "Bala" hadn't the weight but had the guts and was a ferocious forward in the loose. Then in the second-row there were Dr. Makuloluwa and Mohan Abeysundera. The 1969 Kandy team was skippered by another outstanding Lankan player, late Denzil Kobbekaduwe, who contribtuted much for Sri Lanka Army rugby. He had no peer from the base. But Kandy SC still lost to CR by two points.

Happy to note that both Y.C. Chang and "Bala" are contributing much for the development of the sport. Y.C. has been the president of the Rugby Union and at present he is taking the game to the districts as chairman of the development committee. 

Mohan, who served the Air Force still looks fit to play. He has been the president of the CR when they were celebrating their 75th anniversary.

There are vast changes. The present day players get more exposure with so many international matches at home and away. It augurs well for the sport. Further there are sponsorship packages. With this encouragement its utpo the players to work hard and put the country before self. During our times despite limited opportunities we were proud to represent the country. The players made a great sacrifice with their own men and material."

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