Posts Tagged ‘mahela jayawardene’


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Here’s a narrative that you might not have heard in 33 years: The West Indies have won the World Cup. They have re-arrived in the ICC Wall of Fame with the force of a gale. Not just Gayle (pardon the rhetoric pun again please).

Their dance is as distinguishing as their unique style – and coupled with a new found passion that seemed to have been nonexistent until not too long ago, ’79 doesn’t seem that distant a memory now. It is easy to forget that the West Indies constitutes a set of nations that are fragmented geographically, culturally and (maybe) politically.

The victory is made more poignant and credible given the hurdles that had to be crossed by Darren Sammy and his men. Revisiting the incidents would remove the sentiment behind this piece, for when the mood is calypso, it is worth celebrating, not contemplating. Their vision for the future must be their distant past. It really is as simple as that.

Every final played leaves an etched memory that never fades with time. From Clive Lloyd’s assault in ’75 all the way to MS Dhoni’s pyrotechnics of 2011, the victorious team has always had a fulcrum around which the scorecards revolved. And in some cases, a moment of magic (not reflected in scorecards) – such as Kapil Dev’s brilliant catch to dismiss Viv Richards in ’83 – announces itself as the difference between glory and gloom.

Marlon Samuels, whose chronological trysts in International Cricket best remain buried, given the moment, stole the thunder from the much anticipated fireworks of Chris Gayle. Gayle had set the tournament alight with his impersonations of the Gangnam dance, a popular South Korean style that came into prominence to rank Psy’s albums above the story of the North Korean soldier who’d crossed fortified borders to enter South Korea. He had, in addition, defied presumptions to bat through the innings during the semifinals against Australia.

Unfortunately, a ploy that had worked in the semi-finals failed yesterday. As admirable as the intent is to allow Gayle to bat through an innings, natural instincts – if left unattended to – could take fortunes for a reversing. But to witness Samuels respond the way he did, albeit circumstances where the run-rates dipped to embarrassingly low levels given the format, is a testament to his temperament and approach. His straight six off Malinga, a monstrous 108m hit, remains the highlight of a battering that cut the Sri Lankan pacer’s stats to pieces.

Not too long ago, the documentary Fire in Babylon seemed to catalyze the process of the rest of the world catching up with the Caribbean in the nostalgia department. Whether it made most of us yearn for the West Indies to hit the glory days again will remain unanswered, but the neutral’s elation – coupled with observations during my stay in Sri Lanka – convinces me that it did.

Sammy’s style and captaincy doesn’t depict the theme behind the documentary – his style isn’t the typical ‘in-your-face’ attitude, but rather the approach that bridged the chasm between altercations and egos. Until yesterday, he probably had a greater share of pessimists (including myself) questioning his very place in the XI. I still do. But he deserves credit for taking up the anchor role that others refused – to accomplish a task that appeared, back then, as monumental as reversing the fortunes of today’s Greek economy.  He has had the last laugh in this contest.

Mahela and Sanga: ‘Tim Henmans’ of cricket?

But such contests, unlike many others, turn out to be a zero sum game. The West Indies’ triumph was the home team’s loss – in particular, towards two men who’ve steered them to four finals thus far. A fourth final in this century would have, in all obviousness, placed – if I could borrow the words of an economist here – an inelastic demand on their success. But at least, the economy fluctuates. Their luck didn’t. Jayawardena and Sangakkara, for all you know, may never taste the ultimate success that continues to elude them. A friend of mine recently labeled them the ‘Tim Henmans’ of cricket. I don’t doubt that they are.

Their records will have a void that has left some of the best cricketers’ records flecked – from Bradman’s ‘an iota short of a 100’ test average to Shane Warne’s top score as a batsman. It may add fuel to their biographical defensives, but it isn’t something that would compensate for the lack of a trophy in their cabinet. Not when they were so close to repeating what the Indians did in front of their fans last year.

On the brighter side, their performances have disproved notions posed by a few theorists through the course of the tournament. To begin with, the theory that Mendis would fail against bigger nations is blown away when you look at his statistics from yesterday. Add to this the youth fervor that Akila Dhananjaya brings – there is every reason to believe that the near future isn’t as bleak as it appeared to be when a few big names bid farewell.

