Tag Archives: lankans

Herath the Hero

Not enough comic books have superheroes who are old, short, pudgy with a bad marine haircut, soft round face and pants slightly too high on the waist.

But they should. And if they did, they could easily use Rangana Herath as their inspiration even though bowling SLA is not an obvious heroic endeavor.

From a distance Herath probably looks more like a dad watching his kid play than 2012’s leading Test wicket taker. Perhaps it’s even that that helps him. It’s hard to fear a man when he looks like he should be wearing a Cosby sweater and driving a comfortable second hand station wagon.

60 wickets from 10 matches should have people writing about you as a golden god, I mean seven five wicket hauls in one year, wow, they should be building statues and changing the pictures on the money in Sri Lanka.

Instead Herath’s heroics are seen mostly as a bowler dominating at home. 54 wickets in his seven Tests in Sri Lanka. Yet, Michael Clarke didn’t make a hundred away from home this year either. And while his exploits were far grander than Herath’s, Clarke has been hyped since he was a teen, Herath has played Tests since 1999 without anyone taking much notice.

Much of that time Herath was the back up to Murali, a decent job, but one with limited exposure. Murali was machinelike, and often two spinners at once, so there was often little need for Herath.

Now that he is almost the entire bowling attack for Sri Lanka, he essentially is Murali. But he’s different as well.

Murali wore batsmen down with spin, boucne and relentlessness, Herath is a proper artist. His spell at the MCG to Clarke and Watson was as good and fruitless a spell a finger spinner can have in Australia.

At times it was like he had Shane Watson’s powerful leg on a string, and would move it exactly where he needed it to cause the most amount of anxiousness to Watson. Each floaty ball was a grenade that seemingly gave Watson nightmares as it bounced near him. In real life, Watson would use Herath as a stress ball.

Even Clarke, who is in the sort of form that leads Charlton Heston to play you in a movie, was put through the works with Herath’s fielding positions. Like a serial killer with a moral to teach, Herath put his onside field together in a way that would cause Clarke the absolute most damage mentally. From the outside it looked like a bowler that would make most club cricketers believe they could survive an over of Test Cricket bowling to the world’s form batsman. But if you watched it closely Herath had found a weakness in Clarke, and was willing to wait all day for him to slip up.

Every ball Herath delivers is linked to another one, it’s not a delivery, its part of an overall plan. Is game within a game with Clarke seems to be building with every innings. The more accumalted wisdom he gets, the harder it is for Clarke to handle him. Herath is a throw back to the old kind of spinners, sure he has a ball that goes the other way, but his talent isn’t in magical balls or stunning deliveries, it’s in hours of hard work and the incredibly clever brain of a master spinner.

It looks easy from afar, and it’s not as sexy as a 150k Yorker, but the fact that someone like Herath is not only in Test cricket, but can play it at this level shows the amazing talent he has in his extremely mortal frame.

Herath had Watson and Clarke dropped. Not even including the time he should have had Clarke stumped if not for a flick of Clarke’s lucky pad. Those two wickets could have changed the entire Test for Sri Lanka, perhaps even the series with Herath having an SCG Test strip next.

Instead Herath’s masterful display ended with him losing the Test, the series and no wickets the last time he bowled in 2012. His only victory was a catch that seemed mostly accidental and all the more awesome because it was him who took it.
Herath didn’t become the leading Test wicket taker in 2012 because of dodgy local tracks. He did it based on a lifetime of spinner’s knowledge, battle weary fingers and the art of subtle deception. The man works hard for every wickets he gets, and does it all without the gift of height or general athletic prowess.

In 2012 Herath was a hero. Even his final deed of 0/95 was heroic, even if it was in vain.

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Sri Lanka, Zindabad

There was a time during the India South Africa game where I really suspected that  someone was making South African flags out the back of the Prema and selling them for a few rupees.  At first they weren’t there, and then suddenly one whole stand was holding up the South African colours.  The Pakistani fans were the ones holding the flags, as most of the South African fans had gone home.

During the India Pakistan game it appeared like 4 out of 5 Sri Lankans at the game had adopted Pakistan as their home team.  Thousands of fans had Sri Lankan shirts on and were waving Pakistan flags or had their face painted with the Pakistani flag on it.  They were as Pakistani as you could get, for just the three hours.

It’s been one of the highlights of this tournament.

