Central Province Sports Department felicitated reputed coach S.M. Gnanasena Banda at the Central Province Sports Awards ceremony recently. The veteran coach receives his award from Central Province Governor Lalith U Gamage. Jagath Keerthi, Director of Sports of Central Province is also in the picture. (Pic courtesy Anurudhdha Herath Bandara)
Central Province Sports Department felicitates Gnanasena Banda
by Reemus Fernando
Reputed coach S.M. Gnanasena Banda was felicitated by Central Province Sports Department at the Central Province Sports Awards ceremony recently. The mentor behind many top national level athletes, who won international fame during the 90s, Banda is recovering from paralysis which he suffered nearly two decades ago. Although he is not actively involved in training he has spent the past two decades imparting his knowledge to deserving coaches who sought his help. Despite being confined to his home he is still keen on imparting that knowledge. In an interview with ‘The Island’ Banda said that the best way to felicitate him was to obtain his knowledge to educate the current crop of coaches.
“I told the director at the awards ceremony that the best they could do to felicitate me was to gain my knowledge,” Banda told The Island.
Regarded by athletic officials as one of the best coaches, Banda trained many an athlete win medals at regional international competitions and to reach Olympic qualifying standards in his heyday. Banda who once competed against the likes of Sunil Gunawardena as an athlete had Yogananda Wijesundara and Lakshman de Alwis as his peers in coaching.
Banda served during an era when Sri Lanka was looking to improve standards of athletic performances. He was different to many of his peers who specialised in specific disciplines.
Banda’s charges were athletes specialised in varying disciplines from sprints to marathons and hurdles to throws. When coaches opt to specialize in a selected group of disciplines (sprint & hurdles, middle & long distance, jumps or throws) Banda’s specialty was the ability to train almost any athletics discipline.
Sriyantha Dissanayake, a household name in athletics, was his charge when he won a medal double at the Asian Games. Dissanayake is the last Sri Lankan male athlete to have won a medal in an Asian Games 100 metres.
Banda had the knowledge to peak a sprinter as well as a marathoner at the right time. V.K.L. Samarasinghe, another of his trainees, was probably the best home-trained marathoner the country produced. Current national marathon record holder Indrajith Cooray in the UK and legendary distance runner S.L.B. Rosa at the Wisconsin Park Side University (USA) had foreign training when they reached their personal best performances and qualified for Olympics. Samarasinghe who was the closest to Rosa’s long standing record in his prime, slashed massive chunks off his personal best under Banda’s guidance to qualify for Olympics.
Long jumpers Sujith Rohitha and Anusha Kariyawasam reached national number one position under his guidance. The latter owned the women’s national record while Rohitha almost had it under his belt.
Olympic thrower Sumeda Ranasinghe’s coach Pradeep Nishantha was under Banda’s stewardship when he held the national record.
One of the longstanding records in athletics is the men’s 400 metres hurdles national record. Banda’s trainee Harijan Ratnayake established the record on his way to winning the Asian Championship silver in Jakarta. His 49.44 seconds feat still remains unshaken two decades after it was established. Banda’s charge was the last Sri Lankan male hurdler to have earned qualifying standards for Olympics.
His services were not limited to athletics. He was also involved in looking after fitness of up and coming cricketers in the 90s. Despite being handicapped Banda is eager to educate coaches who are willing to serve sports.
“I am keen on educating coaches who are willing to serve,” said the septuagenarian.
S.M.G. Banda suffered his first stroke just after the National Sports Festival in 2001. Some of the athletics disciplines have not witnessed an improvement since then. His absence in the field of coaching has left a huge vacuum hard to fill.
The brand of cricket we want to play is free and relaxed: – Sangakkara
The 2008 IPL champions employed five opening pairs in the previous edition.
As many as five opening pairs were experimented with by the Rajasthan Royals last season. Ahead of their season opener against Punjab Kings, Sanju Samson, the newly-appointed captain of the franchise says that this year around, more stability can be expected from the side that chopped and changed so much to the extent of being unable to settle on a side until much later in the tournament.
“Myself and Sanga will try to give the best combination,” said Samson on Sunday (April 11). “From my point of view, it’s crucial to give an individual or a pair of opening partners enough time in the tournament. So, I think a bit of stability will be seen in this tournament. The rest it depends on how we go.”
