9th December 2001

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Brian Lara joins select band

Brian Lara, who was adjudged the 'man-of-the-series' for his stupendous batting efforts against Sri Lanka with a series aggregate of 688 runs is a batting genius. He won accolades all round for his masterful batting. 

The little left-hander from Trinidad, who scored 221 and 130 in the third Test against Sri Lanka joins a select band made under pressure. The other cricketers, who have achieved this feat of scoring a double century and a 'ton' in a Test match are: Lawrence Rowe (W. Indies) against New Zealand, Greg Chappel (Australia) against Pakistan, Sunil Gavaskar (India) against the West Indies and Doug Walters - against West Indies. 

Lara in the shade of legendary all-rounder Gary Sobers - a three in one all-rounder - was one of the greatest the country has produced, Gary did proud for Windies cricket. 

Sobers was one-time coach of the Sri Lanka team when the late Gamini Dissanayake was the President of the Cricket Board. Sobers broke Sir Len Hutton's Test record of 364, Gary made 365 against Pakistan. It was eclipsed by another left-hander from the Windies, Brian Lara against England. He made 375. 

Lara's effort against Sri Lanka was an outstanding feat when he was playing, for one of the weakest team's in the history of Windies cricket. He scored the 688 runs in varying conditions standing upto the wiles of M. Muralitharan, who has tormented many a batsmen at home and abroad. But Lara stood upto him well with an impregnable defence, that was hard to beat. In the process 'Murali' came in for a severe caning from his blade. He adjusted himself admirably. In the final Test Lara made 221 in a total 390 and Murali gave 115 runs to capture a solitary wicket. In the second innings the West Indies made 262 and Lara batted adroitely to make an elegant 130 to join the select band. In this innings, too he showed scant respect to 'Murali' and the Lankan spinning wizard ended up with 2 for 116 - scoring a twin- hundred as a bowler. Lara contributed much for these figures. 

Lara, in the end was applauded for his great batting feat Lankan skipper commended Lara's achievement as a top batsman in the World circuit. 

His success attributes to his dedication and application to study 'Murali' and stroked the ball with magnetic precision - the hallmark of a great player to bat under pressure. 

In the end he said without doubt 'Murali' is a good bowler, but I was able to apply myself and played according to its merits. 

Lara, owes much of his success to his parents, who gave him all support. If I am something today its due to my parents. They were with me during good and bad times. His sister Agnes, too had a big hand taking him for practices when he was a kid and looked into his well-being at all times. This was mentioned by him during the last tour when he was in the company of Jimmy Adams, his room-mate. Lara, too says mother is the Queen of my Heart. Some people today apparently forget their parents when they go places in life. In turn its their downfall, be it on and off the field. 

Recently, Sri Lanka's little dynamo dusky Aravinda de Silva, paid a glowing tribute to his parents at a felicitation accorded to him by his club NCC. West Indies cricket at present is in the doldrums. It saddened the hearts of many a cricket loving fans Worldwide. 

They had great captains - Sir Frank Worrell, who brought about reconciliation among the islanders, Clive Lloyd, who led the team in 1975 to win the first world Cup against Australia. He led them in 1979, too to win the W.C. beating England booth at Lord's. Viv. Richards yet another legend, who never lost a series, during his tenure. His 135 n.o. in 1979 final and the last ball in the 50th over was smacked to the Taverners at Lord's off Mike Hendrick. (BW) 

International recognition for Ajith's monumental effort

By John M. Brown from England
In browsing through the internet, it was a delight to find wide international recognition received by "Thinking Cricket - the 'magnum opus' of Ajith C.S. Perera" of Sri Lanka.

This end product of Ajith after 18 months of unflinching effort with relentless commitment, has been well received since its publication as a "well thought out book of instructions". Even the International Cricket Council has found it to "offer a very interesting perspective on coaching and particularly the mental approach need to playing our fine game".

They further indicate "this book provides a thinking man's insight into playing cricket" and had recommended it to their regional cricket development managers. The MCC has commented "many people will find it a most interesting and educational book". No doubt the comments made earlier with foresight by Davenell Whatmore "a high quality book with a totally different approach", has now been proved to be correct.

As Mike Brearley OBE former cricket captain of England indicates, "Thinking Cricket is a tribute to Ajith's hard work, and experience, and determination in overcoming a huge trauma". These accolades certainly have brought much recognition and great honour not only to the author, but also to Sri Lanka.

This is indeed a quite remarkable book written by a man whose love of the game of cricket and its most cherished ideals shows clearly on every page. 

Although a long-term admirer of Sri Lankan cricket, I had the good fortune of meeting Ajith Perera first, only on his hospital bed in Colombo in 1993 soon after that tragic accident on the eve of umpiring his First Test Match. 

But through his long association with Cricket in England since 1978 and the high respect he gained from all parts of England both on and off the field, especially from the Lancashire County where Ajith spent 14 weeks in 1990, made us to know him well.

In this book, young cricketer who is starting the game and who is seeking to develop his skills as well as the more experienced players, parents, teachers and coaches, will all find much interest and benefit them. Ajith has an uniquely rich style of writing, and the text is presented in a very clear readable form with good use of sub-headings and excellent points.

The twenty-one chapter headings include 'Building an Innings, Running between the Wickets, Ground Fielding, Spin Bowling, Leading the Team, Physical Conditioning and Mental Preparation. 

In all of these sections the author analyses the techniques required and gives detailed advise, which if followed, cannot fail to help the reader in his aims of self-improvement. 

