By Srian Obeyesekere
As the fourth edition of the 2023 Lanka Premier League gathered steam moving into the challenging harsher terrain of making it to the finals and the focus interestingly shifted to the backseat coaches of the five teams facing the media yesterday with the guiding lights of the top placed two teams namely Avishka Gunawardena of Dambulla Aura that lead the points table and Chamara Kapugedera of Galle Titans voicing their confidence of winning the championship, refreshingly welcome was hearing former Pakistan spin great Mushtaq Ahmed dwelling beyond the LPL as to the greater good of Sri Lanka cricket and how he saw the game here and its future.
Mushtaq (53), a legend during his time, who played a key role in Pakistan’s World Cup triumph in 1992 under Imran Khan, attended in place of B Love Kandy Head Coach, Piyal Wijetunga, airing his views at the confab held at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium auditorium, opined on the LPL benefits accruing up and coming local talent to the extraordinary all-round potential in Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva and to what he plainly felt about the game in Sri Lanka which he felt was well developed and could further evolve to international heights only by having firmly in place a first-class system.
FIRST CLASS CRICKET THE KEY
“First class cricket is the key. The first class system in other countries is what makes the difference. Red ball cricket is the key,” he aired.
The LPL, he said was a huge window particularly for young local talent that had not gained exposure to go places by playing alongside players of stature from local stars to foreign players of repute which was a new gaining experience for them to further evolve their game .
“The Sri Lankan League helps the young cricketers when they sit alongside proven stars like Mathews and Chandimal.
On the vitality of match winning performance, Mushtaq said, “You have to believe in yourself and play good cricket. If the captain is performing it is a plus point.”
Responding to questions on B-Love Kandy skipper Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva’s potential, he said, “Wanindu Hasaranga is an extraordinary player for his all-round talent. He can bat, bowl and field very well. If the captain is performing it is a plus point. I have discussed with him on the finer points of spin bowling.”
As to the nature of the slow pitches teams had got to perform on, Mushtaq said, “I think these type of pitches throw a challenge to players. I would say these types of slow pitches are good for a final because end of the day you have to play the best cricket to win matches. It is a good atmosphere to play and perform in a given short period of time in this format of the game. When the wicket becomes flatter a spinner will be successful if you do the basics.”
EVERY PLAYER DONE HIS PART – DAMBULLA HEAD COACH AVISHKA GUNAWARDENA
Meanwhile, Avishka Gunawardena, Head Coach of Dambulla Aura, said that a plus point in the team’s success had been that every player had been assigned a task to accomplish which they had done admirably. Having foreign players in the team had been a boon to the local players. “These foreign players I have noticed have performed to the letter what I have told them to do in the middle. A pleasing factor in having foreign players play in the league has been their commitment to sticking it out there in the middle and doing what the coach wants them to do. This has been an exemplary learning factor that I have identified that is by and by coming to influence our local player through the LPL,” Avishka opined.
OUR CONFIDENCE IS HIGH – GALLE TITANS CHAMARA KAPUGEDERA
Chamara Kapugedera, Head Coach of Galle Titans, commenting on his side’s title hopes said, “Our confidence is high after winning the last few games. Of course, going into the decider we have to start afresh. We have performed well and that is our strong point.”
LPL A GREAT POST-COVID HEALER TO THE NATION – COLOMBO STRIKERS THILINA KANDAMBY
Thilina Kandamby, Head Coach of Colombo Strikers said that although his team had not made it, they had won a few games. Moreover, what was important was that the LPL had proved to be a game changer not only to the players with cricket proving to be a great healer to the nation as well in the post-COVID 19 that had plagued the country.