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9th August 1998

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The dumping of Mahanama highlights a tragic situation

By Daminda Wijesuriya

Dealing with the Cricket Board is much more difficult than playing across the line these days.

That is why Roshan Mahanama seems to have been given all the reasons by the selectors to dump him even from the triangular oneday series in England. If there is any possibility for Mahanama to be recalled to the team it should be done.

But since Mahanama's application for two months' leave has been granted, he will not be considered for selection even if there is an SOS call from London to strengthen the one day side. This is due mainly to the medical report submitted by Mahanama.

This is a very tragic situation. Some people do not understand the value of a cricketer of Mahanama's calibre. Even Mahanama himself should be held responsibe for this matter.

In a one-day side, Mahanama's place at number six is unchallenged. His ability to steal runs in a tight field, after a top order collapse, has brought many victories to Sri Lanka. The best example was the win at Wills World Cup Semi finals at Calcutta 1996.

Sri Lanka was in a dire situation after losing four wickets, including De Silva's prized scalp for just 85 runs. Then Mahanama (58) helped Arjuna Ranatunga (35) to add 83 runs for the fifth wicket and get another few runs with Tillekaratne before he collapsed due to dehydration.

Such was his attitude. He even sacrificed his heart and soul for Sri Lanka cricket.

This was not the only occasion. Later in the same year, in a Singer World series league match at Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka were chasing 229. For the disbelief of many Sri Lankans gathered there, five top order batsmen in the world champion team were in the pavilion within 81 runs, leaving only Mahanama (50) and magician De Silva (83 not out) in the middle. The sixth wicket pair had their say before being separated near the target.

Moreover stopping 30-40 runs and hanging on to a breathtaking catch to dismiss a threatening batsman is more important in a one day match than scoring half a century.

Mahanama is the only Sri Lankan cricketer to have indulged in such heroic things. This shows in his record, as he has 100 international one-day catches to his credit. Ask David Boon of Australia. He will tell you how dangerous it is to run if the ball rolls towards Mahanama.

There was some talk of sending Mahanama for a two month training stint abroad. This is a real joke! Together with Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahanama created the world record partnership for any wicket (576 runs against India) in the 121 year old Test history and has played Test cricket for Sri Lanka during the last 12 years. He has represented Sri Lanka for 195 limited-over internationals and has scored 4842 runs.

Is there anything new to him in cricket?

On the other hand for how long are we going to use him after spending thousands of dollars only on him. Until the next World Cup? May be bit longer.

You may argue that nothing goes waste if you spend it on learning. I agree, despite the fact that the time remaining is limited. Anything good can be divided among the younger generation. However does it mean that all out of form cricketers should be given a special training?

Mahanama did not ask for a training after being dropped from the team. Certain people wanted to show that they are doing justice to him. This is mainly because of the public sympathy that Mahanama got after the world record.

When Roy Dias, present coach, was dropped from the national side in 1987, he had scored 80 runs in his last international innings against England, in a World Cup match. No fuss was created and many have forgotten these things today.

People still think that there is a dispute between skipper Rantunga and Mahanama because the axed cricketer led Sri Lanka to the Sharjah tournament in 1994 after Ranatunga's withdrawal.

Mahanama's views could be different to skipper Ranatunga's. This can be accepted because he is the third most senior member in the side. He fought for Whatmore, he fought for Gurusinghe but both went out on their own.

Have the critics gone through the statistical details of Mahanama?

In his last three Test series, Mahanama has scored only 193 runs in 12 innings, playing seven Test matches. His highest score was 50 during the three series and got out thrice without scoring.

This is a pathetic show as a batsman but nothing new, as all cricketers have to cope with their bad patches.

Thus, dropping Mahanama from the England tour is a fair decision. However the selectors kept a loophole by naming paceman Pramodaya Wickramasinghe for the same tour.

Wickramasinghe not to compare with Mahanama, has taken only 11 wickets in six Test matches during his last three Test series. This also cannot be considered as a good show and to make matters worse Wickremasinghe could not even take a single wicket at the recently concluded Nidahas Trophy Tournament.

The selectors should be held responsible for keeping Wickramasinghe in the team and depriving young and upcoming Ruchira Perera from facing first class opposition in England.

In 1987 the selectors axed names like Duleep Mendis, Roy Dias, Asantha De Mel, Rumesh Ratnayake and Sritharan Jeganathan from the World Cup squad and asked Ranjan Madugalle to lead a spirited young side to the Benson & Hedges World Series.

Unfortunately, Madugalle could not last long due to injury problems, but his colleagues went on to win the World Cup in nine year's time.

Such were the deeds of selectors at that time.

What is happening now. Are politicians instructing the selection committee?

The Sports Minister Mr. S.B. Dissanayake once said that he himself suggested Roshan Mahanama should be sent abroad for training.

The Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka(BCCSL) was reluctant to entertain the minister's idea and said that the suggestion should come from the selection committee itself.

A few days later the BCCSL sent a media release stating their standpoint with regard to the exclusion of Roshan Mahanama.

Mr. Duleep Mendis - Chairman of Selectors on July 22 1998, wrote to the President of the BCCSL stating that it was the view of the selectors that Roshan Mahanama should seek advice and guidance of an expert 'batting coach' with a view to rectify the technical defects in his batting.

Is the Selection Committee dancing to Sport Minister's tune?

What Mahanama needs now is a good rest to get rid of these ill-feelings and one or two good tips to re-organize his batting. Then he will be the same Mahanama once again a batsman who can tear any attack to shreds.

After the forthcoming Test Vs England at the London Oval, Sri Lanka will not have any Test matches until the next World Cup. This is a good opportunity for Mahanama to keep his place in the team. Then his Test career will be automatically decided by that time.

Sad to say, our cricket has no national plan now. Every long term plan, designed by the past administrative boards, have been thrown out as 'useless documents'.

Only the future will disclose the plight of our cricket.

A win long overdue for Scathebury

By Ismail Khan

Kevin Burke's Scathebury who finished a good runner-up to Daintree at Windsor's evening meet on 3/8 is long overdue for a win.

A course and distance winner plus a course winner having amassed 29,228 in stake money todate, the 5-year-old ridden by Kierran Fallon flashed very late onto the scene but found Daintree a wee bit faster at the all important end. I think given an extra furlong to traverse Scathebury could show to advantage. Scathebury has had 55 runs and won six races so far. He also needs a pull in the weight. Given all these allowances and a slight give in the 'going' I see no reason why Scathebury can't hoist the winning flag. It is long overdue. It could come with nourishing odds.

Barry Hills's Miss Universe a good looking 2-year filly after a second and third to her credit put her best hoof forward to win the Storacall Telecommunications EBF Maiden Fillies Stakes run over six furlongs at Windsor on 3/8.

Ridden by Michael Hills Miss Universe took off well from the stalls and biding her time well shot into the lead a furlong out and won handsomely.

Owned by Mrs. J.M. Corbett Miss Universe rated 75 and carrying 8.11 had the rest of the field well beaten inside the final furlong.

This goes to show that the 2-year-old could make a good miler in time to come. Even over seven furlongs she will win some races. So, follow this filly especially at midland tracks. She will pay to follow.

D. Nichols's Sihafi owned by Mr. John Gilbertson who had a string of wins against his name had to be content with second spot behind Maladerie at Windsor on 3/8 due to bad judgement by his claiming rider P. Goode.

Off to a perfect start P. Goode kept Sihafi way back in the 17 horse field of the Raffles Nightclub and Piper Champagne Handicap over five furlongs and set him alight a litte too late. He was seen almost flying at the finish but the effort was not good enough to beat the tearaway Maladerie who beat him with much in hand.

Sihafi has got in 41 runs todate and earned nearly 32,000 as stake money. In addition he has been placed six times. A consistent sort Sihafi a course and distance winner will be placed to advantage once again on this track and when the green light is on have a big flutter on him.

Sir Michael Stoute's Wahj a much talked about filly owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum lived upto her reputation reproducing her trackwork form to beat a smart lot of 3-year-olds almost point to point.

Ridden by Richard Hills, Wahj, a decent looking filly had been burning the track at Newmarket in her trackwork. Even last Wednesday on her preparatory gallop for this race at Windsor's training ground she had clocked smart timings in her repeated runs from six furlongs up to a mile. Then when put on the track she shrugged off her initial course shyness and once under complete control ran like a veteran to beat off Bering Gifts and Milad.

It looks as if Shiekh Hamdan Al Maktoum has purchased a good one but she will not be able to take her chances in the Classics next year as she will be overage. In any case there are many other races to be won with Wahj and she is a must for your short list.

Watch this column next week too as there are more reflections on runnings to come.

CI, HIK, Skanda and Sidath speak out on issue

By Saif Izzadeen

The local cricket scene is annoyed that Roshan Mahanama has been left out of the on-going cricket tour of England.

The Sunday Times spoke to four leading cricketers of the past to get their views. They had their own versions on the subject but all of them said that Mahanama was too good a player to be left out in the cold.

Sharing his view Dr H.I.K. Fernando, one of Sri Lanka's best known wicket-keepers said: "There are two sides to the story.

"Mahanama was unable to consolidate his position in the team because he batted at various positions which could have made him insecure.

If Mahanama had decided to bat at a permanent slot in the order of batting, he could have consolidated his position."

He also said that Mahanama is in the same street as Hashan Tillekeratne, Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga.

"Peformance-wise every cricketer goes through a bad period. Eventually they come through it unscathed.