Much has been debated about the batting order. Whilst Jos Buttler’s record at the top speaks for itself, Ben Stokes has been their go-to man for the opening slot. With Robin Uthappa gone this year, will they persist with Stokes at the top with Yashasvi Jaiswal, or will they promote Buttler up to a position he loves? Without committing too much either way about their preferred sequence, Kumar Sangakkara, the director of cricket at the Royals said the combination will be a decision they will undertake with the “full buying of the players involved”.
“We look to finalise (combinations) later on today before we go for training and we want we want to keep our options open,” said Sangakkara. “The most important thing is that players are communicated to clearly as to what their roles are and get them to commit to it.
“What we planned to do is get a balanced side, everyone available, a full squad, try and have a consistent philosophy of cricket. The brand of cricket that we want to play is quite free and relaxed. Also in terms of preparing well and executing well… to get everyone prepared to think and to be problem-solvers. To think for themselves. It helps Sanju a lot on the field when people are thinking for themselves and know what’s going on. It builds a lot of trust within the group as well. Everyone has individual strengths that they bring into the side which are highly valued. We try and build that into a good unit where everyone knows what they’re doing, what their value is and what their roles are. Then we’ll go and try to play some good cricket.”
An overhaul in how the Royals went about their business was needed, having had finished last in 2020. Rajasthan just couldn’t crack the code of winning matches consistently and a lot of it had to do with the lack of the team striking together. There were moments of brilliance before they fell back.
“We have a lot of match-winners who are absolutely wonderful players…in Sanju Samson, Rahul Tewatia, our fast bowlers. The key is to have different people who do something a little bit special on the day and the point of a great team performance is to have your regular players performing consistently and once in a while. Someone stepping in to do a little bit extra. If it’s a different player most of the time and not the same person, it’s even better.”
Another area of concern last year was the lack of support from the contingent of pace bowlers around Jofra Archer, who was named MVP. Archer missing the first few games will be a big blow for Rajasthan. Sangakkara, however, threw his support behind the inexperienced Indian bowlers in their squad to come good.
“I think inexperience sometimes can work for you and against. Inexperience would probably mean that the opposition has not really seen them either, but fast bowling, specially in the IPL is not an easy task and we saw that yesterday as well. Sometimes the wickets are really good for batting or most of the wickets are, so you have to be quite skillful. So I’m pretty confident that our young fast bowlers will step up. We’ve had Kartik Tyagi who did very well last season in patches in various phases of the game and this year we have a new additions in Kuldip Yadav and Chetan Sakariya. So I think it’s about you know keeping them again focused on what their job is really and get them trained and prepared to execute all the different deliveries and scenarios and match plans for the opposition. But at the same time concentrate in giving them confidence of their own strengths.”
When asked if despite all his years in the game, the highs and lows, he feels pressure of expectations in his new role, Sangakkara didn’t mince his words.
“I think there are always expectations and pressure. You can’t get away from that and you got to accept it. And the only way you deal with it is really, you know ticking off the boxes that you want in terms of training, in terms of preparation, getting combinations right. Get the players involved take ownership of not their own roles, but also the team plans and that makes things a lot easier. You can’t guarantee what will happen on the day of a match, but what you can guarantee is that you can go out and control what you control. Take a great attitude out, and Sanju always talks about playing with passion and with heart. I think that’s a very important point as well. That can really lift a team to do some special things out there when the pressure is on.
“So for me personally, know my job is to get everyone ready and once they get on the field my job is actually secondary. It’s about them going out there and expressing themselves playing really good smart cricket. But we wait and see. I think everyone’s really looking forward to starting the tournament,” he added.
Sheran’s back to back half centuries help Joes
Back to back half centuries by Sheran Fonseka stood in good stead for St. Joseph’s as they forced a draw to their First XI cricket encounter against S. Thomas’ at Darley Road on Monday. Thus they retained the Gilmore Jayasuriya Trophy which they won under the captaincy of Sameera Weerasinghe in 2009.
Commencing from 344 for nine overnight, the Thomians declared their innings after Yasiru Rodrigo completed his century, an unbeaten 103 runs.
It was Rodrigo’s day as he followed up his century with a three wicket haul to trouble the home team.