West Indies, on the other hand, have just carved a beginning. They’re still way off the mark formats that have a stricter measurement yardstick. And if this doesn’t act as a catalyst, I can’t imagine what else would. Just like how a stable currency doesn’t necessarily reflect the prosperity of a nation, this triumph should open doors for more transparent conversations to help elevate standards in ODI and Test Cricket.

They need to have their best players playing in these formats – Sarwan included. Now, who initiates these dialogues is always guesswork, given the egos that battle each other. Unfortunately, the more sensible advocates from West Indies cricket aren’t part of the WICB. The system needs to find a way to get these personalities in, while the momentum is still on. History has shown us that World Cup wins could do wonders to boosting sporting, and non-sporting, opulence to nations.

It will be an interesting few months leading up to the New Year. But until then, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try mastering the Gangnum. As the cliché goes, grab the trend while it still lasts. Recall something called a vuvuzela now?


Bini Sathyan

It was the most amazing innings of a T20 match and probably the innings of a lifetime played by Marlon Samuels. And that he chose to do it on the biggest stage when the chips were down and his team was literally on the mat and the fact that he decided to take on the best T20 bowler in the world to fight it out and to come out a winner makes it the most awesome come-back-from-behind of performances. The end result is that the Calypso Kings are back and are crowned the World T20 champions. Sri Lanka again ended up as the second best in 4 finals since 2007.

The T20 finals did not look like a T20 match, instead it looked like a battle for life. With West Indies electing to bat, everyone expected the Gayle storm to simply blow the opposition over. But the Sri Lankan bowlers came well prepared to absorb the impact and they did so well that Gayle looked like a man lost in the storm.

With the runs just not coming and the mystery bowlers of Sri Lanka tightening the noose after Gayle’s exit, the West Indies looked to fall flat. At 34/2 in 10 overs, no one except a hardcore West Indian fan would have expected a miracle. But the miracle did come in the form of Marlon Samuels. He just stood there in the middle leading the West Indian resistance striking at less than a run a ball and it looked like he was fighting a lost battle. But he had other plans. Lasith Malinga who was given only one over by Jayawardene and held back to be used at the death was given the ball to to take out the West Indian resistance. And the game changed.

West Indies came from behind to choke Sri Lanka to take the title. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Everyone expected the toe crushers to come curling in to knock down the West Indians. They definitely did come. But this time the script was not the usual one. Samuels dispatched the first one for six. The more they curled in the more higher and longer he hit them. One of them from Samuels’ bat became the biggest six of the tournament. 22 runs came of the over and Slinga Malinga thought it was just one odd over. But that was not the end. By the end of Malinga’s 3rd over, half of the West Indies’ total was scored from his overs. And he ended up giving away 54 runs without a wicket. It took only a couple of overs to destroy the reputation of the best and most lethal T20 bowler. Then came Captain Sammy and delivered when it mattered the most taking the West Indian total to a fighting one.

Rampaul and Co. gave it back in an almost similar fashion to the Lankans. By the end of 12 overs, it looked a long and rough road ahead for Sri Lanka. Then Kulasekhara decided to do a Samuels in the 16th over. He targeted the West Indian fast Rampaul and hit him for a six. Rampaul responded angrily by sending in short pitched balls and Kulasekhara skilfully dispatched all of them to the fence.

This pedestrian performance from Rampaul after an extraordinary beginning almost shifted the momentum away from the West Indies. And the great man Gayle had to come and put an arm around him to cool him down. Sammy then decided to use his trump card in the next over. He gave the ball to Sunil Narine, the coolest bowler you can come across in the world. His face did not give away the carnage that had happened in the over before. Neither did his face reveal any feeling that this could be the deciding over of the match with Kulasekhara in murderous mood threatening to finish off the match. Cool, calm, composed and full of concentration he just stuck to his task and was rewarded in the 2nd ball with the wicket of Kulasekhara. Sammy went wild and so did the West Indians. The trump card worked. And now it was just a matter of time.

Bravo got to take the final catch and with that the cup and he got to celebrate his birthday with a world cup win. And the West Indians celebrated like no other. Gayle with his antics and Bravo with his dancing skills amused the crowd. Sammy was the most criticized captain of recent times but looks like no one will be talking about the negatives soon.


