by Reemus Fernando
Former national javelin champion and coach Pradeep Nishantha believes that his charge Dilhani Lekamge has primed to accept big challenges in a year loaded with international competitions. Nishantha, who enjoyed unprecedented success last year when his trainee Dinesh Priyantha Herath won gold at the Paralympics, said that Lekamge will be an athlete to watch this year as she would be looking to reach her best performances.
“I firmly believe that Lekamge has improved to produce some outstanding throws. The first trial will be the opportunity to see how she has improved,” said Nishantha in an interview with The Island on the eve of the Sri Lanka Athletics First Selection Trial.
The selection trial conducted by Sri Lanka Athletics will commence at the Sugathadasa Stadium today and will conclude on Saturday.
The track and field governing body set tough selection standards for this year’s international competitions and it would be a huge challenge for some of the top athletes to accomplish those targets as it requires record breaking performances.
In Lekamge’s case a throw of 58 metres is the standard to be eligible for Asian Games selection, though she is required only to clear a distance of 56 metres to prove her readiness at today’s meet. Sri Lanka Athletics set several standards to be achieved at each trial. A gradual improvement from 56.00 metres to 56.30m, 57.00m and 58.00 metres is required if Lekamge is to book a place in the team for the Asian Games. It is only a year since Lekamge has come under the guidance of Nishantha.
Lekamge was the country’s leading female thrower last year with a distance of 56.94 metres achieved in June. She threw nearly three metres further than Nadeeka Lakmali, who holds the national record. Lekamge has a personal best of 58.41 from 2018.
Her most outstanding achievement so far at international arena is the silver medal she won at the Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar, India in 2017. There she cleared a distance of 58.11 metres. She was first coached by the late A.J. Rodrigo who was also the coach of Asian Championship silver medallists Sachith Maduranga and Nadeeka Lakmali.
Nishantha is also confident this his other charges including Olympian Sumedha Ranasinghe too would do well at this meet.
The three-day meet starting today will be the first track and field competition conducted by Sri Lanka Athletics in its centenary year. This will be followed by the Second Selection Trial to be held in March and the National Championships which will be regarded as the final selection trial.
The event will be held under two categories with juniors too being given an opportunity to compete. However, some of the junior athletes are likely to skip events due to the A/L Exam clashing with their schedule. Umanga Surendra, the coach of junior sprinter Medhani Jayamanne said that his charge would skip the 200 metres due to the exam. He said Jayamanne however, would take part in the 100 metres today.
Mathews falls one short of double ton
Angelo Mathews missed out on his second double hundred by just one run as Bangladesh bowled out Sri Lanka for 397 runs in the first Test in Chittagong on Monday.Off-spinner Nayeem Hasan broke Mathews’s heart, forcing him to spoon a catch to Shakib Al Hasan at square leg on 199 as he made a desperate attempt to complete his double hundred with last man Vishwa Fernando at the other end.Nayeem finished with 6-105 on his home ground Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium while Shakib claimed 3-60 for Bangladesh.
Running out of partners, Mathews had the double hundred in his sights after sharing 47 runs with Vishwa for the ninth wicket.But the number 10 took a blow on his helmet before tea and did not return to the field.Last man Asitha Fernando survived 27 balls to give him support before he was bowled by Nayeem.Vishwa then heroically returned to the crease, prompting Mathews to make his desperate attempt for the double hundred.
He struck Taijul Islam for a four to reach 196 before a single and double took him even closer, only to be denied by Nayeem.Mathews, who resumed on 114, earlier shared 136 runs with fellow overnight batsman Dinesh Chandimal (66) before hosts Bangladesh had their first success of the day.In the 24th over of the session, Chandimal attempted a premeditated reverse sweep but failed to make contact and was given out lbw, upheld on review.Nayeem celebrated his third wicket of the innings and soon had a fourth when he bowled wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella, who made only three, four balls later.
Shakib took two wickets in two balls in the first over after the break to push Sri Lanka into a corner.He first bowled Ramesh Mendis for one and then trapped Lasith Embuldeniya leg before for no score.Mushfiqur Rahim dropped Fernando at mid-on on 16 to deny Shakib his fourth wicket.Bangladesh also missed a chance to dismiss Mathews on 119 in the fourth over of the day.Khaled Ahmed beat the Sri Lankan with an outswinger but there was no appeal for a catch behind, despite technology suggesting Mathews had edged the ball.Mathews hit 19 fours and a six in his 397-ball innings before the agonising end as Bangladesh wrapped up Sri Lanka’s first innings in 153 overs, 40 minutes into the final session.
