Sunday, July 31, 2016

Kusal Mendis - The Rising Superstar of Cricket

I first saw Kusal Mendis play when he made his debut against the West Indies late last year. He did not have a special debut but from whatever little I had seen about this young man convinced me that he would go on to represent Sri Lanka for a long time in all the three formats of the game. Crisp straight drives, steely flicks, venomous cut and a free flowing youthful technique made him a joy to watch.

He occupied the vital number 3 spot left vacant by one of the all time test greats, Kumar Sangakkara and has left his own indelible mark by first playing a couple of attractive innings on the recently concluded tour of England. Lahiru Thirimanne, another young man with oodles of talent but one who has failed to make the cut at the highest level made way for the young Kusal and he has grabbed his opportunity with both hands.

On a treacherous Pallekele pitch which afforded assistance to both the spinners and the quick bowlers, playing against the number one ranked team in test cricket and facing bowlers like Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon, this 21 year old batsman played the innings of a lifetime as he lifted Sri Lanka from a precarious position to power them to a huge score. Considering that the Lankan first innings ended at a meagre 117 followed by 203 by Australia in their first dig and Lanka managed 177 (without Mendis's contribution of 176) and finally Australia in the last innings who were bowled out for just 161 - Kusal's 176 stands out like a beacon amidst havoc all around. He showed tremendous self confidence and assurance during his stay and got his runs at a fair clip. Yes, there was some luck involved here and there but on a pitch such as the one that the match was being panned out on, that is expected.

He reached his hundred with a slog swept six off the Aussie number one spinner, Nathan Lyon and did not celebrate like he had brought the house down. Measured and focused, he held his arms aloft and got back to doing his job again. The numerous post match interviews that followed displayed the same calm demeanour, and that was, for me, the hallmark of a great in the making. We see young men today celebrate like there is no tomorrow even after reaching a small milestone and here was this 21 year old kid having just led his team to a monumental victory displaying extreme maturity after having played one of the best test innings ever.

I hope that he can carry on from here and go strength to strength and delight cricket fans all over with his fluid technique and crisp strokes. At a time when Sri Lanka are struggling to find their feet as they cope with a slew of retirements of their all time greats, young men like Mendis and Sandakan must bring a smile to the Lankan supporters on whom the onus now lies to carry forward the legacy of the tiny island!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Anil Kumble - The New Head Coach of Team India

Anil Kumble - The New Head Coach of Team India will look to impart all his knowledge and expertise and hopefully will form a strong bond with the aggressive Kohli!!

Here's wishing Jumbo all the best in his new role!!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sunil Narine takes 6-27 on his Return, Helps WI beat SA by 4 Wickets!!

Sunil Narine mesmerised the South African batting line up as he snared up a Career Best 6-27 and helped West Indies beat South Africa by 4 wickets in the first match of the Tri Series also involving Australia!!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hyderabad Bowling up against the Bangalore Batting in the IPL 2016 Finale

Royal Challengers Bangalore Vs Sunrisers Hyderabad - VIVO IPL 2016 Final, Match Preview

After a month and a half of continuous T20 matches being played all across India, the IPL finally has its two top teams ready to do the final battle in a quest to lift the trophy and be crowned the IPL 2016 Champions.

Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad have had two different routes to the final, Bangalore depending on their smoking hot batting fire power to get them here while Hyderabad have depended heavily on a slew of left arm fast bowlers along with the Fizz to steamroll opposition batsmen into dust. The two teams are led by two maverick batsmen, both in the form of their lives – Virat Kohli and David Warner.

The batting depth and the class of Virat, Gayle, De Villiers and Watson definitely gives RCB the advantage in addition to the fact that they will be playing at their home ground at the Chinnaswamy but Bhuvi, Mustafizur, Sran and Henriques might just be the bowling attack that can tame the beast of the batting line up that awaits them.

As far as the SRH batting is concerned, Warner will hope that either of Dhawan, Henriques or Yuvraj come into their own in this grand finale. Dhawan and Yuvraj, in particular might be crucial cogs in the Sunrisers batting as leggies Chahal and Abdullah have been two key bowlers for RCB and if the two left handed Indian stalwarts can take on the two bowlers turning the ball in to them, then it will put a lot of pressure on Virat in the field.

