United With A Manchester Legend

Hardly could you believe the accommodating and warmness of a man who has accomplished accolades belying his down to earth attitude. My calls for a ten minute closure was answered and here i was speaking with a former Manchester United captain.

Cinnamon Grand was the location, while he’s in Sri Lanka as an ambassador for the club, as part of a historic deal signed between Airtel and Manchester United, to bring the local football and global football communities together. While the questions rang myself, my club loyalties couldnt be hidden. Is it time for Arsene Wenger to go?

Wenger’s position is at an all-time low after three straight defeats to Fulham, Swansea and Manchester United, but Robson believes the Arsenal board is right to stay with him because if there’s one who can right the ship, it’s the Frenchman.Asked whether it’s time for a new face at the Emirates, he was quick to praise one of the biggest adversaries of his club in the past. He said; “no, I think Wenger’s a great manager. I think Arsenal is right to stay with him at the moment, but in saying that, he’s not given them a trophy for seven years and that can only last so long, because with a club like Arsenal and the traditions they have they got to be win trophies to stay on. I do think Wenger’s coming under a quite a bit of pressure, but Arsenal should believe in him.”

The discontent stretched to its summit last week when Wenger replaced 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – who was the best player on the pitch for the Gunners by a country mile – with erratic Andrey Arshavin in the 73rd minute during the clash with Manchester United. The former had just assisted captain Robin Van Persie to equalize and the crowd responded to the decision with a deafening round of boos. They weren’t helped by the long term jittery future as Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for seven years and are in danger of not qualifying for the UEFA Champions league, next year.

About the decision, the man who was named the greatest Manchester United player ever last year said; “yeah, but it’s the manager’s choice. Managers make decisions for certain reasons which people don’t know. If one is carrying an injury or whatever, managers will take measures like that. For me, Arsene Wenger is a terrific manager and he’s done a great job at Arsenal.”

United won the game eventually thanks to a Danny Wellbeck goal in the final minutes and there’s quite a lot of conjecture about who should replace Sir Alex Ferguson too. The scot has declared he’ll relinquish the position in three years and already ‘generals’ like Jose Mourinho and Pep Gaurdiola are linked, but Robson asserts that someone within the club should be ideal rather than jetting one from outside. “You should ask them that (who will succeed) question (laughs). It’s a real difficult one to answer, because you know Sir Alex is such a great manager. He’s got a fantastic record with Manchester United. It would be very difficult to replace him. People can name whoever they want from around Europe and around the world.”

“I think it should be someone within the club. People like Mike Phelan, René Meulensteen are the two coaches who are working under Sir Alex at the moment and they are doing a magnificent job. Why look outside the club when you have talent inside.”

Last year has seen a few managers from outside the perennial forces put their hand up with sterling performances. Alan Pardew, who was an uncelebrated choice at St. James’ Park in early 2011, has garnered appraisal from Newcastle fans, newly promoted Norwich and Swansea have Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers, who have employed attractive passing football to great rewards and rave reviews and Steve Kean at Blackburn is trying to build a team seemingly without financial patronage from the owners, Venky’s. But Robson says the gaffer who deserves the accolade is Tottenham Hotspurs manager, Harry Redknapp.

“Sir Alex is of course the best manager in the league. But seriously looking at the past year and current situation, you got to say Harry Redknapp. He’s done a marvelous job at Spurs.”

So could they still have a crack at the title? “I know it’s slim. But I wouldn’t dismiss Tottenham. They have got a lot of good players and they were a little bit unlucky against Manchester City; could have easily got a victory there. Had they won that match, they had a great chance but because of the reverse they have slipped so many points behind the Manchester clubs now. It would be very unusual now to slip up. But looking at the other clubs, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal I don’t think they have any chance of winning the league. Tottenham still have an outside chance.”

With neighbours Manchester City – breaking the bank at will with Sheik Mansour hell bent on conquering the EPL – leading the table, there’s no inkling that if not for United, Robson wouldn’t mind Tottenham for the title either.

References- Manchester United Legends Robson And Yorke In Sri Lanka Today
Airtel Uncovers Historic Partnership With Manchester United

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Galle Chronicles Everything That’s Right About Test Cricket

Written for ‘The Island’ on March 29, 2012

An arrogant bouncer flying past a batsman’s helmet akin to a modern sexy F-1 car hustling past a grand marshal with the chequered flag or a teaser with loop and guide poetized from the hands of a tweaker hypnotize a bewildered batsman is like adoring the gorgeousness of Phryne-the woman who was used as the model for a statue of Aphrodite, the beauty of it is still the same. Loving it can be as classical as being hit flush on the helmet or foxed in the air.

Test Cricket at its finest and simplistic best can rival almost anything the world can turn up with. It’s in fact a testimony to a normal man’s life, the rigours and blissful moments collected in one exhibition. More than anything, it’s a test of character only the best of the best can break through the glass ceiling. Galle might not have bear witnessed a slam-bang festival or a more stretched version of it, but what it surely did was come up with a question paper of a surface to be answered and a unforgettable test match.

For every maximum, designated from the virus which spread like wild mushrooms around the world nearly three years ago, there was mental warfare-the game within the game. For every hit in anger, was the acquiescence of bat and pad. For every free hit, there were the powers of concentration. For every colour and glamour, there was the good old fashioned intestinal fortitude. In brief, a proper test match always puts a T20 or a one-dayer into ungodly oblivion.

