Shikhar Dhawan, Iyer score 50s as Delhi Capitals qualify for playoffs

Entertaining knocks from captain Shreyas Iyer (52 off 37) and Shikhar Dhawan (50 off 37) helped Delhi put up a daunting 187 for five before the bowlers delivered once again to stop the RCB at 171 for seven.
It was Delhi’s eighth win in 12 games, givin…

Entertaining knocks from captain Shreyas Iyer (52 off 37) and Shikhar Dhawan (50 off 37) helped Delhi put up a daunting 187 for five before the bowlers delivered once again to stop the RCB at 171 for seven.

It was Delhi's eighth win in 12 games, giving them the 16 points needed to seal a top-four berth. Chennai Super Kings were the first team to quality for the playoffs. On the other hand, it is all but over for the Virat Kohli-led RCB, following their eighth loss in 12 games.

With 62 needed off the last five overs, the Delhi bowling attack, led by spinners Amit Mishra (2/29) and Axar Patel (1/26), produced another commendable performance after RCB made a promising start.

RCB opener Parthiv Patel initially resisted the Delhi attack with aplomb, hitting a belligerent 39 off 20 balls with five boundaries and a six while Kohli seemed happy to play spectator at the non-striker's end.

Although it was Delhi's home game but when Kohli survived a caught behind call on 4, it seemed most of the fans had turned up to cheer for the Indian skipper, who did not disappoint and hit the very next ball for a towering six.

The Delhi bowlers replied strongly to the onslaught by the openers by dismissing the duo in quick succession, Kagiso Rabada scalped the wicket off Parthiv while Axar Patel accounted for Kohli (23 off 17), who was caught by Rutherford in the deep.

Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals for RCB as their batsmen failed to make an impact. Patel took a stunning catch at the boundary to dismiss AB de Villiers (17 off 19) in the 12th over and South African Heinrich Klaasen (3) soon followed him into the dressing room.

Shivam Dube (24), who was dropped on 3, was then caught by Dhawan, eliciting the trade-mark thigh-slap celebration from the Indian opener. RCB seemed to be leading towards victory when Marcus Stoinis (32 not out off 24)and Gurkeerat Singh (27 off 19) were in the middle of a blistering stand but the total proved to be too much in the end.

Earlier, half centuries by Dhawan and Iyer coupled with late cameos from Sherfane Rutherford and Axar Patel had powered Delhi to a strong total.

Keeping in mind the extremely dry nature of the wicket, Iyer opted to bat first.
The openers began the Delhi innings on a steady note. Dhawan sliced Umesh Yadav over cover point to hit the first boundary for his team. Shaw also hit four boundaries and looked in dangerous form but couldn't capitalise on his good start and perished for 18 in the fourth over with Yadav providing the first breakthrough for the visitors.

Skipper Iyer edged the first ball he faced to the boundary. His innings of 52 was laced with two fours and three sixes. On the other end, Dhawan continued hitting boundaries at regular intervals to the packed crowd's delight. The home team reached to 88/1 at the halfway mark. The duo shared a 68-run stand and looked to set a huge target.

However, there was a shift in momentum as Yuzvendra Chahal, who was the pick of the bowlers, dismissed Dhawan as he tried to reach out and sweep the ball in the 13th over. The spinner than dismissed danger man Rishabh Pant for 7 in his next over.

Delhi then lost wickets of Iyer and Colin Ingram (11) in quick succession. Delhi were struggling at 141 for 5 when Rutherford ( 28 off 13 balls) and Patel (16 off 9) walked in to share a 46-run partnership with 20 runs coming off the last over.

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KKR look to end their losing streak at eden as they take on MI

MI is currently sitting at the second spot while KKR is languishing at seventh place. Mumbai Indians walk into the match after registering a huge win against Dhoni-less CSK in Chennai, while KKR faced yet another defeat when they hosted the Rajasthan R…

MI is currently sitting at the second spot while KKR is languishing at seventh place. Mumbai Indians walk into the match after registering a huge win against Dhoni-less CSK in Chennai, while KKR faced yet another defeat when they hosted the Rajasthan Royals making it their sixth consecutive loss of the season.

