Friday, November 30, 2007
"Give me the choice of a tour to Australia or Sri Lanka and I would take Australia every day of the week." says Nasser. None of this however has anything to do with the opposition (SL). +/- Expand Post
The Cape Argus reported that Koertzen, who was scheduled to umpire the opening Sri Lanka-England Test in Kandy, had been switched by the ICC at short notice as he was the only elite official who could make the trip at such short notice.
Aleem Dar, who was not eligible to stand in Kolkata, is en route to Sri Lanka where he will replace Koertzen.
There had been suggestions in Australia that Koertzen was being punished for his well-publicised error in giving Kumar Sangakkara out in the Hobart Test, but an ICC spokesman made clear this was not the case. "If we replaced every umpire who made a mistake, there would be no umpires left," he said. "It's the same with players. Everyone makes mistakes. His replacement is more to do with the workload of umpires and some rescheduling." +/- Expand Post
“Era” would be putting it too strongly for the touring team because Michael Vaughan remains as the essential link between the coaching regimes of Duncan Fletcher and Peter Moores; but with Andy Flower and Ottis Gibson working together for the first time on a Test tour as Moores’s assistants, a new fitness trainer, too, and some young players trying to set the base for long careers in the team after the enforced break-up of the class of 2005, it is an important match for all concerned.
For Jayasuriya it is more than important. Having told friends that he intends the match to be his last, he is planning to announce his farewell at the end of this game. With Vaas playing his 100th Test here but being pressed by two younger fast left-arm bowlers and Muralitharan starting to suffer from the aches of advancing years – he has had operations on his right shoulder and right bicep in the past two years – the experienced core of the team is crumbling, with no obvious replacements of equal class.
Jayasuriya’s Test career seemed to have ended early in 2006, when he announced his retirement knowing that he was about to be left out of the first-class leg of Sri Lanka’s tour to England. A change of selection committee prompted a change of mind. He was hurried back into the team for the Trent Bridge Test, which Sri Lanka won to level the series, thanks mainly to Muralitharan’s 11 wickets. Since then, however, he has managed only one Test fifty while continuing to butcher attacks, notably England’s for 152 off 99 balls at Headingley Carnegie last year, in one-day cricket.
For a limited-overs cricketer of such exalted renown – he is credited with the attacking policy that won Sri Lanka the World Cup in 1996 – he has been a mightily effective Test player, too. Depending on his fortune in Kandy, he will retire after 110 Tests with an average around 40 and with 14 hundreds, of which many have been momentous.
English bowlers who took part in the astonishing one-off Test at the Oval in 1998 will never forget the savage square-cutting and off-side carving, mixed with punches off his legs, that brought him 213 from only 278 balls, buying the time for Muralitharan to win the match.
His 340 against India at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo is the seventh highest of all Test innings. He made 199 in the same series at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground and he has had scores of 188 in Kandy and 253 in Faisalabad against Pakistan.
England know well, too, how effective his left-arm orthodox spin can be. He needed three more wickets for 100 in Tests at the start of this game, so Muralitharan may not have it all his own way.
It remains to be seen whether Vaas will immediately follow his long-time comrade in arms into retirement, but he, too, has been a fading force, despite being only 33, five years younger than Jayasuriya. Vaas’s past nine Tests have brought him only 19 wickets, expanding the overall average for his 320 to 29.
Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara remain, all impressive and intelligent characters who will lead the transition period, but Jayawardena called after the second of the two Test defeats in Australia two weeks ago for a stronger domestic competition with fewer teams to distil the talent that is emerging in large quantities from all areas of this small but extraordinarily diverse country.
England’s place as the No 2-ranked Test nation, albeit 32 points behind Australia, is threatened if they lose this series. India, South Africa or Sri Lanka could overtake them by the end of the year. India have dominated the series against Pakistan that is continuing in Calcutta and if they win this and the remaining match they would finish on 112 points, one more than England’s present tally. Six points separate England in second and Sri Lanka in fifth at the moment but, if results favour them, South Africa could sneak into second spot before their Test series against West Indies, which starts in Port Elizabeth on Boxing Day.
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Cricinfo:Sanath Jayasuriya put on a brutal batting display, crashing 111 off 82 deliveries, to set up Sri Lanka's emphatic seven-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first match of a five-game series at Napier. New Zealand's testing target of 286, boosted by Ross Taylor's outstanding maiden century, posed little threat to Sri Lanka who cruised home with 10 overs to spare.
Scorecard +/- Expand Post
"I give myself one more year in Test cricket and in that time I hope to take 350 wickets before I quit," Vaas said. He will become the third Sri Lankan, after Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan, to play 100 Tests and is by far their most successful fast bowler, but said he will not unnecessarily try to prolong his career.
"I will not wait for people to start saying that I am too old to play and be left out of the side. I don't want to become a laughing stock.
"I am proud and honoured to serve my country for so long and I am eager to perform in my 100th Test," he said. "I want to make it a special one by bowling my country to victory.
"Every game I've played was important to me. That's why I have played nearly 100 Tests and taken 320 wickets. I trust myself and motivate myself. I have put a lot of faith and trust in God.
Because of his strength I find myself playing in 100 Tests for my country. I value the support given to me by my parents and my loving wife."
"I will not wait for people to start saying that I am too old to play and be left out of the side. I don't want to become a laughing stock." - Vaas
The comment above is a clear sign that our SLC has failed us. Vaas, who is without a doubt one of Lanka's cricketing greats has to fear being called old and has to fear being omitted.