Goutham Chakravarthi

If you have been to Sri Lanka you’ll know that there are few nicer people than them. And if you happened to know people from the Caribbean you also realize that few are as full of life as them. In more ways, this is also a battle between two nations, one, which has produced the most natural of bowlers over the past decade and another that has produced the most natural T20 players in the format’s brief history.

Contrastingly, pundits and fans of the West Indies think their captain, Darren Sammy is a liability and is taking up Russell or Dwayne Smith out of the team while some think he has managed to keep the team together and ride through tough waters. On the other hand, the brilliant Mahela Jayawardene has maneuvered his team and made inspirational player picks and brilliant on field decisions. That he is yet to commit to a long tenure as captain long tells of issues beyond his control. Cricket outside of the field has been eventful for both finalists over the last few years.

Gayle has been the inspiration behind Windies’ resurgence. © Reuters

While West Indies have made as much news for their Gangnam dances on the field as they have for partying in their hotel rooms, their form coming in to the finals will be worrisome for the Sri Lankan management. Not much seems impossible for their batting when they click as a unit.

It is apparent to the eye from outside that Gayle is the leader of these men and his contributions in playing the anchor and the grenade launcher and switching back and forth with the same ease he breaks in to his various celebratory dance moves. It was apparent when Samuels bowled the Super Over against New Zealand ahead of Narine that he had the final say in the on field meeting with Darren Sammy.

It would be daft to think that getting Gayle out early would seal the victory for the Lions. Gayle perhaps has been the reason and belief in Johnson Charles, Samuels, Bravo and Pollard having contributed immensely in tough situations. They, along with Sri Lanka, seem to have the team covered for all situations and conditions – including having the best answers for Super Over situations.

The wickets have slowed down and will aid spinners and clever medium pacers that favour the cunning. Expect Mahela to throw surprises at the West Indies with team selection and bowling changes. His horses-for-courses team selection has proved to be inspiring: be it either picking Herath in the semifinals over Dhanajaya or opening the bowling with Angelo Mathews. It is hard not to think Mahela bowling Dilshan and Kualasekara with the new ball to Gayle on Sunday evening.

It has been a tournament where most things have gone well for Mahela barring the loss to South Africa at Hambantota. His batting will still hold the key for his team either batting first or chasing. His batting under pressure and on difficult tracks are a thing of beauty. Twice in a span of 18 months he has played champion knocks when it mattered most for his team (ICC World Cup 2011 finals and in the semi-finals the other day against Pakistan).

Mahela has been spectacular as a tactician, leader and batsman. © AFP

Also, Mahela has the knack to smell tactics and seems to be able to move away from a pre-decided plan on his instinct. It is this aspect of his cricket from which Sri Lanka seems to have benefited with him back at the helm after Dilshan stepped down.

It is, of course, silly to pin the credit of his team’s entire success on Mahela alone for his troops stand by him and in Sangakkara, he has an able ally in implementing his various plans. But it must also not be forgotten that he seems to be the type to go out of his way to pick the players he wants: Dananjaya being a point in case. Nor did he seem hesitant to pick Herath over Danajaya given Herath’s success over Pakistan in Test cricket and the captain’s opinion that Pakistan had difficulties against left-arm spin. His inspired selection proved to be a differentiating factor in the end. Nor does the very promising Dinesh Chandimal feature in the captain’s scheme of things in this world cup.

Often, it is the captain who takes the major chunk of the blame should things go wrong in this part of the world, and often it is a very fine line between being inspirational and being insipid. Mahela duly deserves credits for being innovative and bold. Long may his instincts serve his country as its captain.

As the two best teams this tournament square-off on Sunday, it might boil down to a battle of wits at the end. And Jayawardene should fancy his chances of getting his hands around ICC silverware at long last!

This is a published article in Island Cricket


Goutham Chakravarthi

Though the rains in parts of Sri Lanka have been persistent, the tournament is finally gathering momentum with the beginning of Super Eight stages. Insofar only Afghanisthan added some colour to the tournament with their brand of brash and volatile cricket. Having seen a few of their players and staff at a restaurant in Colombo, they seemed to be thrilled to be a part of the tournament and seemed eager to do well.

