CSA to consider releasing South Africa players early for IPL – The Island

by Rex Clementine

There have been some sensational stories coming out of Australia during cricket contests. A recollection of some of them is not a bad idea at a time when the national cricket team is down under.

It is a tradition in Australia after a game for the losing team to visit the winning team and have a beer or just have a chat. This has been a practice that has been in place for decades and once at the SCG when the Sri Lankans were in the Australian dressing room, a message had come through that the Prime Minister of Australia John Howard was coming over to meet them.

As Howard entered the dressing room, straight away the Sri Lankans were on their feet to greet the PM, who was a cricket buff. From a corner someone raised his voice, ‘Hey John, come mate, come. Grab a beer mate!’ It was Matthew Hayden. And he was in his underpants. The Sri Lankans couldn’t believe it. One of them whispered to the team manager, ‘Imagine this happening in our country.’ John Howard did share a beer with the players.

Howard had an 11 year stint as the Australian PM and when he stepped down, there was move to make him the President of International Cricket Council. He had agreed to come on board provided member countries elected him unanimously. Sadly, SLC objected to him becoming the ICC chief on flimsy grounds. What most fans aren’t aware is that India was using SLC as a cat’s paw.

Several years later, in 2010 Julia Gillard had become the first female Prime Minister of Australia. This was half a century after Sri Lanka had elected a female Prime Minister. Gillard had been born in Wales in the UK before migrating to Australia and she loved her cricket too. She was not in the habit of walking into the dressing room like Howard but invited teams to her residence in Canberra for tea. The Sri Lankan team were her guests in 2012. Team Manager Charith Senanayake was introducing his players. The PM came up to a famous cricketer who recently retired. She shook his hands and asked, ‘How are you keeping.’ Our champion replied, ‘I am not a keeper, I am an all-rounder.’ Poor Charith, a good man who loves a laugh, didn’t know where to hide.

The closest Sri Lanka came to winning a Test match in Australia was in 2012 in the final Test in Sydney. A rash shot from Tilan Samaraweera triggered a sensational collapse after several young players had fought bravely. It was a remarkable effort given the fact the team’s best batsman Kumar Sangakkara was out injured. It was an absorbing test match but some of us remember it for the wrong reasons.

After second day’s play, late in the night, a social media post had suggested that spinner Rangana Herath and fast bowling coach Chaminda Vaas had met with a road accident and Herath had died on the spot. It was midnight in Australia but newspapers in Colombo had several hours to go to print. There were calls from editors asking reporters covering the series in Australia what’s going on and in the middle of the night the team manger had to be woken up. He eventually woke up Herath and confirmed that this was a false alarm. It turned out to be that both Herath and Vaas had not stepped out of the hotel that night. Poor Herath was being bombarded with phone calls and he had to keep up the whole night to tell family, friends and everyone who called him not to take what’s in social media seriously.

Marvan Atapattu was one of the finest gents to play the game and as Sri Lanka captain he set new standards. It was obvious that towards the tail end of his career he was getting a raw deal. After being overlooked for several home series, he was called up for the toughest assignment in cricket – tour of Australia in 2007.

At the Gabba after the first test ended he vented his anger attending the press conference calling the selectors a bunch of puppets headed by a joker. This became headline news not just in Australia but all over the world. It was a rare indiscretion by someone who always played the sport in the right spirit.

The next test match in Hobart was Marvan’s swansong. In his last innings in Test cricket, he produced a masterclass 80 with Sri Lanka chasing a huge target of 507. Marvan’s father was there too to see his son going out on a high. However, his knock was overshadowed by Kumar Sangakkara’s classy 192. Sanga had been wrongly given out by umpire Rudi Koertzen. Adam Gilchrist did not cover himself in glory as he was the first to appeal and the Aussies were in no mood to withdraw the appeal with the game at stake.

During the same game, Percy Abesysekara, the cheerleader was arrested by the police for ‘intruding’ the pitch. Now Tasmania is a tiny island and people are often laid-back including the cops. While Percy would have got away in any major Australian city or for that matter anywhere in the world, in Hobart they considered him an intruder.

Percy being Percy wasn’t grumbling. He reminded the cops that his friends included Bob Hawke to John Howard, two Australian PMs who frequented cricket. He also added that since his high profile political friends are unable to come down to Hobart in a hurry to bail him out, he would get two famous Tasmanians in David Boon and Ricky Ponting to get him out of trouble. Sanity prevailed and uncle Percy was let off. Percy continued to be cheeky. ‘When I applied for the Australian visa, they asked me whether I have a criminal record. Now, gentlemen, do you still require to have a criminal record to enter Australia?

Several Sri Lankan batsmen have come up with some memorable batting feats in Australia and some outstanding bowling efforts. The first century in Australia by a Sri Lankan stands out of them all. Aravinda de Silva scored a spectacular 167 in the Gabba Test of 1989 and his superb counterattack with the team in trouble made the world take note of his exceptional talent.

Aravinda has many friends and fans in Brisbane. When someone had asked for match tickets, he had kindly obliged. The friends had brought to his notice that there were tickets for only the first four days. Upon inquiring, Aravinda had got to know that the Australian board didn’t expect the test match to go beyond day four. He needed little motivation after that. The Aussie bowlers were at the receiving end.

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