Cricket is the first discipline to announce its complete line-up for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games after Sri Lanka was confirmed as the eighth team in the women’s T20 tournament.
The announcement was made jointly by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) on Tuesday following Sri Lanka’s victory in the ICC Commonwealth Games Qualifier 2022 in Kuala Lumpur last week and the subsequent CGF ratification of Sri Lanka’s entry.
Australia, Barbados, England, India, New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan had already qualified as women’s cricket makes its first entry into the Commonwealth Games. It will only be the second time that cricket features in the multi-discipline event after a men’s competition was part of the Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 and is considered a massive opportunity to bring the game to new audiences.
Shaun Pollock-led South Africa had won the gold on that occasion, beating Steve Waugh’s Australia side by four wickets in the final. ICC Hall of Famers Sachin Tendulkar of India, Jacques Kallis of South Africa and Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka were among the many stars part of the Games then.
The league-cum-knockout tournament this time kicks off with a match between ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 finalists Australia and India on 29 July, with the bronze and gold medal matches scheduled for 7 August. Barbados and Pakistan are in Group A along with Australia and India while England, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka form Group B.
The ICC, CGF and Commonwealth Games Sri Lanka congratulated Sri Lanka for their qualification and looked forward to an exciting tournament.
ICC Chief Executive Geoff Allardice said: “It’s good to have finalised the identity of the teams participating in the Commonwealth Games and congratulations to Sri Lanka for making it after playing so well in the qualifier. We will have eight of the best teams competing for the gold and I am sure we will get to watch a highly competitive tournament.
“The Commonwealth Games are an important part of the women’s cricket calendar over the next year. It is a huge opportunity for us to take cricket beyond the traditional strongholds and give more people around the world the chance to enjoy the game, whilst the players are very much looking forward to being part of multi-sport games.
“I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank the Commonwealth Games Federation for their support and hope to see some top-quality cricket at Edgbaston.”
CGF President Dame Louise Martin said: “Congratulations to the eight outstanding teams who have qualified for the women’s T20 cricket tournament at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
“I must pay particular tribute to Sri Lanka, who secured the eighth and final spot by winning such an exciting qualifying tournament in Malaysia last week.”
“They will head to the iconic Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham with an elite lineup featuring England, Australia, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Barbados and New Zealand.
“Cricket is a sport synonymous with the Commonwealth. We are so excited to have it back in the Games for the first time since the men’s 50 over competition at Kuala Lumpur in 1998. The debut of women’s T20 cricket will be a historic moment and a wonderful showcase of women’s sport across the world.”
Commonwealth Games Sri Lanka Secretary General Maxwell de Silva said: “We are delighted to have qualified for the Commonwealth Games women’s T20 cricket tournament.
“Our team put on a fantastic display as they won all four matches at the qualification tournament to secure the final spot at Birmingham 2022.
“I would like to congratulate Sri Lanka captain Chamari Athapaththu and the entire team as they join a world-class lineup in Birmingham for what will be a special moment for cricket and the Commonwealth Games.”
Sri Lanka captain Chamari Athapaththu said: “It’s a great feeling to have qualified for the Commonwealth Games and all of us are really excited to be part of the multi-sport extravaganza. I’m sure it’s going to be a different experience for all of us.
“We had a memorable Qualifying tournament in Kuala Lumpur and now look forward to doing well in Birmingham against the best.
“I would like to thank Sri Lanka Cricket, the ICC, Commonwealth Games Sri Lanka and the CGF for all their support.”
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, being held from 28 July to 8 August, will see 4,500 athletes from 72 nations and territories compete across the 11 spectacular days of sport. Birmingham 2022 will be the first major multi-sport event in history to award more medals to women than men.
Kandy, Galle, Puttalam Schools win combined schools hockey titles
Kandy Schools ‘Blues’ and Galle Schools ‘Golds’ were declared as boys’ joint winners and Puttalam Schools were the girls’ winner at the 55th Sri Lanka Combined Schools Under 20 boys and girls Hockey Nationals held from 27th to 30th June at the Torrington Astro Turf .
