Save the Blushes, Please

Sri Lanka and Afghanistan teams walking into the ground for the national anthems prior to their match in the 2015 Cricket World Cup on 22 February 2015 at the picturesque University Oval, Dunedin, New Zealand. (© Ranjan Mellawa)


Ranjan Mellawa thinks it’s not all doom and gloom for Sri Lanka, and they can still make a good fist of the next World Cup.

 

 

In an all-time low, Sri Lanka capitulated to Afghanistan by 91 runs in the Asia Cup 2018. Angelo Mathews, already tipped to lead in the forthcoming World Cup, was axed from both captaincy and the one-day squad.

Previously, Sri Lanka had played Afghanistan in the 2015 World Cup. Lethargic fielding by the Sri Lankans helped Afghanistan post 232 runs.

The first ball of the Sri Lanka innings, trapped Thirimanna lbw. Next over, Dilshan edged a back-of-a-length delivery and was caught behind for no score. Sri Lanka were tottering at 2 for 2 after 1.2 overs. It was only the second time in ODIs that both openers were dismissed for first-ball ducks.

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So Near…

Sri Lanka and Afghanistan teams walking into the ground for the national anthems prior to their match in the 2015 Cricket World Cup

Ranjan Mellawa believes that injury prevention and management, along with the quality of bench strength would be critical success factors at the next World Cup.

 

 

Mahela Jayawardena’s masterpiece (103*) gave Sri Lanka a commanding total of 274 for 6 in the 2011 World Cup final. Never before had a Jayawardena century led to a losing cause for Sri Lanka.

The 275 target looked imposing for India. No team batting second had scored more than 250 runs under lights at Wankhede Stadium. Sri Lanka’s varied bowling attack seemed geared to defend the highest run chase in a World Cup final.

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Mind Over Matter

Ranjan Mellawa anticipates most teams to be on par at the next World Cup

In the group stage at the 2003 Cricket World Cup, Sri Lanka scored an imposing 268 after a magnificent 124 (129 balls) by Marvan Atapattu, solidly supported by Aravinda de Silva’s 73 (78).

Having lost their sixth wicket at 212, South Africa needed 57 off 45. With rain falling steadily, it was all but certain that the method used to decide weather affected matches – Duckworth Lewis, would come into play at any moment. At the end of the 44th over with the score at 216, the South African dressing room relayed a message to Mark Boucher in the middle – a win needed 229 by end of the 45th, assuming no further wickets fell.

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When Gilchrist Squashed Sri Lanka

Adam Gilchrist waves to show a squash ball in his left glove at the 2007 Cricket World Cup Final

After scoring his century, Adam Gilchrist waves to show a squash ball in his left glove at the 2007 Cricket World Cup Final, Australia v Sri Lanka at Kensington Oval, Barbados 28th April 2007. (© Getty Images)

When the euphoria of 17 March 1996 sank in, most of us believed that Sri Lanka’s crack at a future World Cup Final was a pipe dream. But less than a decade hence, amidst administrative chaos and limited resources, Sri Lankans proved otherwise by illuminating the 2007 World Cup with unorthodoxy and skill.

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Can Sri Lanka rise from the ashes?

Ranjan Mellawa believes that Sri Lanka can rise from the ashes

The year in which Sri Lanka was reeling from bomb blasts and bloody battles was also a watershed in the history of the island’s sporting career. An improbable Cricket World Cup victory in 1996 was an unlikely balm for all Sri Lanka’s wounds – and fittingly, the islanders celebrated together.

Paradoxically, the rise to the top in the cricketing field triggered an avalanche of politicos, businessmen, and sundry others in committee rooms who began competing for honorary positions to administer the game on behalf of the nation.

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Toga: The Tireless and Triumphant Twirler

Rangana Herath of Sri Lanka celebrates with teammates after dismissing Trent Boult of New Zealand.

