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Arjuna on his mentor

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Mr. Rajamahendran, known to some as ‘Kili’ or ‘RR’, but will forever be ‘Sir’ to me, has made contributions to our country and society that are too great to ever be overcome. He pioneered a new age media, saw the potential in small businesses and expanded them into conglomerates, and shaped and molded sports by helping in the development of cricket, cricketers, and other sports from the shadows.

Over the last few hours, we’ve seen people from all corners of the world paying tribute and accolades to this great gentleman by acknowledging his achievements.

However, for me, Mr. Rajamahendran was a father, and as such, it has taken me some time to come to terms with his passing. Nevertheless, I would like to take a moment to reflect on what Sir meant to me.

I was an eighteen-year-old teenager when I first got to know Mr. Rajamahendran, and over the past forty years, he was a guiding light, a pillar of strength, and a voice inside my head, pushing me to greater heights, guiding me towards the right path, and encouraging me to fulfil my potential. In those forty years, his doors have always been open to me, whether it was for sports, politics, or for personal matters.

The shadow of Mr. Rajamahendran will be cast over every nook and corner of Sri Lanka for a very long time. The passing of such a leader is our country’s misfortune, especially at this crucial juncture.

 In the last thirty years, I had made a habit of visiting Sir at his office. During these visits our conversations ranged from discussions about serious matters such as politics and sports, to talking absolute nonsense and hilarious things that cannot be made public. He was a father, but he was also my friend, and my mentor.

Whenever I would visit him at his office, like a father, he would without fail, walk me down to my car, open the car door for me, make sure I was buckled in safely, bid me farewell, and stayed till I went through those gates.

 

Dear Sir,

If I’d known that when I visited you two days prior to my departure to USA was the last time you’d bid me farewell, I would’ve stayed a little while longer, had another cup of coffee with that special cucumber sandwich, and hugged you a little longer. You were a great gentleman, and a special kind of human being. You taught me to be stronger, be smarter, and be humane. I will forever be grateful for all the support you’ve given me over the last forty years. You have played an immense role in molding me into the sportsman I am, the politician I try to be, and the human being I aspire to be.

Thank you, dear Sir. I will miss you dearly.

Arjuna



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Murali elaborates why Mahanama should be next Sri Lanka coach

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Rex Clementine
in Abu Dhabi

There is a school of thought to borrow a leaf out of India’s book and appoint a local as the Head Coach of the national cricket team. Under Ravi Shastri, India have enjoyed unprecedented success over the last three years and with his tenure ending, another former captain – Rahul Dravid is set to take up the position. World’s highest wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharan is taking the lead role to promote his former team mate Roshan Mahanama as the successor to Mickey Arthur.

“There is lack of discipline. Roshan is someone who is disciplined and he will help us to get over the hurdle. It is not easy to do that with seniors’ egos. If Roshan comes in, the whole mindset will change. That will help Sri Lanka Cricket. It’s only my opinion,” Muralitharan, who is a brand ambassador of the ICC T-20 World Cup said talking to local journalists on Monday as Sri Lanka overcame Namibia in their opening game here at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.

“First Roshan has to agree and then there is a process. It would be ideal if our local coaches can handle things. There are vast language barriers when foreign coaches are involved. When Arjuna was captain, he built a team for a foreigner to take it further. This team is young so you need one of our own. That’s why India looked at one of their own coaches. Roshan for us is the start. In future, we have to give our ex-cricketers a chance,” Murali added.

While Mahanama looks the ideal candidate for the job, whether he will fit in in a fragile and unprofessional  system remains doubtful. There were high hopes when he was appointed the coach of Sri Lanka ‘A’ team in 2002. Methodically, Mahanama was grooming several young players but his stint did not last long as he quit like a gentleman on principles.

Several members of the Cricket Advisory committee had been strong advocates of fewer teams in First Class cricket. But under their watch, instead of teams being reduced, it has only been further increased diluting the system further. Murali explained what prompted his colleagues’ actions.

“How are you going to throw out some of the clubs. If you do, you have to face the consequences. There will be court cases. The clubs will say it is unfair dismissal. The whole tournament can’t happen due to legal implications. We have to take some time to reduce the clubs. We have a three year period and by the end of it we want to reduce it to 15. There is a relegation system in place. However, the Provincial tournament will be the main format for us to select teams for international cricket,” he elaborated.

The arrival of former captain Mahela Jayawardene on a temporary mentor role for the ongoing T-20 World Cup has been welcomed by many. But Mahela will leave the Sri Lankan bubble after the qualifying round and Murali was asked why he could not stay beyond. “When we had a word with him on this, we realized that he had been away from home in bio bubbles for four months. He needs some rest. He agreed to start off the tournament and put the puzzles in place. You have the coaches and the selector on tour to take it on from there.”