The boys’ final, between Kandy and Galle ended in a one-all draw; both goals scored in the first half, Kushan Ratnasuriya scoring for Galle and the equalizer by Bhanuka Ranasinghe for Kandy.
In the play off for the third and fourth places, Colombo beat Matale 1-Nil.
In the Semi Finals – Galle beat Colombo 4/3 on penalties and Kandy beat Matale 4/3 also on penalties.
Tharusha Pallewatte from Kandy ‘Blues’ was adjudged the best player and Anushka Maduwantha from Galle ‘Golds’ was picked as the best Goal Keeper.
In the girls’ final, Puttalam Schools beat Kandy Schools by two goals to nil. Both goals were scored in the second half via Madushika Fernando and Dinuli Nihansa.
In the play-off for the third and fourth places, Matale beat Colombo ‘Reds’ 1-nil.
Puttalam Schools were the girls’ winners.
In the Semi Finals – Kandy beat Colombo, 3-nil and Puttalam beat Matale, 4-nil.
Nipuni Ishara Fernando was adjudged as the best player and Neeliya Kaushini was picked as the best Goal Keeper (both from Puttalam).
The finals & the closing ceremony was attended by Athula Jayawardhana, Director of Sports, Central Province Education Department, (Chief Guest), Deva Ellepola, Vice Patron /Mercantile Hockey Association (Guest of Honour), Shashikala Senadheera (President), Anuruddha Herath Bandara (Secretary), Chandrakanthi Karunanayake, ( Deputy President), Wasantha Kumara (Vice President), Indrawansa Herath (Vice President) – All from Sri Lanka Schools Hockey Association.
More barriers ahead for hurdler Dharshana
by Reemus Fernando
In the Under 20 age category, athletes of only four countries in Asia have run the men’s 400 metres hurdles under 52 seconds, this year. One of them is a Sri Lankan. Dhanuka Dharshana, who is only 18 years old, has been the hurdler to beat during the last two years in his age category in Sri Lanka. In April, the athlete trained by reputed coach Anura Bandara turned the tables on his senior counterparts to emerge the national champion in the men’s 400 metres hurdles at the Centenary National Athletics Championships.
One of the first Sri Lankan juniors to qualify for the World Junior Athletics Championships to be held in Cali, Colombia in August, Dharshana is the most consistent performer in the men’s category among the Sri Lankan juniors to qualify for the event. However, like the few junior athletes who showed potential to excel in the future in the pet event of Olympic Medalist Duncan White during the last two decades, will Dharshana find track and field not so exciting to pursue after leaving school?
“It is incumbent upon us to motivate our athletes to remain in the sport. But how can you do so when they do not get the opportunity they deserve. Participation in World Junior Championship is something that young athletes cherish. It is a huge learning opportunity for the up-and-coming athletes and will motivate them to remain in the sport,” said Dharshana’s coach Bandara.
Like Dharshana many others who reached qualifying standards for the World Junior event remain uncertain about the prospect of competing in Cali due to the financial constraints the country is currently facing though Sri Lanka Athletics has sent the names of seven out of the nine athletes who reached qualifying standards for the World event for the Sports Ministry approval and financial assistance. The Ministry has given only the approval and their participation will heavily depend on Sri Lanka Athletics’ ability to find much-needed funds for the costly trip.
Dharshana’s pet event, the 400 metres hurdles is the discipline that has won the highest number of medals for Sri Lanka at the junior Asian level during the last decade though a vast majority of the athletes who won those medals did not pursue track and field after leaving school. The most prominent female hurdler to emerge during the last one and half decades also came from Dharshana’s school, Ambagamuwa Central and was trained by Anura Bandara. Yamani Dulanjali won the first Asian Youth Championship hurdles gold medal in 2015, held the Under 20 Junior National Championship 400 m hurdles record until this year. With impressive performances as a junior, she was expected to excel at the senior level as well. Hailing from a not-so-well-to-do family she instead took up a teaching job.