People picking their second country to follow, or following a whole new country just for qualification purposes while supporting them as much as they could and the cheering of superhuman feats no matter whose team performs them.

That stopped tonight.

Outside the grounds I swear some of the very same people I saw screaming for Pakistan a few nights back were now chanting “Go home Pakistan”, “bye, bye, Pakistan” or “Sri Lanka Zindabad”.  Pakistan fans coming out of the stadium were greeted by laughing or taunting Sri Lanka fans who had long forgotten that Pakistan were there second favourite side and were now happily giving them some stick.

This is more of a party than a tournament.  And I’m not just talking about what goes on player’s hotel rooms.

Because of the setting, the amount of games in quick succession and the nature of double headers, it’s been far less patriotic than a bilateral series or even a world cup.  If you are here to support your country, you are probably also going to see neutral games as well.  It’s how this tournament is.

But tonight all that disappeared.  The Sri Lankans had been cheering Chris Gayle supporting the Pakistanis and getting excited at Shane Watson, but not any more.  Tonight Pakistan was the opposition, not their second favourite team.

Watson or Gayle can be sure that their sixes will be met largely by silence followed by an ICC firework.

The Sri Lankan fans can now see themselves winning this.  They really want to win it.  They even started partying like they were winning it.  One fan drinking what appeared to be arrack as he hung out of the sunroof of a car while wearing a Sri Lankan shirt and wrapped in a Sri Lankan flag was certainly enjoying the victory.  There seemed to be more fans outside the ground than could ever fit into the ground.

Most of them, when there wasn’t a Pakistani fan to laugh at, were already calling Sri Lanka the champions.  Why wait to Sunday when you can start celebrating now.

The party bit of this tournament has definitely ended, the party in Sri Lanka may not end for quite some time.

Result: I missed Afridi’s last ever innings (well it could be) by deciding to wash my hands. Dilshan now won’t get beaten to death by a sack of rambutans.

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The Mendises

Jeevan Mendis is not a good legspinner.

I say that as a bad legspinner.  We can smell our own.

His action is forced, his front arm doesn’t help him, and he sort of slings the ball down in a way that means he has trouble aiming in line or length.

But he tries really hard and he’s not an idiot.

Every really good team has a Jeevan Mendis.

Mendis is Steve Kerr, Shane Kerrison or James Hopes of this Sri Lankan team.  The man who can do a little bit of everything, who enjoys training, who makes everyone feel good because they’re more talented than him, smiles a lot and is a decent dude.

In this game he came in to bat as the owners of the crab restaurant disappeared.  It was consolidation time.

Most batsmen, especially one who is not yet an automatic selection, would have worked their way into the innings, thinking of themselves and what the replay will look like when they go out.

People like Mendis don’t really think that way.

They just want to get the job done and help out where they can.

Mendis is not a pretty batsman.  He tries to hit every ball so hard it hurts your eyes after a while, but England didn’t expect an all out attack and instead of keeping Sri Lanka down to a manageable total.

18 off 13 is not an innings you tell your kids about, but it’s the sort of innings that someone like Mendis does to help his team to victory.

When he bowled he started with a short ball, one ball massively outside leg stump, a couple of half volleys, and clean bowled Ravi Bopara with a ball that was full and went straight.  In that one over he ended with 1/5.  That was his only over.

Ajantha Mendis, his favoured evil twin (not really, but I’m working on a script), bowled four overs for 40.  In an earlier match Ajantha took 12 wickets or something.

In the final, I know who I’d prefer to have.

Result: KP gets smugger as Ravi packs his computer games and heads home.

Samit Patel was not mentioned in this blog.

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the superness never ends at kandy

There is no super speed with a super over.  Add to that the bail that seemed to have jumped off on its own volition, and the whole process seemed to take longer than the game itself.

While the Windies left the ground mid warm up, I thought of the only super over I could remember. It was oddly a warm up match between Ireland and the Dutch before the 2009 World T20. Ireland scored 6 for one wicket, with three byes and one leg bye.  Then the Dutch scored two off the first ball, and had back to back run outs from the third and fourth balls to lose by four runs.  It was brilliantly farcical.  But it was like the out takes that show during the credits.