I am sure that a cricketer of Mahanama's calibre could have come through this".

When asked about Mahanama's defects in batting, he said that Mahanama must show a more fuller blade and play sideways to swing bowling and must keep his backfoot firmly planted on the crease, where his head won't wobble.

"He should not play careless shots and pay the ultimate price," was the good Doctor's advice.

He also pointed out that it would have been unfair by other players if Mahanama was taken as a utility player, in which case Mahanama will never be a permanent member of the team.

Dr. HIK was of the opinion that Mahanama should not go to Australia or England to have his techniques corrected. "All this is nonsense. Mahanama is too good a player and he should be able to come over this setback.

"Mahanama is in peak form".

In conclusion, Dr. Fernando said that Mahanama was too good a cricketer too be left out of a squad of 18 to England and he should have been a part of it.

"His fielding is in the same class as Jonty Rhodes. This alone could have helped Sri Lanka".

Speaking to The Sunday Times over the phone, former Royal and all Ceylon cricket captain C.I.Gunasekera, who played for Ceylon in 1948 against Don Bradman's Australians at the P.Sara Stadium, said: "It was a surprise that a player who has set a world record an year ago has been left out from the 18-man squad to England.

His form was very much in evidence at the recently concluded Singer-Akai Nidahas Trophy final where he made a dogged 44. If Mahanama was not run out he could have carried Sri Lanka to victory."

Gunasekera went on to add: "Mahanama has had a long and successful international track record and should be able to fit in any position.It really does not matter where he bats."

Gunasekera is of the opinion that a player cannot be classed as a one day specialist.

"One day or Test cricket both types of cricket have the same strokes. The player has to adjust himself to the needs of the game.

"For example if a side needs 20 runs in three overs, a player must be in a position to adjust to the situation."

This, he said in reponse to a question as to whether Mahanama could be categorized as a one-day cricketer or Test cricketer.

Gunasekera went onto add: "Mahanama is also a brilliant fielder. He is one of the world's best fielders. Some of the catches he has taken are some of the best I have ever seen."

In conclusion C.I Gunasekera said: "It would have been advisable if Mahanama was included in the team to England. With the tour only four matches old it might be advantageous if he is still considered to join the team."

When The Sunday Times spoke to S.Skandakumar one time former Royal and Colombo University cricketer and a top class commentator who commented in the inaugural Test match on TV when Sri Lanka played England in 1982 said: "Mahanama is an excellent team man and a brilliant fielder.

He is worth his weight in gold."

Skandakumar pointed out that if a player's batting technique has to be rectified, how could he play in a final match and bring Sri Lanka almost to the brink of victory but he is not good enough for a tour of England.

It does not make sense."

However, Skandakumar went onto add: " Where Test matches are concerned if some say that he has made only three fifties in 50 Test innings, his exclusion from the Test team is justified.But where the oneday game is involved, Mahamama must be in the team."

Skanda further added that Mahanama was being shuffled all over the batting line-up. "If only Mahanama was given a permanent place in the batting order, he could have done well.

This is no fault of Mahanama.

But those who are responsible for shuffling his batting order should now speakup."

In conclusion Skand-akumar said Mahanama's services as a one day cricketer will be missed in the three nation tournament which begins in England in a few days' time.

Sidath Wettimuny the former Ananda and Sri Lanka opener speaking to The Sunday Times said, "I think people are making far too much of a hue and cry over this matter. Mahanama is just going through a bad patch and I think that he has in him to strike form again.

I will not blame the selectors for dropping Mahanama.I think they have selected the best 18."

Wettimuny who was the first Sri Lanka batsman to make a century against England when he made a stylish 190 at Lord's in1984, was of the opinion that Mahanama will not have to go to Australia to correct his batting deficiencies.

"Mahanama himself is an experienced cricketer. He will overcome his problem."

Aravinda, Lanka's best cricketer

The Sunday Times Cricket Correspondent wrote in 1996 that Aravinda de Silva could become one of the finest coaches of the 21st century. Sri Lanka's dapper and dashing batsman also figured in the paper's "1000 sportsmen in the world." It was a great compliment to one of the finest cricketers from the island nation.

Unquestionably, De Silva's consistent batting for Kent in the English County championship in 1995 must have been the primary factor that influenced the writer to commend his skills and predict a distinct role for him after retirement. His century against Australia in the 1996 World Cup final was also a significant reason for him to be put down in the celebrity list of Asia.

No other Sri Lankan cricketer has earned such an honour. Anyone with a quick eye for detail and ability to discern would acknowledge De Silva as a top quality batsman with a strong base in fundamentals. His balanced stance, near-perfect footwork and the ability to judge the line and length, enable him to bat in a most conventional manner and style, and still make runs quickly.

