By Rajitha Ratwatte
We had three concurrent test matches last week. Six countries and their elite cricketers on display. How the matches played out and the performance and attitude of the players could have exposed inherent flaws and strengths of the countries and their societies.
India versus Australia in Melbourne at the MCG, the bastion of Australian cricket. India had been unequivocally thrashed the previous week. All out for the lowest test score they had ever, in the history of Indian cricket, ever scored. Their captain had gone home to observe the new political correctness and be at home, with his wife for the birth of their baby. Everything pointed to another annihilation at the hands of the brash, loud and ugly Australian juggernaut. What happened? The stand-in Indian skipper played the innings of his life and that great fast bowler with none of the long smooth run-up to the wicket or even the Olympic sprinter like athleticism associated with great fast bowlers of the past, Jasprit Bumra, aided and abetted by Ashwin someone the Indian selectors have persisted with despite patchy form, delivered! A debutant opening batsman played out of his skin and showed unbelievable maturity in taking the side to the win. India won in circumstances that could only be described as miraculous and totally attributable to the self-belief, quiet confidence and MENTAL STRENGTH of the team and of course the support staff and administration.
Pakistan played New Zealand and from what looked like a hopeless position of being dismissed for a low first innings score and facing a huge Kiwi total, they fought, and they battled their way into the last and fifth day of the test. They even looked like they could make a play for trying to win at one stage and one wished they had, that would have made the gallantry of the effort complete, they lost with less than five overs left in a five-day test match! A 17-year-old no11 batsman on debut playing an uncertain shot after giving a good account of himself and due to no lack of effort on his part. That shot will haunt him and cause many sleepless nights, as is the case with a totally committed player who gives their all, but I trust he will recover.
Neil Wagner of New Zealand bowled a sustained spell with 2 fractured toes and took vital wickets to ensure the win. His captain spoke of him as follows:
“People talk about the size of his heart but to have a couple of broken toes… he was in a lot of pain,” man of the match Kane Williamson said. “We were trying to use him when the injection was taking effect. It was kind of unique for all of us but in particular Neil.
“To keep coming out and wanting to contribute, his appetite and motivation to try to make a difference for the team is huge and we haven’t seen it any bigger than the effort he put in across this test match.
“It was a very, very special effort from Wags, one that the team appreciated. We needed him out there and he delivered.”
On the subject of balls, those folks are “cohunes”, as the Mexican say. That is why and how New Zealand has survived and even if I dare say it, thrived through the Corona pandemic. The responsibility and the commitment of her people to ensure that the team of five million, as the PM called it, would succeed with every single member contributing to their utmost.
Of course, you know by now where this article is heading! To our dismal, pathetic and abject performance against the Proteas. Just look at the expressions on the faces of the Lankan players I say! They looked like the proverbial “stunned mullets”. Stunned mullets who thrive on dissipation. Kasun Rajitha, who is no debutant 17-year-old, batted like he had never held a bat in his hand before, during the first innings and then, of course, broke down after a few balls of his opening spell with a mysterious groin strain. When we were 9 wickets down and needing something like 2 runs to establish the highest total ever achieved by a subcontinental team in South Africa, no one could be found to come and at least hang around at the non-striker’s end and GIVE IT A GO. Remember Colin Cowdrey coming out to bat with an arm in Plaster and of course Neil Wagner bowling pace with two broken toes! The same drugs available to Wagner would have been available to a certain star batsman who was lounging in the dressing room with his thigh strapped up and a sickly grin on his face with “retired hurt” against his name on the scorecard! Chandimal I am told is also having a groin strain, I wonder if it is contagious, in fact, may be a symptom of another variety of Covid?!! Of course, it could be a symptom that looks more and more prevalent among our bunch of highly paid and absolutely uncommitted cricketers, a symptom of having done enough to ensure a place in the team for the next series and hence having no desire to risk botching their record or average. BTW during a recent discussion on the utter uselessness of our cricket team, someone proposed a new player of the decade award to one of our very own. Angelo Mathews to be given the award for the most injured player of the decade! Remember the days of Alex Kontori as physio? The heydays of our cricket, we had hardly any injuries and if it could be done once, of course, it can be done again. Alex was so good that the Aussies took him back! Lack of fitness and fielding skills cannot be excused. It only takes application, commitment and unrelenting hours of practice to excel at these things.