Kaushalya Madushani, another 400 metres hurdler, who won junior Asian international medals, joined Sri Lanka Army, the final refuge for many a future prospect, after leaving school. She was yet to reach her full potential when she died a couple of months ago; it is alleged she took her own life.
Maris Stella College hurdler, Uditha Chandrasena, was yet another bright prospect to have excelled in the 400 metres hurdles at the junior level. He too gave up athletics after leaving school.
Although Sri Lanka has seen the emergence of hurdlers in the calibre of Dhanuka Dharshana at the junior level there had been no system to nurture them and make them stick to track and field.
Dharshana, who too is hailing from an ordinary family, has received the support of Olympian and Asian Games Gold Medalist Sugath Thilakaratne, the most famous product of his coach, Anura Bandara. He has also received the support of the school’s PTIs Indika Prasad and Amali Abeytunga and another benefactor whom he identified only as Nayana. But pursuing track and field as a senior athlete is an uphill task which requires more funding.
Ambagamuwa Central, where Dharshana learnt his ABC of athletics, has reaped the benefits of Bandara’s coaching with the school winning podium places at junior competitions every year. And, every year Bandara faces a dilemma as his trainees leaving the school have not found the right platform to launch a career in athletics.
With the junior athletes’ participation at the forthcoming World Junior Championships remaining uncertain to date, the coaches like Bandara will find it even harder to persuade athletes to remain in track and field.
Lyon set to become second most successful off-spinner in history
by Rex Clementine
Leg-spin legend Shane Warne retired from cricket in 2007 having achieved two key milestones; Australia had regained the Ashes and Warne had become the first man in history to take 700 wickets in Test match cricket. Since his retirement, Australia tried various spinners to fill his big shoes but with little success. Fellow leg-spinner Stuart MacGill was the natural successor to Warne, but he too threw in the towel 18 months after Warne’s retirement. Then Cricket Australia tried a host of finger spinners and some wrist spinners without much success. The wait ended in 2011 in Sri Lanka. For some reason, all good spin bowlers make their impact in our shores.
Australia arrived in Sri Lanka in 2011 with a new captain in Michael Clarke and their spin resources were untested. In fact, the team’s lead spinner was uncapped. His story was interesting. He had been a curator at Adelaide Oval and with his skill to bowl off-spin identified he was given a break in Sheffield Shield cricket. Seven months later, he was set to make his Test debut against the likes of Sangakkaras, Dilshans, Jayawardenes and Samaraweeras. That too in Galle, the Gabba of Sri Lankan cricket. There the legend of Nathan Lyon was born.
Lyon’s first ball in Test cricket was round the wicket to a left-hander. The ball pitched, turned and had bounce. The batsman was playing away from his body with an open face; the ball took the outside edge and was snapped up by Michael Clarke at slip. A wicket off first ball in Test cricket is just the dream stuff. It’s even more special when the batsman you have dismissed is Kumar Sangakkara, word’s number one ranked batsman at that point.
Lyon didn’t look back from thereon. He claimed a five wicket haul in the first innings as Australia secured a big win and went onto claim the series.
Ten years on, Lyon was quite handful again as he was the standout performer in the first Test in Galle. Sri Lanka’s spin was thin on experience and yet the hosts chose to prepare a track that would turn from day one and they ended up playing into Lyon’s hands as he finished with nine wickets.
Sri Lanka’s young spinners have much to learn from Lyon. He just figured out a length to bowl and kept pitching it there consistently and with batsmen taking too many risks with cross batted shots, it was just a matter of time before a wicket fell.
Lyon’s overall wicket tally is now 436 in 109 Tests and during the Galle game he went past several greats of the game like Kapil Dev (434), Rangana Herath (433) and Sir Richard Hadlee (431).
Lyon is currently among the top ten wicket takers in the world and if he takes seven wickets in Galle in the second Test starting on Friday, he will go onto become the second most successful off-spinner in the history of Test cricket. Muttiah Muralitharan leads the list with 800 and India’s Ravichandran Ashwin follows him as the second most successful offie with 442 wickets.
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