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Dilshi, Amasha, Kalinga among half a dozen to reach tough elite standard

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98th National Athletics Championship – Review

by Reemus Fernando

With Sri Lanka Athletics announcing qualifying standards in advance to select several pools targeting international events, the 98th National Athletics Championship, which concluded on Tuesday, witnessed a number of athletes pushing their limits to produce outstanding performances. Despite being hampered by the absence of preparation meets including the trial meets which were abandoned in the eleventh hour due to the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, several athletes inspired the rest to be resolute even in adversity.

Sprinter Amasha de Silva and middle distance runner Dilshi Kumarasinghe who announced their arrival at the Asian Junior Championships in 2018 as future prospects, not only cemented their positions as formidable senior contenders at this meet but also provided hope of earning top Asian rankings.

Both turned tables on senior campaigners. Amasha the athlete trained by Sanjeewa Weerakkody clocked an outstanding 11.55 seconds to win the 100 metres dash. It was hailed as one of the top 100 metres performances in history by a female athlete. The outstanding feat secured the former Swarnamali Balika sprinter a place in the Sri Lanka Athletics elite pool as she overpowered former champion Rumeshika Ratnayake.

Dilshi Kumarasinghe surprised the veterans Nimali Liyanarachchi and Gayanthika Abeyratne during the last 200 metres of the 800 metres final. With her outstanding feat she not only secured her a place in the elite pool but also pushed the two veterans out of their comfort zones to achieve the qualifying marks to enter the elite pool. The 2:0280 seconds effort was outstanding in many ways. It improved her personal best and got her almost closer to the national record held by Liyanarachchi and powered her to the second position in the Asian Rankings. However, the former Ratnayake Central, Walala athlete did not do justice to her true potential in the 400 metres pushing hard a bit too late.

A feat of 53.47 seconds to win the women’s 400 metres was a welcome sign as Nadeesha Ramanayake, who was making a return after being sidelined at the South Asian Games due to dengue fever, retained her title. Kumarasinghe clocked 53.81 seconds to settle for silver. But had she given her best, it would have stood in good stead for Ramanayake too as a closer competition would have pushed them to the elite pool. The qualifying standard for the elite pool in the 400 metres was 53.20 seconds.

Sprinter Kalinga Kumarage who was returning to track after two years following a Disciplinary Committee clearing him of doping, clocked a wind-assisted 20.79 seconds to win the men’s 200 metres. His 400 metres performance of 46.25 seconds secured him the place in the elite pool.

While men’s long jumpers struggled competing against the wind, South Asian Games gold medalist Sarangi Silva touched the elite qualifying mark clearing a championship record distance of 6.33 metres in the women’s long jump.

Gayanthika Abeyratne was well within the range of the standard set for elite athletes when she clocked 4:17.58 seconds to win the women’s 1500 metres.

Triple jumpers Hashini Balasooriya (13.07 metres in the women’s event) and Sanjaya Jayasinghe (16.32 m) and Sreshan Dananjaya (16.12m in the men’s event) were outstanding but fell just short of securing a place in the elite pool. So was Olympian Sumeda Ranasinghe who had a notable 76.10 metres which was better than his South Asian Games bronze winning feat.

Ireshani Rajasinghe (13.85 secs) clinched the national title winning the 100 metres hurdles against defending champion Lakshika Sugandi (13.89 secs). Both were notable performances for athletes returning to action after one year.

A majority of athletes returning for their first meet in a year found it hard to match the elite standard. Even Nilani Ratnayake, who has a high world ranking, eligible to secure a place in the Olympics, could not reach the elite selection timing finishing her pet event the 3000 metres steeplechase (in 10:15.86 seconds) some 15 seconds slower.

One could feel sorry for Rusiru Chathuranga who was left at the threshold of the qualifying mark of the elite pool with his 1:49.82 seconds effort in the men’s 800 metres. With other leading runners including National record holder Indunil Herath failing to get even to the national pool mark (1:51.50 secs) the Asian Championship participant Chathuranga’s effort must be commended.

Sprinter Himasha Eshan’s 10.27 seconds in the 100 metres had assistance from wind.

