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Empowering local coaches

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by Rex Clementine

One of the key entities of Sri Lanka Cricket is the coaching department that functions away from the board headquarters at R. Premadasa Stadium for practical reasons. The board made a key policy decision this week appointing several local coaches into leading positions. A few years ago, the trend seemed to be entrusting foreign coaches with important positions. However, taking a leaf out of Board of Control for Cricket in India, SLC has empowered local coaches. One of the main reasons for the policy change is the language barrier between foreign coaches and local players. Plus, the authorities are confident that our coaches are quite capable of shaping the players and help them develop. This certainly is a step in the right direction.

One of the brilliant moves that has been done is to bring back a proven coach like Sampath Perera. His achievements at Nondescripts Cricket Club (NCC), D.S. Senanayake College and Trinity College speaks for itself. Many are the players whom he identified and groomed. He will be joining Sri Lanka Under-19 as Batting Coach.

Joining the Emerging Team as Batting Coach is another coach with good credentials. Dhammika Sudarshana is his name. Like, Perera, Sudarshana enjoyed lot of success at Richmond College, Galle. Unlike Perera, Sudarshana joined SLC two years ago, but his role was unclear having been shifted to various teams. Eventually, he has settled in with the Emerging Team.

Both Sudarshana and Perera are quite capable of handling the Sri Lanka Under-19 team on their own but in our part of the world, we tend to believe that only who have played for the country are capable of functioning as Head Coach and those who did not play for Sri Lanka are relegated. Our authorities will do well to note that reputed international coaches like John Buchanan and Graham Ford had no international experience and in fact had played less than handful of First Class games.

We did the same mistake with another proven school coach – Harsha de Silva. When de Silva left St. Joseph’s having shaped the careers of the likes of Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Dimuth Karunaratne, Roshen Silva et al, he was expected to take charge of the Under-19 team when he joined SLC. But instead, he was given the women’s team. The authorities failed to recognise his strong point. The same mistake has been done with Perera and Sudarshana.

Avishka Fernando is another coach who has had tremendous success since joining SLC after his successful stint at SSC. In the last 24 months, his expertise has been used in various teams and eventually he has settled in with the ‘A’ team as the Head Coach. More than working as the Batting Coach of the national team, Avishka is ideal choice to build up the nation’s second string. Now that he has been given the job, it is hoped that the ‘A’ team will have regular fixtures as well both home and away in a bid to bridge the gap between domestic and international cricket.



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‘I have accomplished my job’ – Yupun on his sub 10 seconds  

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by Reemus Fernando   

Sprinter Yupun Abeykoon who became the latest member of the exclusive sub 10 seconds club in the men’s 100 metres said that he has accomplished the target he had set himself and all achievements from here on would be bonuses.

Speaking to his fans on a social media platform, the first South Asian athlete to run the men’s 100 metres under 10 seconds said that running sub 10 seconds in the athletics’ glamour event was what he was working hard on and he felt a sense of accomplishment after stopping the clock at 9.96 seconds in Switzerland on Sunday. His first sub ten seconds feat and the 10.16 seconds performance he achieved in 2020 to get the Sri Lanka record under his belt will always remain special to him.

Abeykoon smashed his own national record and became the first man from South Asia to run the men’s 100 metres under ten seconds when he clocked 9.96 seconds to win the men’s 100 metres at the Resisprint International.

It is also the fastest performance by an Asian this year overtaking the two Japanese sprinters Ryuichiro Sakai and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown who are yet to clock sub 10 seconds this year.

“I am really happy to have accomplished the target. I knew that I could do it this year. It was not a coincidence. It was a result of a three year plan with my coaches. No one can perform magic in this sport. By last year we knew that we could reach the target this year,” said Abeykoon beaming from ear to ear when he came on live on Tuesday.

“I tried to reach the target from the start of this season. I missed the opportunity on a number of occasions. I was waiting for the ideal condition.

“I do not know how you will take this. I have finished my job. From now on what I achieve, my victories will all be bonuses,” the 27-year-old said.

He said that the 10.16 seconds and 9.96 seconds will remain special to him.

He said the plan for this year was to win an Asian Games medal, reach the Commonwealth Games final and to feature in the semi-finals of the World Championships in Oregon.

The 9.96 seconds result proves that the training schedules had gone according to plan as he tops the Asian 100 metres sprinters list and is placed among the top 15 athletes in the world in his pet event.

Commenting on the photo he published recently with Yohan Blake on facebook he said that he was shocked to hear that Blake had watched and followed his races.

The Jamaican who had run 9.69 secs (-0.1 in 2012) is considered the second fastest man ever to have competed in the men’s 100 metres behind compatriot Usain Bolt.

“Generally competitors would not wish his opponents but Blake wished me for my race. He had watched some of my previous races.”

Yupun said that he would try his best to do well at future events to bring a smile to his followers.