Eden Gardens being home ground to KKR seems to be a happy hunting ground for the Mumbai Indians as KKR have won 2 matches at Eden Gardens against MI, while Rohit Sharma led Mumbai Indians has won 7 against KKR at their home turf.

 Battles to watch out for :

 Andre Russell vs Jasprit Bumrah -

Andre Russell has been by far the player of the series for KKR and has been the sole match winner for them. Scoring 402 runs at an average of 58, Andre Russell has hit 42 sixes at an incredible strike rate of 209. Jasprit Bumah is one of the best T20 bowlers in the world right now and it will be a spectacle when these 2 players come face to face.

Rohit Sharma vs Narine -

Rohit Sharma’s average is an astonishing 93 in his last 5 innings at the Eden Gardens and there is no doubt that Eden Gardens is his favourite ground. Sunil Narine has bowled well in his last few outings here and has been very economical for the KKR. It will be interesting to see what Narine does to contain India’s explosive Hit-Man.

Head to Head

It surely has to be one of the most unbalanced head to head ratio in IPL history as Mumbai Indians have won 18 matches against tonight’s opposition while KKR has only registered 5 wins vs the westerners.

MI are high on confidence after the recent victory against CSK and surely look forward to continuing with their winning momentum and secure a playoff spot for themselves.

If KKR loses they will be knocked out of the tournament.

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Sachin Tendulkar terms the alleged conflict of interest as absurd

Tendulkar provided an exhaustive response to the notice issued by the BCCI ethics officer Justice DK Jain over alleged conflict of interest complaint filed by Sanjeev Gupta, a life member of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association.
Former India elegant…

Tendulkar provided an exhaustive response to the notice issued by the BCCI ethics officer Justice DK Jain over alleged conflict of interest complaint filed by Sanjeev Gupta, a life member of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association.

Former India elegant batsman VVS Laxman too has been issued a similar notice. Today is the last date for Tendulkar and VVS Laxman to reply to the ethics officer's notice.

Tendulkar, who is a member of the Cricket Advisory Committee and a part of the Mumbai Indians team, first put the facts up front before replying point-wise to the alleged conflict of interest.

"The Noticee was appointed to the panel of the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) in the year 2015.

The Hon’ble Ethics Officer will appreciate that the Noticee was named as the ‘ICON’ for Mumbai Indians much prior to his empanelment with the CAC – which fact has always been in the public domain. Accordingly, the BCCI (is) aware of the Noticee’s association with the Mumbai Indians Franchise at the time of his appointment to the CAC," stated Tendulkar in his response, a copy which is in possession with mid-day. 

Also Read: CoA won't offer opinion in Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman conflict issue

Tendulkar denied that he has breached BCCI rule 38. "The Complaint wrongly assumes that the Noticee’s association with the Mumbai Indians IPL Franchise (“Franchise”) is in the capacity of “governance”, “management” or “employment” – thereby attracting a conflict under Rule 38 (4)(j).

The Noticee’s role and association with the Franchise is at best that of a mentor, on account of the Noticee being declared an integral part of and source of inspiration for the Franchise team since its inception. 

"His role is limited to providing guidance to the Franchise team by sharing his insights, learnings and working closely with the younger members in the team to help them realise their true potential."

"The Noticee is also involved in supporting and promoting the education of children through sport, as a part of the Franchise’s charitable initiative - Education and Sports for All," he stated.

