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Coach Arthur weeps for ‘Prodigal sons’

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by Rex Clementine

You do feel for Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Mickey Arthur. When the selectors called him up and discussed the way forward for the nation’s white ball teams banking on several young players, he agreed to rebuild the team with the likes of Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka forming the nucleus of the side. However, two months later, all three players were served with lengthy suspensions after they breached the bio-secure bubble during Sri Lanka’s tour of England early this year.

Left with a depleted side, Arthur spoke of the disappointment of having to play without three players on whom Sri Lanka Cricket had invested heavily over the last five years.

“That was a massive blow for us. You’re talking about three of your top-five batters in the white-ball format there. That was a bitter pill to swallow for sure. You suddenly got back to square one in terms of your planning again,” Arthur told journalists.

However, Arthur said that the positive for him was that some young players were able to grab their opportunities while some seniors were able to make comebacks.

“It was really disappointing, but it led us to find the likes of Charith Asalanka, who has come on beautifully. Then there is Kamindu Mendis, who’s playing beautifully. Pathum Nissanka probably got another opportunity. It’s allowed Dinesh Chandimal to come back into the mix. Bhanuka Rajapaksa to come back into the mix. So out of that adversity it’s allowed opportunities to other players,” Arthur noted.

While Sri Lanka’s bowling has fared well since the adoption of youth policy, it is the batting that has been a letdown and the absence of the suspended trio has been felt.

“I think if our batting clicks it’ll give us a really good chance because our bowling attack is very good and our fielding standards have improved dramatically. That is an area we’ve worked extremely hard on over the past nine days. We’ve had three practice games, we’ve had some skill sessions to prepare players to sweep, we identified where and how we want our players to play. We’ve almost scripted a game,” Arthur explained.

“It’s easy to stand and try and hit boundaries, but having the ability to deflect a ball into a gap off a good ball is a real art. That’s the real art of batsmanship. So, we’ve done a lot of drills during this phase, and we’ve harped on that. That’s something I’ve been working on for the last nine months with our group,” Arthur added.

Sri Lanka are currently in Oman and will play two T20 Internationals on Thursday and Saturday before flying to Abu Dhabi to begin preparations for the World Cup. They will have two warm-up games against Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea before the World Cup qualifier begins. Sri Lanka are grouped alongside Netherlands, Namibia and Ireland and need to win two games to proceed to the business end of the competition.

Sri Lanka won the T20 World Cup in 2014 in Dhaka and were runners-up in 2009 and 2012 in London and Colombo respectively.



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FIBA conducts basketball communication workshop in Colombo

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Hovsep Seraydarian, FIBA Communications Manager conducted a Digital Communication and Media Workshop in Colombo over the weekend. He’s seen here in conversation with SLBF President Aelian Gunawardene, General Secretary Chandana Liyanage, CEO Asanga Amaratunga and Senior Vice President Paul Newman.

Basketball’s parent body, FIBA conducted a Digital Communication and Media Workshop in Colombo over the weekend. Hovsep Seraydarian, Communications Manager, Asia conducted the Workshop.

Several aspects of promoting the sport through social and mainstream media were discussed during the workshop.

Under the vibrant leadership of Sri Lanka Basketball Federation’s new president Aelian Gunawardene, the game is reaching new heights and the workshop will help SLBF to promote the game among players, fans and the general public.

Three years ago, FIBA’s domain id changed from fiba.com to fiba.basketball. The parent body has encouraged national federations to obtain this unique identity. Sri Lanka has now secured this unique domain name. This is an online unification of basketball under a common domain. www.srilanka.basketball is under construction and traffic will be diverted into the new web.

As an immediate step, SLBF could now be contacted via office@srilanka.basketball and key office bearers and functions are given .basketball mailing addresses for better communication.

“It was a pleasure to sit in on a Strategic Session on Marketing Sri Lanka basketball conducted by Hovsep Seraydarian,” SLBF President Aelian Gunawardene said.

“We are proud to be the first sporting body in Sri Lanka to have its own online identity as @srilanka.basketball and to have a better understanding of the latest marketing concepts in International sports marketing. The new SLBF Committee and I are very keen to make Sri Lanka Basketball all about the players and not about the administration. We hope to convey this clearly too,” Gunawardene added.

“It was indeed a very successful workshop with lot of case studies and interactive sessions,” SLBF General Secretary Chandana Liyanage said.

“More importantly we learned how to organize the SLBF digital marketing and communication for future activities. We are going to apply these learning into practice in the upcoming events such as SABA Men’s Championship in Dhaka, Junior Nationals Championship and the 53rd Senior National Championship over the next three months.

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Air Force judokas to leave for World Military Judo Championships

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Sri Lanka Air Force judokas will leave for World Military Judo Championship on Wednesday.