Jonathan Trott maybe the traditional poem from the lips of a lovey-dovey grandmother in the night for a grandson or a granddaughter for some or Prasanna Jayawardena’s second innings vigil could be the catalyst for another world war, but for a set of followers-in a phenomenal sign, a following which is increasing day by day-it is the best herbal massage available. Whether one watches from the stands,-hard task considering the administrators vision in pricing of a ticket can equal the charisma of a rock- the ramparts-the best view a cricket ground in all of the world can brag about-or from the comforts of cushion at home, the feeling won’t be different.

While Mahela Jayawardena showed the class, Trott was the beacon of resilience. P. Jayawardena and Matt Prior-the flag bearers of grit. In a modern age of inflated averages and in direct correlation the egos, this kind of pitches should be revered. So does green tops. You don’t need meditation to relax your mind. A Test match full of drama and an absorbing contest could well be the cure. The diversity of pitches is literally the vessel that pumps blood into the brain.

And isn’t it pleasing to see the ‘Era of Flight’ in full steam? There were a lot who suspected spin bowling won’t retain its charm in world cricket after a generation of wizardry of Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne. This idea has already been pinned down but the best current spinner in the world and the best left-arm spinner in the world certainly put to bed this in the last few days. Swann and Herath represent a generation that ought to be appreciated. Along with Saeed Ajmal, Nathan Lyon, Imran Tahir, Suraj Randiv and friends, they are writing their own script in Cricket.

England has lot on its plate. They are scrutinized for the same offence as India when they were world no1. At least they are facing the problem head on by playing outside of home. As it stands, more than half their line-up hasn’t come to grips with combating spin. They can still be considered the no1 taking into account the form in a lengthy span of time but right now, one thing’s certain. These sub-continental excursions are only providing more questions than answers. Misses better put the coffee pots on.

In highsight, a stock of competitive countries is only going to swell the quality of contests. Pitches of quality are all that’s the need of the hour.

This was what the curator and in a bigger slice the custodian of Galle Stadium, Jayananda Warnaweera had in store for ‘cricinfo’ with regards to his intentions in furnishing a surface. “You shouldn’t produce dead Test pitches just to get scores of 600, that’s my motto.”

As The Beatles nearly sang in ‘Blackbird’, “Take these gleaming eyes and learn to see.” Are you watching featherbedders?

The Island Link-Galle Chronicles Everything That’s Right About Test Cricket

Pallekele- Sri Lanka’s own Nefertiti to Cricket

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Originally published in ‘The Island’ on 7 August, 2011

Cricket is an avenue unlike other sports which leaves space for nature to fly its divine wings. While you will be blessed with the scope of the first choice -cricket, there’s always the added charm of escaping the action for an instant and be dazzled by the milieu. Sorrowfully, concrete jungles are noshing away the delights fast. It’s in this sphere that you detect nature’s heaven – Pallekele- you become instantly hooked.

 

One thing that sets you up for a congenial location is the adherence that Kandy is one of the more gorgeous daughters of mother Sri Lanka.

 

The razzmatazz, buzzing or the sonority of the sea of the crowd pumping into the stadium at the entrance ought not to welcome you to queen Nefertiti you are about to witness and you shall not have a particle of an idea about the siege that you are about to embrace. Modelled akin to the embroidery of Super Sport Park in Centurion by the State Engineering Cooperation of Sri Lanka, you wonder why they dumped the ‘park’ feature to the more urbanite ‘stadium’.

 

The smile of the female police officer greets you – in a vicious slap to perceived notion about the department in whole – as you enter the super fit media centre, where inside, the view is exemplary. The kind hearted faces inside the box welcome you with the utmost friendliness and the sighting of that ever spiritual and the pearl of the Indian ocean loving Tony Greig makes you blissful, while the other Aussie, Tom Moody reminds you of the emphatic transformation in Sri Lanka cricket that he piloted.

 

The gigantic broad main pavilion structure at the opposite side makes you tremble and all the same proud, but as you wind down the ground slowly what grasps you and pronto soothes it is the appearance of grass banks. Lo and behold, it’s a joy.

 

Although the darkness cloaks the mountain – which for a second gives permission for a Newlands in Cape Town reference – in his wiles, it is fitting that two ends titles -Hunnasgiriya End and Rikillagaskada End – which the nightfall can’t hide are famous for its own rendition of mountain ranges.

 

As 1960s Green Bay Packers head coach Vincent Lombardi so eloquently put it; “perfection is unattainable,” and even heavenly Pallekele hasn’t escaped that dictum either. This is the favourite place for rain gods to have their vacation and that too when cricket arrives. All four games before had listened to their orders in some form and the gloom that circulated and the spring of drops that fell at times shook the expectations, but thankfully, it stayed away. Maybe the glamour of this Nefertiti finally has hypnotized the last individuals remaining – the rain gods.

 

While entangled in all this, 7.00 pm gave set off for the rationale we were all here amidst the sightseeing. As it turned out, the overcast conditions hoodwinked Australian captain Cameron White to bowl, which even his counterpart admitted would have been the path he also would have taken. Brett Lee ran in like a Duracell bunny, but others lacked penetration and crucially, the proper length. No shortcomings of the Australians could degrade Dilshan’s superlative hundred though.

 

The patented scoop made a welcome return and as he would later cheekily express, it was the thumbs up by coach Rumesh Ratnayake that allowed Dilshan to release the cat from the bag again.

 

For Australia and captain White, the main concern would be the manner of the defeat. His own form could be a major headache for White more than anything.

 

This is a one venue that the Australians could find more to their liking and the others are going to test their ability to conquer the tweakers. Although a one-off isn’t the best judge and we all know the competitive never say die behemoths they are, the way they went down at the rate of a skier here, is an ominous sign. The clash today, will have a lot on its plate.