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Sunday, 9 June 2013

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Football making headlines, cricket second best

Here in England although a big cricket tournament is taking place, the ICC Champions Trophy, the lead stories and making news and headlines in all newspapers is football, which is their number one sport. Their recent 2-all draw against five times World Champions Brazil in a friendly at the Maracana Stadium, was obviously and rightly big news. It has given them hope of qualifying to play in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

But sadly it was only in 1966 when England conducted the World Cup that they first won it. Since then England has been making it to the World Cups, but have nothing concrete to show for their troubles.

They go to the World Cup amidst much fanfare promising confidence for millions of soccer fans of bringing home the World Cup, but ultimately don't make much headway and disappoint their fans who can be quite vocal when things do not go their way.

Football number one game

But football remains number one with cricket --which game they gave to the world --at second place with rugby next. But probably once the Champions Trophy gathers momentum and England are in with a chance, cricket could grab the headlines.

The England cricketers led by Alastair Cook did well to stuff the Kiwis in the Two Test matches, but since then, in the two limited over games against New Zealand led by Brendon McCullum have proved their vulnerability in this style of game. But England won the third game and this should restore confidence, The two defeats have gone to lower their morale and they will have to raise their game if they hope to make any headway in the Champions Trophy. Having not won a World Cup since its inception in England, not to win the Champions Trophy this time will be galling.

England have a legion of cricket fans who will always cheer for them, hoping they can raise their game and be concerned in the Champions Trophy to have the Lions hungry and gritting their teeth to devour the Australians and retain the Ashes, which series begins here after the Champions Trophy

Ten more years for Anderson - One of the most successful England bowlers James Anderson has revealed that he would like to go on playing until he is 40. At this age most bowlers would have hung up their boots. But not Anderson.

A bowler with the ability to get the ball to wobble both ways, Anderson has over the years been an asset to England and now has 307 Test wickets which makes him third in the England list and is on equal terms with Darren Gough who has 234 wickets in one-day cricket.

If he continues in the same form he is bound to break all England bowling records. He says that he will keep going and would love to play until the age of 40. He is a fitness fanatic.

His injury record is good and once suffered a back problem that made him miss the 2006 season. He is determined to stay fit and play for a few more years and grab few more wickets.

He first sported the England cap at the age of 20 and has since not looked back. He has a lovely action that does not put much strain on his back and batsmen have struggled against his well controlled inswing and outswing deliveries.

Anderson at the moment is in line with former bowling greats Fred Trueman, Ian Botham and Bob Willis. The threesome are legends in the game and with luck and hard work could go past the three former greats.

Here is a little anecdote related to me by former Benedictine and Sri Lanka left-hand batsman Anton Sethupathy when I met him during a tour of Australia. Incidentally Sethupathy who is 'no more' had the wonderful experience of hitting the great off spinner Jim Laker for three fours in a row when the England team to Australia in 1958 played a one-day game at the SSC which game was ruined by rain.

Here's the anecdote: Former Commander of the Navy Royce de Mel a keen cricket fan, had wanted Sethupathy to get the autographs of all the England cricketers.

Sethupathy had got all of them, but not Trueman's. Every time he ran into Trueman and requested for his autograph, Trueman would turn his back and refuse.

Unable to hold his patience, it struck upon Sethupthy to tell the England Captain Peter May about Trueman's refusal to give his autograph. 'Hey Fred, come here and autograph this book', was the shout from May. A meek Trueman walked up and obliged. So much for his pride. It was a gentleman versus Players situation.

Meeting Coomaraswamy on the same flight

On the same flight with me from Sri Lanka to London was former cricketer and Sri Lanka rugby captain, who like good wine needs no bush - the likeable Indrajit Coomaraswamy.

As usual the topic was on sport and the time we spent playing and enjoying it for the sake of sport and what delight we took from it.

Money was not the be all and end all. It was played for the game's sake because for us the game was the thing.

Coomaraswamy was the captain of the 1974 Sri Lanka rugby team that were runners up to Japan. That was the best ever success savoured by the county in its rugby history.

That tournament was covered by sports writers M.B. Marjan and M.V. Muhsin for the 'Times of Ceylon' where I was the Sports Editor. Prior to the tournament, the two writers challenged the unfair dropping of some outstanding players and such was the controversy that the selectors had to make amends by including the star ruggerites.

Back to Indrajit, who while excelling in rugby, he also showed his prowess at cricket was an allrounder playing for my old club Tamil Union under Tony Appadurai.

He was a wily left am spin bowler

Coomaraswamy in addition to excelling in sport was also clever at studies and while at Cambridge University played cricket, but was unfortunate to miss out on a blue because in that University team was another left-arm spinner in Phil Edmonds who later played for England.Also in that team was Majid Khan, the heavy scoring hard hitting Pakistani batsman. Majid Khan who later went on to captain Pakistan.

Another batch mate and team mate was Mike Selvy who also sported the England cap.

Indrajit Coomaraswamy hails from an illustrious family with his father Raju being in the United Nations and uncle Sathi who was a brilliant allrounder at cricket for Tamil Union and later captaining Sri Lanka.After a pleasant flight, we landed in Heathrow with Indrajit eagerly looking forward to being at the Kennington Oval to watch Sri Lanka playing England and Australia and wishing the team well.

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