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Avishka happy as Under-19 squad pass fitness test 

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by Reemus Fernando    

Sri Lanka Under-19 coach Avishka Gunawardene said that he was extremely happy with the progress made by his charges during the training camp ahead of the team’s first international series against Bangladesh this month.

“I am very happy with the way the team improved during the last couple of weeks and everyone was happy about the way the camp was held. It is a big challenge. The players haven’t played any cricket for some time. They will be playing an international match after more than 18 months,” Gunawardene said in reply to a query by The Island after the training camp held in a bio secure bubble concluded on Wednesday.

The 26-member squad who were selected for both the upcoming series against Bangladesh and England and the next year’s ICC Youth World Cup completed a 22-day residential camp. It was the first time the juniors were trained in a bio secure environment.

“It was the first time that I too went in to a bubble after I took over. It was all about keeping the players occupied, keeping their minds free, letting them enjoy each others company. If you don’t do that it is very difficult to survive in a bubble,” said Gunawardene who will rejoin the squad after they return from a short break.

Gunawardene said that the entire squad of 26 players were eligible to continue training after they passed the fitness test. “The whole squad passed the fitness test. Even the last player to finish the two-kilometer run did well to finish within the stipulated time,” he said.

Gunawardene was part of the Sri Lanka Cricket’s coaching staff before being suspended after the ICC indicated that he was under suspicion. The Under- 19 head coach role is his first major assignment after being cleared of corruption charges by the ICC. He is the only player to have charges against him being cleared from the recent group of former national players to have attracted the suspicion of the ICC’s anticorruption unit.

The excerpts of the interview The Island had with Avishka Gunawardene will appear tomorrow.



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Youth Athletics Selection Trial will weigh the impact of pandemic

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The First Youth Athletics Selection trial will be held at the Sugathadasa Stadium on November 13 and 14.

First Youth Athletics Selection Trial on November 13,14 

by Reemus Fernando  

The First Selection trial for the Asian Youth Athletics Championship 2022, scheduled for mid November, will be an ideal opportunity to weigh the impact the Covid 19 pandemic has dealt on schools sports.

There had been no schools competitions for track and field athletes since March 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Only a very few coaches had continued training junior athletes amidst trying conditions due to lockdowns and other restrictions during the last two years. Some of the athletes who were aspiring to compete at the Asian Youth Athletics Championship 2021 continued their training only to be disappointed later when the event was postponed to 2022 meaning the athletes who were eligible for competitions in 2021 will not be entitled to compete in 2022 due to the age group difference.

Sri Lanka were almost certain of top medals in at least two events at the Asian Youth Athletics Championships including the women’s 800 metres as young aspirant Tharushi Karunaratne was in top form. She is the top ranked 800 metres athlete in Asia in the Under-18 age category this year according to World Athletics listings but the postponement of the event to 2022 prevents her from emulating her brother Harsha who won a medal at a previous edition.

Sri Lanka Athletics announced November 13 and 14 as dates for the first Youth Trial for the Asian event to be held in Kuwait in March 2022. The eligible athletes are those who were born in 2005 and 2006 and Sri Lanka Athletics has provided entry standards to apply for trials. But almost all eligible athletes in this age category have last competed at national level in 2019 making it impossible to provide proof of their true current abilities to apply for entries. Due to this Sri Lanka Athletics will consider performances registered from August 01 2019 making the forthcoming trial an ideal opportunity to test the impact the pandemic has had on country’s junior sporting structure.

Sri Lanka Athletics has reduced the number of events limiting it only to the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 3,000m, 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles, 2,000m steeplechase, high jump, long jump, triple jump and the javelin for both girls and boys.

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There Are No Clear Favourites, Any Team Could End Up Lifting The Trophy – Muralitharan

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Sri Lanka spin icon Muttiah Muralitharan stated there are no clear favourites for ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 which starts from Sunday. The T20 World Cup will begin with the Round 1 Group B encounter between hosts Oman and Papua New Guinea on Sunday, with Scotland and Bangladesh, the other teams in Group B, clashing in the evening match.

“The most exciting thing about the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 is that there are no clear favourites. Coming into the competition in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, it feels like there is no standout side and as a result, any one of a large number of teams could end up lifting the trophy,” Muralitharan said in an ICC column.