Of course, no one will take responsibility. I see so many officials hanging around on tour, no doubt travelling and paid for on cricket board funds. What is their purpose? What do they contribute? Or is it their God-given right to enjoy these privileges just because they made innocuous contributions to mediocre teams in the past? I don’t see too many of our world cup winning teams members among the officials or even team members from those that featured in two other world cup finals. The second test is on at the time of writing. A disastrous start seems to have been somewhat rectified but a change in the result is still very much in doubt. Meanwhile the English cricket team has arrived in the Pearl. Yes, the ENGLISH, that is the country that has a new and extremely virulent strain of the virus. Are we gluttons for punishment or are we so desperate for money that the TV payment will make a difference? On the other hand keeping the public distracted may be a motive. Let’s hope reducing the population isn’t!
And that dear readers is the Patheticity (another new word!) of our dearly beloved, ex-pearl of the Indian ocean, in a nutshell. We do not have the cohunes (read as cricket balls), we do not have the commitment and we do not have the leadership to even give a decent account of ourselves on a cricket field. Even the 330 million Gods who according to legend look after our land will find it hard to save us from where we are heading now. We had it in the not too distant past but all those who showed us how to do it are discarded or have chosen to follow more lucrative paths. It is difficult to blame them (although a modicum of blame does exist in my heart) because pure patriotism in the face of pure unadulterated Moronism (another one!) from a spineless, characterless, stupid society is a mug’s game!
31st night…Down Under
The NYE scene at the Grand Reception Centre, in Melbourne
Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, the Voluntary Outreach Club (VOC) in Victoria, Australia, was able to hold a successful New Year’s Eve celebration, at The Grand Reception Centre, in Cathies Lane, Wantirna South.
In a venue that comfortably holds 800, the 200 guests (Covid restrictions), spanning three generations, had plenty of room to move around and dance to the array of fabulous music provided by the four bands – Replay 6, Ebony, Cloud 9 with Sonali, Redemption and All About That Brass.
The drinks provided, they say, oiled the rusty feet of the guests, who were able to finally dress up and attend such an event after nine months of lockdown and restrictions. With plenty of room for dancing, the guests had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
According to an insider, the sustenance of an antipasto platter, eastern and western smorgasbord, and the midnight milk rice and katta sambol, were simply delicious, not forgetting the fantastic service provided by Jude de Silva, AJ Senewiratne and The Grand staff.
The icing on the cake, I’m told, was the hugely generous sponsorship of the bands by Bert Ekenaike. This gesture boosted the coffers of the VOC, which helps 80 beneficiaries, in Sri Lanka, comprising singles and couples, by sending Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 3,500, per month, to each of these beneficiaries, and augmenting this sum, twice a year, in July and December, with a bonus of the same amounts.
Strategies for effective management
by Prof. Rohan Rajapakse
Emeritus Professor of Entomology University of Ruhuna and former Executive Director Sri Lanka Council of Agriculture Research Policy
Fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera; Noctuidae), a quarantine pest, has been identified as a very destructive insect pest of Maize/Corn. This insect originated in Americas and invaded the African region in 2016 and was detected in India the following year and perhaps would have naturally migrated to Sri Lanka last year from India. Now, it is reported that FAW is present in all districts of Sri Lanka except Nuwara-Eliya and Jaffna. In winter in the USA the pest is found in Texas and Florida and subsequent summer when it gets warmed up, the pest migrates up to the Canadian border. The corn belt of China is also at a risk due to its migratory habit and the cost to Africa, due to this invasion, will exceed $ 6 billion. Maize is a staple food crop in Africa and millions depends on it for food. Hence in Africa and now in Asia it is a global food security issue for millions of people that could be at a risk if FAW is not controlled. The adult moth migrates very fast almost 100 km every night and nearly 500 km, before laying 1,500 eggs on average. The entire life cycle lasts 30 days in tropical climate. There are six larval instars and mostly the destruction is caused by the last three instars and the growing moth pupates in the soil for 10-12 days and the nocturnal adults lay eggs on leaves for about 10 days The pest thrives on about 80 host plants but the most preferable host is Corn/Maize. In Sri Lanka the preferred hosts includes Kurakkan and Sugarcane in addition to Maize. The symptoms of damage- scrapping of leaves, pin holes, small to medium elongated holes. Loss of top portion of leaves fecal pellets in leaf whorl which are easily recognizable. The Comb is also attacked in later stages with a heavy infestation, but after removing the FAW affected portion of the comb the remaining portion is still suitable for consumption and there is no fear of any toxicity. There are two morphologically identical strains––maize strain that feeds on maize and sorghum, and rice strain that feeds on rice and pasture grasses. However, in Sri Lanka only the maize strain has been detected so far. FAW thrives in a climate where drought is followed by heavy rains on a similar way we have experienced last year.