An immaculate spell that earned Sri Lanka their sixth straight semi-final spot in ICC events: Rangana Herath of Sri Lanka with the astonishing figures of 5 wickets for 3 runs celebrates with teammates after dismissing Trent Boult of New Zealand. Sri Lanka successfully defended their meagre total of 119 on 31 March 2014 in the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong, Bangladesh.

On yet another wet, slippery and gloomy early summer day in England, two Sri Lankans were heading to Heathrow Airport. The owner-driver, a UK resident, picked up his mild-mannered, chubby-looking passenger, from Stoke-on-Trent in the northern country. Even at the end of a five-hour journey, they barely knew each other, save for their names and what they did for a living. This of course, is not a typical taxi-driver-and-passenger story. The wheelman was doing a favour to a friend. His unknown passenger in the shotgun seat, having received ‘summons’ from a cricketing heavyweight in Sri Lanka an hour before, was in a hurry to catch a flight to Colombo, departing in seven hours’ time. Feeling nervous to perform once again on the biggest stage, the passenger’s thoughts wandered around his childhood dreams. Never a bragger, he was focused, conserving all his energy for the forthcoming event.

Closer to the airport, the driver’s patience ran out. In Sinhala, he asked, ‘Malli (younger brother), up to what level of cricket have you played?’

Politely the passenger replied,

‘Test cricket.’

He being an ordinary fan and not an aficionado, was left speechless. In retrospect, it was hard to remember someone who had played only 14 Tests across nine years.

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Innovate, Don’t Fake: Do You Know the New Laws on Fielding?

England's David Willey making a spectacular catch

England’s David Willey pulled off a spectacular catch on the boundary during the first ODI against Bangladesh on 7 October 2016 in Dhaka (© Sky Sports).

England hosted the 2009 ICC World T20, where Sri Lanka showcased its famed unorthodoxy at its brilliant best. I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

On 10 June 2009, Sanath Jayasuriya having violently demolished the Windies attack with an 81-run blitz off 47 balls, it was Angelo Mathews’ turn to treat the fifteen thousand plus crowd at Trent Bridge, Nottingham to an outlandish piece of innovative fielding.

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The Seven-Year Itch of Sri Lanka Cricket!

Historic figures in the history of Sri Lankan cricket, lost out on proper recognition.

Due to the ignorance of the officials of the (Sri Lanka) cricket board, players of that era [1982-1988] although they did play cricket, which could have been awarded the first-class tag, lost out. Such records could have been entered against their respective names in the international first-class cricket records. A tragic loss.

Old timers would recall Billy Wilder’s whimsical Hollywood film made in 1955 starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell. In this satire, Wilder attempts to portray that most men after seven years of marriage their passions tend to stray. Hence ‘The Seven Year Itch’. Sri Lanka cricket too had that itch but due to different reasons! Reasons of ignorance.

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Corridor to International Cricket

Best of Corridor Cricket at St Joseph’s College, Colombo in the early 1970s (© Ranjan Mellawa)

Best of Corridor Cricket at St Joseph’s College, Colombo in the early 1970s (© Ranjan Mellawa)

Defying the playing ban, many played “Corridor Cricket” in small groups. Hitting a paper ball or a cotton-filled chalk duster with two palms pressed together in a corridor was quite popular.

A countrywide change in school hours took effect in the early 1970s. Accordingly, St Joseph’s College, Colombo, where I gathered my virtue and knowledge, advanced its closing time from 3.15 to 1.30 in the afternoon. The revised school hours reduced the one-hour break for lunch to half an hour. Students were not expected to run around and play any sport during the break, but “Book Cricket” was our innovative option. Two people played it, flipping pages of a textbook at random, and based on the last digit of the right-hand-side (even-numbered) page. Last digits of 2, 4, and 6, counted as runs scored; 0 would be a wicket, and 8, a no-ball. For the toss, both the players opened a page and the one whose last digit was greater won.

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