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Bangladesh have been doing something right



Rex Clementine at Pallekele

When Bangladesh came down to Colombo to play their maiden Test match in 2001, it turned  out to be a one-sided game with Sri Lanka winning by an innings and 137 runs inside three days. Captain Sanath Jayasuriya threw caution to the wind smashing 89 off 56 deliveries with 11 fours and four sixes. The entire Bangladesh team managed one more run than Jayasuriya in their first innings – 90 all out.

Twenty years on, they have come a long way. In the ongoing Pallekele Test, they declared after posting 541, the highest total ever at this ground. They are playing without two of their leading stars – Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman, both of whom are at IPL. Four years ago, when they were at full strength, they beat Sri Lanka.

There was a time in the early days when Sri Lanka realized that Bangladesh could not match their strength and  rested half of the team. There was a storm of protest from the senior players. But Guy de Alwis, bless him, a tough man, who was firm with his decision, insisted on bringing in young players against a weak opposition. He was the Chairman of Selectors. He had it his way. Today, while we are at full strength, Bangladesh are without their leading stars. How times have changed.

To put their cricket right, Bangladesh invested heavily on Sri Lankan talent. Many were picked for coaching roles. Carlton Bernadus, Champaka Ramanayake, Ruwan Kalpage and Chandika Hathurusinghe. Sri Lankans were sought after by Bangladesh beyond coaching too. They hired curators like Gamini Silva and trainers such as Mario Villawarayan and much more.

We Sri Lankans while having enough talent of our own, always look to England, Australia and South Africa. Our mentality is that there is something special that they can do which Sri Lankans can’t do. Bangladesh, however, are quite content with Sri Lankans. They are ever improving.

Ours is not an effort to have  a dig at the hiring of Tom Moody. That was a good choice and so is Head Coach Mickey Arthur who has a proven record. But how about some other choices? Former captain Hashan Tillekeratne, one of the respected voices in the sport, recently claimed that some of the physiotherapists brought from overseas had no idea on basics such as bandaging. That’s the sorry state of our cricket.

Sidath Wettimuny when he was Chairman of SLC felt the urgent need to put up a cricket center with basic facilities like a swimming pool. To date, Sri Lanka Cricket doesn’t own a pool. Bangladesh took that blueprint and put up a facility in Dhaka. Sidath’s plan was never followed up by his successors. They were more worried about doling out money to their vote base. They were spending like drunken sailors hitting town.

The other thing that Bangladesh have done right is to strengthen their school and club cricket. We all know what happened with club cricket where more teams were given First Class status to please the vote base. As parliamentarian Kumara Welgama pointed out the other day, SLC doesn’t even spend one percent of their revenues on schools. Why? That’s because schools don’t have votes. Clubs have. Hundreds of them.

Najmul Shanto who posted a fine 163 in the first innings has been groomed for a few years now. Players like him get a lot of exposure with the Under-19 side and the ‘A’ team. SLC is allergic towards ‘A’ team cricket. So how will young players develop? Already our First Class system consists of too many teams. Bangladesh learned their lessons from us. Now it is time for us to learn a few from them. No shame in that.

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KJP urges to play fearless cricket



by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s newly appointed ODI captain Kusal Janith Perera has urged his team to play without fear of losing in the lead up to his first assignment. The national cricket team will be heavily involved in limited overs cricket during the next two months traveling to Bangladesh for three ODIs on Sunday and then playing three ODIs and three T-20s in the UK. In July, they will be hosting India for three ODIs and possibly five T-20 Internationals.

KJP was named as captain with an eye for the 2023 World Cup as six seniors were axed following a string of poor performances in limited overs cricket.

“We have to play fearless cricket. Can’t be playing to protect your place in the side. When you do that you don’t give 100 percent. What I am telling the team is to give your best and that will work in crunch situations,” KJP told journalists yesterday.

“What I want is to create a winning culture. Fear of losing is not going to help us and we need to adopt a brand of cricket where we play fearless cricket. Personally, I have been successful batting fearlessly and I want the team to follow the same method. We won’t be hundred percent successful, but the important thing is that we need to be positive,” KJP explained.

KJP has struggled with fitness and injuries in recent years particularly hurting his hamstring too often. However, the reasoning behind the think tank of Sri Lankan cricket is clear as they want the team to adopt a bold approach without playing it safe.

One of the best knocks in Test match cricket in the history of Sri Lankan cricket was produced by KJP in Durban two years ago when he threw caution to wind batting with last man Vishwa Fernando and pulled off a stunning win against South Africa. His unbeaten 153 set the tone for the rest of the series as Sri Lanka became the first Asian country to win a Test series in South Africa.

However, he has not been able to hold onto his place in the Test side but the move has been criticized by some of the finest brains in the sport. His elevation to the captaincy seems to have come with their blessings.

KJP’s appointment is a bold move and it’s an indication that Sri Lanka need to cast away their traditional way of playing limited overs cricket.

Fielding has been one area that has been sloppy and has received little attention but with a new captain and a crop of young players in the side, this is an area that should improve vastly.

