Smiling Sri Lanka stun South Africa to seal historic away series win

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Sri Lanka's bowler Oshada Fernando, centre, celebrates with teammates after taking a wicket during day two of the second cricket test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at St. George's Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Friday Feb. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sheehan)
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Sri Lanka's Oshada Fernando plays a shot in front of South Africa's Quinton de Kock during their third day of the second cricket test at St. George's Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa between South Africa and Sri Lanka Saturday Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sheehan)
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Sri Lanka's Oshada Fernando plays a shot in front of South Africa's Quinton de Kock during their third day of the second cricket test at St. George's Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa between South Africa and Sri Lanka Saturday Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sheehan)
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Sri Lanka's bowler Oshada Fernando, centre, celebrates with teammates after taking a wicket during day two of the second cricket test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at St. George's Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Friday Feb. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sheehan)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Smiling Sri Lanka stun South Africa to seal historic away series win

LONDON: Dimuth Karunaratne’s Sri Lanka were given no chance before their Test series against South Africa — they were injury-hit and out-of-form — but stunned everyone on Saturday by clinching their first away series win against the Proteas.
And it was the first victory for any Test team on South African soil other than England and Australia.
It was more than just a win, too, because it meant the plucky Sri Lankans swept the two-match series.
The highly-rated Proteas were shut out in a home series for the first time in more than ten years and for only the second time since returning to international cricket after the end of apartheid.
Indeed, before this series, South Africa’s home record against teams other than England and the Baggy Greens since they first faced another team (New Zealand in 1953) was played 36, won 33, drawn three.
You can now add “one defeat,” thanks to the historic success from the first Asian team to win in South Africa — even the mighty India and Pakistan have never managed to win an away series there.
“I think it’s really a great feeling for me and the team,” new captain Karunaratne said.
“It’s not easy when you come to South Africa and to win a series 2-0, it’s a lot of hard work. I think the guys enjoyed it a lot, that’s why we created history.”
Karunaratne hailed the achievements of his happy, united team.
“We told them, ‘play your normal game, if you can hit over the fielder go for it,’ when you play like that, South Africa are on the back foot.
“Our bowling line-up did a really good job, especially the youngsters,” he said.
Appointed only as an “interim” captain, Karunaratne said he had a simple message for his players when he took over at a time of apparent turmoil in Sri Lankan cricket.
“When I started, I said to my boys, ‘whatever happens you have to keep smiling, keep enjoying. If you’re not enjoying you don’t get to a hundred percent’.”
Kusal Mendis and Oshada Fernando dominated South Africa’s famed fast-bowling attack to seal the victory, with Mendis finishing on 84 not out and Fernando, in his debut series, 75 not out. Their partnership of 163 saw Sri Lanka home and they pummeled the South African bowlers for good measure. The partnership came off just 213 balls as Sri Lanka raced to victory.
“I’m happy about today because we were down in the dumps,” Mendis said.
If anyone had a right to be down in the dumps, it was South African captain Faf du Plessis who described the series defeat as the “biggest low as a player in the Proteas team.”
Du Plessis said he was at a loss to explain how 31 wickets fell on the first two days.
“When I was batting in both innings I felt it was a really good batting pitch,” he said.
“Mentally we were a bit soft in giving wickets away pretty easily.”
Sri Lanka made it four wins in a row against South Africa after winning two matches at home last year.
“They have been better than us home and away,” admitted Du Plessis. “We were outplayed in their back yard but there’s no excuse when Sri Lanka come here.”


Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

Updated 23 May 2019
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Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

  • ‘I have an obligation to speak against atrocities,’ basketball star tells Arab News
  • ‘Whatever I am going through in my personal life doesn’t impact my performance on court’

CHICAGO: NBA superstar Enes Kanter says he loves his homeland Turkey as much as he loves professional basketball. 

Yet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Erdogan has arrested Kanter’s father, and bullied his family after accusing the basketball player of being part of the Hizmet movement of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the president asserts was behind a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Two years ago this week, Erdogan demanded that Kanter be arrested, and fears of violence from the Turkish state have gotten so bad that the FBI installed a panic button to help protect the player.

