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Cricket chiefs rope in Romesh De Silva for Hathurusingha vs SLC

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By Rex Clementine

He may be making court appearances for the Catholic Church free of charge, but eminent lawyer Romesh De Silva is turning out to be the costliest legal counsel in the island. Sri Lanka Cricket is faced with an expensive legal battle with their ex-coach Chandika Hathurusingha and SLC is not taking any chances with the case having hired country’s leading lawyer – Romesh De Silva.

Hathurusingha has sued SLC for US$ five million for wrongful termination of employment and in order to avoid a financial debacle the board desperately needs to win the case.

SLC hierarchy is aware of the fact that De Silva will cost them an arm and a leg but what they have is Hobson’s choice. The case is still in early stages and for written submissions for the questions posed by the Arbitrators, the board will pay a sum of Rs. 1.5 million to De Silva. The President’s Counsel is only the Lead Counsel in the case and there are other lawyers involved as well and for all of them the board will incur an initial payment of Rs. 3.5 million.

This may turn out to be the most expensive court case involving SLC. There have been other high profile cases like Geoff March versus SLC in 2012 and WSG Nimbus versus SLC in 2001. The board lost both cases but defeat this time around will make them to feel the pinch as numbers are quite staggering.

From the outset it was argued that terminating Hathurusingha’s services could bring the board trouble. Hathurusingha resumed his three year stint with SLC in 2018 January and when he was sacked, he had only one year remaining in the contract. Even if the board had to pay him for the rest of his contract, it would have cost SLC somewhere around US$ 600,000. However, now they have been sued for US$ five million plus the costly legal charges.

Hathurusingha a former Test cricketer took up coaching after retirement. Following initial success with Moors SC, he migrated to UAE and was brought back to Colombo in 2007 to take up as coach of Sri Lanka ‘A’. Two years later, on the insistence of then Test captain Kumar Sangakkara, Haturusingha was part of the national team’s coaching staff as understudy to Trevor Bayliss.

It was expected that he will succeed Bayliss but disagreement with the board saw him being removed from the post. He then migrated to Australia and worked with New South Wales before Bangladesh hired him as Head Coach. Bangladesh cricket improved steadily under his charge and in 2017 he decided to end his association early to take up the Sri Lankan role.

One of Hathurusingha’s demands before taking up the Sri Lankan role was that he needed to be part of the selection panel. He was stripped of selection duties in December 2018. More than SLC, then Sports Minister Harin Fernando seemed to be keen on removing the coach and Fernando may have cost SLC a fortune. Hathurusingha has good ground to argue as his contract was with SLC and not with Sports Ministry.

The highest point of Hathurusinha’s stint with Sri Lanka was the national cricket team’s 2-0 series win in South Africa. Sri Lanka became the first Asian nation to win a Test series in South Africa.



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Dilshi stamps her class with national record

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Shanika qualifies for World Junior Championships

by Reemus Fernando

Former Ratnayake Central Walala athlete Dilshi Kumarasinghe stamped her class with a new Sri Lanka record performance in the 800 metres while emerging 800 metres runner Shanika Lakshani reached qualifying standards for the World Under 20 Championships and sprinter Mohamed Safan broke shackles to win the 200 metres as the first Selection Trial produced its best on the final day at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.

Kumarasinghe who registered her maiden 400 metres triumph at national level on Wednesday bagged the 800 metres win as well in style on Friday when she clocked the fastest time for the distance by a Sri Lankan in history. Her time of two minutes and 2.55 seconds erased the four year-old national record held by experienced Gayanthika Abeyratne who finished third(3rd 2:03.64 secs) yesterday. Asia’s third ranked 800 metres runner Nimali Liyanarachchi was placed second in a time of 2:03.15 seconds. Former record holder Abeyratne is ranked fifth in Asia.

The 21-year-old athlete trained by Susantha Fernando maintained a steady pace right throughout to win the event for the second time within months. She won her first 800 meters title at senior level at the last National Championships in December. “I am happy to have broken the record. We planned for the record but I am not satisfied with the time,” Kumarasinghe told The Island. Her coach Fernando expressed similar sentiments. “We were planning to produced a far better timing as she has the potential to reach international level,” said Fernando.

Kumarasinghe who is currently ranked sixth in Asia behind local counterparts Liyanarachchi and Aberatne is set to improve her ranking when the World Athletics update statistics next week.