These are realistic scenarios within our cricket today, its not a recent occurence either. Cricket in our part of the world is governed by individuals who think with their hearts not their head.
"There are also young fast bowlers like Chanaka Welagedera and Sajeewa de Silva," he said. "You've got to be patient with them and give them more time to develop."
- Vaas. +/- Expand Post
Muralitharan needs just five more wickets to overhaul Shane Warne's world Test bowling record of 708. But Maynard, who worked alongside Duncan Fletcher from September 2004 until May 2007, has backed England's batsmen to come out on top in the three-match Test series.
'Sri Lanka are a different prospect with Muralitharan back in their side - but England definitely have the capabilities to counter him,' Maynard said."
After reading John Buchanan's view on how Australia countered Murali, I don't think it is completely impossible for England to take a page from the Aussie handbook.
Murali's performance in Australia is testimony that even the great Murali is all but a mere mortal.
The Australian's realised the key to success against Sri Lanka is a plan that revolved around keeping the middle order away from Murali.
I have stated in the past Murali is not naturally attacking or aggressive and he hates confrontation. This is a psychological block that needs addressing even this late in his career.
Ranatunga was an aggressive skipper who read the game well and many of murali's successes came with a swarm of close in fielders to assist him. Even an LBW decision was induced because the batsman was in two minds to play forward and give the close in men catches.
In Australia Murali bowled a 10 over spell with no slip. Where does the Doosra fall in to that equation?
"It is a testimony to the Australian batting lineup that numbers 8 -11 did not bat, and Adam Gilchrist had only one brief appearance (it should be noted his keeping maintained its incredibly high standards of returns with 10 catches taken in the 2 games).
It also showed the lack of penetration of Sri Lanka's new ball bowlers. They arrived here heralded as one of the better bowling attacks in world cricket, but did not deliver. Murali was forced to bowl with defensive fields for the majority of his overs, although I think he still should have had at least two close-in catchers for his bowling as he creates chances and uncertainty where no one else can." - Buchanan. +/- Expand Post
Opening batsman Tharanga performed well for the Sri Lanka Cricket Board President's XI in their two warm-up matches against the tourists.
However, his scores of 112 and 86 were not enough to bring him a return to international cricket.
Although Sri Lanka have not finalised their XI for the three-match series opener, captain Mahela Jayawardene confirmed the batting personnel.
"He had a very lean period, then scored some useful runs in the last few games which is great for him but he will have to be a bit more patient," Jayawardene said.
Veteran Sanath Jayasuriya will revert to the top of the order, having batted at five in the recent Test series in Australia, while Jehan Mubarak has been recalled.
The only selection decision for Sri Lanka to make is whether to include Dilhara Fernando in a three-pronged pace attack or include leg-spinner Malinga Bandara.
While Muttiah Muralitharan targets the five wickets he needs to overhaul Shane Warne's 708 career tally, Chaminda Vaas will be earning his 100th Test cap.
Two ways to look at this, in my mind atleast. Did Lanka sacrifice a batsman for Vaas' 100th Test match? Or are they looking at Jehan [Video] as a more suitable prospect to replace Jayasuriya? +/- Expand Post
According to sources in Sports Ministry there is a move to appoint Arjuna Ranatunga the next Chairman of Cricket Board. These sources say President Mahinda Rajapakse would gazette the relevant appointment soon.
The talk in the political circles is that the move to appoint Arjuna as the Chairman of the Cricket Board is to prevent him from voting against the government at the third reading of the budget. Before the second reading of the budget Arjuna had told the BBC that he would vote against the budget. He had also told that he expected to join former President Chandrika Bandaranayke Kumaratunga in her politics +/- Expand Post
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The England batsman is a pretty good judge of a bowler and he put his friendship with Shane Warne on hold yesterday to state that the Sri Lankan is a more threatening opponent than the Australian master spinner.
Murali needs five more wickets to pass the great Australian's Test haul of 708 and the coronation will happen sooner rather than later. In fact, if the script writers are on the ball, the 35-year-old spinner will hit the top of the all-time bowling charts during the series opener against England which starts tomorrow at the Asgiriya Stadium. It is his favourite ground and it is in his home town. It all adds up.
What awaits the man with the helicopter wrist when the big moment comes? Sure, there will be cacophonous acclaim from the stands, celebrations in the streets of Kandy and jubilation throughout this cricket-crazy island. But around the globe, his epic achievement will be greeted by champagne and vitriol.
For many, Warne is the rightful No 1. For all the controversies which have plagued his career, the brash blond is widely regarded as the pure bowler, while Murali is condemned as the freak who has bent the rules.
Yet, in Pietersen's eyes there is no debate. He brushed aside any lingering doubts about the legality of the local hero's action to salute him as a champion and a legend.
Asked to compare him to Warne, he added: 'I think the difference between the two is that Muralitharan spins the ball both ways and is a bit harder to pick. I find Shane a lot easier to pick.
'I find Muralitharan a much harder challenge because he now spins the ball both ways with a pretty similar action. If you look at his delivery stride his feet don't change position, whereas with other bowlers their feet change. It's just his wrist and it's hard to pick that up.
'They are both assassins. They have both got more than 700 Test wickets, they are both champions, they are both geniuses.'
The records will show that Pietersen is right. It is Muralitharan who has the superior average, economy rate, strike rate and bestbowling figures. The son of a Kandy confectioner has been assisted by far easier pickings than Warne against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, but he has destroyed almost all the best batting line-ups in the world for the past 15 years.
Yet, there has always been a stain on his good name. Whispers about the bent-arm action surfaced soon after his debut and matters came to a head in Australia in 1995 when umpire Darrell Hair called him for throwing. The same thing happened in the subsequent oneday series and on Sri Lanka's tour Down Under in 1998-99.