The Joes lost wickets at regular intervals but Fonseka’s contribution helped them post 176 for nine wickets declared. Soon they were asked to follow on but the open batsmen put up a healthy stand to prevent a repetition of first innings disappointments.
Fonseka scored an unbeaten 57 runs and was involved in a first wicket stand of 123 runs with Sadeesh Jayawardena who scored 62.
Meanwhile the match between Mahanama and St. Anne’s ended in a draw at Kurunegala after the home team posted 164 for nine wickets in reply to visitors’ 169 runs.
S. Thomas’ V St. Joseph’s at
S. Thomas’ 344 for 9 overnight 350 for 9 decl. in 103 overs (Anuk Palihawadena 54, Ryan Fernando 71, Thenuka Liyanage 36, Yasiru Rodrigo 103 n.o., Gunaratnam Caniston 53; Dunith Wellalage 3/111, Shenuka de Silva 2/13)
St. Joseph’s 176 for 9 decl. in 51 overs (Sheran Fonseka 92, Mithira Thenura 20; Yasiru Rodrigo 3/48, Gunaratnam Caniston 3/42, Anuk Palihawadena 2/48) and 127 for 1 in 31 overs (Sadeesh Jayawardena 62, Sheran Fonseka 57n.o.)
Mahanama V St. Anne’s at Kurunegala
Mahanama 169 all out in 71.2 overs (Sadishan Chamodya 22, Pavan Rathnayake 81, Sachira Weliwatta 23; Pasindu Tennakoon 4/51, Manaan Muzammil 2/49, Kalindu Wijesinghe 2/28)
St. Anne’s 79 for 1 overnight 164 for 9 in 69 overs (Dilhara Deshabandu 39, Kavindu Ekanayake 43, Pivithu Fernando 22, Shevan Nimantha 20; Devindu Kekirideniya 4/57 ) (RF)
Dahamdi, Esha win Round Robin stage
Sri Lanka Girls U-14 Chess Grand Prix 2021
Sanudula Dahamdi of Musaeus College and Esha Pallie of Visakha Vidyalaya were the winners of Group ‘X’ and ‘Y’ respectively at the end of the Round Robin stage of the Sri Lanka Youth Girls’ (Under-14) Chess Grand Prix 2021
Dahamdi was outstanding right throughout as she remained unbeaten to score nine points in nine games. Pallie won Group ‘Y’ with a score of 7 ½ points.
Dahamdi beat L.H.M.G.S. Somarathne, Nemindi Linaya Ramanayake and Sasmi Sithumsa in the second session to remain unbeaten.
Esha had a tough competition in last three rounds with a win against Piyumi Uthpala Amarathunga and a draw against Onwli Vithanawasam. She lost her encounter Tenuli Dahamna Rathnayake.
Nemindi Linaya Ramanayake( Central College, Veyangoda), Tharuli Vihansa Ranganath(Yoshida International School) and Oshini Devindya Gunawardhana (Pushpadana High School) scored 5.5, 5.0 and 5.0 respectively and managed to win second, third and fourth places in Group ‘X’ respectively by selecting to the quarter finals.
Oneli Vithanawasam (Lyceum International, Wattala), Desandhi Dhihansa Gamage (Sirimavo Bandaranayake BV) and Tenuli Dhahamna Rathnayake (Gothami Balika Vidyalaya) were placed second, third and fourth in Group ‘Y’.
Esha Pallie, Oneli Vithanawasam, Desandhi Gamage and Dhahamna Rathnayake are now in the quarter-finals.
The top four players in Group ‘X’ and ‘Y’ will play a knocked out rounds.
The Youth Girls Chess Grand Prix 2021 which commenced on April 2 with 18 leading Girls Under 14 Chess players will culminate on April 16.
A – Q/F 1 – X winner V Y 4th – Dahamdi V Tenuli
B – Q/F 2 – Y Winner V X 4th – Esha Pallie V Oshini
C – Q/F 3 – X Runner Up V Y 3rd – Nemindi V Desandi
D – Q/F 4 – Y Runner Up V X 3rd – Oneli V Tharuli
The Chess Federation of Sri Lanka is offering Rs. 55,000/= as cash awards for the winners.
The event is held according to the strict health guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health and The Medical Unit of Ministry of Sports.
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