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Sri Lanka Athletics reverse decision, include all disciplines for Youth Trial

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Some disciplines including girls pole vault which were not included in the programme earlier have been added to the Youth Selection Trial which will be held in November.

Youth Athletics Trials for Asian Youth Championships

Sri Lanka Athletics has decided to include all track and field events for next month’s First Youth Trials reversing their earlier decision to conduct just a selected number of disciplines.

The track and field governing body said in a statement that the Executive Committee had decided to include the earlier excluded events for the November 13, 14 meet which will be held at the Sugathadasa Stadium.

Boys and girls pole vault, 1,500 metres, shot put, discus throw, hammer throw and race walking events will now be included in the programme.

It will be the first selection trial for the Asian Youth Athletics Championship which will be held in March in Kuwait.

Sri Lanka Athletics said that health authorities had allowed only a limited number of participants per day and accordingly the number of events was reduced in a bid to reduce the number of participants. But the governing body had to reverse the decision after numerous requests to include all disciplines.

Sri Lanka Athletics also announced entry standards for each event. The performances achieved from August 1, 2019 will be considered for entry. (RF)

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Cricket moans nation’s first Test captain’s death

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by Rex Clementine  

There are some who always back underdogs. While the winners’ men go places, those who support the underdogs remain at odds with the system. With the larger circle of course, the fans for example, which is what matters, they remain hugely popular. One such breathed his last yesterday after a brief illness. Bandula Warnapura the nation’s first Test captain was 69.

Two of his contemporaries, Roy Dias and Duleep Mendis, also 69ers, were speechless. They had played lot of cricket together. The trio had toiled to put Sri Lanka in the world map and after retirement had shaped Sri Lankan cricket to great heights. While Roy and Duleep still contribute sharing the wealth of their knowledge, Bandu has gone, too soon and leaving a huge void.

Bandu was not an authoritative captain. You don’t have to be to succeed as captain. There was bit of Kane Williamson in him; friendly, trustworthy and authentic. His best virtue as skipper was his instincts. Filling in for injured skipper Anura Tennekoon during the 1979 World Cup, Bandu sensed an opportunity. Not because Sri Lanka were better than India. Man to man, India with Gavaskars, Vengsarkars, Viswanaths, Kapils, Amarnaths and Bedi, were a far better side. But there was in fighting among Indians and as a result none of the above captained the side. Venkataraghavan had become captain, by default. Bandu went for the kill and Sri Lanka were victorious. There was no denying of Test status from thereon.

The fact that Bandu faced Sri Lanka’s first ball in Test cricket made him the nation’s first Test cricketer as Bob Willis delivered the first ball in Test cricket in Sri Lanka. His time in Test cricket was short lived having got on the payroll of Dr. Ali Bacher opting to go to apartheid South Africa.

Morally it was not the right thing to do. South Africa was whites only those days. As a black, you would be made a honourary white citizen so that you could move around Wanderers, Newlands and Kingsmead.

His conscience would have told Bandu that this was not the right thing to do. But there comes a time in life where all of us have to make choices. Having lived through COVID for 18 months now where there have been so many financial challenges, you tend to break a few rules. Not to rob a bank but set aside your values and settle for something that provides you some financial security to look after your family. Some of us get away with these things. Some of us pay a small price. Some others pay a heavy one. Bandu lost everything having been banned for 25 years.

Eventually, Gamini Dissanayake mellowed. He reduced the ban to eight years. But that was for the players. The captain had to serve one more year before he could be allowed into cricket.

Bandu went places at SLC. He was only second in command to Duleep Mendis holding the post of Director, Cricket Operations. From there, he went to Malaysia and joined Asian Cricket Council and went a step further joining the ICC. He was hugely popular among his colleagues and superiors. Quite efficient too as he oversaw the development of several up and coming teams.

There was no better story teller in cricket than Bandu. He had one for every occasion. Television channels used his expertise in reality shows where he held his own.

But cricket could have used his services more than local television stations. They chose not to. Bandu was in a different camp. Actually, he was an independent man. What is it with our cricket that we keep our captains at arm’s length or maybe even avoid them like the plague? Bandu had no role to play in recent years. Duleep has no role to play. Arju has no role to play. Sanath has no role to play. Marvan has no role to play. Mathews has no role to play. The list goes on.

Bandu will be missed. May he attain the supreme bliss of nibbana.

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