Muralitharan fought to clear his name and was subjected to an array of biomechanical studies in Australia, England and Hong Kong.
Each time, it led to the ICC declaring his action was legal. But the emergence of the deadly 'doosra' reignited the debate in 2004 when he was reported by match referee Chris Broad.
This time, there was a comprehensive study of bowlers' actions around the world which revealed Muralitharan was by no means the only international player operating with a bent arm. So the laws were tweaked and the spinner was cleared again.
While the critics will never be truly silenced, Sri Lanka's talisman has gained scientific proof that he is no cheat. It may not look convincing to the naked eye but his bowling is acceptable within the revised guidelines so every wicket he takes is legitimate.
Whether the game at large likes it or not, he is going to set a Test record that may never be broken.
It would be fitting for Muralitharan to reach the landmark in the hill-country where he grew up. It is also feasible, as he has taken 108 Test wickets at the Asgiriya Stadium, to prove that he thrives among his own people.
Muralitharan said yesterday: 'It would be a very special moment because I played all my cricket here in my younger days, it is my home town and it has to be my favourite ground. So it would be nice to take the five wickets here.'
Although he cites the three-Test series against Australia at home in 2004 as his best sustained period of bowling, Muralitharan took more wickets last year (90) than in any year before, suggesting the old dog is still learning new tricks. As Pietersen suggested, the mastery of the well-disguised doosra has been the secret to his longevity.
As long as the wickets keep tumbling and the injuries are kept in check, he may just see if he can push towards the magical four-figure wicket mark.
Asked what would be a realistic target, Muralitharan said: 'Maybe 800 or 900, maybe not.
'If I am going to get to 1,000 I would have to play for another four or five years. I am 35 now so that would mean playing until I am 40.
Realistically, that is not possible but you never know. If the next three years went as well as last year it could happen.'
That scenario may not please the sceptics and purists, and it certainly will not be music to the ears of the world's batsmen.
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10 Things You Didn't Know About Sri Lanka - :With England waltzing around the island, it's time we all got better acquainted with some of Sri Lanka's lesser-known facts...
1) The island is supposedly a hotbed for alien activities, which have been investigated by professor Chandana Jayaratne of the University of Colombo. Don't believe us? Check out this page full of reports...
2) When a person shakes their head from side to side in Sri Lanka with a slight wiggle, he is actually saying "yes".
3) English historian James Emerson Tennent theorized Galle, a southern city in Sri Lanka, was the ancient seaport of Tarshish from which King Solomon is said to have drawn ivory, peacocks and other valuables.
4) "The Fortress Stilt Fisherman Indulgence", a pudding offered by a hotel in Sri Lanka, became the world's most expensive dessert in September 2007. With an asking price $14,500, the dessert is a gold leaf Italian cassata flavored with Irish cream, served with a mango and pomegranate compote and a champagne sabayon enlighten (no, we don't know what this involves either). It is decorated with a chocolate carving of a fisherman clinging to a stilt, an age old local fishing practice, and an 80 carat aquamarine stone. Shockingly, no one has actually ordered the dessert yet. Cowards.
5) Despite cricket being the most popular game on the island, the national sport of Sri Lanka is actually volleyball.
6) Geoffrey Dobbs is the man credited with taking elephant polo to Sri Lanka, which now hosts an annual tournament. The elephants are brought from all over Sri Lanka and are specifically trained for the game, which was originally played using a soccer ball. Normal polo balls were only employed after the elephants trod on too many footballs, puncturing them in the process.
7) The island plays home to the Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus), a chipmunk-sized nocturnal animal that feeds on bird eggs, insects, lizards, fruits and leaves. A "shy and intelligent" primate, the Slender Loris is an endangered species.
8) The early Sri Lankans, dating back from the 5th century BC, were great masters of managing water. One king supposedly said that no drop of water flowing to the ocean shall go unused, so they built giant reservoirs that were used to irrigate fields, manage drinking water, etc.
9) Sri Lanka exports 9 million kilograms of tea to Japan alone every single year, but tea is not the country's biggest export. That particular honour goes to textiles and apparel, while spices, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, coconut products, rubber manufactures and fish also feature highly.
10) As 80% of Sri Lankans are Buddhist, animals are given freedom to move as they wish. It is normal to see dogs, cows, water buffaloes and monkeys on the side of the road or even in the middle of it, while England already know about the snakes. +/- Expand Post
"Toe crushing yorkers and rising short balls, all at close to 150 KM/H. Malinga was lethal during this test match."
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"The spectre of Muttiah Muralitharan looms larger by the day for England's batsmen ahead of the first Test against Sri Lanka, which begins in Kandy on 1st December.
England know that if they are to win the series they will have to conquer the little magician who needs just five wickets to overtake Shane Warne as the leading wicket-taker in the history of the game."
"There has been much talk this week of executing plans against him. Ian Bell has never played a Test against Sri Lanka and has been at pains to find his best method or "plan" to combat the off-spinner. Merlin, the bowling machine which replicates the variations of the world's best spin bowlers, has been working over-time."
