Daily Archives: February 8, 2007

Sri Lanka look to hit their straps ahead of the World Cup Full throttle

by Kumar Sangakkara

The Sri Lanka team has undergone a big change in attitude since the last time we toured India for a bilateral series, nearly 15 months ago. The focus of the team has become more honed and we have made great progress in terms of fitness, mental aptitude and diversifying our skills repertoire.

The laws of the game have also changed since we last toured. Gone are the Super Sub regulations, an innovation that ensured sides were picked in the hope of winning the toss and maximising the advantage of the one Super Sub. The Power Plays, though, which have added to the pace of the game, remain.

The Super Sub and Power Play rules had just come into ODI cricket during that tour and we were then in the process of experimenting and actually getting used to them. What was confusing then has become much clearer now as we embark on the final series before the much-awaited World Cup.

The first two ODIs of this series promise to burden the teams with a bit more pressure than actually winning the games. This is because these are the last two games that either side has to try out players for the one or two spots up for grabs before the ICC deadline of February 13 for the announcement of the final squads.

The selectors, coaches and captains will all be focused on making sure that the playing combinations are those that will be taken to the World Cup. The players will carry into the games that much more anticipation and hope of performing to be included in the final 15s. Add to this the intense scrutiny of the media analysing and picking apart the pros and cons of the various combinations that are played and there is definitely heightened pressure in the build-up.

But the main responsibility of the Sri Lanka team is to make sure that we always try and maintain control of our core processes. Our physical preparation in terms of fitness and skill work should be practiced with the same excellent standards that we have set for ourselves.

Indeed, one factor behind our recent resurgence has been the acceptance by all individual players of the need to be constantly challenged at practice. Each practice session has been an exercise in purpose. There is something specific to be achieved from each and every fielding, batting or bowling drill. Each task is approached with the specific objective of getting better.

Our focus mentally has to be on making sure that we think of this series as a separate entity to the World Cup: a series that we are here to win, a series which gives us another opportunity to build confidence on and progress onwards towards building a winning team.

The Indians are always a tough side to play at home. Yet, of late, they have been a little unsettled and have lacked a unified, collective focus. The form of their core players has been in question and has provided opposition sides a chink in the armour to exploit.

And yet in the past month they have shown that they are prepared to put in match-winning performances when asked of them, as was seen in their recent series versus the West Indies. The fanatical crowd support that they enjoy at home seems to fuel the enthusiasm and ego, propelling them to score a full 40-50 runs more than they gather overseas.

Our sole practice match – even though not against the best opposition – was one in which we made sure that we kept our winning ways intact. Against a young, raw, opposition we stuck to our strategies and focused on our processes. Once in control, we made sure that there was never a moment in which we relaxed or relented.

The new additions to our side, Nuwan Kulasekera and Nuwan Zoysa, showed that they were hungry for international cricket by putting in strong bowling performances, the kind they will need to maintain consistently to be pushing for selection from here on.

In the absence of Muttiah Muralitharan the responsibility of being the main spinner falls on Malinga Bandara. The fact that we have on tour his main competition for a place in the form of the returning Upul Chandana creates an interesting situation that promises to spur both players to put in improved performances.

Bandara has the attitude, variation and belief that is often seen in players that have been exposed to intense levels of competition both in domestic and international cricket. His year on the sidelines of this side has hardened his resolve and his exposure to county cricket with Gloucestershire has broadened his thinking.

Chandana, through his performances in domestic cricket and with the A team, has shown that he is determined to not accept half measures in his quest to regain his place in the national side. His value lies not only in his bowling but in his batting. Chandana has streamlined his batting technique. The flamboyance and risk-taking of his early days has been compartmentalised to be drawn upon only in times of dire need. Instead, he is a player who now puts value on his wicket and has accepted the need of spending proper time at the crease in order to accumulate runs. Both Bandara and Chandana will become key in balancing our bowling and batting line-ups.

Our core batting lie-up has remained intact for a while but the first two games will offer up the opportunity for Tillakaratne Dilshan, Russel Arnold and Chamara Silva to, once and for all, put to rest the doubts over their ability in the middle and late middle order. Theirs is the hardest position to bat in ODI cricket. It requires players to continually adapt to different game situations and asks of them a steely resolve and an absolute belief in their own abilities to finish and win matches.

I have no doubt that they are the three most capable players in Sri Lanka to do that. The only thing they are short of is the confidence that comes with spending quality time in the middle in a match situation. There is no better situation then than the one offered in India on turning tracks, in the heat of the game, with a packed stadium full of screaming India fans wishing you nothing but ill.

As a side, we take pride in having built a culture of enjoyment, commitment and belief in which to grow. We expect nothing short of maintaining our own high standards. For us as a team these four games are not about the World Cup, they are not about the atmosphere of the grounds in India, they are not about the Indian team or its devoted legions of fans. For us, these four games are about ourselves. It is about our preparation, our own individual abilities and our firm belief that we are building towards a side capable of being the best it can be. via … The Island

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Expatriate girls dance in joy of their motherland’s independence

By Walter Jayawardhana

LOS ANGELES EXPATRIATE ARTISTS DANCE IN JOY OF THEIR MOTHERLAND’S 59 YEAR OLD INDEPENDENCE.

The official independence Day Celebration of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in Los Angeles which was celebrating the 59th anniversary of the island nation’s receipt of freedom from Britain was turned into a lively cultural pageant by Southern California’s expatriate young artists who danced in joy in front of hundreds of invited guests and the consular diplomatic corps of the great metropolis.

