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Did Petes find their lost identity at rugby?



St. Peter’s College ruggerites finished the season on a winning note last week after experiencing a lean rugby season this year (pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

By A Special Correspondent

Rugby at St. Peter’s has been feared for during the last decade or more for the reasons that the school’s rugby team can produce winners and also create surprises on the field.

They did just that last Friday (September 16) when they beat giant killers and runners-up at the League and President’s Trophy Knockout tournaments St. Joseph’s in their traditional rugby encounter played for the Rev Fr Basil Wiratunga Shield at Havelock Park.

The win for St. Peter’s might look nothing much to celebrate for outsiders who know little about rugby this season at the Bambalapitiya school. This team had just one victory this season (Against Dharmaraja in the league) before the match against Joes. The losses they suffered at the hands of many of their opponents left them ‘bleeding’ throughout the several months of training; where the boys were made to sweat and workout in a professional coaching environment. But still, there was hope to keep their heads held straight throughout the season without succumbing to the pressures building around them. Many believe that this was possible due to the strong Christian background in which education and sports are pursued at this academic institute. Praying before a game and during the day has enabled the boys to keep the grey matter inside the boys’ brains in functioning mode; especially at a time when outsiders gave up hope on these rugby players.

When the league tournament was nearing an end an opportunity arose for the Peterites to book a slot among the quarter-finalists for the President’s Trophy knockout tournament because two top teams pulled out of the running. But then came the second blow to the team. This came in the form of running into trouble for fielding in the side a player not eligible to represent the school at sports. There is speculation that the Peterite rugby team now runs the risk of being demoted to a lower segment of the tournament text season regarding the issue of fielding in the side this player who has stirred some controversy. However, the Peterite authorities have denied all allegations levelled against this player.

The Peterite side was not a weak one and gave a run to most of their opponents during the league season and even produce a draw against Wesley and went down fighting to S.Thomas’ College; the latter fixture being a traditional friendly. The side however showed that they had to work on line-outs and even passing skills among the players were not up to the level of First XV rugby.

But there was a transformation in the side at the match against the Joes. The Peterites as a whole showed no mercy to their opponents when tackling and displayed the guts of a burglar when confronted by obstacles. There were some casualties as a result, but the message was clear; the boys were in the mood to do or die.

The Peterites played good rugby at times, but they learned the hard way this season that other teams had made giant strides in the sport of rugby union (pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

It was their last chance to prove their existence in school rugby this season. They were sure standing on thin ice. A loss against the Joes meant the circumstances would have swallowed them up. Coach Sanath Martis it seemed had worked on defence. The Joes’ big man, that brute of a hulk and the regular match winner Navin Marasinghe found it hard to run at will. For him, it was like running on a field laced with glue. But still, the first half produced a battering for the Peteries. The Josephians produced three tries which came through the efforts of Vihanga Randeepa, Vishika Fernando and Sachinthana Vidayanatha. The Peterites responded with a penalty in the first half and when the two sides went into halftime, surprisingly the mood in the Peterite camp was not damp at all.

Great martial artist and philosopher Bruce Lee once said that calmness is a great weapon; especially during adversity. And Coach Martis had it and showed it. What he told at the little chit chat he had with the boys at ‘lemons’ we don’t know, but it certainly worked. Martis knows the value of making it in life after a struggle. He exudes the message that ‘nothing is easy before it’s hard’. Leave alone the fact that it is not easy at all for players to satisfy him through even the best of performances. This performance by the boys probably brought drops of tear to his eyes, but a taskmaster and coach in the calibre of Martis might not show it. He has both a soft and a hard side to his character, but when the soft side is shown in a moment of a flash akin to lightning it’s beautiful. Only the alert ones might observe this.

The second half produced thunder. The game changed so dramatically and the Peterites came into the game showing the attitude of a street-smart kid. They scored their first try off the efforts of Pasindu Thakshila. The game was later stopped when the referee had to supervise the removal of an injured player and the entrance to the field of replacements. Martis seized the opportunity and was seen talking to the boys from the touchlines. He ‘probably’ spelt out to the boys to adopt a kick and chase tactic; probably sensing that the Joes would wilt under the pressure of the high ball. Joes were never ready for this tactic. Sudesh Jayawickrema scored first through this method after chasing a high kick that bounced into Joes ‘22’. The next to score in a similar fashion was Yumeth Sihara. Petes took the lead 22-21, but the Joes grabbed it back with a penalty by Ruchika Rodrigo.