His 4977 runs in Tests with 16 centuries and 7605 runs in one-day internationals with 11 centuries has been the result of his firm belief in the basics; he makes quick adjustments in technique against both fast and spin bowlers. No wonder he is regarded as one of the best batsmen in the world with Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Mark Waugh.

If De Silva has scored more runs in one-day internationals, and is at present third behind Desmond Haynes and Mohammed Azharuddin in overall aggregate, it is only because Sri Lanka has played more limited overs matches than Tests since 1981. But his record in Test cricket is ample proof of his ability to adapt to both forms of the game.

He has experienced lean phases, but inspite of this, he is generally viewed as Sri Lanka's best batsman by his countrymen.

"Who will succeed Ranatunga as captain," has not been a subject much debated in Sri Lanka for sometime, although Ranatunga was once stripped of captaincy. Ranatunga with the World Cup win behind him was said to be firmly in command.

But the choice of Sanath Jayasuriya as his deputy for the home series against New Zealand recently, caused much debate. The selection committee headed by former coach, Duleep Mendis had also stripped De Silva off vice-captaincy.

The decision of the selection committee and the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) to replace De Silva with Jayasuriya surprised the followers of the game and the public. There were question marks against De Silva's form after his match winning knock in the 1996 World Cup final.

Moreover at 32, De Silva was not thought of as a player who could serve Sri Lankan cricket as a captain for a long time.

The selectors' decision made De Silva a bitter man. He made 125 runs with one 50 plus knock against New Zealand before the Singer-Akai Nidahas Trophy.

Ranatunga explained that "it was the need to groom a youngster" that influenced the selectors to name Jayasuriya as the vice-captain. But Jayasuriya's poor form in the three Tests compelled the selectors to revert to De Silva for the Nidahas Cup.

"We thought we needed a senior person for an important tournament like this," reasoned Ranatunga.

The upshot of this swapping of vice-captaincy before the Nidahas Cup was the return to form of De Silva. He made 368 runs in five matches and was the only choice for the 'Man of the Series' award. He made 97 and 62 against India and 42 and 62 against New Zealand in the preliminary matches.

He signed off with a brilliant 105 in the final at the Premadasa Stadium. Had it not been for a groin trouble, De Silva may have won the match on his own, but his exit at 272 after two big stands with Marvan Atapattu and Roshan Mahanama proved calamitous for Sri Lanka. "It was a great effort from him. He has scored runs in similar situations. But I would not rate this as his best effort," said Ranatunga.

There was not an instance in his previous four innings when he seemed aggressive. The situation demanded him to play the anchor role. "It was decided that he (De Silva) would bat through the innings," said Ranatunga after Sri Lanka's crucial match against New Zealand.

But in the final, he was the master, playing correct shots and cutting the Indian bowling to size. He did not play a false stroke before lobbing a catch to Harbhajan Singh off Ajit Agarkar.

For three weeks, the Sri Lankans had stayed away from the Nidahas Trophy matches played at the Premadasa Stadium and the Sinhalese Sports Club ground in Colombo.

It was a different scene altogether at the Premadasa Stadium on 'Poya' (full moon day) holiday on July 7. Almost every seat was occupied to cheer the home team. What the 20,000 crowd got in return were three centuries; one of which was of the classic Sri Lankan brand. The home team lost, but the youngsters would have identified a batsman who could be their coach, sometime in the early years of the next century.

G. Vishwanath

Schools' Rugby 'Sevens'

The under 17, inter school Rugby 'sevens' tournament will be played at the Royal College and Thurstan College grounds on August 15 and 16.

Entries close with N. J. Mudannayake, Secretary, Sri Lanka Schools' Rugby Association on August 10.

The draw will be held on August 12 at 3.30 pm at the Zahira College Hall.

Lankan NB team for C'wealth Games

Sri Lanka will take part in the Commonwealth Games Netball tournament in Kuala Lumpur, Malayasia. The games will start on September 11 and end on Sept. 21.

Sri Lanka netball team will play alongside world champs New Zealand, Cook Islands, South Africa, Wales and Malavi.

The Netball Federation of Sri Lanka has announced a team of 12 players plus three extras with three newcomers to the team.

The Sri Lanka team is de Silva, Samitha Kumari, P. D. N. Prasadi, Deepthi rupasinghe, Damayanthi Jayatilleka, Harshani Vijayalath, Ratna Victoria, Manji Preethika, Arunika Udayani, Nazlim Hassim, Madavi Samaratunga, Niroshani Samandrika, Standbyes - Thushari Kodituwakku, Sujeeva Shamali, Nilmini Malkanthi.

Coach - Lourdes jayasekera, Assistant Coach-Hyacinth Wijesinghe.

Manageress - Rani Munasinghe.

Head of delegaton - Tamara Dharmakeerthi Herath.

Consultant - Pamela Bertram.

Umpire - Sunimal Kurumbalapitiya.

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