Afghanistan’s progress has been rapid but, as has been seen in this tournament, their cricket still is raw and borders more on the emotional than on the rational. With time, the hope is that they improve their game whilst not losing the flair that has warmed the hearts of many who have seen them in this World Twenty20 tournament.

The heart-stopping tie that Sri Lanka eventually won in the super over is a reminder of the thrills T20 cricket can provide fans, spectators and players. Fists were seen pumping at the end by the batsmen in the middle and their teammates in the dug out. The next moment, the smiles were wiped off their faces when it turned out that New Zealand captain Ross Taylor had managed to knee a run-out off the last ball.

Akila Dananjaya impressed with his mixture of offies, leggies and googlies.

It was an evening where fortune changed sides more often than rains starting and stopping in the southern coasts of Sri Lanka. Taylor’s knee might have aided the match going in to the super over, it tested the umpires and players; and all will be glad for the experience, should they get in to a similar situation later in the tournament.

Earlier, Angelo Mathews and Ajantha Mendis had shaken off their injury scares to make it into the final XI. But the attention was on Akila Dananjaya once his name appeared in the starting line-up. His spin menu included flighted leg-breaks, googlies and offies. In short, it is enough to keep the English team up at night before their game against the Sri Lankans.

However, given the history of off-spinners from the sub-continent whose actions have often been scrutinised, Dananjaya’s might well be questioned.

The theory that established Test nations have worked out Mendis further gathered ground, as he was sent for 48 runs off his 4 overs — his worst T20 figures coming into the game. The theory that established Test nations have worked out Mendis further gathered ground, as he was sent for 48 runs off his 4 overs — his worst T20 figures. Mystery injuries have also clouded the career of this mystery spinner, and how much faith the Sri Lankan management has in him for future games remains to be seen.

Rangana Herath is a very fine bowler after all, and with Dananjaya holding his own even with the onslaught very much on, the management might be tempted to have the experienced Herath back in the team. With the pitch at Pallekelle offering more than enough turn, as was seen in Premadasa in the India-England game, it will not be a surprise to see more teams resorting to spin for both attack and defence.

The batting looked in rich form with Tillakaratne Dilshan finding fluency. Sri Lanka’s side is packed with several allrounders, so there is a school of thought — as Taylor pointed out — that they might lack batting depth and be too top heavy. So far, it has not proved to be a problem with the likes of Jeevan Mendis and Thisara Perera holding their own with the bat. Mathews has proved to be a reliable finisher and Lahiru Thirimanne is proving to be one of late as well.

West Indies and England are the other two teams in the group, and given England’s form against spin in the recent past and their form against India and West Indies, it will be a surprise if Sri Lanka do not find themselves in the semi-finals.

The objective would be to have peaked as a team by then and hope to have a couple of their match-winners in red-hot form. Sri Lanka have found themselves within reach of winning ICC tournaments many times in the recent past, and they will be one of the teams favoured to win.

Mahela Jayawardene’s men displayed the ability to handle the mental side of the game well in the super over finish today, and the hosts will hope to be at the finals this time too in order to have another crack at crossing the final hurdle.

This is a published article in Island Cricket.


Goutham Chakravarthi

With the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 also taking place in Sri Lanka, the Galle International Cricket Stadium is a hive of activity these days. The man responsible for getting the stadium in shape for the women’s league matches starting later this week is former Sri Lankan Test cricketer Jayananda Warnaweera. Apart from being the curator at the venue and the secretary of the Southern Province Cricket Association, Warnaweera is also on the executive committee of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).

I am not a great fan of T20 cricket: Warnaweera. He is seen with CouchExperts Chandra and Goutham in this picture.

You played for Galle Cricket Club, and you were among the first to represent Sri Lanka from here. Who are the others?

Like New South Wales in Australia or Mumbai in India, Colombo is the cricket epicentre for Sri Lanka. I played cricket from here for two-and-half decades and was the first to break into the Test team from Galle. It paved the way for others like Champaka Ramanayake and Upul Chandana later. Even Marvan Atapattu is from here. Now, Upul Tharanga from Galle is in the national team as well. So, we have consistently been producing Test players from Galle from the time I broke in. Unfortunately with Galle, like with other outstations being limited in terms of opportunities, a lot of these cricketers move to places like Colombo after school and in search of job opportunities.