Tendulkar mentioned that he does not receive pecuniary benefit or compensation with his association with the Mumbai Indians. "The Noticee has received no pecuniary benefit/ compensation from the Mumbai Indians IPL Franchise in his capacity as the Mumbai Indians ‘ICON’ since his retirement and is certainly not employed with the Franchise in any capacity. He does not occupy any position, nor has he taken any decision (including selection of team players) which could qualify as being in governance or management of the Franchise. Therefore, the post listed in Rule 38 (4)(j) is inapplicable to the Noticee. Accordingly, there is no conflict of interest, either under the BCCI Rules or otherwise."

Gupta had objected in his complaint that Tendulkar and Laxman are allowed to sit in their respective IPL teams' dugout.

Tendulkar said the complainant's understanding is completely misplaced. "The Complaint seeks to jump to conclusions about the Noticee’s role in the Franchise on the sole (and incorrect) basis that the Noticee is allowed to sit in the dugout area with 'said IPL team outfit'.

"The above understanding in the Complaint is entirely misplaced. The issue of entry and access to the dugout area is dealt with by BCCI’s Minimum Standards for Players and Match Officials Areas at IPL Matches (“PMOA Standards”). The PMOA Standards have been adopted by BCCI in support of the BCCI Anti-Corruption Code. In particular, the PMOA Standards seek to restrict, to the greatest extent possible all methods of communication between Players, Player Support Personnel and Match Officials with all third parties, during the IPL match."

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"The Complaint wrongly states that as per these PMOA Standards, only team players and team management are allowed to sit in the dugout area. In fact, Article 3.1.1 of the PMOA Standards states that access to the PMOA will be restricted to only those individuals whose presence in that area is absolutely essential for operational purposes. This would invariably include Players, Match Officials, BCCI Anti-Corruption Manager, other BCCI ACU staff and Player Support Personnel."

"The term Player Support Personnel has been defined to mean up to 11 appropriately qualified staff engaged by each Franchisee in the cricket support roles of team manager, coaches, trainers, physiotherapist, masseur, analyst, logistics and mentor."

"Thus, a mentor is clearly included, along with several other staff members, within the term ‘Player Support Personnel’ – and is allowed access to the dugout area under the PMOA Standards. A mentor cannot be qualified as “management” of the Franchise."

"If the Complainant’s absurd logic were to be applied, a physiotherapist, trainer or a masseur would also be qualified as 'management' of the Franchise."

"It is also pertinent to note that the Mumbai Indians team has a head coach, who works side by side with coaches for specific disciplines such as bowling, batting etc. in ultimate coordination with the Director of Cricket Operations – none of whom the Noticee is answerable to or vice versa since his role is limited to that of providing guidance and motivation to the team. Thus, it is submitted that the Noticee’s involvement with the Franchise falls outside the scope of the post listed at Rule 38 (4)(j) of the BCCI Rules," Tendulkar concluded.

Also Read: 'Sachin, Sourav and Laxman are soft targets'

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Pep Guardiola eyes history as Manchester City’s treble chase heats up

Manchester City face Burnley on Sunday at the start of a four-match spell that could see Pep Guardiola write a remarkable new chapter in English football history. Guardiola’s side follow the crucial Premier League fixture at Turf Moor with games agains…

Manchester City face Burnley on Sunday at the start of a four-match spell that could see Pep Guardiola write a remarkable new chapter in English football history. Guardiola's side follow the crucial Premier League fixture at Turf Moor with games against Leicester and Brighton, as City seek to hold off Liverpool in a thrilling title race. City are two points behind Liverpool after the leaders regained top spot with their 5-0 win over Huddersfield on Friday. But the champions, who also have an FA Cup final date with Watford on May 18, will be guaranteed to retain the title if they win their last three matches.