But Vindya De Mel dropped a peach of a goal from 25 metres out to seal the game just before the final whistle and hand the Peterites victory.

The Peteries needed this win badly. Their rugby identity was at stake and the time till the next season arrives would have been like travelling inside a dark tunnel if not for winning the Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga Shield and taking it where the other silverware lies at the school’s trophy cupboard. They needed something to hold on to. The boys were seen posing with the shield and true enough there were photos taken from smartphones for posterity with the shield in hand. But what really gave them something to hold on to came in the form of finding self-worth which came through a collective team effort and a memorable victory.

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Decision on Asia Cup venue postponed to March 2023



A final decision on whether Pakistan will host the 2023 Asia Cup is now expected in March, after an Asian Cricket Council (ACC) meeting in Bahrain failed to reach a breakthrough. They will meet again in a month’s time, around the next set of ICC meetings.

The uncertainty around the 2023 Asia Cup began in October when the ACC president, and BCCI secretary, Jay Shah said it will be held in a neutral venue because India can’t travel to Pakistan.

The PCB took particular exception to that and ESPNCricinfo understands that on Saturday their chief Najam Sethi told Shah that if India don’t play in Pakistan, Pakistan will consider not playing in India for the 2023 World Cup.

This has led to the deadlock which needs revisiting in March when the ICC and ACC meetings take place one after the other. The issues across tournaments, in the PCB’s views, are the same, whether it is the Asia Cup, the 2023 World Cup or the 2025 Champions Trophy, to be staged in Pakistan. Depending on what happens in those March meetings – and the PCB is likely to go in again with the same stance – a decision may be left to the Pakistan government to take a call on.

In addition, all ACC members are believed to have been asked to seek their own government’s positions on whether their teams could travel to Pakistan. *The PCB, however, clarified with a statement on Sunday, that “no such matters were raised in the meeting, nor did any member indicate any intention to seek government clearance for playing in Pakistan”.

The PCB added: “Sri Lanka has recently visited Pakistan in 2017 and 2019, while Bangladesh has toured Pakistan in 2020. In the 2023-2027 Future Tours Programme (FTP), which has been agreed and announced by all ICC Members, Afghanistan Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have confirmed their tours to Pakistan.”

After years of isolation following the 2009 attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore, Pakistan has returned to hosting international cricket regularly over the last three years, with nearly all full members (other than India) visiting the country for red- and white-ball cricket.

Pakistan-India ties have deteriorated over the years as a result of stormy political relations between the two countries. India and Pakistan have not played each other in a bilateral series since 2012-13, when Pakistan toured India for a limited-overs series. Their encounters have been limited to ICC and ACC events, and while the Indian men’s team has not played any match in Pakistan since 2008, Pakistan last travelled to India for the 2016 T20 World Cup.

The PCB is intent in its stance of hosting the 2023 Asia Cup with Sethi saying in January, “whatever the stance is, it will be according to the interests of Pakistan.”

The ACC executive board also approved the inclusion of teams from Japan and Indonesia in the ACC pathway tournaments and ratified ACC’s calendar of activities for the financial years 2023 and 2024.


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Jurgen Klopp: I’m ‘angry, disappointed’ after latest Liverpool defeat



Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he has no explanation for his side’s 3-0 defeat at Wolves on Saturday, adding he was “angry” and “disappointed.”

Relegation-threatened Wolves humiliated the Merseyside club at Molineux with Craig Dawson, Ruben Neves scoring after a Joel Matip own goal.The result means that Liverpool have only secured one win in seven games in all competitions since the turn of the year.

“Obviously it was a horrible start. Two goals which cannot happen like that,” Klopp told Premier League Productions after the game. “But it happened and we were 2-0 down because of our own fault. We should have defended better. We were passive in that period. I cannot explain it. There is no excuse for it.

“You’re 2-0 down, the crowd is there but it opens up and we get some control. Then for about 45 minutes we play a good away game without scoring. That sums it up pretty much.

“Concentration for the first 15 minutes. Again, I cannot explain. But these 15 minutes cannot be allowed. It needs to change.