Those memories didn’t last long enough, as now the ICC end of match paraphernalia had to be taken from the field.  I wondered about the need for a super over.  This was only a round robin match; there was real reason why it couldn’t just be a tie.  Ties are cool too.  Neither team really deserved to win, the kiwis couldn’t field at all and Sri Lanka took their foot off the gas before they even got to the home straight.  Some times a tie is fates way of saying, “hey, neither of you deserve to win this”.  But this is T20; we must have a result at the end of our 3 (or 4) hours of cricket.  This must end cleanly after many minutes of fumbling.

At the moment the scoreboard is being restocked with the correct names, or Chris Gayle has been recruited for New Zealand.  I’m not really sure I like a super over, it seems like a lot of fun, but .  And like a film with too many endings, it had the perfect story line of the slow motion shoot out where you’re not sure who has died, only for the film to end a few minutes later with an ending of far less tension.   A tie is generally going to be more exciting than a super over because it took all match to fester, and isn’t massively contrived.

The three man batting and one man bowling attacks have been chosen.  The game could have finished in a cloud of smoke with a controversial run out.  We could have had experts musing and debating the end of this game like cricket’s Zapruder film. Everyone could have taken sides.  Maybe the bail was taken out by a grassy knee.  The whole event seems to deny the law of physics.   Sometimes a mysterious end full of questions is the right way to end.








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Sri Lanka fail in tiny bash

As if the ICC hadn’t conspired enough against their own tournament, now whichever god, sentient being or brand of alien you believe in was taking down this cup without a cup.

First night, boom, Richard Levi’s ass and Dilshan’s ego should have started this tournament with a clash of two teams who can actually win the tournament.

No, instead we get than on day 5, the first day the rain turns up.

What can you learn from seven overs, can you accurately judge the character of a human being in such a short time.

It’s like saying, “that guy’s a dick” when they cut you off in traffic.

You don’t really know their a dick, or care, but you feel the need to say something because it happened in front of you. And in this case, you’re not even the driver, you’re playing with your phone in the passengers seat. And you’re not in any rush to get there, as even if they beat you, it still doesn’t matter. And you should have turned off the road days ago. And you never wanted to go this way anyway. And there are no good food places on this route, only fried chicken and juice bars. And who gievs a fuck about a t7 game when both teams have already qualified.

Result: A crowd of people turned up to watch a cricket match in Sri Lanka. Although I once saw more people line up to see a port that had just been built in Hambantota.

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Zimbabwe v Mendis

I stayed in Colombo for the first game because Hambantota is fucken miles from anywhere, and why would you travel for 12 hours to see Sri Lanka play a bye? You wouldn’t, especially if you’ve ever been to Hambantota before like I have. I preferred to stay in the smoky confines of the cricket club cafe etching a plate of “Gooch’s fish and chips”.

Zimbabwe fielded like a team who had never noticed how hard a cricket ball was before. What was going on, it looked like a team trying to give the themselves a few more to chase in a practice match. Even Kamran Akmal would have mocked them.

Their bowling was missing a Ray Price or three. Zimbabwe is a team your local cricket side could play against, and upon seeing them warm up, you’d think there was nothing to worry about.

Then they played A Mendis, and it seemed unfair to refer to this as a match.

I still stand by my assertion that Mendis a genius if you haven’t played him, and a shit version of Chris Harris if you have and worked him out.

Zimbabwe looked like they were a 90 year old grandfather who had been told to operate dos through his MacBook pro.

And even the other Mendis, the very part time leggie, was unplayable. Ervine and Cremer played the J Mendis wrong’un like he’d never even heard of the concept, and he bowls them himself. It was gornography, it wasn’t a spin master class, it was like dipping a goat in a tub of lye.

Jeevan M, won’t be much of the factor with the ball later in the tournament. And I doubt Ajantha M will even pay if it’s a semi or final against a team that has worked him out, which is most of them.

Zimbabwe looked as bad as Elton’s balls down the legside, The firm of Mendis and Mendis made their stats look good, but Sri Lanka could have phoned this in and still won easy.

The biggest story was KP. His studio work is shockingly good. He’s likeable, says interesting stuff, and makes Wasim Akram look like a desi George Clooney.

Result: KP and Mendis’s bowling figures win easily. This was a banana skin game, after all.

