Former assistant coach predicts India, Sri Lanka for WC

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Sri Lanka are not leaving any stone unturned in their quest to win another cricket World Cup and leading the way by example is their captain Kumar Sangakkara.
Sangakkara is well known for his precision, hard work and attending to even the minutest detail not leaving room for any regrets later.
“When Sanga is practising and working hard there is no better wicket-keeper in the world,” said former Sri Lanka assistant coach and team conditioner Shane Duff. “It’s definitely a combination of ability and good practice. His work ethics are excellent in all aspects of his game and there is no one who works harder than him on batting.”

Duff came to Sri Lanka at the request of Sangakkara and spent ten days working with his wicket-keeping as well as casting an eye on other current potential wicket-keepers in Sri Lanka and helping some of the World Cup selected players with their fielding.
“Someone like Sangakkara has always possessed natural ability but along with that there are no short cuts, just genuine hard work and constant and correct practice,” said Duff.
“His wicket-keeping career has taken a back seat. Once he was moved up the order to No. 3 in Test cricket, he relinquished the gloves. He has that bouncing act of preparing for Test cricket as a fielder and a batsman and then being able to switch over and be the wicket-keeper in ODIs,” he said.

“When he is preparing for the ODI and T20 series he works extremely hard on his wicket-keeping. He knows the importance of it and he knows he can make or break a match. In this instance it’s just a matter of doing some fine-tuning leading into the World Cup. Certainly there is nothing wrong with his wicket-keeping but just a matter of my running my eye over him and putting him through some drills to get him at his best.”
Duff’s association with Sangakkara goes back to the time he was assistant as well as conditioner of the Sri Lanka team to head coach John Dyson between 2003 and 2005.
“Over the years when I was with the Sri Lanka team I’ve worked extensively with Sangakkara on his wicket-keeping. That was one area where we probably lacked in support for pacies. I was a wicket-keeper and we spent a lot of time working whenever there is an opportunity or whenever he has requested assistance,” said Duff.

“I have a relationship with him and he has the trust in me to fine-tune his skills. The reason I am over in Sri Lanka this time was to work not only with Sangakkara in preparation for the World Cup but with other national wicket-keepers as well,” he said.
“We worked through a programme with Trevor Bayliss (the present head coach). With the provincial tournament being on we worked behind that. We had several sessions with a number of wicket-keepers in between matches. It’s been a hectic schedule but it’s a great opportunity to see the other wicket-keepers and give them some guidance and certainly there is a lot of depth here.

“There is always the basic that has to be adhered to but sometimes different wicket-keepers have different ways. However the basics still remain. We worked hard with all of them trying to open their hips and get their head and body in a good position to give them every chance to take difficult balls.”

Duff’s assessment of some of the national pool wicket-keepers he worked with:
“Prasanna Jayawardene is obviously outstanding talent. He is a proven international performer up there with the best in the world. There is certainly some depth behind him. Young Kaushal Silva is extremely talented and he is a fine prospect both with the gloves and with his batting. Dinesh Chandimal is tremendous talent. He is probably looking that he will be a higher order batsman and it will be a great outcome if he is able to take the role of Sanga when he is finished in ODI cricket.

“There is good depth here it’s just a matter of having them practice and practice correctly. Part of what we’ve been doing here is making sure the fielding coaches are at these sessions so that they can continue the work.”
Duff also spoke to Thilan Samaraweera on his fielding and the way he was going about it. “Thilan has requested at various times some advice there. With the guys being so busy with the provincial tournament there hasn’t been a great opportunity to do any other work at this stage.”

After his two-year stint with the Sri Lanka team Duff went back to his education career as a teacher at Sydney. He was advisor to a school in physical education and was head coach at Bankstown CC where Steve and Mark Waugh played. They had some great success winning two Premierships in the 2½ years he was there.
He is also head coach at Sunderland club in Sydney who were successful in the last two years winning the limited-over tournament and finishing second in the main tournament after being 18th the previous year. He has also done some work with New South Wales under-23 team, the Royal Bengal Tigers, ICL World XI and Johnny Walker World XI sides. “I’ve seen the development of Steven Smith, a fine Australian player who’s worked through the ranks and into the national team.”

“With my human movement degree I have a career in physical education. I’ve been able to have two careers as such, my cricket and my education. Being involved in the field of education is of great assistance in cricket coaching. Having experience as a teacher in school, the skills that you utilise in that field absolutely crosses over to the coaching of cricket - being well organised, being a good communicator, knowing when to say something and knowing when not to. Most certainly it has helped as a cricket coach having a background in education,” said Duff.

