Throughout the past week, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara continued to criticize the national cricket team for failing to stay fit ahead of major ICC tournaments including the recently concluded Champions Trophy in England and Wales. Sri Lanka won just one game but came super close to get through to the semi-finals tournament.
A couple of major flaws on the field restricted the side from beating Pakistan in the final group stage match at Cardiff on the 12th of June 2017. However, the depleted Sri Lankan side got the better of tournament favorites India in their second group stage game played at the Oval. Sri Lanka completed a record chase, hunting down a massive score of 321 with 7 wickets to spare. Underdogs Pakistan eventually won the tournament beating India in the all-important finals.
All-rounder Thisara Perera was strongly reprimanded by the public for dropping a dolly at a crucial stage in the game against Pakistan. However, Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga spoke against the criticism directed towards the fielder.
“It was a bit of a funny wicket. We hadn’t got the runs on the board but we knew we could defend this. And the bowlers did their job, but we didn’t hold on to our catches,” said Angelo Mathews after the defeat.
Meanwhile, Dayasiri Jayasekara lashed out at the cricketers considering them the ugliest in terms of physical appearance in world cricket.
“Look at the Bangladesh team. There aren’t any players with big bellies. That’s because they are given good training. That’s why I said we don’t have any option other than to give our players Army training for six months. I recall how the physiotherapist had to go to the ground four times in an over,” said Jayasekara.
“There is a famous saying in cricket that ‘Catches win Matches’. But I heard a player had said that dropped catches do not cost the match. But the fact remains that we lost because of those drops,” he added.
In response, a fired up Lasith Malinga replied with a bit of aggression and sense.
“I heard the Sports Minister had told that players are overweight. There is a fitness test today and we shall see who are the fastest runners in the team. That will shut the mouths of these armchair critics,” said Malinga who was only second to 34-year old Nuwan Kulasekara.
“We beat India. Then all was well and good. No one had issues with our fitness. Suddenly we lose a game and then everything is wrong and we have problems with fitness. That is simply being opportunistic to stay away from criticism. Before fingers are being pointed towards him, he is trying to divert the criticism at us,” added Lasith Malinga.
“The war is over. No one needs to join the Army now. We have physios to look after the fitness. Fitness in cricket is different from player to player. People should be intelligent when they talk about these issues. Hashim Amla was world’s number one batsman, but his fitness levels were different from that of A.B. de Villiers,” he concluded.
Moreover, the sports minister blasted a set of players for taking part in the money-rich Indian Premier League.
Nevertheless, if selection permits, Lasith Malinga was quite keen on making it through to the ICC Cricket World Cup.
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