That means a City team that has won 26 of their last 28 games, a run dating back to the end of last year, now stands just four victories away from becoming the first side in the history of English football to win all three domestic trophies in the same season. It is a feat Guardiola has already achieved in his career -- with Barcelona 10 years ago. But the City manager was not keen to draw comparisons ahead of a potentially difficult visit to a Burnley team that drew with Chelsea on Monday. "We are out of the Champions League and at Barcelona we were in," said Guardiola when asked to compare the two campaigns. "Now we are not thinking too much the FA Cup Final against Watford. I'm concerned with Burnley, Leicester, Brighton. "Just focus on that. We will analyse at the end of the season how many titles. It's not going to change my opinion of what we've done this season... how many titles we win. "All respect for my players and of course what Liverpool have done."

Guardiola himself has won the even more prestigious treble of domestic league and cup combined with the Champions League. The Catalan pulled off that feat with Barcelona in 2008-09. Manchester United pulled off the most famous treble in English football history a decade earlier when current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored the dramatic goal that won the club the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich. But that season, Alex Ferguson's side were denied a domestic treble -- and an unprecedented quadruple -- by losing to Tottenham in the quarter-finals of the League Cup.

In the context of British football, domestic trebles are relatively common -- with Glasgow giants Rangers and Celtic having recorded seven and six, respectively, in the Scottish game. The absence of a third domestic competition in Germany, Spain and Italy means that the only other top-tier European nations that have produced domestic treble winners are Portugal -- with Benfica in 2014 -- and France, where Paris Saint Germain have won three this decade. City will be without the injured Kevin De Bruyne at Turf Moor but, more worryingly, may also have to contend without physical midfielder Fernandinho after the Brazilian injured his knee in the midweek win at United. But, after setting a new record for a top-flight club by taking their tally of goals in all competitions to 157 in the 2-0 Old Trafford win, Guardiola is at least optimistic about his team's ability to keep their blistering form going at Turf Moor.

"It makes me proud, I love to score a lot of goals to respect this game, to show how we want to attack and do it in every game," he said. "We have 157 goals but we don't have one guy who scored 60, everyone was involved, Sergio (Aguero) and Gabriel (Jesus), they scored a lot, the wingers, attacking midfielders, we cannot score a lot from set pieces because we are a small team. "That's why - I'm very pleased that the top two are both Man City - Manuel's (Pellegrini) team is the second one. Both are there and it means the club is focused on playing an attractive game and I like that."

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Bottas earns dramatic Azerbaijan pole

Valtteri Bottas snatched pole position for the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix in an incident-packed qualifying session that saw early Ferrari favourite Charles Leclerc crash out.
The Finn lapped the six-kilometer long Baku street track in one minut…

Valtteri Bottas snatched pole position for the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix in an incident-packed qualifying session that saw early Ferrari favourite Charles Leclerc crash out.

The Finn lapped the six-kilometer long Baku street track in one minute, 40.495 seconds, just 0.059 seconds faster than team-mate Lewis Hamilton who completed a front-row lockout for Mercedes.

Sebastian Vettel, the sole surviving Ferrari after Leclerc's crash was third, 0.302 seconds off Bottas' pace. Ferrari had looked dominant around the streets of Baku with Leclerc topping every practice session in the build up to qualifying.

However, the Monegasque — fired up after being ordered to move over for Vettel in China and denied a maiden Formula One win by engine trouble in Bahrain — crashed out in the second phase of qualifying.

"I deserve what happened today," said Leclerc, who still looks set to start ninth. "I have been stupid, as I said on the radio. Pole was possible today and I threw all the potential in the bin. "So, I am very disappointed and will come back stronger from this."

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11-time champ Rafael Nadal beaten in Barcelona

Dominic Thiem saved three break points in the final game to deliver a 6-4, 6-4 upset of 11-time champion Rafael Nadal and reach the final of the Barcelona Open on Saturday. The Austrian, who lost the Roland Garros final to the Spanish great last year, …

Dominic Thiem saved three break points in the final game to deliver a 6-4, 6-4 upset of 11-time champion Rafael Nadal and reach the final of the Barcelona Open on Saturday. The Austrian, who lost the Roland Garros final to the Spanish great last year, denied Nadal the opportunity to become the first man to capture the same ATP title 12 times. "I'm happy with how I played, I was competitive for the first time (in a few matches)," Nadal insisted. Thiem will on Sunday face Daniil Medvedev, a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 winner over two-time tournament winner Kei Nishikori. "Things were positive even if I lost. Congrats to him, he's a great guy and a great player," added top seed Nadal who was a semi-final loser last week to Fabio Fognini in Monte Carlo where he was also an 11-time champion.

