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Sanga's Eleven

What do you get when Sri Lanka's ever-so-smooth captain puts together a crack team to get up the noses of the Australians? Cricket plus heist movie, that's what

Damith Samarakoon

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The plot
When Giles Clarke offers Sri Lanka the choice of a three-Test series every year, there is only one catch: Sangakkara must retrieve the 2010 edition of Justin Langer's dossier on the English. With time running out, Sanga puts together the ultimate team to do just that.

The plan
When Shane Warne sets up a charity poker game, Sanga finds the loophole he needs to get into CA headquarters. With an inside man on the cards table and a high roller to keep the security busy, the team orchestrate a scheme that involves breaking into a top-secret vault in Tim Nielsen's office.

The players

Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara prepare on the eve of the second Test, Lahore, February 28, 2009
"Off the top of my head, I'd say you're looking at a Boesky, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethros and a Leon Spinks, not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald...ever" © AFP
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Kumar Sangakkara The Idea Man
A prince among thieves. The brains of the gang, Sanga draws enormous respect from colleagues and rivals alike. A career criminal, he is an expert on different accents from around the world. He is smart, fashionable and charismatic and uses this to his advantage during cons. As ringleader, he knows when and where to recruit men for a job. Believes himself to be descended of a royal bloodline and often wears coat tails and a top hat when planning a job.

Mahela Jayawardene The Right Hand
A soft-spoken, relatively handsome man who is less cool than he thinks he is. Was a leader of a small pack of car thieves in his hometown, but ended up in jail every time he tried expanding operations outside his borders. It was during a prison stint that he ran into Sanga and the two have been working together ever since. A seasoned professional, he is Sanga's right-hand man and best friend. The voice of reason to Sanga's extravagance.

Tillakaratne Dilshan The Explosives Expert
As a kid Dilshan liked to strap firecrackers to his neighbours' pets. When he grew up he graduated to dynamite and C4. Talks so fast that no one understands him. Loves bling and leather jackets. More of an adrenaline junkie than a professional criminal, Dilshan is often in the dark about the bigger plans that Sanga and Mahela have put together. His proudest moment was when he invented his signature explosion, the "Over My Head With a Bang". He is brought in to simulate an earthquake that triggers all the safety doors to shut, except the one that leads to the exit out the back.

Angelo Mathews The Grease Man
Has been in and out of tight spots all his life. They call him the only man who could hide himself between two sheets of paper. A genuine contortionist, he is hired for his flexibility and willingness to engage in all sorts of acrobatic endeavours - including hiding himself inside Shane Watson's kitbag.

Thilan Samaraweera The Inside Man
The definition of the pro, Samaraweera is the master of the long, slow, grinding con. Renowned for his prowess with cards and for engaging in con jobs that last over years, he has only a few friends, because not too many people can be sure if he is playing them. An unhealthy obsession with dead bats. Once broke a man's jaw after being asked why he seems to wear a permanent snarl. Samaraweera is sent in as the man on the poker tables looking after security.

Sanath Jayasuriya The High Roller
An ageing pro who's a brilliant actor and impersonator, he is brought out of retirement to play the part of the high roller for the poker game. Sanath used to be a jack of all trades: he's stolen cars, run scams and conned hundreds of people. An ex-military man, he is also an explosives expert and a mentor to Dilshan. Although he knows his time has passed, Sanath is still a very proud man and wants the key role in the job. He makes it clear he is only doing it because of Murali.

Muttiah Muralitharan The Money
Murali is the old-school business kingpin with a well-connected criminal network. He runs a legit business to cover up for his after-hours extravagances. Murali lives by what he called the 15-degrees criminal creed and comes from a time where there was honour among thieves. He eventually puts the creed down in a book, which becomes an incredible underground bestseller. Murali is seen as a mentor and father figure to Sanga and Mahela. He agrees to bankroll the job in hopes of relaunching his book in Australia, where he has largely been unsuccessful.

Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara The Transport
These two grew up drinking beer and stealing cars, in which they would race each other on the street. Although Kulasekara is slightly quieter, Malinga's over-imposing character often leads them both into trouble. Constantly bickering over who drives faster and who can pick up the better girls, they seem to be on a one-way street to upending the whole plan - but somehow manage to be at the right place at the right time.

Thilan Samaraweera and Tillakaratne Dilshan in conversation, Rajkot, December 14, 2009
So what do you on your days off? © AFP
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Ajantha Mendis The Techie
After dropping out of MIT because it was too boring, Mendis became a renowned underground hacker who broke into the networks of the Pentagon, MI5 and the CIA in an hour because he felt like it. He prides himself on having written an encryption algorithm that couldn't be broken for over a year. Mendis is the technical nerd Sanga needs for surveillance and to breach the vault the dossier is kept in.

Upul Tharanga The Newbie
A man who has made a name for himself as the slickest pickpocket in the business. He was brought up under Sanath's care and thinks he needs to prove something to everybody. Although he was picked for his lifting skills, Tharanga thinks he should be an integral part of Sanga's plan and often clashes with the brains trust. He is used to steal the key to Watson's kitbag.

Trivia: When Sanga and Mahela finally get into the vault, they find several documents in addition to the dossier. One is a copy of the 2010 "Men of Cricket" calendar, with Nielsen's face superimposed on all the pictures.

Damith Samarakoon is a Sri Lankan cricket fanatic living in Sydney. He blogs regularly at www.theflyslip.net

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