Merlin the bowling machine
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Willow TV - $49.99US 3 Test Matches
Cricket ON TV - $40.00US for entire series or $20 per test match
Sky sports 2
Fox sports 2
India\Pakistan\Sri Lanka\Bangladesh\Middle East\Hong Kong\Japan\Maldives
Ten sports +/- Expand Post
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Bulletin - Australia's bowlers pile on the misery
Peter English - Mahela's burden
Quotes - Lee enjoys being pace spearhead
Quotes - 'I was very disappointed with our batting' - Jayawardene
Plays of the day - A bat break, and some lucky breaks
Audio - Ian Chappell: Middle-order fails Sri Lanka
Gallery - Jayawardene plays a lone hand as Australia dominate
Features John Snow, Ian Botham, David Gower, Siddath Wettimuny, Roy Dias, Arjuna Ranatunga, Duleep Mendis, Bandula Warnapura and other past greats! Thanks to Mr. Tissa Madawela for the source video.
The first chapter | BBC Slide show
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Andrew Miller in Colombo
November 28, 2007
England's tour of Sri Lanka will continue as planned despite two bomb attacks in the capital, Colombo, on Wednesday, a spokesman told Cricinfo. However, the spokesman added that team officials would continue to monitor the situation, in consultation with the British High Commission.
The England squad is currently in Kandy, away from the scene of the explosions, which took place within ten hours of each other in the heart of the city, killing at least 16 people. The team is due to return to Colombo on December 6, ahead of the second Test at the SSC, but as yet there are no concerns about the safety of the players or travelling support.
"We have spoken to the High Commission and at present their travel advice remains the same," said England's media liaison officer, Andrew Walpole. "As things stand, this will not affect the tour, although we are certainly not going to be complacent about security and we will keep the situation under review."
The first blast occurred at around 9am, outside the department of welfare in the southern outskirts of the city. The perpetrator, an elderly female, died in the blast, along with the personal secretary of her target, the welfare minister, Douglas Devananda. The second took place in the city's busy Nugegoda district, when a security guard opened a suspect package outside a popular clothing store.
Security in Sri Lanka has been on high alert for several months, ever since the fragile peace between the government and the separatist Tamil Tigers began to crumble in early 2006. In August of that year, South Africa's one-day squad pulled out of a triangular tournament in the country following a blast that killed seven and injured 17.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo
It's impossible to portray my view on the history of this conflict without upsetting someone in the process. My intentions are not to talk politics but to provide the average cricket enthusiast with the current ground situation.
This conflict has been raging on for 20+ years, however tourists have flocked to the island for it's beaches, nature and hospitality. Sri Lanka is by no means a small island and the Central, Western and Southern parts of the island remain relatively safe.
The current spade of bombings were within the Greater Colombo Area - 115km (72 miles) from Kandy where the 1st test match is scheduled to be held.
The situation in most parts of Sri Lanka remain safe. +/- Expand Post
As I look back, I am happy I got to be top of the tree for three or four years..
Wait, was this not about how England should play Murali? What's Warnie on about this time?
Reading thus far into his Column entry for the Times Online all i can gather is a little bit of sorrow and remorse for his record being broken.
As I continue to read through I find that he is ever keen on seeing his arch rivals the poms keep Murali - a fellow bowler who he claims to be best mates with, away from his precious record.
It's about time Warnie realised that 708 test scalps is no big feat. Another quality bowler will achieve that with the number of tests being played these days.
Where as Murali's eventual tally will take some beating. Warne may well end up 3 or 4 down on the list of all time wicket takers in as soon as 20 years. +/- Expand Post
The Wisden Cricketer
Sanath Jayasuriya's Buddhism urges compassion to all creatures. His batting is based on precisely the opposite impulse. Ahead of England's Test series in Sri Lanka, the Wisden Cricketer explores the contradictions of a fascinating man.
The first minutes in the company of Sanath Jayasuriya raise a thought that must have crossed many a mind these past two decades. How does a softly spoken, moon-faced man given to meditation twice a day morph into one of the most violent hitters that cricket has known, as soon as he picks up a bat? Well, the answer is both clear and comforting. In a world where size increasingly seems to matter, the little Sri Lankan reminds us that skill and timing also pack a punch.
Read on +/- Expand Post
England's 16-man playing squad and support staff left their Colombo hotel on Wednesday morning, less than one hour before the fatal explosion in the southern suburbs of the city.
An elderly disabled woman detonated a device outside the residence of Sri Lanka's welfare minister Douglas Devananda, killing the minister's personal secretary and injuring two security personnel.
An England spokesman said: "We have spoken to the High Commission in light of the bomb.
"There has been no change in the travel advice we have received from them, at this stage, and it has no effect on the tour arrangements.
"We always keep the tour itinerary and security arrangements under review and we won't be complacent during the tour."
Officials in Sri Lanka said the Tamil Tigers separatist group were responsible and confirmed the bomber had died in the blast.
England have traveled to Kandy, the venue of the first of three Tests, but a due to return to Colombo next Thursday. +/- Expand Post
If you don't have Veoh TV yet consider downloading it? Most of my extended highlights (over 1 hour) can only be viewed on Veoh TV.
Any video hosted on Veoh which is over 60 minutes in run time will display just a 5 minute online preview so watching it on the Veoh TV player is the only option.
Online Videos by Veoh.com
http://www.veoh.com/series/sanathjayasuriya +/- Expand Post
For starters Streaming video and a Dial-Up Internet connection WONT work. This site is best viewed with a High speed/ Broadband Internet connection such as Cable/DSL/T1/Satellite.
The data can't be transferred to your computer fast enough for online videos to play correctly. You will have to live with it UNTIL you get a broadband connection. Faster Internet speed allows the video packets to be downloaded to your computer and played smoother.
At the average work place many terminals share a single High speed connection. It is also quite possible that your server has Bandwidth throttling enabled which will limit how it transmits to the terminals, might be worth having a chat with your systems administrator.