"Today I played at a good level, it was a great improvement on last week, when I was not competitive at all. "I enjoyed the match, I'm feeling the way I want to feel about my game. I'm happy and I'm confident." Third-seeded Thiem took revenge for not only his 2018 French Open final loss to Nadal but also avenged losing the 2017 Barcelona title match to the 32-year-old Spaniard. Nadal had never before lost a Barcelona semi-final. Thiem joins Novak Djokovic as the only player to have defeated Nadal four times on clay after Buenos Aires in 2016, Rome in 2017 and last year in the Madrid quarter-finals. Fourth seed Nishikori had reached the final of the Catalan clay-court event three times, winning in 2014 and 2015 but losing the 2016 final to Nadal. "He played very aggressive and was better today on the clay," Nishikori said after his loss to Medvedev. "It was a close match, he played well at the right moments."

The players exchanged breaks in the third set before the seventh-seeded Medvedev seized the first match point to break in the 12th game. Nishikori had defeated Medvedev in January's Brisbane final, a success which ended a 51-tournament title drought for the Japanese ace. In spite of defeat, Nishikori remained pleased with his progress on clay ahead of upcoming Masters events in Madrid and Rome. "I'm happy with how I'm playing. Even today, I played well," he said. "I've got my confidence back again on clay. It was important for me to do well this week. I want to be ready for the next big events." Medvedev, who shook some salt into his mouth during a third-set changeover just to spark his tiring muscles -- apparently not for cramping -- said his game remained in top gear. "I felt ahead of him mentally in the final set. That is how I managed to break at 6-5," said Medvedev. "This match shows I'm able to play well on clay against the top 10 guys. I'm feeling strong physically and mentally. "I'm very happy to win, this gives me big confidence and shows I can do a lot."

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England defender Danny Rose shocked by racism rap

England defender Danny Rose said he was “shocked” that Montenegro were only told to play just one game behind closed doors as punishment for racist chants, insisting the sanction “was not harsh enough”. UEFA ordered Montenegro to play their next home E…

England defender Danny Rose said he was "shocked" that Montenegro were only told to play just one game behind closed doors as punishment for racist chants, insisting the sanction "was not harsh enough". UEFA ordered Montenegro to play their next home Euro 2020 qualifier in an empty stadium after Raheem Sterling, Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi were targeted by racist abuse by home supporters during England's 5-1 win in Podgorica in March. Sterling celebrated the visitors' fifth goal by cupping his ears towards the crowd after a section of supporters were heard directing monkey chants towards England's black players.

"I don't think it is a harsh enough punishment for someone to learn from in the future, just a one-game ban and 20,000 euros -- it's a bit shocking but there is not much I can do now," Rose told Sky Sports on Friday. "I just have to hope that I never have to play there again, it's a shame that this where we are now and I just have to get on with it. "I wouldn't want to go back there, but obviously if I have to play there I will play. It's not on my list of destinations to visit."

The UEFA ruling means Montenegro will play their match against Kosovo on June 7 in an empty stadium. England's Football Association welcomed UEFA's decision to sanction Montenegro and said it hopes the punishment "sends out a message that racism has no place in football or in wider society". European football's governing body also fined the Montenegrin FA 20,000 euros ($22,300) for other charges including crowd disturbances, setting off fireworks, throwing objects and blocked stairways. After the Montenegro incident Sterling, a victim of several instances of racist abuse this season, urged UEFA to impose stadium bans to crack down on the problem.