It would augur well for athletes if the Athletics authorities could reconsider the standard for elite pool before finalizing it.



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Devapathiraja stun Isipatana, Mahinda oust St. Joseph Vaz’s

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Under-19 Cricket

by Reemus Fernando

Devapathiraja secured their first ever semi-final place in an Under-19 Division I tournament with a six wicket victory over Isipatana and Mahinda cruised to the semis with a crushing 131 runs victory over St. Joseph Vaz’s in the Tier ‘B’ quarter-finals played on Thursday.

An unbroken 94 run stand for the fifth wicket between Jeewaka Shasheen (56n.o.) and Sudeera Weerarathna (31n.o.) helped Devapathiraja turn tables on Isipatana as they recovered from 58 for four wickets at one stage to seal their semi-final place with six wickets to spare.

Mahinda posted 252 runs in 43 overs thanks to a quick fire half century by Dhanuja Induwara, who hammered 73 runs (in 32 balls) inclusive of six sixes and six fours. St. Joseph Vaz’s were shout out for 121 runs as Kushan Madusha , Navod Paranavithana, Subanu Rajapaksha and Kavidu Lakshan shared bowling honours.

Mahinda will now meet Ananda in the semi-final, while Devapathiraja take on Dharmasoka.

Results

Division I Tier ‘B’

Mahinda beat St. Joseph Vaz’s by 131 runs at Moratuwa

Mahinda

252 for 8 in 43 overs (Navod Paranavithana 62, Subanu Rajapaksha 62, Dhanuja Induwara 73; Kaushan Wijerartne 2/28)

St. Joseph Vaz’s

121 all out in 38.2 overs (Chamath Fernando 18; Kushan Madusha 2/25, Navod Paranavithana 2/23, Subanu Rajapaksha 2/11, Kavidu Lakshan 2/08)

Devapathiraja beat Isipatana by six wickets at DSS ground

Isipatana

151 all out in 39.5 overs (Tharusha Nethsara 31, Naveen Kanishka 23, Themiya Gunaratne 18; Sasanka Nirmal 2/21, Sudeera Weeraratne 2/24, Irushka Thimira 3/28)

Devapathiraja

152 for 4 in 43.2 overs (Irushka Thimira 32, Jeewaka Shasheen 56n.o., Sudeera Weerarathna 31n.o., Thevindu Dickwella 4/28)

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Daunting task ahead after Bangladesh pile up runs

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Rex Clementine at Pallekele

Twenty years ago, Test matches against Bangladesh were a cakewalk for Sri Lanka. There was a game at SSC where Marvan Atapattu scored  a double hundred and retired followed by Mahela Jayawardene who retired on 150. Sanath Jayasuriya was least bothered smashing 89 off 59 balls with 11 fours and four sixes. The entire Bangladesh team managed one run more than Jayasuriya in their first innings. Now the roles are reversed. Bangladesh seem to be giving the Sri Lankans a taste of their own medicine. Has Bangladesh cricket really improved or has Sri Lankan cricket become so bad?

You can not say that Bangladesh cricket is on a high. They lost a recent Test series to West Indies at home and last year lost to Afghanistan. Some 90 percent of their wins in Test cricket have been against Zimbabwe. So why is Sri Lanka playing catch up in this game is an interesting question. The answers will be known by stumps on day three when Sri Lanka get a chance to bat.

It was a remarkable effort by the tourists who are without their main match winner Shakib Al Hasan and their lead bowler Mustafizur Rahman, both of them are at IPL.

Bangladesh finished day two on 474 for four after resuming on 302 for two with Mominul Haque and Najmul Shanto posting big hundreds. The pair shared a record 242 run stand, a new record for Bangladesh in Test match cricket. It’s also a joint record at Pallekele for the third wicket with Younis Khan and Shan Masood posting 242 runs six years ago.

Sri Lanka’s  bowling lacked venom as no wickets fell in the morning session. Lahiru Kumara provided the breakthrough when he took a return catch to dismiss Shanto. The left-hander who posted his maiden Test hundred on Wednesday finished on 163 having batted for seven minutes short of nine hours. He faced 378 deliveries and hit 17 fours and a six. Niroshan Dickwella’s dropped catch early on in his innings proved to be costly.