“I’m obviously delighted to see the importance that spinners have taken on in T20 cricket. It is a fast game and is meant to be a batter’s game, but the bowlers have adapted in the 18 years since the format first started in England. Fast bowlers are bowling slow balls and cutters and different balls. Those are the skills you have to develop.”

Muralitharan also shared his experience of T20 cricket as a player and coach/mentor and said one has to approach the shortest format of the game with a ‘defensive mindset’.

“My experience, both as a player and a coach or mentor in T20 cricket, was that you have to approach it with a defensive mindset, whereas in ODIs or Tests, the aim is to take wickets. Defending is attacking in T20 in my mind, you need to aim to go for 6 or 6.5 runs an over and if you can manage that, you will probably take a couple of wickets as well,” he said.

“I have been out in the UAE for the IPL and looking at the wickets, it is clear that the spinners are going to have a huge role to play in the World Cup. It will depend a lot on how the curators have prepared the wickets, but it looks like the spinners will be key as the batters were finding it hard to connect and it made for some low scoring,” the Sri Lankan pointed.

Sri Lanka is placed with Ireland, Netherlands, and Namibia in Group A. The Round 1 matches will run till October 22. The top two teams in each group will proceed to the Super 12 stage of the tournament, beginning on October 23.

“From a Sri Lankan perspective, the team will have to go through qualifying in the first round. The team has gone down in the last five or six years and it’s the first time in our history that it has happened to us. Frankly speaking, we were not good enough, and have not played good enough cricket which is why we are in this position. But the team has capable players who can reach the Super 12s and have an impact, but first they have to qualify,” Muralitharan opined.

“The spinners are very good, whereas the batting is a little bit weaker, but if they can step up and manage decent totals, then the bowlers can defend them. If they make it through, I think they will upset a few teams,” he added.

The first semi-final of the T20 World Cup will be held in Abu Dhabi on November 10. The second semi-final will be hosted by Dubai on November 11. Both semi-finals have reserve days. The marquee clash of the tournament will take place in Dubai on November 14, Sunday, with Monday acting as the reserve day for the final.

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Youth cricketers in action today

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by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Under 19 will play their first match since the last Youth World Cup when Dunith Wellalage led outfit take on Bangladesh Under 19 in the first Youth ODI at Dambulla today.

The team coached by Avishka Gunawardene have been together for just one month while their opponents had been training since October 2020 though their training has been hampered by Covid 19 related issues occasionally.

While the Bangladesh team had competed together before (against Afghanistan) the hosts are meeting an international team for the first time after the last Youth World Cup, which was played in January 2020.

Matheesha Pathirana who bowls with a sling arm action, S. Thomas’ Mount Lavinia paceman Yasiru Rodrigo, Nalanda College all-rounder Raveen de Silva and skipper Wellalage are the only players who have previous experience playing Youth International matches.

“This will give their first match exposure against an international team. This will be the opportunity for them to come together and bond together,” said Avishka Gunawardena speaking to The Island on the eve of the match.

The hosts are likely to field three pacies with Pathirana who is the only player returning from the last Youth World Cup spearheading the attack.

Wellalage will be joined by offie Traveen Mathew from St. Anthony’s, Katugastota to make the spin attack. Mathew is one of the least experienced players in the squad.

Sri Lanka Under-19 will play five Youth ODIs against Bangladesh in this series. With the Under-19 Asia Cup not confirmed yet, the series starting today will be crucial as it will be the final preparation for the Youth World Cup.

Sri Lanka Under-19 From: Dunith Wellalage (Captain), Shevon Daniel, Pawan Pathiraja, Sadisha Rajapaksa, Ryan Fernando, Sadeesh Jayawardena, Raveen de Silva, Jeewaka Shasheen, Traveen Mathew, Yasiru Rodrigo, Matheesha Pathirana, Chamidu Wickramasinghe, Lahiru Abeysinghe.

Others in the squad: Harindu Jayasekera, Lahiru Dawatage, Wanuja Kumara, Malsha Tharupathi, Sasanka Nirmal, Danal Hemananda, Vinuja Ranpul.

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