"It's now time for the people in charge to put a real stamp on it because you can fine someone, but what is that going to do?" he said. "You've got to make it a bit harder, punish fans that can't come to games. Do something that's going to make them think twice. If their team can't play with fans, it's going to be difficult." Tottenham left-back Rose said earlier this month that he "can't wait to see the back of football" because of the lack of decisive action to tackle racism. England manager Gareth Southgate was left visibly upset about the treatment of his players and called for education to help eradicate racism in the sport.

"Sanctions are worthless if there is nothing alongside that to help educate people," said Southgate. The Montenegrin FA promised to ban any supporters found to have racially abused England's players, and said it would "undertake all necessary measures to identify the irresponsible individuals". "In a multicultural and multi ethnical society as Montenegro is, there is not any space for such conduct," read a statement from the Balkan country's football association. UEFA regulations state that if supporters engage in racist behaviour then "the member association or club responsible is punished with a minimum of a partial stadium closure". Article 14 also states that additional sanctions can be imposed depending on the situation, while "disciplinary measures may be combined with specific directives aimed at tackling such conduct".

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World Cup flashback: Ross Taylor’s big birthday bash

World Cup memoryTaylor’s big b’day bash
Birthday boy Ross Taylor’s unbeaten, match-winning innings of 131 off 124 balls against Pakistan in Pallekele during the 2011 World Cup makes for an interesting case study. While Taylor’s first 108 balls fe…

World Cup memory
Taylor's big b'day bash

Birthday boy Ross Taylor's unbeaten, match-winning innings of 131 off 124 balls against Pakistan in Pallekele during the 2011 World Cup makes for an interesting case study. While Taylor's first 108 balls fetched him just 69 runs on March 8, the veteran Kiwi batsman surprised everyone with the carnage on display towards the end where he accumulated 61 runs off the last six overs.

Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal's dropped catch of Taylor cost Pakistan as New Zealand posted a mammoth 302-7. Taylor took 28 runs off Shoaib Akhtar's over and 30 runs from Abdur Razzaq, which was a new tournament record for most runs conceded in an over. Misfields, overthrows and 24 extras also contributed to Pakistan's misery.

Pakistan struggled to get going with the bat too after Tim Southee (3-25) dismissed opener Mohd Hafeez (5) and Akmal (8) cheaply. At 66-6, Pakistan were staring at a massive defeat. Razzaq's 62 and Umar Gul's 34 not out could not save Pakistan from embarrassment. They eventually folded up for 192.

MS Dhoni

Did you know?
MS Dhoni holds the record for winning the most number of consecutive World Cup matches as captain — 11 across the 2011 and 2015 editions. West Indies' Clive Lloyd was another successful captain with nine World Cup victories in matches spread across the 1975 and 1979 tournaments.

Sachin Tendulkar

Figured out
Although Sri Lanka lifted the World Cup in 1996, the Indian players topped the batting and bowling charts of the edition. Sachin Tendulkar top-scored with 523 runs, and Anil Kumble claimed the most number of wickets — 15.

Gulbadin Naib

Player to watch
Gulbadin Naib

In a surprise move, Afghanistan Cricket Board decided to change their captain for the World Cup and replaced Asghar Afghan with Gulbadin Naib. This will not only be his debut captaincy experience in a World Cup, it will also be his first assignment as captain for an international match. Naib, who made his international debut in 2011, has played 52 ODIs and 38 T20Is. With 807 runs and 40 wickets in his ODI career, Naib's biggest challenge would be to get his teammates to rally around him.

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Sri Lankan cricket sat on its laurels, says Sidath Wettimuny

Today marks a week for the Easter Sunday terror attacks in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa that killed 253 and injured at least 500 people. It’s also a week since Sidath Wettimuny, the former Sri Lanka opening batsman arrived in Mumbai on a visit. “We …

Today marks a week for the Easter Sunday terror attacks in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa that killed 253 and injured at least 500 people. It's also a week since Sidath Wettimuny, the former Sri Lanka opening batsman arrived in Mumbai on a visit. "We still can't get to grips on how, why and where this came from. It's an absolute shocker. I console and comfort myself by thinking terrorism can never win. I am sure we Sri Lankans will get over this; we have to get over his," he says on the verandah of the Cricket Club of India.