There is a small doubt regarding the fitness of Mustafizur but I guess that he will be fine for this big match. If not, then Trent Boult is an ideal replacement as he can swing the ball early and can nip Gayle and Kohli early.

Any big match will have plenty of pressure and expectations and both the teams will vie to lift the trophy for the first time in their IPL history. It is set to be a clash of a Batting Giant against a Bowling Machinery and a mouth watering prospect awaits us tonight.

Who are you supporting? Why?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

England Vs Sri Lanka, Investec Test Series - Team Sri Lanka Preview

While the IPL seems to be going on forever in India, England and Sri Lanka will lock horns in a three match Test series in England starting May 19th. The last time these two teams met, the Sri Lankans scripted one of the finest come-from-behind win with Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath playing the lead protagonists.

This time around, the Lankans will not have the services of their two talismanic batsmen - Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, both of whom had played a huge role in Sri Lanka being able to topple the English in their own backyard in 2014. But the Sri Lankan team can never be counted out and they do have some exciting young talent that they can look forward to. Kusal Mendis is a young batsmen and he already looks to be one for the future to me. He is compact, can score freely when he decides to and is pleasing to watch. He has made good start to his career and continues to impress and is the leading contender to take the number three spot. Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews will have to carry the middle order on their shoulders and both of them are well equipped to do so. Chandimal, with his aggressive mindset, can put the bowling team off if he can get into his groove early while Mathews has been there and done that for the Lankans since the time he broke into the team he now leads.

The start that the Lankan openers provide will go a long way in determining how the rest of their batting fares against a strong English seam attack comprising Broad, Anderson and Finn. Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva had a good series in 2014 and they will need to repeat those performances, if not better them for the Lankans to do well in this series. The key for them will be to blunt the new ball and tire Anderson and Broad as much as possible so that the middle order can breathe a little more freely.

I will prefer Dickwella at number 6 and Dasun Shanaka at 7 since both of them seem to be in good nick and can play counter attacking cricket if need be. They also provide the left-right combo lower down which might prove to be useful to put the bowling side under pressure in tense situations.

Sri Lanka has taken Lahiru Thirimanne with them and although he seems to be a fine young batsman, he has just been unable to step up as far as test matches are concerned. I hope that he is left out of the playing 11 and not given a free run while players who are in form are warming the bench. Milinda Siriwardena is another player who has had a tremendous start to his career in all forma but he seems to be woefully out of form and I would prefer Shanaka in place of him who played a few decent innings in the WT20 and made a cracking 100 against Leicestershire in the tour match. He can also be useful with his dibbly-dobbly medium pace in Headingly which is renowned for assistance under grey clouds.

The bowling attack of the Lankans might not be the most intimidating one on paper but it surely is reliant and capable of getting the job done with collective effort. Dhammika Prasad has been the stalwart and has carried the Lankan attack with pace, swing, guile and a smile on his face while Dushmantha Chameera has added that razor sharp edge which was missing from their pace bowling line up. With Eranga, Lakmal and Pradeep also in the squad the Sri Lankans have a good nucleus of fast bowlers to choose from. Rangana Herath is a master of his trade and there have been few spinners who have been as good as him with the limited repertoire that he seems to possess. He is a class act and can turn the match on his own. His clever variations of flight and nagging consistency have befuddled many a great batsmen and the young English batting line up might not be up to it if it comes down to facing him in the fourth innings on a track assisting him even slightly.

It will certainly not be easy for the Lankans especially with the retirements of middle order greats in Sangakkara and Mahela but it is a great opportunity for the youngsters to put their hands up and make a name for themselves and grow from boys to men during the course of this gruelling three match series against one of the best test teams going around.

My Sri Lankan XI for the First Test against England at Headingly, Leeds:

Dimuth Karunaratne
Kaushal Silva
Kusal Mendis
Dinesh Chandimal
Angelo Mathews
Niroshan Dickwella
Dasun Shanaka
Rangana Herath
Dhammika Prasad/ Suranga Lakmal
Dushmantha Chameera
Shaminda Eranga

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