Regardless of your connection speed there will be times the video may buffer due to high demand. Remember there are thousands of others trying to view the same video at that precise moment.
All Internet connections fluctuate in available bandwidth. If you are experiencing persistent problems, a simple trick is to click on 'Play' (as you would normally do to watch the video) and watch the status bar of the video player. It will display something similar to a progress meter. Click 'Pause' on the player and wait till the video is completely downloaded and then hit 'Play' to playback in seamless and clear quality. +/- Expand Post
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, it would be very cruel not to acknowledge Murali's resilience and remarkable strength in battling 12 years of adversity and scrutiny.
Murali has taken it all with a smile and let his bowling do the talking. He has utilised all available options including science to prove his innocence.
- Bio mechanical Testing at the University of Hong Kong
- Australia Coach Foster Clears Muralidaran (22 Jan 1996)
- Murali in career-defining test
- Armed and dangerous
- Channel 4 unlocks Murali's secrets
Now the critics call for some non existent technology that's far from reality. "Test him in live test match conditions" says Jenner and Warne. All this on the verge of Murali breaking Warne's record for the title of leading wicket taker in history.
Regardless of the truth and what's right and wrong, Warne chose to pick on the most sensitive topic in Murali's life and decided to hound him with it on the verge of his most special moment. This too after Warne went on record in 2004 to claim Murali is not a chucker. The true qualities of a great sportsman eh?
Many others have also played their part in making Murali's existence in cricket miserable. The International Cricket Council's inaugural 'team of the year 2004' selectors omitted Murali from a honorary XI. Muralidaran was left out of the honorary Test side chosen on performances in the 12 months - the period in which he became the most successful bowler in Test history.
- Murali snubbed by Test greats
- Murali is a monster: Bedi
- Is Murali-bashing John Howard's only chance to get elected?
Were the laws changed to accommodate Murali?
NO, The tolerance levels had been set at five degrees for spinners, seven-and-a-half for medium-pacers, and 10 for quick bowlers, a scenario that had invited much criticism from past greats like Ian Chappell. But the study conducted by three prominent bio mechanics experts suggests that the human eye can only detect a kink in the action if the straightening is more than 15 degrees.
The trio used cameras shooting at 250 frames per second - ten times the speed of a TV camera - to illustrate phenomena like 'adduction' and hyper extension which can convince an observer watching without the aid of technology that the bowler is chucking.
Based on these findings, the ICC extended the tolerance limit to 15 degrees for all bowlers, regardless of whether they bowl at Shane Warne's pace or Shoaib Akhtar's.
Murali was born with a congenital deformity of the elbow and as a result he is unable to straighten his elbow. Murali's wrists are so supple that the back of his middle finger can touch the back of his forearm. His shoulder rotates in a 360 degree motion.
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Brief highlights of Mahela's maiden century in Australia. +/- Expand Post
Arjuna Ranatunga The wall
Current incumbent Mahela Jayawardene is another man of considerable stature - but this has little to do with his physique or an attitude. One of the game's more thoughtful and softly-spoken protagonists, the 30-year-old has earned rave reviews since taking over following Marvan Atapattu's back injury in March 2006.
A brilliant batsman with natural attacking flair, his positive leadership has helped the team win nine of their 16 Tests under him. Only Arjuna Ranatunga and Sanath Jayasuriya have overseen more Test victories for the islanders, while Jayawardene's success rate in the 56 one-day internationals he has led in is a very healthy 62.5%.
Jayawardene guided the team to a place in the World Cup final in April and, such are the strides made by them in his tenure, Sri Lanka go into the forthcoming Test series against England as favourites.
"Mahela is held up there by Sri Lankans alongside people like Duleep Mendis, Ranatunga and Sanath," former Sri Lanka batsman Russel Arnold told BBC Sport. "He was always known as a talented batsman, but as a captain and how he carries himself around, he's gained a lot of respect." Before he took charge Jayawardene - who will spend next summer playing county had already established himself as a world-class performer thanks to a finely-honed technique.
The right-hander, who made his Test debut in August 1997 against India, has garnered 6,797 runs in 90 Tests at an average of just under 50. But more than a fifth of that total has come in 16 games as skipper, at a stunning average of 57.34. Rather than using his success and position of power to dictate, Jayawardene prefers to delegate responsibility, and is keen on running a democratic ship, a policy he helped implement with former Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody.
"The team plan is made and then everyone fits in and it's not made around him," explained Arnold, who retired after the World Cup. "He's an outgoing guy, has a good cricketing brain and respects people a lot. So in return he is respected. "It's difficult to compare with Sanath and Marvan, they were all different characters, but Mahela's focus on the team has been even greater.
Mahela addressing the media
"Mahela is the type of person who would get on with anybody." That is not to say the Colombo-born star is soft. Far from it - bowlers who stray and fielders who slip up are given admonishing looks. And in his news conferences even banal questions are countered with a smile which precedes a pointed response.
"Mahela's mind is always ticking. He comes up with a thought, sticks to it and no-one can influence it, but generally it's a team-first attitude," Arnold said. "With that type of attitude it's easy for anyone to work with him. "Responsibilities are given to the players but if someone needs to be told and reminded he doesn't take a backward step there - even with more experienced players."