Wettimuny, 62 is accompanying his wife Sharmini (chairperson of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka) who was involved in Friday's South Asian Symphony Foundation concert at the NCPA. It is learnt that Sharmini helped former diplomat Nirupama Rao identify musicians from Sri Lanka.

He played 23 Tests, scored 1221 runs with two centuries at 29.07. The first of his three-figure scores came against Pakistan in a drawn Test in 1982 at Faisalabad. Two years after he became Sri Lanka's first Test centurion there, Wettimuny scored a glorious 190 in the one-off Test against England at Lord's where he batted for more than 10 hours.

Sidath Wettimuny during his memorable 190 against England at Lord's in 1984. Pic/Getty Images
Sidath Wettimuny during his memorable 190 against England at Lord's in 1984. Pic/Getty Images

Carrying his bat through the innings in the 1983 Christchurch Test for 63 against an attack comprising NZ's Richard Hadlee, Martin Snedden, Ewen Chatfield and Lance Cairns in swinging conditions was another commendable feat. Thanks to his 190 at Lord's, Wettimuny was named one of Wisden's five cricketers for 1984.

Silloo Medhora, his old friend in Mumbai, says he does a great rendition of Frank Sinatra's My Way. "If you want to call me that, yes. But I don't consider myself a singer," Wettimuny says with a chuckle when asked if he is a social singer.

No board ambitions
There is nothing to smile about when I ask him if he is involved in Sri Lankan cricket: "At the moment, no. I was involved in eight interims boards and I never wanted to contest cricket board elections. There is an elected board at the moment and I have no desire to be involved."

He reckons his country's cricket is reeling under poor administration. He emphasises, "The politics of cricket management has not brought out the best in our cricket. We have not nurtured our young talent at the 18, 19 and 23 age groups in a systematic way. We have lost a lot of good talent due to a lack of a good system.

"A lot of us (former players) have been insisting for the last 15-20 years that we must have a level which is better than club cricket, like your Ranji Trophy. But the people who are interested in the politics of the game have not worked to foster that system. We have a club-based voting system. To protect that voting system, no body has had the courage to make changes."

Wettimuny was one of the selectors who picked Sri Lanka's victorious 1996 World Cup team and though the islanders have made two World Cup finals (2007 and 2011) after that, Wettimuny believes the state of the game is, "rather worrying." He elaborates: "We have been sitting on our laurels for the last 10-15 years, thinking our cricket is good enough. Because we won the World Cup in 1996, we believed our club cricket was good enough to take us to where we needed to go. We have forgotten that the world is evolving, competition is evolving. We have stood still; not bothered to change with the times and make the necessary changes in our domestic cricket to facilitate and make sure that cricketers play at the right level domestically to compete at the international level."

Sri Lanka have been poor on the ODI cricket front, enduring a 0-3 defeat in New Zealand before a 0-5 shellacking in South Africa recently. Their performance across their last 25 ODIs is unflattering and is at the heart of their World Cup worries – won 6, lost 18 with one game abandoned. "I think we have been suffering from what I call the Jayasuriya syndrome. We try and bat as if we have a Jayasuriya up front, but we don't. If you look at our recent games especially in South Africa, we were often four down before the score reached 100.

'Batting like idiots'
"The batsmen are playing shots which shouldn't be played and we are just batting like idiots if I may use that word," says Wettimuny, who is glad to see the inclusion of batsman Dimuth Karunaratne as captain. "In England, you need a guy who can bat through. We need to get to 150 without losing more than two wickets, or maximum three. Then, do your best and hope for the best. Don't aspire to get 320. If we get 270-280-plus then we have a chance because there could be something in it for the bowlers on those wickets. We need to reverse our thinking and understand that losing wickets is the worst thing we can do," he says.