His previous highest Test score was 200 not out.Mathews became the second Sri Lankan to be dismissed for 199 in Test match cricket with Sanath Jayasuriya being the first having fallen one short of a double hundred against India at SSC in 1997.Bangladesh were 76 for no loss at stumps on day two, trailing Sri Lanka by 321 runs.
Ton-up Mathews steers Sri Lanka to 258-4 in Bangladesh Test
Former captain Angelo Mathews hit an unbeaten 114 to help Sri Lanka finish strongly on the opening day of the first Test against Bangladesh on Sunday.The tourists reached 258 for four at stumps after electing to bat first on what looked like a placid pitch in Chittagong at the start of the two-match series.Mathews put on a key third-wicket 92-run stand with Kusal Mendis, who made 54, to rebuild the Sri Lankan innings after off-spinner Nayeem Hasan removed the openers.He kept up the pressure on Bangladesh after Mendis’ departure as he put up an unbeaten partnership of 75 for the fifth wicket with Dinesh Chandimal, who was batting on 34.Nayeem dismissed skipper Dimuth Karunaratne, for nine, and Oshada Fernando, for 36, in the opening session to give Bangladesh some early momentum.
But Mathews and Mendis seized back the initiative and kept Bangladesh bowlers at bay in the entire post-lunch session.Taijul Islam struck on the first ball after tea break as Mendis fell giving a catch to Nayeem at midwicket.Fellow left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan removed Dhananjaya de Silva cheaply for six with a bat-pad catch, but Mathews stood firm to deny Bangladesh further success.Bangladesh thought they had Mathews out caught behind for 38 off Taijul after lunch but the decision against the veteran batsman was reversed on review.The experienced right-hander flicked left-arm pacer Shoriful Islam towards mid-wicket for a four to bring his 12th Test hundred off 183 balls.
Sri Lanka earlier made a confident start as Fernando hit pace bowler Khaled Ahmed for two consecutive fours in the second over.The introduction of spin, however, halted their progress as Nayeem trapped Karunaratne leg-before on only his fifth ball.Karunaratne misjudged an arm ball and attempted to cut, but the ball was quicker than he had expected and hit him on the back foot. He was given out and the skipper unsuccessfully reviewed.Local boy Nayeem, who came to the side after an injury to the stalwart Mehidy Hasan, brought Bangladesh their second success in the session when he took an edge from Fernando in the 22nd over.
Wicketkeeper Liton Das completed the catch as Fernando departed after hitting three fours and one six in his brisk innings.A minute of silence was observed before the match in memory of Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds, who died in a car crash on Saturday. Players and match officials were wearing black armbands.Neutral umpiring also returned for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, with England’s Richard Kettleborough officiating with countryman Chris Broad as Match Referee.
Caught on a sticky wicket, Ranil’s glorious chance to emerge a shining knight
by Rex Clementine
There are a lot of similarities between Sir Don Bradman and Ranil Wickremesinghe. Both men were immensely gifted. Breaking world records was child’s play for the finest batsman the world has seen, while the smartest politician the nation has seen is on the verge of equalling a world record after becoming the Prime Minister for the sixth time. The record is held by the former leader of the Christian Democratic Party, Giulio Andreotti, who was Italy’s Prime Minister on seven occasions.
Despite all his cricketing brilliance, Bradman was a very vindictive person. The dropping of Keith Miller in 1949 was inexplicable and can be put down to the fact that Bradman had an axe to grind with the greatest all-rounder at that time. Then, there’s also the case of Clarrie Grimmett, Australia’s best leg-spin bowler before World War II. He took 44 wickets in a five-match series in South Africa in 1936 but never played a Test again purely because he had a run-in with Bradman.
Ranil’s case is similar. He may not have had fallouts with party seniors, but he sidelined them fearing a challenge to leadership. Sirisena Cooray, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera and Karu Jayasuriya are cases in point. When the Presidential elections came around with his chances of winning slim, Ranil was more than happy to back an independent candidate rather than supporting someone from within the party for fear of losing the party leadership.
When G.R. Viswanath entered the scene in 1969, the Indian captain at the time, Tiger Pataudi, was quick to realize that this was a precious talent and moved down the batting order to allow the youngster to occupy the premium number four position. India benefited immensely as they never lost a Test match when Viswanath made a hundred. Ranil was never comfortable with such grooming strategies. As a result, the UNP has suffered immense setbacks.