Jayawardene's appointment has come during a transitional stage in Sri Lankan cricket, with the selectors preparing for life without stalwarts like opener Jayasuriya, seamer Chaminda Vaas and star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan. That trio are likely to be around for a while yet, but Jayawardene - who often talks about the "legacy" created by the 1996 World Cup triumph - is keen to look ahead to the next era and leave the national team in capable hands. However, that will not come at the expense of achieving success now. "He and the selectors are aware that people like Sanath, Vaas and Murali being around at this point is a bonus," Arnold added. "So teams are being picked with the idea of one or two places going to people who they are looking at for the future, trying to give experience to people like Kauhsal Lokuruachchi and Dilruwan Perera. "But that doesn't mean they are looking to compromise on results.
The one-day results against England [a 3-2 series loss in October] were hurtful and he will have taken that personally." That really did hurt because they let themselves down. Other than in the first game, England were never really stretched. "The fact is they have done a lot of hard work over the last few years and got good results. "When it comes to the Tests against England they will be expected to win and I'm pretty sure they will put everything right."
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Atapattu had been on a two-year hiatus from the national team until the Sri Lankan sports minister brokered his return on the recent Australia tour. The outspoken batsman then promptly called time on his international career midway through the final day of the second Test and has since criticised those who run the game on the island, labelling them 'muppets headed by a joker'."
Sri Lankan cricket is full of talent but the selectors have gone about their job in an improper way," Atapattu told the Asian Age on Monday.
"The second string looks spineless, there is no grooming of youngsters, and if the matter is not dealt with by the cricket board then our cricket is doomed to failure."
"Having played for so long, I always wished that a youngster would be ready to take my place. But that is not happening at all.""I have no proof but it seems that Sri Lanka Cricket is riddled with politics."
Atapattu signed off for Sri Lanka with an excellent knock of 80 in that final Test against Australia to finish with 5502 runs at an average of 39.02 in 90 Tests, including six double-centuries.Despite only returning for two Test matches, Atapattu admitted he felt the time was right for him to retire.
"I did what I could have for cricket and I was not sad at all as some newspapers suggested," he said."I was not sad at the end of my career, but for Sri Lankan cricket which seems headed for the dumps. I did what I thought best and I was not concerned about myself."
"After the sports minister intervened for my selection I realised that the Australian tour might be the last time I would don the national colours.""At 37 and with injuries taking their toll what else was I supposed to do?"
The right-hander has now signed up for the inaugural ICL and is looking forward to being part of the Twenty20 tournament which begins on Friday."I have not played much Twenty20 and I want to have a taste of it," he said."The ICL has provided me with the opportunity and here I am - I don't think it should be blocked in any way."
"In fact, we need more such initiatives to groom talent and it should be treated as a career chosen by a cricketer.""The Indian Premier League has dragged in all the current players but ICL also has fresh talent on display. That is where the difference lies." +/- Expand Post
Monday, November 26, 2007
Another supremely elegant knock from Sanga. Even back foot defensive shots flew off to the boundary.+/- Expand Post
Muttiah Muralitharan again proved the match winner at Old Trafford, taking his second four-wicket haul of the match and reducing Kent from a position of relative comfort, at 153 for 3, to 190 all out. A century stand from Martin Van Jaarsveld and Darren Stevens gave Kent hope of a draw, but the turning point came when Stevens was run out for 55 and Geraint Jones was bowled by his former England colleague James Anderson. It was then time for Muralitharan and Gary Keedy to mop up the tail.
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Dar who has officiated in 40 Test matches also stood in Sri Lanka’s last test match against Australia last week in Hobart.
Koertzen who was Dar’s partner in that match made a huge blunder by ruling Kumar Sangakkara out in a controversial decision when the Sri Lankan left hander was on 192. The ball from Stuart Clark brushed Sangakkara’s shoulder, ht the helmet and was caught by Australian skipper Ricky Ponting in the slips. Koertzen upheld the appeal by Australians and Sangakkara missed his seventh test double century by just eight runs.
Koertzen later apologized to Sangakkara but the incident may have resulted in ICC’s decision to change the umpire. Algama refused to comment on the matter and it was unclear if Sri Lanka Cricket had protested the appointment of Koertzen for the coming series. Koertzen had on an earlier occasion too been reported to the ICC by the Pakistan Cricket Board for making controversial comments about the Pakistan team. – (MSA)" +/- Expand Post
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Murali gives us a rare look into his magic, courtesy of Mark Nicholas and the Channel 9 crew.
Cricket Show - Master class 'Murali's spin'
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Forgive me if I'm being too brash but cricketers these days are the biggest pansies around. Soccer players who earn a lot more for a living play far more aggressively in the wettest, muddiest outfields. Cricketers on the other hand cant set foot on a field that has a few drops of water.
Sometimes in life you need to brush it off and grab the initiative. Ask Marvan he knows; Marvan Atapattu took some time off for back surgery as the captain of Sri Lanka. When he returned he couldn't find a spot in the team with his replacement Mahela doing a remarkable job.
Regardless of fitness very rarely do bowlers these days last to the age of 30, complaining of a sore ankle and a little niggle in your back is just eating a way at your career.
Dilhara Fernando who is suffering from an ankle injury will be playing this upcoming first test. A quick anti- inflammatory injection in Australia and the man is back in business. +/- Expand Post
For Upul Tharanga the last 13 months have been very hard work, not only has he had to concentrate on building up his cricket career but also help his family get back on their feet and get over the devastating Tsunami that ravaged the coastal areas of Sri Lanka in December 2004. The Tsunami devastated Upul's Ambalangoda home while he was in Colombo playing for the Sri Lanka A team. His home and belongings were washed to the sea but thankfully his family members remained unharmed and he says that is the biggest relief for him.
