Sri Lanka Cricket’s brain drain continues                                                                                                                          

Warnapura joins ACC

“I got whatever I wanted and when I wanted it. I don’t think I can be an unhappy man. Even this new appointment I got came at a time when I was a bit disturbed.”

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
In the six months of the Ranatunga administration, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has seen an alarming brain drain of some of Sri Lanka’s former cricketers qualified in many aspects of the game. Champaka Ramanayake (who was Sri Lanka’s fast bowling coach) and Ruwan Kalpage (who was Sri Lanka’s spin bowling coach) both took off to Bangladesh where they were offered better terms and positions. Very shortly Sudath Pasqual, SLC’s tournament, provincial cricket and women’s cricket manager will be migrating with his family to Canada.

The latest victim in this exodus is Sri Lanka’s first Test captain Bandula Warnapura who is leaving SLC at the end of the month to take up the position of Development Manager of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC). Warnapura who is Director Operations of SLC for the past eight years has played a pivotal role in the success of the country’s cricket largely behind the scenes.

When ‘The Nation’ caught up with him and asked him why he decided to quit, this is what he had to say: “With the new management coming into the SLC they were thinking of restructuring it. They wanted me to handle the infrastructure development. They said they wanted my support saying that I was one of the guys who was straightforward and did an honest job of work. I accepted that part.

“There was a lot of work to be done especially before the World Cup matches. They said they would take the coaching department away from the Director Operations section which was quite understandable. But later on I found out that they were not only taking the district and provincial coaches but also quite a large section of the Operations department to which I was a bit disturbed.”

Explaining further Warnapura stated: “While I was a bit disappointed at this end I got an offer from the ACC for the development manager’s post which was almost the same work that I had been doing with SLC. They spoke to me and asked me, ‘Bandula are you interested in joining? I said yes.’ That’s how the whole thing started. The timing was right. Arjuna being the ACC chairman was also spoken to. I applied with his blessings.”

Warnapura’s work with ACC covers about 18-20 countries and involves infrastructure and game development and service areas like umpiring, conducting of tournaments, curators, physios, trainers, maintenance of wickets etc which is what he has been doing at SLC for the past eight years. “It’s nothing new but the cultures are different. One of the major areas which ACC is concentrating is China and women’s cricket. Those are areas which I will have to work,” said Warnapura who will be stationed in Malaysia during his two-year contract which is renewable.

“I feel that it is better for me to have this change. I don’t want to get caught in the under currents which are going on now. Personally I feel that I have done a good job of work. I think I have a lot more to give provided the facilities and finances are available. With the World Cup coming in another three years time a lot of work has to be done. At this stage I think it is better for me to have a change,” he said.

Warnapura will leave SLC with a great sense of satisfaction. He was the tournament director of the ICC under 19 World Cup which was run without a loss compared to the previous tournament Sri Lanka hosted. He has also drawn up a five-year plan for the development of school cricket for which he has obtained approval for Rs. 250 million. This section has now been entrusted to another former Sri Lankan cricketer DS de Silva. The other aspect is the Pallakelle Stadium, the first phase of which is nearing completion and according to Warnapura will be able to host domestic matches in another three months.

Reflecting back on his life from a cricketing point Warnapura said that he has somewhat been very lucky. “I got whatever I wanted and when I wanted it. I don’t think I can be an unhappy man. Even this new appointment I got came at a time when I was a bit disturbed.”

Even to become the country’s first Test captain Warnapura said luck played a big part. “When we came back from England in 1981, I invited Anura (Tennekoon) who had retired in 1979 to take over the captaincy because I felt that he had another 3-4 years of cricket, but he refused. That made me the first Test captain of the Sri Lanka team. The first Test captaincy was something that was in my stars. I am thankful to many people for it,” he said.

Warnapura’s only regret is that he did not leave the country early in his career.
“The simple reason is that I was a bit selfish I should say. In Sri Lanka you are somebody but if you went to another country you are just one of them. That is the only thing that kept me back even though I’ve been to so many countries playing and coaching as a professional in England and in Holland. I feel now I have been a bit unreasonable with my family. If I had gone at that time I would have got myself settled down in a proper way,” Warnapura, 55, said.