“My mind boggles every time I am here with the array of talent that you see. In my observations in the periods that I’ve been here the cricket structure has improved over a period of time, the coaching has improved significantly at local level and you see the players are getting the benefits of that,” said Duff who harbours thoughts of returning to the Sri Lanka side in a coaching capacity.
“I see the future of cricket in this country as being extremely positive. I would say the national team would have a large amount of success in the next five to ten years. Beyond that it’s hard to say. Sri Lanka is a place I have thoroughly enjoyed being in and thoroughly enjoyed working with the players,” he said.
“Sri Lanka players are always willing to listen, they are prepared to learn, they respond well with good direction and they are extremely talented. I feel the players also respect me as a person and as a coach and that respect is often how you get the best results.”

Talking of Sri Lanka’s World Cup prospects, Duff stated, “Sri Lanka has a fantastic chance to do well in the World Cup home conditions are going to be a great advantage to them. They’ve got players that can win matches and they are well balanced from batting through fast bowling through spin bowling. They got all the areas well covered. It’s just a matter of producing their best on the given days.

“The obvious team to win the World Cup would be India not just because they are a subcontinent side but they are a team in form, with players in form and a team with experience that can handle the big occasion. In their home conditions they are going to be extremely challenging to beat,” Duff said.
“Pakistan is certainly unknown, a little bit hard to gauge at the moment but they could produce anything. I would see Sri Lanka and India as being the main contenders for the World Cup. You can never underestimate Australia, but they might find it a little bit difficult in the conditions. South Africa and England are both strong teams and both in good form but outside of their home conditions. I would definitely favour Sri Lanka and India and I imagine that would be the final.”


ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

The hype might wipe out Sanga and team

By Dyan Pathiravithana
From the looks of recent performances of the teams that are involved in the World Cup all top teams are ‘even-stevens’. Let us see how they stand at the moment according to their rankings: Australia, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and England are the five leading teams. Pakistan and New Zealand are not far apart after their battle in the recently concluded series. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are tied with Bangladesh edging the Kiwis by a nose.
The West Indies have not played much cricket in the recent past with all their home-grown troubles. Assessing them is rather pointless if they still want to believe in a rather inexperienced captain when facing the all important World Cup. The other leaders of the past like Australia and England have been performing well in the recent months barring Australia’s dismal run in the Ashes Tests. South Africa and Sri Lanka are teams positioned similarly and either of them could snatch the Cup.

Yet, India alone stand out as the team with the best winning combination and, with the home advantage, are the most likely to win. But for India to win, they expect many combinations to fall in place, and it all depends on their captain M. S. Dhoni and how he chooses these combinations. Most importantly, it will depend on which team wins the toss. Unless Dhoni is sure of making a big score he will rather chase.

The Indian bowling attack has improved tremendously and in time for the all important event. The opening bowlers are doing well grabbing the two to three wicket hauls regularly. Their well-packed batting line-up matches their bowling with a load of bowlers capable of taking wickets. So much so, even if their important bowlers are to be targeted they have no problem in picking from their deep line-up, where even part-timers, like Rohith Sharma, have been consistently getting the two to three wicket hauls.
Dhoni will have to choose which combination will begin the chase and who will follow from his strong batting line-up. The Indian batting line-up is very strong with each and every youngster tried out scoring heavily. Their fielding has been brilliant and that gives them the advantage to stifle any strong batting line-up. Dhoni has enjoyed more than his fair share of luck which has camouflaged his skills as a captain but, when the situation demands, he is a good thinking captain who can take on any team and win, and he has proved it.

But overconfidence has been the downfall of Indians before, so watch out as India is unpredictable in the first twenty overs - either very explosive or struggling for runs. Get them out early.
The South Africans are running a close second and almost have the feel of the Cup on their fingertips. But they must click as a team; their players are stars and that makes them a little too individualistic. But overall their combinations are perfect for winning. Their main worry will be the conditions they have to play in, getting used to it fast will help. Graeme Smith will have to pull a lot of rabbits from his hat to win the tournament.
Sangakkara the Sri Lankan skipper will go into the tournament with confidence if he and the team do not carry unnecessary burdens like the pressure of high expectations heaped on them by the local cricket fans asking him to get the Cup for his country. The extra hype and fanfare of the cricket authorities and press could prove equally damaging unless handled properly. Confidence about winning is good to achieve the target but not when it becomes a mental burden.