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression.

“His (Erdogan’s) regime’s and his hostility to me began in 2013 when I first start criticizing (the) government on unjust, unfair and illegal closures of college preparatory centers linked to businesspeople in the Hizmet movement,” Kanter said.

 “This closure pretty much became the first public clash between the Erdogan regime and the Hizmet movement,” he added.

“It was obvious that there was something that Erdogan doesn’t like about the Hizmet movement. Up until the closures of college preparatory centers, no one knew about that,” Kanter said.

“The way Erdogan handled this relationship was brutal, ruthless, unjust and unfair. I can’t stand for any of these, so I stood up against this tyranny and started criticizing. Neither Erdogan stopped his approach nor I, and we’ve kept clashing since then.”

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression. (AFP)

Kanter played for the Turkish national team at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and for the Turkish U18 national team in 2009.

He led Turkey to the bronze medal at the European Championships in France, and was named Best Player and Best Center at the 2009 European Championships by Eurobasket.com. 

Kanter signed with the Utah Jazz in 2011, the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015, the New York Knicks in 2017, and the Portland Trail Blazers in February this year.

The Trail Blazers lost the Western Division Playoffs, the first step to the NBA Championships, to California’s Golden State Warriors in the final game on Monday.

Erdogan’s threats have placed enormous pressure on Kanter, but he insists it has not impacted his performance or his commitment to help the people of Turkey.

“I’m a successful professional athlete, and whatever I’m going through in my private life would never impact my performance on court,” he said.

“They’re two different worlds for me … I’ve known nothing else but basketball … since I was 13, so I guess it’s pretty important,” he added.

“I see basketball and my platform as a way to teach the younger generation how to be successful and hopeful for the future,” Kanter said.

“Once you’re a successful professional athlete, younger generations see you as a role model, so … I’m trying to do my best to set my life as a role model to them,” he added.

“I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities. I believe that as a human being I should be standing for human rights, democracy and freedom of speech … Me being a celebrity makes it easier for people to hear, see and experience what I believe.”

I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities.

Enes Kanter, Portland Trail Blazers center

On Erdogan, Kanter does not mince words. “He’s a dictator by definition. He silences media, destroys opposition, demonizes his critics … so all these make him a dictator,” Kanter said.

“Turkey deserves a leader who’s open minded, democratic, progressive, intelligent, modest and forward thinking, a leader who embraces everybody in the community regardless of their political choices.”

The harassment from Erdogan has put Kanter’s family at risk too. “I can’t say they’re safe when my dad lost his job and got jailed based on terrorism charges because I’m his son,” Kanter said. “These allegations are baseless and ridiculous, so how could I feel they’re safe?”

He said he respects Gulen and the Hizmet movement, rejecting Erdogan’s claims against them.

“I’m so close to Mr. Fethullah Gulen in terms of his life philosophy and teachings. I admire his way of extracting an individual’s inner potential … in order to be a better person in his or her community,” Kanter said.

“Erdogan should know that he’ll be brought to justice one day and pay for his mistakes. First, he should stop all his unjust, inhumane acts against the people of Turkey. Second, he should start making everybody’s life better in Turkey.”

Before moving to the US in 2009 to attend college in California, Kanter was a star basketball player in Turkey’s premier leagues.

He said despite playing for the NBA in the US, he still sees himself as a champion for Turkey and its people.

“I was Turkey’s best basketball player, and I’m still Turkey’s best basketball player. The only difference is that I’m now representing my country in the US. I left Turkey for a better opportunity in my career, to play in the NBA,” he added.

“I think everyone in society has an obligation to speak out on issues of human rights and democracy, and to stand tall against atrocities, inhumane practices and dictatorships,” Kanter said.

Celebrities like himself “have a bigger opportunity to make a difference and to raise awareness on such issues because of our platforms,” he added.

Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. (AFP)