A very welcome section of the book is devoted to decrying the deteriorating standards of behaviour and encouraging those in authority to ensure that young players do not follow the worst excesses of their senior role models.

Windies bite the dust here

Even at the time Sri Lanka won the World Cup, winning a single Test match against the West Indies would have been considered an achievement. 

A series whitewash was simple an impossible dream. Now, five years later that has been achieved and comfortably too. 

In terms of all-round strength the players from the Caribbean have bit an all time low. Brian Lara, the champion batsman, stood out like a beacon. Remove his performances and it exposes a very weak, disjointed unit. Sri Lanka excelled in all departments of the game and performed superbly on conditions so familiar to them. The big pluses was the bowling of Chaminda Vaas and the batting of Hashan Tillekeratne. 

Vaas's performances equals any in the swing bowling department seen in this country. Not only did he bowl well, but cleverly too. He was his usual persistent, determined self in the opening Test at Galle and did the hard work for Muralitharan to reap the rewards in terms of wickets. 

It was in Kandy that his real potential to reverse swing was unearthed. Particularly in the second innings when time was running against the home team Vaas's reverse swung the ball to trouble all the visiting batsmen. Again Muralitharan finished up with a big haul of wickets. The SSC pitch had carry and some bounce, but not favouring the bowlers. The batsmen had every opportunity to call the tune. The big hearted left arm bowler got back into the action from the very first session of the game. 

He was the only bowler who time and again troubled Brian Lara as he marched on arrogantly to a double ton. Lara had worked out a method and strategy to counter all the Sri Lankan bowlers including the great Muttiah Muralitharan. Vaas was finally rewarded with Lara's wicket, slipping the ball through the gate, touching the bat on its way. The fourteen wickets he bagged in the match was his best and undoubtedly the most memorable effort in his career to date. The delivery that dismissed Lara in the second innings of the third Test match, send down by Nuwan Zoysa, was the best singular wicket taking ripper of the series. 

The ball was angled into the left hand batsman from over the wicket, it moved away the late and pitched perfect yorker length on middle and off stump. For once the crack batsman's feet were in disarray, as the leather crashed over his castle. 

Battle scared Hashan Tillekaratne clawed his way to be the top scorer for Sri Lanka in the series. He grew with confidence as the series progressed. The number six position now suits him perfectly. He is able to play in his slow and steady fashion in that slot. He executed some superb strokes during his unbeaten double century. The square cuts and driving within the "V" was a delight to watch. Still very fit, agile and quick around the field, Tillekaratne has underlined to all the value of experience. 

Only twelve players were required to demolish the West Indian three games to nil. 

This indicates that there were contributions from all in some form or the other. The established opening partnership of skipper Jayasuriya and Atapattu were not permitted to stay much together. That was amply compensated by some consistent batting from Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena. They both looked good and competent in the manner they tackled the Windies outfit. 

Tilan Samaraweera continued to grow as a batsman. He formed a good combination in the middle together with the in form Hashan Tillekaratne. 

It helped Samaraweera as he did not have to shoulder all the responsibility. The confidence he has gained from his batting must also be transferred to his bowling as it is important for him to function as an all-rounder. He will suffer not being able to bowl long spells because Muralitharan will do all the off spinning. He will have to live with that. Samaraweera has a few areas to work at with his action and delivery. He should consult a spin bowling coach for that. Sri Lanka has every opportunity to follow up this clean sweep by winning the tri-nation one day series and brushing a side Zimbabwe in the three Test series to follow. Should they maintain this form that is very achievable.

Kandy CC back on top

Having been down in the dumps for a few years as a result of having fairly mediocre sides, a resurgent Kandy Cricket Club team has been calling the shots in this season's Sara Trophy (Segment B) tournament. At the time of writing, the team is on the threshold of a final round berth, wins over Police, Negombo CC, Leo Stadium, Raddoluwa, Seeduwa and home town rivals, Kandy Youth, have given the team a great chance of reaching the final. 

The one sour note was the five run loss to Kurunegala SC which was chiefly due to the fact that the regular opener was forced to bat at number eleven due to a bereavement in the family. Their last game will be against Matale CC. 

One of the factors in this resurgence has been the dynamic role played by the Captain cum Manager, Daminda Kolugala, a former Anthonian pace bowler. He has looked after the players as a mother-hen would look after her brood. In addition, he has contributed consistently on the field, clipping in with wickets when most needed. 

Chandana Bandara and Indika Baddegama have opened the bowling. The former in particular has been quite impressive and lively. The bulk of the wickets have been taken by the spinners, Piyal Wijetunga and Aruna Dange. Wijetunga, a former national player has added that much-need zip to the attack, bowling long spells and dominating the batsmen. Dange has cashed in and even obtained a couple of five wicket hauls. Like great fast bowlers, the two seem to hunt in pairs. 

Kandy CC's batting has a fairly solid look. Experienced Suresh Pieris has come good latterly with two blistering fifties. His attacking flair has been a feature of his batting. Rameez has been very consistent and has a top-score of 99 not out. Julian Arnolda has not delivered in full measure. A good shot-maker, he has not been able to convert his starts into fifties. 

Chathura Wickremanayake, Premakumar and Ranga Lihindipita have made their contribution. Hard-hitting Chintaka Fernando has not scored the runs he's capable of. 

Kandy Youth, on the other hand have had a moderate season so far, being involved in three no-decisions and losing twice. Their problems stem from a lack of experienced players. When the going gets tough, they don't have the requisite experience to draw from.

-Aubrey Kuruppu

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