Are there steps taken by SLC to ensure talent remains in their regions?

There are various measures being evaluated to ensure we retain people in the local provinces. Chief among them are proposals at the provincial level where eligibility for representing the province will be earned only if you represent a club from the province. There are many such ideas being considered and we hope to provide long-term solutions.

We are about a week from the start of the women’s league games, a lot of work is being done here at the stadium already; how is the interest with ladies cricket here and what kind of numbers do you foresee for these games at Galle?

This is an ICC event and all ticket-related things are handled by the ICC. The good thing is these games are free of charge for the spectators. Sri Lankans have been known to follow the men’s game more and it is the same everywhere. But we still expect to see five to six thousand people to show up at the ground for every match

How do you rate Sri Lankan women’s chances?

In Sri Lanka, not many women play cricket although the interest seems to be on the rise. Understandably, the interest is more in Colombo area than in outstations like Galle. The hope is that with this World Cup being here, and if we do well, it will hopefully generate a lot of interest in the women to take up the game.

You were instrumental in getting the stadium ready first in 1998 and you then played a pivotal role in getting the stadium ready post tsunami. How difficult was it?

The tsunami left the stadium in ruins and we had to do a lot of work to get it up and running. Upwards of 500 million rupees was spent to have the stadium renovated. There were obstructions from the archaeological department that the new building construction would block the view of the historical Galle Fort. I am glad that we were able to get past all that. It was the ground where Shane Warne got to 500 wickets and my good friend Murali retired here a hero after getting the last Indian wicket to get to 800 Test wickets. There are many happy memories at this ground.

Being a former Test player, would you have liked to be part of these T20 tournaments across the world? Do you fancy them?

Personally, I am not a great fan of T20 cricket. Test cricket will always be the pinnacle not T20 cricket. Not even one-day cricket. You need skill and endurance to succeed in Test cricket and that is not the case with T20 cricket. Yes, commercially it is great for cricket. But from a personal stand point, not my choice.

When I run through your stats, I see that you regularly bowled 30-odd overs in an innings. Yet we see today’s bowlers, with all the coaching and scientific approach, spending more time recuperating than playing. Why is that?

In my time, fitness had to do with match routine not gym routine. Unfortunately, most of the youngsters are gym-fit and not match-fit. We didn’t know much else to do other than to bowl for long hours. We built ourselves to bowl and last sessions and days. Perhaps today’s bowlers are not that match fit.

Who are the best young players coming out of Sri Lanka that have caught your eye?

I am impressed a lot by Akila Dananjaya. He will be a very good bowler for Sri Lanka. Dinesh Chandimal has the ability to be a very good player for Sri Lanka. I hope he can go far and achieve a lot.

Who were the best players you played against?

Vivian Richards comes to mind first and then Mohammed Azharuddin. Among bowlers, there were many — Kapil Dev, Michael Holding, Imran Khan and Wasim Akram to name a few.

Who was the most difficult batsman you bowled to and why?

Mohammed Azharuddin. He was wristy and aggressive; and was very difficult to set fields to. He had good hands, and could put spinners off their lines and lengths quickly.

The best captain you have played with or against?

Imran Khan was the best and so was Arjuna Ranatunga. I would rate Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara amongst the best captains in the recent times as well.

As a former off-spinner, who do you pick as the best off-spinner in the world currently?

Both Saeed Ajmal and Graeme Swann have been very good for their teams in the last few years. Both are very fine spinners. I am also very impressed with R Ashwin as he seems to have a lot of variations and seems an intelligent cricketer. With age on his side, and the maturity experience will bring him, he will be a bowler to watch out for in the years to come.

Do you agree with foreign coaches coaching national teams? It seems to be the norm with all international teams these days?

I do not have a problem with local coaches coaching the national team. Sometimes, language can be a barrier for foreign coaches to communicate with the team, especially the young ones. Some teams with good and bright seniors can overcome this. Sometimes, it is seen to be an advantage, as it is seen as not showing favouritism as well. The best man for the job should always coach any team.

Finally, who do you think will win the World T20?

It is a very open tournament. South Africa are a strong team and so are Pakistan. Sri Lanka have the team to win and so do India.

This interview was first published in Island Cricket.