The team must be relaxed but play with firm determination. Let the captain think clearly and be on track. He has already set his targets of taking one match at a time, which is the way to go and if we get into the final round most worries would have disappeared.
Please watch out for golf balls, they are bad medicine for us though good for some others.


Let’s rally round our team

Certain writers to the papers have been criticising the selection committee for their choice of players to represent the national team for the World Cup. Now that the final 15 players have been selected everyone should render their full support and encourage¬ment to the team so that they could perform well. A prerequisite to win the prestigious World Cup trophy is public support and everyone should gather in large numbers to cheer and encourage our players, leaving aside all differences.

At the World Cup in 1996 at Lahore, Pakistan we received almost one hundred percent support. I could still remember vividly the scenes of fire crackers being lit and dancing for joy after we won the trophy, which was presented by the late Benazir Bhutto the Prime Minister of Pakistan to Arjuna Ranatunga. So support and encouragement is vital to the young lads to perform and give their best.

At the age of 41 Sanath Jayasuriya is a doubtful case to fit into the team and contribute anything worthwhile. Furthermore we have so many who have already shown their worth: Mahela Jayawardene who is one of the leading batsman in the world, Kumar Sangakkara who has shown tremendous form, the dashing batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan, steady opening batsman Upul Tharanga, steady as a rock Thillan Samaraweera and quick-scoring middle-order bat Angelo Mathews. As for bowlers we have the greatest in the world - spin wizard Muthiah Muralitharan, left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and fast bowlers Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Dilhara Fernando.

We have a well-balanced side and have an edge over the other teams participating. However, we have to be very thoughtful and careful not to take things for granted. When playing against the teams like England, South Africa, India and Pakistan we have to be watchful as they are quite strong teams.
Sri Lankans let’s rally round our team and play our part by cheering and encouraging them to victory.

V. K. B. Ramanayake


BRC School of Cricket awards ceremony

The annual cricket carnival and awards ceremony of the BRC School of Cricket was held on January 15th-16th at the BRC grounds.
A six-a-side tournament was played in coloured clothing and white ball for all age groups and a few cricket based events were worked off for the 8 to 11 year olds.
The cricket carnival concluded with an awards ceremony attended by over 125 young cricketers and over 400 parents and well-wishers on the 16th evening. The chief guest at the event was the President BRC, Jayantha Paranathala.
Former Sri Lanka fast bowler, Sajeewa De Silva is the head coach of the BRC SC and is assisted by two former Sri Lanka ‘A’ players Rohan Soysa and Manoj Mendis.
Though the coaching school is only six years old, it has established a good name due to the high quality of coaching. Today the BRC SC is one of the leading cricket coaching schools in Colombo.


MCA CA emerges runners-up

MCA Cricket Academy ‘A’ finished runners-up to Lucky Rogers Cricket Academy in the Nelson Mendis Invitational U-14 Cricket tournament concluded recently. 43 private cricket academy’s including 6 foreign teams participated in this 11-day tournament.
MCA Cricket Academy fielded two teams and their ‘B’ team was picked as the most disciplined team. The following won special awards for MCA CA ‘A’ team: Captain, Geeshath Panditharatne was adjudged as the player of the match in the pre-quarterfinal, Visal Amagoda was the player of the match in the quarterfinal and Madhawa Fernando, player of the match in the semi-final.


Independence Cup Horse Race Meet at Nuwara Eliya
Sri Lanka Turf Club (SLTC) will conduct the Independence Cup Horse Race Meet on February 5 at the Nuwara Eliya Race Course commencing from 10.00am. Top thoroughbred horses from the stables of Gamini Jayaratne, Isira Dassanayake and Anura Delgoda are expected to compete at the races. Ceylon Cold Stores (CCS) and Udeshi City, Kiribathgoda have come forward to sponsor the event. Picture shows Maithri Vithanage (Brand Activation Manager of CCS) handing over the sponsorship package to Gamini Jayaratne (President, SLTC) at a press conference held at the main auditorium of Automobile Association of Sri Lanka in Colombo. Also in the picture are (from left) officials of SLTA, Dhammika Attygalle, Raj Weeraratne, Anuka Soza, Nalinda Fernando of CCS and Rajah Sinnathuray

(Pic by Rukshan Abeywansha)