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the last day

The last day of a Test Match is often like a town that has lost its main industry. The structure is still the same, but the town has that eerie walking-dead feel to it. There are many reasons why people don’t come, but they’re all nonsense. It’s massively underpopulated, better seats are available, you don’t have to line up for food as long, it’s cheaper and you’re guaranteed to see the end of the match. I’ve been lucky over the years, I’ve seen a Warne hat-trick, an incredible Kallis hundred, and Freddie Flintoff bowl Australia out in one match and throw them out in another.

The best part is often not even the cricket. The last day is your chance to see a carnival atmosphere at a Test match. Everyone from the players to the security guards are more relaxed. Things are being packed up, players mingle with fans and weirdness can happen.

On day five at Galle, I ended up being given a beer by the president of the SLC, was cheered on for my suits by the Sri Lankan support staff and walked past the trucks that were clearing out the toilets.

On day five at the P Sara, I listened to a conversation.


Now I’m well aware that this conversation may not have interested everyone, but when Suraj Randiv and Graeme Swann found each other out on the ground, I knew what they were talking about. You could tell by their hands that it was nerd spin talk.

To get close enough to hear I had to push through the crowd who were holding up English kit that had been thrown to them by the players, police officers who were standing there without really doing anything and the throng of people trying to take photos of Swann. I got as close to Randiv and Swann as the massive English security officer would let me. Then I had to block out the many fans who were planning to get something signed the minute the conversation ended.

The first bits I heard where Swann talking about wrist position. My persistence had paid off. For the next three minutes I was listening to a spin bowling masterclass. Randiv had clearly asked Swann about his action and whether he imparted too much over-spin on the ball. Swann explained his own action, and suggested that too much over-spin wasn’t a problem for Randiv as he still ragged it.

Wrists, fingers, arm height and follow through were all discussed as Randiv, and I, listened intently. Randiv, Swanny’s Padawan learner, and me, the lucky eavesdropper.

The conversation ended with Swanny being very complimentary to Randiv about his bowling. He never said ‘attaboy’, but it was one of those sorts of conversations. I assume it boosted Randiv; even I was ready to hit the nets and try a few offies to see if Swann’s words could help me. And I’m a leggie.

The last day of a Test, whether it be the third, fourth or fifth day, can contain a nugget or two of magic, on or off the pitch, during or after the game.

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Hi Angelo

I once wrote that Angelo Mathews did not really exist. He just seemed a bit too awesome. And not like other Sri Lankan cricketers. Angelo wasn’t a graceful middle-order mestro, or a tubby fighter. Angelo wasn’t a top-order slogger, or even a tricky spinner. That’s what Sri Lankan cricket was; we’d got use to their best players fitting these stereotypes. And suddenly here was this broad-shouldered (© Tony Greig), seam-bowling allrounder who could win a game batting, bowling or fielding.

It was too weird for me to process, so I just pretended he didn’t exist.

I felt like this when he fell over wickets against India, bowled Sri Lanka into a World T20 final, took a catch that went viral on Youtube and smashed Australia around the G. Now, finally after all these years, I am willing to admit that Angelo Mathews does exist, and he exists well. Really well. Weller than most. Peter Weller, well.

Forget for a minute he looks like he’s been drawn by a Sri Lankan artist trying to make a cool superhero, and that his skin looks so smooth that I sometimes think it’s not actually skin. And just think about the way he fights.
Allrounders usually come in two ways: gifted and lazy, or plucky and up for a fight. Mathews is gifted and up for a fight. He loves a fight. The worse Sri Lanka play, the better he seems to be. Every time I come into some pointless ODI with Sri Lanka already having collapsed to no real chance of a win, there is Mathews, annoyingly stuck at the non-striker’s end, looking frustrated and angry.

Always angry. So very angry.

Mathews really doesn’t like to lose. And I don’t mean that in the clichéd sports way, I mean it in the you can see it in his face way.

When he brought up his half-century tonight at the WACA, he didn’t raise his bat for the crowd’s polite adulation. He just looked angry. Angry that yet again his team was not playing as well as a team that 8 months ago was in a World Cup final.

Players who don’t like to lose are the best to watch up close. Their faces are magnificent. There is a reason fans talk of Ponting face. Players like Mathews and Ponting just despise losing, and don’t really try and hide it.

The last time he had to carry an unworthy side over the line against Australia, his anger turned to joy, when armed with just a plucky tail, he won the game and was uber-heroic. This time he tried to use that anger again and very nearly did, but even without the win this just adds to his character.

The hero can’t win every time, after all.