He has two sons and a daughter, the eldest son is working in a bank in Dubai and his youngest son who captained Nalanda College at cricket last year is representing Bloomfield, the club Warnapura has been a long-standing member of, and following a computer course. “He wants to play cricket for Sri Lanka and we should give him that opportunity. From my point he is talented and could go far.”

The blackest part of Warnapura’s career was the illegal tour to South Africa at the height of apartheid in 1982. “I feel I shouldn’t have gone to South Africa. At that stage we didn’t have any option but to go on that tour. What made us go was the money and the treatment we received from certain Cricket Board officials at that time. We had some misunderstandings with them and that contributed to the build-up for the tour. If that build-up was not there I wouldn’t have gone. I could clearly notice it and feel it. If there were ICLs and IPLs then it would have been different. There was nothing like that. South Africa was the only one which was available.”

Warnapura and the 14 other cricketers who went with him were banned for a period of 25 years from all levels of cricket by SLC. But after nine years the ban was lifted allowing them to come back into the mainstream of things. “I am glad that I was able to give back something to the game after nine years. There were some ugly incidents in between but the 25-year ban brought a lot of sympathy towards us. That’s the time I learnt other trades of the game like constructing of turf wickets (maintaining and doing everything for Nalanda College because I had a lot of time on my hands), learnt about sports goods and got through the umpires exams even though I didn’t umpire. These are the advantages I got during the ban. It gave me a chance of learning other important aspects of the game and it helped me quite a lot.”

On his return to the mainstream of cricket in 1991 Warnapura held the post of President ACUSSL (Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers Sri Lanka) for a period of two years and was manager coaching and national coach before his contract was terminated. He returned in 2001 as Director Operations during Thilanga Sumathipala’s period as SLC President.

For a person who had spent his entire time with cricket, Warnapura surprisingly admitted that his first love was soccer.
“At school I played soccer, basketball and athletics but I was more gifted at cricket. The soccer World Cup I watch every match, the cricket World Cup I pick and chose my matches. To improve the game of cricket during our time we played a lot of other sports. I think athletics is a compulsory event for all cricketers. They should be encouraged to take part at inter-house sports meet every year. Cricket has to be developed using other sports as a second game,” said Warnapura.

“I studied upto Grade 6 but as soon as I started playing in the first eleven at 14 plus the study part dropped to about 50 percent and cricket took over. There are universities for many things but none for sports or cricket so we could not get the qualification we need. Cricket is the only thing we have. Even if I come back the only thing I can do is with regard to cricket. Sri Lanka being a Test playing country I am sure there’ll be something which I can get involved in,” he concluded.


Hours of extra practice gets Chanderpaul in the zone

By Jonathan Gaskin
ST JOHN’S, Antigua, (AFP) - Shivnarine Chanderpaul has revealed that hour upon hour of extra practice have helped his capability to bat long periods in Test cricket.

The 33-year-old Chanderpaul said that spending excessively long hours in the nets at the mercy of a bowling machine was part of the reason why he has emerged from the shadow of Brian Lara in the last 18 months to become the leading West Indies batsman in recent years.

“It’s all part of my preparation,” Chanderpaul told reporters after another marathon innings that helped West Indies draw the second Test against Australia on Tuesday at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground.

“You never know what will happen in the middle and what the bowlers will bowl to you, so you have to prepare yourself and get your mind adjusted to being able to bat for long hours.”

A West Indies team spokesman indicated that he has seen Chanderpaul bat for as long as three hours with a bowling machine, and then still take deliveries from a net bowler for another hour or more.
“A session of Test cricket lasts two hours - sometimes two-and-a-half hours, so you have to prepare yourself to do this or go longer, and trying not to make too many mistakes when batting,” he said.

“So when I enter the nets, I do not really clock the time. I just go into the nets and bat for as long as I can.”
Chanderpaul is not the typically flamboyant West Indies batsman, but he has improved his consistency over the last three years and maintains a healthy average of 48.59 in his 111 Tests.