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Spin legend Warne’s  legacy lingers long after Sri Lanka tsunami

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Shane Warne’s brother Jason greets locals at Seenigama during a visit early this week. Philanthropist Kushil Gunasekara, who runs the Foundation of Goodness is also in the picture

No foreign cricketer is likely to ever capture the hearts of Sri Lankans quite like Shane Warne did.

Yet, of all the heartfelt tributes paid to the spin great on the island he had helped to rebuild from its worst ever natural disaster, the late spin great might have been most touched by a quiet moment in the small village of Seenigama this week.

Back in early 2005 at the urging of Muttiah Muralitharan, Warne had visited the seaside community on Sri Lanka’s south coast, one of many that had been flattened by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

Among the most memorable vision captured by a 60 Minutes film crew during his visit was four-year-old Dilini Wasana kissing Warne on the cheek as he handed out food and toys.

On Monday, four months after the sudden death of the Victorian, Dilini was in the same spot where she had met Warne seventeen years ago.

This time she greeted his brother Jason, who was visiting the Foundation of Goodness; the embodiment of Shane’s contribution to the country.

“It’s been pretty emotional,” said Jason Warne, standing on a small cricket ground the Foundation built in the aftermath of the tsunami.

“We’re here because of what Shane did in 2004. It’s been great to come over here and get a sense of why he wanted to do it.

“(From) the footage that came out of Shane’s visit, there was one little girl (Dilini) who gave him a kiss on the cheek, you could see she was so happy.

“She was saying she would love to be able to say thank you one more time. To go there today and see her, was pretty special.”

The spin legend’s visit back in 2005 to Sri Lanka shone a light on the destruction to lives, homes and the Galle cricket ground where Warne had taken his 500th Test wicket less than a year earlier.

It prompted a wave of donations from Australia and his continued efforts in the ensuing years have not been forgotten.

Kushil Gunasekera, the long-time manager of Murali who runs the Foundation of Goodness, has used the proceeds to build community facilities across ten sites in rural Sri Lanka.

One of the graduates of the Foundation’s educational programs was Ramesh Mendis, born in nearby Ambalangoda and whose off-spin saw him take four wickets against Australia in last week’s first Test.

“He was the first one to come,” Gunasekera said of Shane on Monday, as he gave Jason and his wife Shay a two-hour tour of school, health, dental and sporting facilities in Seenigama.

“What Shane did when he came with 60 minutes, and because of the way he presented the case, it went all around Australia.

“And as a result Master Builders came, the Victorian Government came, and we were able to get help from so many people.”

Since his brother’s passing, Jason Warne has heard countless stories, tributes and messages of gratitude from around the world about the leg-spinner’s impact on other’s lives.

For the first Test in Galle, the ground the late Warne had helped raise $1 million for, posters with his and Murali’s faces were stationed around the ground while seven members of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning team were on hand for a commemorative plate presentation before play.

“It was hard not to notice the Warnie portraits up all around the ground,” said Mitchell Swepson, one of the few leg-spinners to play Test cricket for Australia since Warne.

“All the work he did for the Sri Lankan tsunami fund, he’s had a massive impact on this country with his cricket and off the field as well. It was great to see them pay tribute and see how much they respect the man

“I’m in no way shape or form trying to be Shane Warne, he is the best we’ve ever had … but when people ask me what I do, I tell them I bowl leg spin it’s ‘Oh, like Warnie”.

“That’s just the mark he left on the game, he’s a legend.”

Some tributes have even surprised Jason Warne, most notably the announcement from the United Nations at the MCG memorial service that a wildlife conservation grant would be named in the late cricketer’s honour.

“It’s sometimes hard to get your head around that my brother, who I used to just go up to the nets with and have a bit of fun, has left such a legacy,” said Warne.

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Sri Lanka men’s and women’s teams ready to contest FIBA Asia Tournament

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by a Special Sports Correspondent

The Sri Lanka Men’s and Women’s basketball teams took flight to Singapore on Tuesday for the FIBA Asia 3×3 Basketball tournament.

The two teams have been in preparation since April and are being coached by Ajith Kuruppu.

The men’s team has to first prove its worth against China and Tonga and one more team before qualifying for the main tournament. “It’s going to be a tough tournament, but the men’s and women’s teams have been practicing well. Our preparations were good and we want to make an impact at the tournament,” said Kuruppu. According to the Sri Lanka teams’ coach China will be a tough challenge in the men’s segment of the tournament.

“We’ve been gelling together as a team during training and the players have a good understanding when playing as a unit,” said Sri Lanka’s Mens’ Team skipper Shehan Fernando.

Sri Lanka’s women’s team has made a direct entry into the tournament. Sri Lanka Women’s team skipper Anjali Ekanayake said that the ranking of the players in the national 3×3 team is good. “These players have got much exposure playing in this format of the game. We’ve been focusing on nutrition and shooting over the past few months. Training went well for the tournament,” said Ekanayake.

Coach Kuruppu took this opportunity to thank Vaaj Fitness for sponsoring the two national teams to Singapore and for making their gym available for the players to do strength and conditioning training.

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