“That’s the thing. I stand here again and for the first 15 minutes I have no explanation, I’m sorry. In the end we lost 3-0 because the goal in the second half was perhaps the first time they crossed the halfway line. But it’s right because when you start like this you don’t deserve anything in a Premier League game.

“We have to change it immediately in the next game. Everton won today and they are in a good moment so we have to prove a point again. For the moment, I’m so disappointed and angry about the first 15 minutes, I can’t find the words for it. Then we have chances we should score. It could have been 2-1 and that would have changed everything I’m sure. Wolves deserve the three points.

“Yes, definitely. That’s clear. We cannot go through that season that nobody did before but how long do we want to suffer? It is one explanation in general yes, but not for the first 15 minutes here today. What we make of it in this moment is absolutely not OK.”

After coming close to a historic quadruple last season, where they won two domestic cups and were runners-up in both the Champions League and Premier League, Klopp’s injury-hit side have struggled this term.

The result was the first time in a decade that Liverpool have lost three consecutive Premier League away games.

They have conceded more goals in the Premier League this season — 28 in 21 games — than they did in the whole of last season and remain 21 points behind Arsenal at the top.

“Same as the other games, we have no consistency at all through the 90 minutes, focused and doing what we have to do on the pitch fighting,” Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson said after the game.

“First 15 minutes we started the game not in a good way and we got punished for that. Conceding two goals, we are not in a good situation. They are confident, we tried, did a good second half but conceded again. Completely frustrated.

“Looks like in the game we went two steps behind then we make one step forward, we need to do more steps because of the results. Step forward was the second-half performance, two completely different sides first and second half. We have to take that for the next game and using the chances we have and stop conceding the silly goals.”


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Why no Independence Cup?  



By Rex Clementine 

When Sri Lanka turned 50, our heroes were Aravinda de Silva, Susanthika Jayasinghe, Nanda Malini and Victor Ratnayake and the Rupee was 60 to the USD. When Sri Lanka turned 75, our heroes remain the same but the Rupee has hit a whooping 370 to the Dollar. What Independence Day celebrations you may ask for a nation that has gone from pillar to post having become the laughing stock going around the world with a begging bowl.

Usually, when you travel to India for cricket, the locals come to you and ask, ‘How is Aravinda,’ ‘How is Arjuna’, ‘How is Duleep’, ‘How is Roy,”. This time around the Indians had only one question? ‘How is the situation in Sri Lanka now.’

For Sri Lanka’s golden jubilee independence celebrations in 1998, SLC put up a grand show hosting a tri-nation series involving India and New Zealand. Those days for sports sponsorships the go to man was Hemaka Amarasuriya. He came up with a generous sponsorship and the tournament was known as Singer Akai Nidahas Trophy.

It was one of the best cricket events held in Sri Lanka. India defeated Sri Lanka by six runs in the final and Aravinda’s century nearly took the team over the line. His dismissal triggered a sensational collapse as India snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.  A few people have some unkind things to say about the game conveniently forgetting it’s a game of great uncertainties. They also forget that Sri Lanka won the title the previous year when India had organized their Independence Cup. It was an event where India failed to make it to the finals.

In the best of three finals, Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in Mohali and Calcutta and the third final wasn’t even required. For the 70th independence celebrations too a Nidahas Trophy was organized at RPS in 2018.  The event brought a financial windfall for SLC although the team flopped not being able to make it to the finals in the T20 event. Sri Lanka lost a tensed game against Bangladesh and were knocked out. Yes, Shakib Al Hasan, broken dressing room windows and all, For the finals, RPS witnessed something very unusual. In Sri Lanka, Indian players have received little support over the years but that night every Sri Lankan wanted India to win. Bangladesh had the game in the bag but Dinesh Karthik became an instant hero with a last ball six. It was a final to be cherished.

Sadly for the 75th independence celebrations this time around, there’s no cricket event that has been mooted. Had India organized something last year to mark their 75th independence, our cricket bosses would have got excited.  But India’s priorities have changed and international cricket events hardly excites them anymore. They have a cash machine in IPL and the women’s IPL is set to bring them new riches as well. That’s their focus.

As for us, conducting an Independence Cup will help boost our finances especially if we are able to bring India down. A two week white ball tournament will create much interest, help small businesses and tourism will benefit too. SLC has been late in not being able to organize anything. But it’s better late than never.

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