Holy Cross College, Gampaha athlete Shanika Lakshani became the second junior runner at this championships to earn qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next August. Her coach Madura Perera said that it was a huge relief to witness his trainee accomplish the target after missing it by a whisker at the National Championships in December. Lakshani, running alongside the veterans clocked 2:07.02 seconds (Qualifying mark: 2:08.70 seconds).

On Wednesday Isuru Kawshalya Abewardana of Ananda Sastralaya Matugama reached qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship when he returned a time of 47.24 seconds in the Junior Men’s 400 metres final.

In the men’s 200 metres, Mohamed Safan turned tables on National Champion Kalinga Kumarage as both clocked sub 21 seconds, a rarity at local athletics. Safan was playing second fiddle to Kumarage at the last National Championships where he clocked 21.41 seconds. Yesterday Safan returned a time of 20.81 seconds, while Kumarage clocked 20.85 seconds.

In the women’s 200 metres, Nadeesha Ramanayake was the winner. She clocked 24.28 seconds.

The men’s 800 metres, conspicuous by the absence of national record holder Indunil Herath, was won by the Asian Championship participant Rusiru Chathuranga, who clocked 1:49.82 seconds.

Herath was not the only leading athlete who was absent at the First Selection Trial which was organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to provide much needed competition opportunity to top athletes vying to reach Olympic qualifying standards.

The next track and field competition for top athletes will be the next month’s National Championship.

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COPE; a toothless tiger?

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by Rex Clementine

Parliamentary watchdog COPE – Committee on Public Enterprises has made a scathing attack on some of the corrupt practices at Sri Lanka Cricket. COPE Chief, Professor Charith Herath has gone onto claim that by fighting out certain legal battles and writing off money that companies and member club owed SLC, insiders may have been receiving kickbacks. This is a very serious allegation by the  legislature.

Professor Herath wants legal action taken against SLC officials. It remains to be seen whether any culprits can be hauled up before courts or whether COPE is just a toothless tiger.

In the absence of SLC bigwigs, CEO Ashley de Silva bore the brunt of the criticism. In January this year, in these pages we wrote that Ashley’s time was up. While there are many questions about his efficiency and decision making abilities, it can be safely said that Ashley is no crook. The real crooks are hiding behind the CEO.

There have been some decent men as well at SLC like Mohan de Silva, who was President in 2004. De Silva had warned his colleagues that their excesses could tarnish the reputation of the institution, but his concerns fell on deaf ears.

Not only the guardians of SLC but even those who let them enter into these corrupt deals need to be probed. While most of these allegations will take time to prove, certain things can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. For example fixing a domestic match in 2017 by some prominent members of SLC.

However, four successive Sports Ministers – Dayasiri Jayasekara, Faizer Mustapaha, Harin Fernando and Namal Rajapaksa – failed to take action. All four turned a blind eye despite having overwhelming evidence in front of them. Ravin Wickramaratne, the number one suspect, went places in cricket circles. He is now SLC’s alternate ICC Director.

At a time when the game has been so badly managed, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s decision to backdate a gazette notification extending the term of SLC’s Executive Committee has not gone down well with many. Rather than giving a clean bill of health to SLC hierarchy, he should have perhaps taken the bad eggs out.

The ball is back on Namal’s court. It is his Ministry that has to now decide which deals need to be proved and against which officials’ action needs to be taken in courts of law.  From the start, Namal has treated SLC hierarchy with kids’ gloves. Now that their deficiencies have been exposed well and truly, he needs to watch his steps. If he continues to play politics with cricket governance, his popularity is going to wane, fast.

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Saha wins U12 boys’ singles title  

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Saha Kapilasena beat Sasen Premaratne to win the Under-12 boys’ singles title of the Clay Court Nationals conducted at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday. 

Kapilasena scored 6-3, 6-1 to win the title. Kapikasena ousted third seed Aahil Kaleel in the semi-final, Premaratne eliminated number one seed Methika Wickramasinghe in the semi-final. 

In the mixed doubles final Anika Seneviratne and Thangaraja Dineshkanthan were the winners as they beat Sanka Athukorale and Neyara Weerawansa 7-5, 6-4. 

Sanka Athukorale and Yasita de Silva beat Rajeev Rajapakse and Renouk Wijemanne 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the men’s doubles title.  

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