Fittingly held in the Asian sector of America’s second largest city’s Japanese American Museum the houseful ceremony was started by hoisting the Lion flag of the nation by the newly appointed Consul General Jaliya Wickramasuriya in the midst of ceremonial beatings of the drums and blowing of the conch, symbols of good prosperity according to ancient customs. The six foot tall ceremonial coconut oil brass lamp on the top of which rested the sculpture of the Crowing Cock depicting dawn was lit by a a bevy of children representing varied ethnic groups representing the country. They were helped by the head of mission. The crowds were mesmerized by the melodious chanting of the pali stanzas, jayamangala gatha, taken from the sutras of the Buddha’s ancient path after the crowd stood to salute the nation’s anthem, Sri Lanka Matha.

In a special message sent to the event and read by the Consul General the President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa said, “On this important day it is our pledge to defeat terrorism both nationally and internationally thus paving the way for our people to live freely and work according to their wishes in any part of our country.” President Rajapaksa said, that the nation is fully resolved to overcome the challenges fully.

The Prime Minister joined him in another message by declaring, ‘Let us move forward by eradicating terrorism.

Participants said they were thrilled by the entertainment by varied groups of artists of the local talent like Arunie Boteju Dancing School, Melanie Ranasinghe Dancing Class and Saptha Bhumi Theatre Group who provided one of the most entertaining evenings who were also joined by the Mudra Academy of Dance who presented South Indian classical dances in addition to the Sri Lankan performers.

Mrs. Lourdes Saab, Deputy Chief of Protocol of the Los Angeles County and Roy G. Young Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps and Consul General of Belize read congratulatory messages and presented plaques.

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Putting the party before the country

Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has lamented the collapse of the MoU, which the SLFP and the UNP signed to ensure co-operation on national issues, consequent to the crossover of 18 UNP parliamentarians to the government. Mr. Wickremesinghe has eulogised the ill-fated MoU in Parliament. With the MoU gone, an opportunity has been lost to pull the country out of the present mire, he is reported to have said.

When that MoU was signed with pomp and circumstance last October, there were celebrations in the streets. Many were gaga over the coming together of the two main parties. But, we had this to say in a page one editorial comment the following day (Oct.24, 2006): Defections from the UNP are likely to jeopardise the nascent cohabitation`85Those who strove to bring the two parties together have, with the signing of the agreement, succeeded in taking the horse to water. Now their task, which is far more difficult, is to make it drink. Whether they will achieve that feat remains to be seen.

The success of any agreement hinges on the genuineness of intent rather than the solemness of content. The much lamented MoU came into being not out of anybody’s love for the country. It was a ploy that UNP Reformists tried to employ to justify their decision to join the government. Initially, it was to be signed between the UNP defectors and the President. But, through a process of political intrigue, the rivals of the Reformists in the UNP commandeered the MoU and stole their thunder. An outfoxed President had no alternative but to sign it with the UNP leader who had outmanoeuvred his detractors.

Neither the President nor the UNP leader was genuinely interested in the agreement, though they so warmly shook hands before TV cameras, at the signing of it.

The UNP leader tried to prevent crossovers by binding the presidential hands with the MoU. From the day that document was signed, the President was busy finding ways and means of riding a coach and six horses through the agreement in a bid to engineer defections from the UNP, while the UNP went all out to put a spoke in his wheel.

Necessity knows no laws. Nor does it know any MoUs! The President was desperate for numbers as the JVP was trying to hold his government to ransom with the help of its 38 seats. Thus, he made up his mind finally to open the door which, he said, he had closed to the UNP dissidents.

Trying to prevent crossovers with the help of a cooperation agreement with political rivals is an exercise in futility. It is like, as a local saying goes, using an amude (loin cloth) as a cure for diarrhoea. The Reformists were resentful as their proposals to reform the party had been relegated to the back burner and their rebellion had cost them their posts in the party. The prospects of the UNP capturing state power were bleak and the Reformists finally voted with their feet. That the marriage of convenience was on the rocks was obvious from the day it was announced. The inevitable has happened.

It was not last year that the UNP and the SLFP had the best opportunity to co-operate in the national interest. In 2001, after the UNP formed the government with President Chandrika Kumaratunga at the helm, the two parties could have cooperated to further the national interest. But, nothing of the sort happened. The then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe signed a CFA with the LTTE behind the back of President Kumaratunga, who was not only the Commander-in-chief of armed forces but also the Head of the government! Mr. Wickremesinghe told a group of newspaper editors in 2002 that the peace process had only three parties to it—the UNF, the LTTE and Norway. Although the UNP and the SLFP were bound by the Liam Fox Agreement to co-operate on peace making, the then Opposition was kept in the dark about the peace process. (President Kumaratunga had done likewise during the previous peace processes.)

Then we had the worst ever disaster in the country—the Boxing Day tsunami. We thought the political leaders would drown their differences in the killer waves. They held a vigil and sang songs in a much hyped display of unity. But, soon, they were at each other’s jugular on the question of the buffer zone. (Ironically, Ranil and Chandrika who couldn’t co-operate on tsunami rebuilding have joined forces with each other today!)

The SLFP-UNP MoU is a monument to hypocrisy of the government and Opposition politicians. If we are to go by the contention of the UNP leader that it is in the interest of the country that the two parties decided to co-habit, how can he justify his decision to pull out of the pact on the grounds that some of its parliamentarians have defected to the government? Hasn’t he put the party before the country? And hasn’t the President, too, acted in a similar manner by accommodating the UNP crossovers at the expense of the MoU?

The fate of the MoU hasn’t come as a surprise to the discerning. Its collapse was bound to happen. Agreements in politics last only when they have statesmen as parties.

-The Island Editorial

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