Although new agricultural insect pests are found in Sri Lanka, from time to time a number of factors make FAW unique (FAO Publication 2018)
FAW consumes many different crops 2 FAW spreads quickly across large geographical areas 3.FAW can persists throughout the year. Therefore Sri Lanka needs to develop a coordinated evidence based effort to scout FAW for farming communities and effective monitoring by the research staff
Since the pest has already arrived in Sri Lanka, the Government/ Ministry of Agriculture should formulate short, mid and long term strategies for its effective management with all stakeholders. Also it has to be clear that a single strategy ex pesticides will not help in effective control but a proper combination of tactics, such as integrated pest management should be employed in the long term. In the short term, the recommended pesticides by the Department of Agriculture should be employed along with cultural and sanitary control strategies. These strategies have now been formulated and what is required to enlighten the farmers and people by utilizing the trained staff. The country should be placed on a war footing and an emergency should be declared in the affected areas to coordinate the control strategies. The integrated control tactics, such as cultural control, should be integrated with pesticides based on the recommendation of the research staff. The residues should be destroyed after harvest and avoid late planting and staggered planting. The Ministry of Agriculture should create awareness among the farmers and train the farmers on early detection of egg masses found on leaves and destroy them by hand. The pesticides for FAW control is recommended by the Department of Agriculture (Please contact Registrar of Pesticides of the Department of Agriculture for the recommended list of Pesticides) and they have to make it available at subsidized rates or given free with technical information considering the emergency. When the larvae are small early detection and proper timing of pesticides are critical for elimination of the pest. With this outbreak some farmers and the private sector is engaged using highly hazardous pesticides which should be avoided to make way for sustainable alternatives. The Department Entomologists should train the farmers for early detection of egg masses when present on 5% of the plants and when 25% of the plants show damage symptoms and live larvae are present on war footing. The economic threshold has been calculated as 2-3 live larvae per plant and the control strategies should commence as soon as this threshold is detected by visual observation. The majority of development officers, agriculture and science graduates working in Divisional Secretariats, are already trained on pest control and their participation on training the farmers for early detection and pesticide selection and application warrants the strategy. Some of the recommended pesticides are follows: Chlorantraniliprole 200g/1SC: Trade name Corogen, Emamectin benzoate 5%SG: Trade name Proclaim,, Flubendiamide 24% WG : Trade name Belt. The Principle Entomologist of the Dry Zone Research Station of the Department of Agriculture ( Mrs KNC Gunawardena) has prepared an effective online presentation on FAW control and this has to be shared by all. The African country Ghana has declared a state of emergency in response to this invasion as Maize is a staple crop which should be followed by us in Sri Lanka.
The long term strategies include early detection. Stopping its spread and initiation of a long term research programme to identify tolerant varieties and granting permission to import such varieties as seeds. The country should ear mark on a Biological control strategy by breeding and releasing FAW parasitoids regularly. In USA larval parasitoids such as Apanteles marginiventris, Chelonus insularis and Microplitis manilae have contributed to keep the pest population down along with egg parasitoids Trichrogramma spp and a similar program should be initiated in the affected districts. Finally the best option is to establish a task force with the involvement of entomologists, extension personnel along with the administrators and scientists working in the universities to ensure the country are safe with regards to food security
The author has read for a PhD at University of Florida Gainesville in the USA in 1985 and his PhD thesis exclusively deals on Fall armyworm parasitoids and its ecology
President’s decision on Colombo Port in national interest
by Jehan Perera
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has announced that the government will be entering into an agreement with the Adani Group, based in India, to offer them 49 percent of the shares in a joint venture company. This joint venture will include Japanese government financing and will manage one of the terminals in the Colombo port. The entry of Adani Group, into the Colombo port, has been opposed by a wide coalition of organisations, ranging from port workers, and left political parties, to nationalists and civil society groups. These groups have little in common with each other but on this particular issue they have made common cause and even held joint protests together. The main thrust of their objections is that control over the East Terminal of the Colombo port will pass into foreign hands and result in an erosion of Sri Lankan sovereignty.
The cause for alarm, among the protesting groups, may be fueled by the observation that one by one, the ports of Sri Lanka are being utilized by foreign powers. In particular, China has entered into Sri Lanka in a big way, obtaining a 99-year lease in the Hambantota port that it constructed. The Hambantota port, in its early period, showed it was economically unviable in the absence of Chinese cooperation. The burden of debt repayment induced the previous government to enter into this agreement which may become unfavorable in terms of national sovereignty. There were protests at the time of the signing of that lease agreement, too, though not as effective as the present protests regarding the change of management in the Colombo port, which is led by the very forces that helped to bring the present government into power.