He earned the man-of-the-match award in the second Test. He top-scored with an undefeated 107 - his 19th Test hundred - in the West Indies’ first innings total of 352, in response to Australia’s 479 for seven declared.

He followed up with his match-saving knock of 77 not out in the second innings, and might have made an assault on scoring a second hundred in the Test had West Indies captain Ramnaresh Sarwan not been dismissed late in the day.

“If ‘Sars’ was still there and there was an opportunity for me to score a hundred, I would have played my shots,” he said.
“Obviously, I was worried when he got out and Dwayne Bravo soon followed, so I had to buckle down and get a little tighter again, then hope that we could survive the remaining overs.”

The drawn Test however, means Australia retain their hold on the Frank Worrell Trophy - symbol of Test supremacy against West Indies - and have not lost a Test series in the Caribbean since 1991.

West Indies trail in the three-Test series 0-1, after they lost by 95 runs in the opening Test at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica.
The third and final Test between the two sides starts on June 12 at Kensington Oval in Barbados.


French Open Men’s Final today

Hurricane Rafa set to storm past Federer

PARIS, (AFP) - Rafael Nadal, who has survived torrential rain as well as s a Roland Garros centre court dustbowl, now plans to unleash a hurricane which will deliver him an historic fourth successive French Open.

If things go as expected in Sunday’s final, the Spanish claycourt king’s perfect storm will also wash away once again Roger Federer’s slim hopes of finally adding an elusive French Open to his 12 Grand Slam titles.

Victory will make Nadal, just turned 22, only the second man after Bjorn Borg to win four titles here in successive years and take his career record at Roland Garros, the toughest of all the majors, to a perfect 28 wins in 28 matches.

The weight of statistics in Nadal’s favour only increases the burden for Federer who has been beaten by the Spaniard here in the last three years, including the two most recent finals.

Nadal has reached the final without dropping a set for the second year running; only once, in Friday’s semi-final win over Novak Djokovic, was he even stretched to a tiebreak.
Furthermore, he takes an intimidating record into Sunday’s title match. He has beaten Federer in 10 of their 16 career meetings, including eight of nine on clay. The most recent were in this year’s Masters finals in Monte Carlo and Hamburg, two of the major Roland Garros warm-ups.

His run to a fourth successive final also comes despite having to play four days in succession in the first week when the elements turned against him.

In stark contrast, Federer dropped the first set in earlier rounds against Albert Montanes and Fernando Gonzalez and was pushed to four sets again by Gael Monfils in the semi-final.The world number one is also enduring, by his lofty standards, a mediocre season having lost his Australian Open title to Djokovic and picking up just one title, via an injury default, in Estoril.

“Rafa has been sublime this tournament. He hasn’t had any problems whatsoever,” admitted Federer. “But I believe very strongly that this is my year. I did the hard work so far, but I think the toughest test is yet to come.”


Kiwis put on high-tech trousers to level series

LONDON: Desperate to square the series against England, a couple of New Zealand bowlers slipped into ‘micro-shine’ trousers when the third Test got underway at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

Though the high-tech trousers, made by Canterbury, are scheduled for an official debut in October, New Zealand players have been giving it a try and some of them were wearing it.

Rubbing the ball against these specially designed trousers adds shine to the ball and it might influence the Kiwis’ bowling performance.

Dipal Patel, a former engineering student at Loughborough University, conceived the idea, even though he insisted that this was not against the spirit of the game.
“When I came into cricket I was surprised to find there are no regulations about what materials you can and can’t use,” Patel told ‘The Daily Telegraph’.

“To start with, we looked at putting two patches on the bowlers’ trousers - one to shine the ball, and one to scuff it up, in case you wanted to produce reverse-swing. But we have since dropped the abrasive patch. I’m a member of MCC, and I didn’t want to lose my membership for going against the spirit of cricket,” Patel said.

Before the start of the series, England too had unveiled their ultra-white sports gear. – [PTI]