Exciting times are ahead for Sri Lankan cricket and it remains to be seen whether KJP with his attacking style is able to bring the team back to winning ways.

KJP is expected to keep wickets as well. It is the first time Sri Lanka have appointed a wicketkeeping captain since Kumar Sangakkara quit in 2011.

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Bertie Ekanayake – The versatile Sports Personality of the Royal Ceylon Air Force



Flight Sergeant Bertie Ekanayake (Clk GD) is considered as one of the finest sportsmen ever to be produced by the Royal Ceylon Air Force (RCyAF). Ekanayake was an old boy of Zahira College Colombo. He represented Ceylon in Boxing from 1958 to 1964 and represented Defence Services in rugger, boxing, basketball and soccer. He represented the RCyAF in rugger, boxing, basketball, soccer, athletics, cricket and hockey.

Bertie Ekanayake was a key member of the RCyAF Boxing team which won the prestigious Xavier Roche Memorial Challenge Shield presented by the ABA Ceylon to the Most Successful Boxing Club of the year in 1961.

He represented Ceylon in Boxing from 1958 to 1964. He was the Fly Weight Champion of Sri Lanka in 1958, 1959 and 1960, Feather Weight Champion of Sri Lanka in 1961 and 1963, Feather Weight Champion of Pakistan in 1963, Defence Services Champion in 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 and 1964. He was the undisputed RCyAF Champion from 1958 to 1963 and the only winner at the Ceylon Vs Pakistan contest held in Ceylon in 1961 (Pakistan won 6 – 1). Ekanayake toured with the National Boxing Team to India, Thailand and Pakistan and captained the National Boxing team at the First Asian Boxing Championship in Bangkok in 1963. He was selected to represent the country at the Rome Olympics in 1960, however an injury prevented him from attending.

In rugby, he excelled as a fine full back and represented the Air Force from 1959 to 1973. He represented Defence Services from 1959 to 1962, 1965 and 1968. He was a key member of the RCyAF team which became runners up of Clifford Cup championship in 1965. He was selected for Ceylon Trials in 1961 and 1965 and represented Colombo Clubs vs. Presidents XV. Bertie Ekanayake functioned as the Assistant Manager of the Ceylon Rugger team in 1972. In basketball, he represented Combined Services team at the All-India tournament in 1962.

Flight Sergeant Ekanayake was the first winner of the prestigious ‘Varatharasa Trophy’ in 1962, which recognizes the Best Sportsman of the year in the RCyAF. He won the award again in 1963.


by Air Cdre Padman De Costa

(Former Secretary Air Force Sports Council and Defence Service Sports Board)

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National Athletics Championship disciplines prioritized for Olympic hopefuls



by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Athletics published on Wednesday the list of eligible athletes for the first stage of the 99th National Athletics Championship which will be held on May 22 and 23. The track and field governing body has prioritized nine disciplines for the first stage with the hope of giving Olympic hopefuls a final chance to achieve qualifying standards as the cutoff date for entries nears.

On Wednesday Sri Lanka Athletics picked five women’s events, namely the 3,000 metres steeplechase, 800 metres, 400 metres, 100 metres and javelin and four men’s disciplines, the 100 metres, 400 metres, long jump and javelin for the first leg. They are the disciplines where some of the country’s leading athletes have the chance to reach qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics.

The time is running out for Sri Lanka Athletics to identify athletes who have reached qualifying standards for the quadrennial event.

On Sunday Sri Lanka Athletics Executive Committee decided to conduct the 99th National Championship during four weekends starting from May 22 and 23 to minimize the number of athletes per day per venue due to the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic. Sri Lanka Athletics announced only the eligible list of athletes for the first stage (May 22, 23) yesterday and did not comment on the fate of the other three stages.

Women’s steeplechaser Nilani Ratnayake and men’s high jumper Ushan Thivanka are currently on the threshold of earning entry standards for the Olympics. The US based Thivanka cleared 2.30 metres to establish a new Sri Lanka record in the men’s high jump on Saturday in Texas. While he is fast improving his world ranking (48) a performance of 2.33 metres would make him eligible as a direct qualified athlete. He will be competing in meets in the USA.

Ratnayake has to clock 9:30.00 seconds if she is to earn direct qualification, though she is currently ranked within the required range to be eligible to earn a berth through world rankings.

Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe and former national record holder Waruna Dayaratne are in the list to try their chances in the men’s javelin. Ranasinghe too has high hopes as he has remained among the top ranked athletes in the world.

Dilshi Kumarasinghe who created a new national record in the women’s 800 metres at the last Athletics trial will vie for honours against former champion Nimali Liyanarachchi and Gayanthika Abeyratne and schools athlete Shanika Lakshani. Only seven athletes are eligible to compete in this event.

Men’s and women’s 100 metres and men’s 400 are the only track events where semi finals and finals are likely to be held. Janaka Prasad Wimalasiri in the men’s long jump and Olympian Nadeeka Lakmali and Dilhani Lekamge in the women’s javelin are the top contenders in their respective events.

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