In addition to the Hambantota port, control over the South Terminal in the Colombo port, and a section of the harbour, has been given to China through one of its companies on a 35-year lease. In both cases, large Chinese investments have helped to upgrade Sri Lanka’s capacity to attract international shipping lines to make use of the port facilities. The Hambantota port, in particular, could benefit enormously from Chinese ships that traverse the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and Africa. Instead of making refuelling stops elsewhere along the way, such as Singapore, they could now come to Hambantota. However, with these investments would also come a Chinese presence that could cause concerns among international actors that have geopolitics in mind. It may be that these concerns are finding expression in the opposition to the Indian entry into the Colombo port.
It will not only be Sri Lankans who are concerned about the Chinese presence in the country’s ports. As Sri Lanka’s nearest neighbour, India, too, would have concerns, which are mirrored by other international powers, such as Japan. It might be remembered that when Japan’s prime minister visited Sri Lanka, in 2014, there was a diplomatic furor that a Chinese submarine entered the Colombo port, unannounced, even to the Sri Lankan government, and docked there. With its excellent relations with China, that go back to the 1950s, when the two countries signed a barter agreement, exchanging rice for rubber, most Sri Lankans would tend to see such Chinese actions in a benign light. In recent years, China has emerged as Sri Lanka’s largest donor and its assistance is much appreciated. However, India’s relations with China are more complex.
The two countries have massive trade links, but they have also gone to war with each other due to territorial disputes. Even at the present time Indian and Chinese troops are in a stand-off on their disputed Himalayan border. In this context, India would be concerned that the Chinese presence in Sri Lankan ports could eventually take the form of an overall strategy to encircle it and use this leverage to India’s disadvantage. Sri Lanka’s location at the bottom of the Asian continent gives it a strategic importance in the Indian Ocean that goes beyond any possible India-China rivalry. The recent visit of US Secretary of State to Sri Lanka included an acerbic exchange of words between the US and Chinese representatives on that occasion and an open call to Sri Lanka to take sides, or not to take sides. As a small actor in itself, Sri Lanka would have no interest in getting involved in international geopolitics and has a longstanding policy of non-alignment and friendship with all.
More than anyone else, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would be aware of these geopolitical issues. As Defence Secretary, during the years of war with the LTTE, he was a key member of the government team that obtained wide ranging international support for prosecuting the war. Today, the President’s key advisers include those with military backgrounds who have special expertise in geopolitical analysis and who have spent time in leading military academies in different parts of the world, including the US, China and India. This contrasts with the more parochial thinking of political, nationalist and even civil society groups who have come out in opposition to the agreement that the government has entered into with the Indian company to manage the Eastern Terminal of the Colombo port.
President Rajapaksa was elected to the presidency in the context of the security debacle of the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks and with the expectation that he would provide clear-cut leadership in protecting the country’s national security without permitting partisan interests from becoming obstacles. In his meeting with the representatives of the trade unions, opposing the handing of management of the Eastern Terminal to foreign hands, the President is reported to have said that geopolitics had also to be taken into account. As many as 23 trade unions, representing the Ports Authority, the National Organisations collective, and a number of civil organizations, have joined the formation of a new national movement named the ‘Movement to protect the East Container Terminal’.
One of those political representatives at the meeting, leader of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), Pubudu Jayagoda, is reported to have said, “When trade unions met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday (13), he told them about the broad geopolitical factors in play. This is reminiscent when the unions met former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe a few years back. The unions told Wickremesinghe what they told Rajapaksa––the ECT could be operated by Sri Lanka in a profitable manner. Wickremesinghe told the union representatives, ‘You are talking about the port, I am talking about geopolitics’.” However, former Prime Minister Wickremesinghe may not have had the necessary political power to ensure that his vision prevailed and failed to ensure the implementation of the agreement.
Entering into the agreement with the Indian company will serve Sri Lanka’s national interests in several ways. By ensuring that India is given a presence in Sri Lanka’s most important port, it will reassure our closest neighbour, as well as Japan, which has been Sri Lanka’s most consistent international donor, that our national security interests and theirs are not in opposition to each other. Second, it takes cognizance of the reality that about two-thirds of the Colombo port’s shipping is due to transshipment with India, and thereby ensures that this profitable business continues. Third, it will give Sri Lanka more leverage to negotiate with India regarding key concerns, which includes Indian support to Sri Lanka at international forums and in providing guarantees for the unity of the country in the face of possible future threats and the need to ensure devolution of power to satisfy ethnic minority aspirations.
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