For Mominul it was his 11th Test hundred and the first overseas. He was dismissed when he edged part-timer Dhananjaya de Silva to Lahiru Thirimanne at first slip.

The scoreboard doesn’t look good for Sri Lankans but their bowlers did a decent job to stop the run flow on day two having sent down too many loose balls on day one. Suranga Lakmal in particular was impressive bowling some tight spells. He was unlucky and needed more backing from others.

Play was called off early due to bad light and 25 overs were not bowled. The game will resume today 15 minutes early.

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May the educated continue to run cricket!

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by Rex Clementine

While the Test series  involving Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is on at Pallekele in a bio-secure bubble, the media has been allowed to cover the series in what is called the  ‘outer bubble’. The press can file their stories from the press box and carry on with their day today activities. The only thing that we can not do is to come face to face with players and support staff.

Sri Lanka Cricket is at the moment run by a respected doctor – Professor Arjuna de Silva. Apart from being a brilliant physician, he is proving to be an outstanding administrator as well. Glad he does not wish to avoid the press like the plague in these testing times.

The press discussed a similar method during the England series, but it fell on deaf ears of those who were running the sport at that time. Leave alone giving us a fair hearing, it took SLC more than a week to respond to our collective mail.

Then there were lies all around.  SLC first said that it was impossible to accommodate the press as the England and Wales Cricket Board had objected to our presence. We referred the matter to the ECB, who denied it outright saying that they had no issues with press covering the series. Then there were more lies, even misguiding the Minister of Sports.

The same SLC Executive Committee a few weeks either side of the England series had requested the media to cover their press briefings and they were well attended. But cricket matches for some mysterious reasons were out of bounds for us. Obviously, SLC hierarchy were getting advice from the wrong people.

South Africa, Australia, England, Pakistan and even India where COVID cases are at a staggering high had allowed the media to attend cricket matches but SLC was an exception. Did they have an axe to grind with the press for constantly highlighting daylight robbery at Maitland Place?

There was a storm of protest at the treatment meted out to the media. Former players, administrators and fans expressed their disappointment at what was happening but SLC bosses were thick skinned. Its President boasted that he was going to get more than 100 votes at the AGM. He was all too powerful. But the law of the land proved to be more powerful than him as the entire Executive Committee was dismissed on technical grounds. The CEO continues, although his time is hanging by a thread.

Further woes followed at the COPE hearing as the Parliamentary watchdog found large scale corruption and no accountability. The Secretary to the Sports Ministry was informed to initiate legal proceedings against officials who were responsible for corrupt deals that included money that broadcasting partners owed the board being transferred into offshore accounts.

It remains to be seen what action the Sports Ministry intends to take with the game suffering several blows both on and off the field in the last five years. The slide started during the Yahapalana regime and not much has been done to address the woes under the present government. The Sports Minister backdating a letter legalizing the term of the Executive Committee was the last straw. The move was opposed and the Minister was forced to dismiss the Executive Committee and bring in fresh faces amidst much criticism.

The same Ex Co did not bother to take disciplinary action against misbehaving players. This coupled with poor on field performances saw cricket’s ardent fans turning away from the game. While the national cricket team was involved in a series in the Caribbean, the retired players were featuring in a Legends tournament in India. Strangely, the fans preferred to watch the former players in action than their national team. This was extremely disturbing news.

Soon after the administration was changed, a clear message has been sent that misconduct will be sternly dealt with. An opening batsman who had got into constant trouble was hauled up for an inquiry on Tuesday and has been warned to behave or pack his bags. This is the way forward. When there is discipline, results will follow automatically.

The elected officials who were in power before that had double standards. For example, captain Dimuth Karunaratne who was involved in a late night accident was fined Rs. one million. This was despite him buying a brand new three wheeler to the other party involved in the accident. Kusal Mendis who was involved in a hit and run was treated with kids’ gloves. The board closed the case claiming it was a personal matter. That a poor man on his way to work was killed wasn’t a serious enough issue for them. That was not on.

Thankfully, the attitude of the administration has changed now. The powers that be need to ensure that the educated run cricket. Let the corrupt rot in jail.

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