"The tsunami is now a thing of the past for me. It happened to so many people in lot of countries and I am glad that my family members were safe. When such natural disasters come you only thank the Lord if you or your family members can survive througt it," he remarked when asked about the devastation. The youngest in a family of five, Upul says his family still lives in Ambalangoda and his father still runs a fish supermarket and his brothers are also employed near their home. "People and many of my cricket colleagues were very helpful to me after the tsunami. I landed a job with Seylan Bank at a time when my father's fish store was not making money and aided by help from some cricketing pals I was able to concentrate on my cricket and make it to the national team," he recalled.
Upul has come though under-15, 19, school and provincial cricket and finally with the Sri Lanka A team before landing in the senior team where his first job was to open with Jayasuriya in the third and final Test against India at Ahmedabad in December, his debut Test.
"It was a dream for me to play for the Sri Lanka team since childhood. I worked hard hoping someday to get selected for the team and I am very happy that I could do it at the age of 20," he added.+/- Expand Post
Muttiah Muralitharan is, to the outsider, the paramount star of Sri Lankan cricket, a world-beating bowler who is about to recapture the record for the most wickets in Test history. But the spinner is a one-off. It is another bowler with a unique action, Lasith Malinga, who is the future of cricket in his country. Not because we are going to see a new generation of shock-headed, side-arm slingers from the island, but because his success has dealt a telling blow to the class system that bedevilled the sport there. Seven years after he first picked up a proper cricket ball, four years after his Test debut, Malinga is adored by ordinary Sri Lankans for wrestling the sport away from the island's elite.
There is the wrong side of the tracks, and there is a place where the train does not even go. That is where Malinga is from: Rathgama on Sri Lanka's south-west coast, halfway between surfers' paradise Hikkaduwa and old-world Galle. Not only were the trains far away, so was 'official' cricket. 'There was cricket, we called it soft-ball cricket. Cricket with a tennis ball or a ball we would shave and then pichchilla [burn] to make harder,' he says in his developing English. When he is stuck for a word, he will make sure that the precise Sinhalese one gets translated. It is apparent he likes to get more than just each curl exactly right.
'The only cricket I played was soft-ball on the beach. When it rained we would play in a kind of net we made from coconut leaves for a roof. My house was about 60 yards from the beach so I could play a lot.' He started playing at 11, day in, day out, and quickly made a name for himself up and down the beach. 'I was getting famous, but famous means a hundred people know me. We played six-a-side and we had lots of village tournaments, but it was always the beach.'
On that beach he perfected his discus-thrower sidewinder action. If Paul Adams was a frog in a blender, Malinga is Worzel Gummidge in a Wurlitzer. 'In soft-ball cricket, to cut the runs, the safest ball is the yorker into the sand. I want to bowl six yorkers. This was always my action. I see this side-action is easy to bowl yorkers. I think with this action it is very easy to put the ball in the right place. If I bowl very straight, I could take wickets.'
And then he grins. 'I could bowl quick but not always straight.'
The world of whites and leather balls may have been far away in Colombo, Galle and Kandy, but his small town of 6,000 people did have television. 'I watched Sri Lanka win the World Cup [in 1996] but what they did there and what I was doing didn't seem connected. Waqar Younis was always my favourite, because of his yorkers. Even if he didn't get wickets, the yorkers would give batsmen trouble.' The way Malinga says 'yorker', it almost deserves capitals.
As with many an Asian youngster, school conflicted with sport. 'I used to bowl one over, run home, let my mother know I was around and then go back to the beach to finish the match.' He was good at school, especially at maths, and his mother wanted him to follow her into working in the local bank. His father is a mechanic.
'I played a soft-ball match at school where the umpire was from Mahinda College [a cricket-playing school in Galle, a 30-minute drive from Rathgama] and he said I should play for them.' His mother let him go to this school with a strong academic reputation for his A-levels, not knowing that they had their own cricket field. He took 14 wickets the first time he ever bowled with a real ball. 'The first time I ever picked up a leather ball, it felt so heavy, so strange, like something from out of the world,' he tells me.
He has come a very long way in a very short time. 'I had no idea that I could be playing cricket for Sri Lanka when I was a boy. I had no idea that I could be playing cricket for Sri Lanka when I was a man. But I am now and that makes me feel I am living my dream.'
In school cricket and then first-class cricket (eight wickets in his first match for Galle CC as a 17-year-old in 2001), Malinga made waves. He was sent up to Colombo for national under-19 trials.
Sri Lanka has produced other out-station cricketers, most famously Sanath Jayasuriya. But Matara, Jayasuriya's home town on the tip of the south coast, has 120 times the population of Rathgama. And Jayasuriya, with his initial country-mouse ways, was very much under the wing of Colombo's Arjuna Ranatunga when he first moved to the capital in the early 1990s, ensuring that the newcomer's lightning strikes of brilliance were looked out for.
When Malinga first came to Colombo for that trial he had no one. No patron, no pedigree, no polish. And with that action and that small-town background, even though he took three wickets in three overs, he was sent back down south.
We have been having dinner and all this time he has been tucking in with gusto. Now he has stopped eating completely and speaks only in Sinhalese. His translator senses his unease and she explains: 'Lasith was very disappointed. He did his very best and did so well and still they didn't take him. He thought they would never take him.' It's left unsaid, but Sri Lankan cricket has a tendency to be cliquey and class-conscious. Less so now than in days gone by - when Aravinda de Silva and Ranatunga first came on the scene. The fact that they weren't 'Royal or Thomian' schoolboys was very much held against them - but the bias in favour of establishments such as Royal College and St Thomas' College is there nevertheless. Six years ago, Malinga was too out-station, too other-worldly.
