Underdog that turned into a Lion! | Sunday Observer

Underdog that turned into a Lion!

That this was a historical achievement for Sri Lanka and a stunning upset for the South Africans is in itself an understatement! None of the Asian teams have achieved this feat of winning a series on South African soil. What is even more profound is that it was achieved by the ‘underdog’!

That this may be the beginning of a dramatic turnaround with three months to go for the World Cup run has put everyone on alert. It has also made critics, even this columnist, to have more faith and not give up hope prematurely.

Yes, team fared miserably in their recent Tests with others in the fray and earned the wrath of fans and critics alike. But let’s take comfort that sometimes, shock treatment meted revives an ailing patient!

To the young team goes the credit that should be shared by Asantha de Mel, chairman of selectors and his team who had a stormy sea to safely steer the ship.

At the risk of repetition, it is still fitting to capture how the victory was achieved in the second Test, if only to emphasize that the Sri Lanka team has a wealth of budding talent and that the Kusal Perera unbeaten 153 stunner in the first Test can be buttressed by others in the team as we saw in the second.

There is resilience in this team for sure. When the homesters made 222 and the Sri Lankans were shot out for 154 conceding a lead of 68 runs runs, it looked as though the Sri Lankans were in the deep end of the pool. But the manner in which the Sri Lankan bowlers, especially Suranga Lakmal and Vishwa Fernando along with off spinner Dhananjaya de Silva strangled the SA batting was incredible.

Strangling the SA batting and getting them out for a beggarly 128 left the Lankans needing 197 for victory which was not going to be easy. With the Lankan batting wobbling at 34 for 2, taking strike were Oshada Fernando Kusal Mendis on whom much depended.

That they took the team to victory putting on an unbroken stand of 163 was terrific and commendable. They treated the much hyped attack of pacemen Dale Steyn, Kagasio Rabada and Duanne Olivier with disdain.

What was interesting to watch were the two batsmen taking the attack to the opponents. They made the pacemen look ordinary and what was eye-catching was their driving boundaries on the V which shows good technique and is anathema to any paceman.

Mendis made 84 no and Fernando 75 no. They finished the game in two days and one session which needs loud cheers.

New SLC officials need support

In outplaying the South Africans the cricketers created a bonanza for the newly elected office bearers of Sri Lanka Cricket led by Shammi Silva giving them a gift signed, sealed and delivered and, to use cricket parlance a solid start to build on for the further improvement of the game.

While an epoch-making victory is a victory in any form of the game it is an achievement which must be celebrated and the bottom line at the moment is the looming World Cup tournament in England and Wales in May/June.

While we leave that bridge to the selectors and new office bearers to cross when they come to it, we would like to comment on the Second Test that saw some unbelievable cricket by the Sri Lankans.

In this season when ‘big matches’ between leading schools are the craze, another ‘Big Match’ of sorts tagged the Sri Lanka Annual General Meeting was played out between Jayantha Dharmadasa’s team and Shammi Silva’s team with Silva’s team emerging victorious.

And now finally after many a legal battle between the contestants was fought out, every sports loving fan, especially cricket fans, heaved a sigh of relief that the AGM was finally concluded with no untoward incidents reported.

In any controlling body the men who will be the cynosure of all eyes are the President and Secretary. They will be the ones under the microscope and having been top cricketers during their time, their credentials in the game cannot be challenged.

Shammi Silva sported Nalanda College cricket colours and was a stylish right hand batter. He played for his school from 1977 to 1980 captaining the school in 1980. He also won the ‘Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer’ award in the ‘Sunday Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the year’ contest in 1979. He also played Division One cricket for CCC.

Shammi later took to squash in a big way and represented Sri Lanka. He is now the President of the prestigious Gymkhana Club which comprises the Queen’s Club (tennis), CCC (cricket) and CH and FC (rugby).

Mohan de Silva too was a formidable all-round cricketer at Ananda College. He was a leg spin/googly bowler of repute and turned out for the Sinhalese Sports Club in Premier cricket where he is now one of the Vice Presidents. Bowlers of his kind are rare in the country today and he better help look out for them.

K. Mathivanan was the only one from the losing side to be voted as Vice President. Now Mathivanan who played first class cricket for Saracens is a man with a clean sheet and a glutton for work. He has the panacea for the cricketing ills that afflict the game and he must be allowed the role of a king on the cricketing chess board.

The only sad note in this election where all efficient men were elected was the defeat of leading businessman who is a chairman of 20 companies Jayantha Dharmadasa and who had the secret formula for the improvement and success of the game.

That he decided to bat with the wrong side was his undoing. The winners must invite this gentleman to serve and help in some advisory capacity. At the end of the day all forces need to come together in the larger interests of the country.

The voters who were the gods on election day, had made up their minds who they were going to cast their vote for. And if the results are an indication they had voted in workers and not big talkers.

The governing body for world cricket the International Cricket Council too will also be elated that the dust that had thickly settled on SLC has finally been dusted off and a team to run cricket affairs in the country has finally been lawfully elected.

As usual in an election, the winners will sport broad smiling faces and celebrate while the losers will in frustration find excuses and whine and taunt the winners alleging unfair tactics and other excuses that will make the cricketing fraternity to guffaw.

Now that Chairman-elect Shammi Silva’s team comprising those who have excelled in the game have romped home, heading their priority list will be to support the squad picked to play in the prestigious World Cup in England and Wales in May/June.

Sri Lanka’s cricket in all formats that was once a feared product, took a nose dive in recent times and was on a life-saving support gasping for breath. And it will be up to the new men at SLC to provide the Oxygen and bring the game, not only back to life, but see that it regains its former glory.

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