Some are poking fun at our political system, given that Ranil had lost the last Parliamentary elections in an embarrassing fashion. He entered Parliament through the National List and today lives in Temple Trees!
At MCG, a drunk Aussie fan once asked Percy: Is it true that like monkeys, you Sri Lankans live on trees? Uncle Percy replied, ‘Yes, even our Prime Minister lives in Temple Trees!’
For the moment, people will not mind whether the democratic process had been followed or not in selecting Ranil as the PM as there are far worse concerns. Long queues in the quest for essentials and the skyrocketing cost of living loom as the greatest among them. Remember, when the Ashes was slipping away from England in 1981, Alec Bedser didn’t choose the team’s best player to rescue England. Instead, he picked Mike Brearley, one of the best brains in the game. For the record, Brearley never made a hundred in a Test match although he featured in 39 of them.
Like Brearley, Ranil could save our economy.
Brearley wasn’t the only captain cricket’s selectors had thrown into the deep end when faced with a crisis. Having lost the cream of players to Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket in 1977, Australia’s selectors called up Bobby Simpson, who was retired for a decade then, to take up the leadership at the age of 41! Ranil, at the age of 73, is the oldest UNP Prime Minister, older than D.B. Wijetunga.
Now that Ranil has been entrusted with an unenviable task, he better deliver or suffer the fate of Geoff Boycott. England were eyeing a Test win in Christchurch in 1977 but captain Boycott was not helping the team’s cause as he was batting too slow. Ian Botham ran out his skipper and England went on to win. Unless Ranil delivers, and fast, it’s only a matter of time before he too is left stranded. In Boycott’s team, there were many captaincy aspirants like Graham Gooch, Bob Willis, Derek Randall, Bob Taylor and Botham himself. We have plenty in our ranks with Prime Ministerial ambitions like Sirisena, Senaratne, Siripala, Premadasa, Ranawaka, et al.
In previous instances when Ranil took on the baton, he gave up the fight rather meekly after impressive starts.
Mahela Jayawardene, hailed as one of the greatest captains the nation has produced, had a golden opportunity to beat Pakistan 2-0 in a series in 2012 but preferred to settle for a 1-0 win. Instead of going all guns blazing, MJ opted for a handshake, playing it safe in Pallekele where Sri Lanka had the game in hand. Similarly, Ranil took over in 2001 with the economy in dire straits. Having fixed some of the problems the country was facing, he was making significant progress when President CBK clipped his wings by taking over three key ministries. Instead of fighting tooth and nail, Ranil like Mahela took the blow on the chin and merely looked on. The rest, as they say, is history.
A captain needs to have the support of his team. You pity Andrew Strauss, who faced the embarrassment of his own teammate Kevin Pietersen passing on tips to South African fast bowlers by sending text messages in Afrikaans. The South Africa-born Pietersen was a sensation as a batsman but could be a loose cannon if not handled carefully, very much like S.B. Dissanayake. When Ranil appointed Dissanayake as the National Organizer of UNP, eyebrows were raised as SB was a die-hard SLFPer. He was just marking time in UNP, passing on valuable information to the opposition, and made a timely defection. Like Strauss, Ranil suffered in silence. No one else was to be blamed but himself.
Once in power, Ranil tends to develop a close-knit circle full of Royalists who are not much aware of the ground reality. That was also Sanga’s problem. Not that he was pulling for any Trinitians, but he had another weakness, heavily backing players from Perera Gardens. Allegations that the 2011 World Cup final was fixed is a cock and bull story. However, some players in that squad didn’t deserve to be there. Sanga’s agent had a significant say in team selections, very much like Ranil’s loyal Royalists had on the economy. Sanga’s agent and Ranil’s Royalists are a recipe for disaster.
Richie Benaud said that captaincy was the ability to think ahead of the play and not keep responding to what takes place. Ranil has this in abundance as he predicted the economic crisis months in advance. Had he been in power, we could have probably avoided the crisis as well. However, his problem is that like Brian Lara, he is snobbish and his inability to engage lesser mortals becomes a problem.
To his credit, when he was in power, Ranil did try to clean up cricket. Sidath Wettimuny was one of the best Presidents we have had at SLC in many years. Ranil gave his fullest backing when Sidath tried to change the SLC constitution with the backing of the ICC. Alas! Maithripala’s camp comprised those who had interests in cricket as well and they crushed those plans.
Now that Ranil is back, there’s new found hope for both the economy and cricket. He needs to rescue both.
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