The 40th World Military Judo Championship is scheduled to be held in Paris, France this month. Ten judoka’s from the Sri Lanka Air Force and Sergeant Nuwan Attanayake who is an international judo referee is scheduled to leave the island on October 27 for the event. The Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana conveyed his best wishes to the participants and wished them all success during the championship.

Olympian Chamara Dharmawardhane (73 Kg Weight Category), who is a Corporal in the Air Force, Leading Aircraftman Suraj Arachchi (81 Kg Weight Category), Leading Aircraftman Gayan Abeysinghe (100 Kg Weight Category) together with Corporal Prabhath Gunadasa and Leading Aircraftman Irfan Osman are the Airmen who will be participating at this event. Corporal Prarthanaa Sandmali (48 Kg Weight Category), Corporal Seedevi (70 Kg Weight Category), Corporal Ganisha Lakmali (78 Kg Weight Category), Leading Aircraftwoman Nadeeshani Fonseka (52 Kg Weight Category) and Leading Aircraftwoman Iresha Chathurangani (63 Kg Weight Category) are the Airwomen taking part.

Chamara Dharmawardhane who represented Sri Lanka at the last two Olympics will be the captain of the team. Air Vice Marshal Ravindra Liyanagamage is the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Air Force Judo while Group Captain Manoj Galappaththi is the Secretary. Squadron Leader Thushara Hettiarachchi is the Head Coach of SLAF Judo team.

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Asalanka: Excellent find moving forward

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Charith Asalanka was Sri Lanka’s hero in their win over Bangladesh in Sharjah.

Rex Clementine in Dubai

Although results have not gone in Sri Lanka’s favour, several young players have stamped their authority in international cricket this year. First, there was Pathum Nissanka, hundred on debut in the Caribbean. Then there was Praveen Jayawickrama, a rich haul of wickets on debut against Bangladesh. In September, Maheesh Theekshana announced his arrival at the big stage with his mystery spin. In the T-20 World Cup, following Sri Lanka’s stunning run chase against Bangladesh in Sharjah, the cricketing fraternity is speaking of Charith Asalanka.

Not many know about Asalanka’s past; an impressive one. Here’s a bit that would interest our readers.

Charith Asalanka is a bright student. His schooling was at Ananda Vidyalaya, Elpitiya. He passed the Grade Five scholarship with flying colours and chose to shift to Richmond College, Galle, a cricketing powerhouse.

An opening batsman in his school days, Asalanka first represented Richmond ‘B’ team and the coaching staff was impressed with what he had to offer and fast-tracked him to the First XI team. Apart from being a prolific run-scorer, Asalanka has a good head above his shoulders and became the obvious choice for captain.

Richmond under him were stunning, picking up all awards in school cricket while the captain was setting the benchmark as the team’s leading scorer. In Richmond, scoring 1000 runs in the season or taking 100 wickets is not paramount. What is important is winning matches and titles. That mentality Richmondites like Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, and Dhananjaya de Silva have taken onto the Sri Lankan dressing room as well. That’s a good sign.

Asalanka once scored a double hundred in a one-dayer in school cricket. By 16 he was playing First-Class cricket representing Galle CC and had his maiden first-class hundred the same year. He won the schoolboy cricketer of the year award twice.

The manner in which Asalanka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa completed the run chasse was impressive. A good back foot player who seems comfortable playing fast bowling, he had too much on his plate when Kusal Perera and Avishka Fernando departed for one and without scoring.

First, he shared a 69 run stand for the second wicket with Pathum Nissanka to steady the ship and then followed the fireworks with Bhanuka Rajapaksa in a record stand of 86 runs.

Asalanka finished unbeaten on 80 while Bhankua was dismissed for 53 but by that time the job had been done and Sri Lanka had cut Bangladesh to size.

There were some elegant strokes during the partnership and calculated risks taken by both batters. Fortune favoured the brave. Very cleverly the duo refrained from taking undue risks when Mustafizur Rahman, Bangladesh’s premier bowler was operating.

Sri Lanka are overjoyed that both Bhanuka and Asalanka are firing. Their pace looks awesome and spinners will have a field day when there is some assistance on the track. KJP and Avishka will come good at any time and they are looking formidable especially with number three and five firing on all cylinders.

At the post match media briefing, Bhanuka was generous with his praise of Asalanka. “The result is phenomenal because the way Charith handled the situation and how he kept the tempo of the game is unbelievable. It’s not easy playing at number three at a time we were struggling to find a proper number three batsman,” explained Bhanuka.

“I’ve batted number three and it’s not an easy position because you need to play with the scoreboard pressure mostly. Chasing 172 runs when we lost KJP early it was a massive blow. Charith has a bright future and I wish him all the best and I hope he will be performing like this throughout the tournament.”

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