Wettimuny hails from a cricketing family. Like the Chappell family in Australia, the Wettimuny clan in Colombo had three brothers who represented Sri Lanka at the highest level — Sunil, Mithra and Sidath. Sunil opened the batting for Sri Lanka in the 1975 and 1979 World Cups. In 1975, he had his instep smashed by Jeff Thomson at the Oval. Duleep Mendis, who was struck on the head by Thomson, was admitted in the same London hospital as Sunil. "He (Sunil) spoke so much about that 1975 experience... he said he had never faced a spell of fast bowling like that.

A policeman arrived in Sunil's hospital room saying that he'd heard a certain Mr Thomson had assaulted him and asked if he wanted to press charges," Wettimuny laughs. Mithra, the second of the Wettimuny brothers played two Tests and led a Sri Lanka schoolboys team to India in 1969-70. While Sunil was an airline pilot, Mithra excelled in accountancy. Sidath did a bit of accountancy too before deciding to pursue his cricketing dreams. After his cricket retirement he ended up in the clothing industry. Mithra passed away earlier this year.

"Sunil was a huge inspiration. He was a fantastic opening batsman. He played cricket for the sheer joy of it, but the greatest inspiration was my father. He built the first indoor cricket net in Sri Lanka for us to play cricket. He got Bertie Wijesinghe, who was one of the best coaches in the country, to coach us in that indoor facility. Dad was that crazy over cricket," says Wettimuny, before passing on some pearls: "Dad said, 'Learn to play this game because it will teach you a lot about life.' He also said, 'Play the game and play it clean.' Unfortunately, he passed away the year before I captained my first XI team, in 1974 at the age of 49."

A six for his girlfriend
Wettimuny lived up to his father's teachings but one day he forgot about his 'keep the ball along the ground' advice. Sri Lanka were playing England at Taunton in the 1983 World Cup. His girlfriend was in England too and he told her if he sees her in the crowd, he'll hit a six. And that's what happened. He says: "Maybe I should not have done that. We were not professional cricketers in that sense. There was a lightness to which we played the game. I think we had more fun playing the game than (today's cricketers). Maybe, I did a crazy thing like that because I was enjoying the game."

Wettimuny may well arrive back home with a lump in his throat considering the recent terror attacks. But as a batsman, he knows that Sri Lanka needs to take fresh guard.

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Claire Polosak becomes 1st female umpire in men’s ODI

Australia’s Claire Polosak will create history as the first woman umpire ever to stand in a men’s One-Day International when she takes the field in the final of the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 Saturday.
The 31-year-old, who is breaking new gro…

Australia's Claire Polosak will create history as the first woman umpire ever to stand in a men's One-Day International when she takes the field in the final of the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 Saturday.

The 31-year-old, who is breaking new ground for women cricket officials has previously stood in 15 women's ODIs, the first one in November 2016 between Australia and South Africa. She has also performed well in ICC events, standing in the semifinal of the ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2018 between England and India and four matches at the ICC Women's World Cup 2017, reflecting her rapid rise to success.

Polosak has been championing female officiating and has been a path breaker before too. She was the first woman to stand in a men's domestic fixture in Australia in her first List A match in Australia in 2017. In December last year, she and her South Australian counterpart Eloise Sheridan became the first female umpires to officiate on-field together during a professional match in Australia when the Adelaide Strikers hosted the Melbourne Stars in the WBBL.

Polosak was exuberant at the impending milestone: "I am thrilled to be the first woman to stand in a men's ODI and how far I have come as an umpire. "It really is important to promote women umpires and there's no reason why females can't umpire in cricket. It's about breaking down barriers, creating awareness so more females can come into the role."

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