I now look forward to my future watching of an Angelo Mathews who does exist. Or maybe I was always right, and he doesn’t exist, because it seems he wasn’t given Man of the Match. Which seems odd.

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Dilshan’s thumb

Until today the most painful male story I’d ever heard is from a degenerate friend of mine.

He was a filthy guy who often cheated on his live in girlfriend.

One day, before the days of internet dating sites, he met a girl via a phone dating service.

The girl he picked up sounded like an A grade skank, having never met her I see her as cold sore laden junkie type, mostly because that was my mate’s type.

While he was with her, her flat mate came home and walked straight in on them, instead of it being awkward it turned into the male fantasy moment he didn’t deserve. He’d stumbled into his first ever threeway.

Now, this was not a goodlooking, rich or suave gentleman. My mate’s head looked like it was carved from a tree but they forgot to give him features or treat the wood. So this was a big thing for him.

So big that in his excitement, he pushed a little harder than he ever had.

How hard? Hard enough to rip his foreskin.

He was unable to ever fully explain how much pain this gave him, but I’m assuming it was about as painful as a man can experience.

It doesn’t stop there, because now he was in all sorts of trouble, because if he went straight to the hospital, his lady might find out about his behaviour.

So he chose the frightful option of going home, getting his lady drunk, getting her ready for love making, rolling the condom over his dick, and then doing a few thrusts before screaming and claiming he had just ripped his foreskin.

He was a Machiavellian cheating turd, but you must respect him for having the skills and pain management skills to pull this off.

His lady bought it, and took him to the hospital where they put him back together. It was 3 months before his foreskin was back in working condition.

For some, they would have taken this as a lesson and also an achievement, he did not.

6 months later he was offered an even more exciting sexual situation, he was invited to an orgy and yet again being the low life untrustable man he was, he took up the offer.

Now, he’d already touched the sun once with a threesome he didn’t deserve, that he said was heaven before his foreskin gave out and peeled like a banana, so he didn’t need to do this orgy.

The thing is, he just wanted to. He wanted to beat the threesome. For him it was about being the man who could say in a bar, “well the time I had an orgy…”. He wanted to be in a room that was full of the smells and flavours of group sex.

So he went there to cheat on his girl again, and yet again, his foreskin was a fan of karma and it viciously ripped open just as the orgy was kicking off.

This time he was in so much pain he was taken straight to a hospital, and his lady put two and two together and reached the conclusion that he’d injured himself through coitus with another woman and dropped him.

Here he was with a broken penis that would have to be given an adult circumcision, no lady, nowhere to live and no chance of sex for about six months.

I was reminded of all this as Dilshan tried to put his hand in his glove for the second time, he’d already made a hundred at Lord’s, had his thumb almost ripped off twice, proved his toughness and put a spine into Sri Lanka after their last collapse, but he still wanted more. He wanted a double hundred and he was willing to sacrifice his thumb for it and play through the amazing pain.

That takes guts, and a little stupidity.

We respect that. Not our friend’s infidelity, but Dilshan’s toughness.

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Prasanna Jayawardene is not a test batsman

His hands are too soft, he can barely hold the bat. He basically has fairy floss on the end of his arms.

Instead of doing everything he can do to ensure his average raises above it’s modest forms he gives it away when trying to help his team win a test.

His eyes are rather soft and deep, he has the innocence of someone who hasn’t had to be relied upon for runs as his main profession.

He’s never really made any runs before today, other than two charity hundreds.

He seems kind and thoughtful, liked he’d be really interested in how your nan is.

His test average is lower than Lou Vincent’s.

He’s rarely asked to bat twice in a test.

He isn’t seen as the new Gilly, Kumar, Alec, Dhoni or even Haddin, when people say he’s a wicket keeper, they don’t mean a shaved monkey with gloves stuck on his hands.

In no way does he seem self involved or like his shit doesn’t stink.

He’s never going to be captain.

But in this test he was thrust up the order, against the odds, while better players were dismissed or hit, he just batted.

His first real hundred, in style, first innings in the UK, nice fucking work you soft handed wicket keeping gun.

It was an innings that a real test batsman would be proud of, so Prasanna should be even more proud because I doubt anything thought he had an innings like that in him.

Jayawardene still isn’t a test batsman, but today he played like he wanted to be one.

And sometimes, that’s enough.

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