Malinga could not change where he was from, but he could change where he was going. He had blown his chances of A-levels and further education by becoming a first-class cricketer while still at college. The sport was all he had. 'I just decided to play cricket and see what I could do. I still do.'
Former Sri Lanka fast bowlers Champaka Ramanayake and Rumesh Ratnayake kept an eye on him. 'A lot of people claim credit for Lasith,' Ratnayake says, 'but the thing is he did it all by himself. I just said to him that if he was stronger he would be more balanced and not bowl so many wides. He was quick. He just needed to be more reliable.'
He made it back to Colombo a couple of years later. Faster, stronger but still erratic. Yorkers there were, beamers too. 'I broke someone's finger in the nets and after that no one wanted to face me,' Malinga says a little sheepishly.
'Around about the time we were getting ready for the 2003 World Cup I heard there was this young pace-bowler new in Colombo and how no one really wanted to bat against him, certainly none of the seniors. So I had to have a go,' says De Silva. And? 'He's hard to pick up when you first face him. His action means it's hard for a batsman to set a trigger movement. Back then he was more difficult because you just didn't know where the ball was going to go. I'm pretty sure neither did he.'
After retiring from playing, De Silva joined the Sri Lankan Cricket Board with a remit to develop new talent. He says that Malinga impressed him not so much with his bowling in those days as with his inner fire. 'He asked one of our bowling coaches, "Could it be possible that someone with my action ever gets accepted?" He said it in such a way that you could see he had a big determination to make it.' Malinga knew he was unusual, he just wanted to know whether that was going to be held against him for ever.
In 2004, the chance came, against Australia. His first two wickets were a well set Darren Lehmann and then, three balls later, Adam Gilchrist for a duck. Eighty-three more Test victims have followed and he has not only taken big scalps, but he also has the best strike-rate in the team (one almost identical to Brett Lee's). He is very much the man Jayawardene throws the ball to when he needs a breakthrough wicket. He is a reverse-swing king bowling with controlled aggression and he's getting faster all the time.
Malinga Lethal on debut
He has a winning smile, outdoes even Shoaib Akhtar in eye-catching wicket celebrations and has become a cult phenomenon outside Sri Lanka. 'There are people everywhere who wear wigs like me at cricket-grounds, especially in South Africa and the West Indies,' he says. But there does remain a danger that the hair and the flair will overshadow his bowling. He may be the first man to take four in four balls in international cricket (against South Africa in the 2007 World Cup), but Sri Lanka need him to take four or five in a match on a regular basis if they are to be a truly formidable side.
He had a good tour of England last year but Ryan Sidebottom (12 wickets at 13.83 and a Robert Plant barnet) outdid Malinga (six wickets at 32.00 and Lion King) in the five one-dayers in Sri Lanka this October. In between there was a disappointing quarter-season with Kent last summer, so it is not as if he has really established himself as an outright champion with the ball. He is a thinking bowler and is developing his repertoire. A slower ball has come along this year which has been successful and he has gleefully found that his 'knee-high full tosses get wickets' too. But he is still to cement his place in the Test side.
'I'm more effective in one-day cricket [11 wickets at 19.09 in the Champions Trophy last year then 18 wickets at 15.77 in the World Cup, as Sri Lanka finished runners-up] because the batsmen have to play shots against me with a swinging ball. Not so easy.' He also gets his full allocation in ODIs. Given the number of overs Muralitharan bowls in Tests and the number of wickets he takes, there is not much left to go around. Muralitharan prefers to bowl when the other end is kept tight; Chaminda Vaas is the perfect foil. Muralitharan just hopes and prays that Malinga, for all his wicket-taking potential, will not give the batsmen a few swinging down the leg-side. Certainly if you look at Sri Lanka's bowling combinations, it is rare to see Malinga and Muralitharan bowling in tandem.
I try to provoke some sort of reaction in him by saying it must be hard to bowl when Muralitharan is so dominant but he will have none of it: 'Murali's a legend and it's an honour to play with him.'
Malinga worked out for himself, without any coaching, that side-arm bowling was effective and he kept at it when so many said he should not. He chose to keep playing when others would have given up. He backed himself when he was the longest of long-shots. Every Sri Lankan cricketer inspires back-biting and sniping, even Muralitharan, it's just the islanders' way. No one, however, has a bad word to say about Malinga. No one.
What has been just a trickle since Ranatunga first looked for talent outside of Colombo is potentially going to be a gushing stream thanks to Malinga. He is an absolute hero to the masses. He is one of them made good. 'He knows the impact he's created and is going to inspire a lot of youngsters to realise their dreams,' Jayawardene says.
'I don't worry about my figures but I do want to be the third Sri Lankan to take 100 Test wickets,' says Malinga. Such has been the paucity of Sri Lankan bowling outside of Muralitharan and Vaas that the next highest wicket-taker is Jayasuriya with 97 in 109 Tests. Malinga has 85 in 25. New talent needs to come through.
In succeeding, Malinga has broken more than cricketing records, he has broken Sri Lankan social barriers. He has only been a proper cricketer for seven years. The next seven - 'I can't change as a person but I will as a cricketer' - can only mean more wickets, more smiles and more influence.
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Saturday, November 24, 2007
However, a back injury in 2006 saw him increasingly sidelined, and losing the captaincy to Mahela Jayawardene. His career ended in less than happy circumstances: he just might end up being more remembered for calling the selectors - with whom he had a series of spats - a "set of muppets headed by a joker" before calling it quits.
Atapattu, now headed to India to lead the Delhi Jets in the Indian Cricket League, spoke to Sa'adi Thawfeeq.
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