by Rex Clementine
Every time Sri Lankan teams go to South Africa, they ask the locals one question. ‘What happened to Marchant de Langa?’ The six foot seven inch tall quick, made his Test debut against the Sri Lankans in Durban in 2011. He took seven wickets in the first innings and his victims included Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, and Tilan Samaraweera et al. Yet, after that, he was hardly heard of. So what actually happened to de Langa? Well, he turned ‘Kolpak’ preferring County Cricket in England instead of Test cricket for his country.
Isn’t that absurd? One may wonder. The ultimate joy for any player is to represent your country. That too, after you had proven yourself in Test cricket, why do you want to return to First Class cricket? Well, the reason being, white South African cricketers get a raw deal in their country and they are seeking greener pastures in Europe or in places like Australia and New Zealand. Not just cricketers, this includes farmers, businessmen and other professionals. Australia in particular welcomes South African farmers with open arms.
For decades, the black South Africans suffered at the hands of white rulers and those terrible apartheid laws not only segregated them but deprived them of equal opportunities. The world took notice and imposed trade embargos on South Africa. Sports associations followed banning bilateral sporting ties with South Africa and in the end; they were left with Hobson’s choice but to give in for fair play.
Sadly, now white South Africans are at the receiving end due to the ‘quota system’ that is prevalent across all walks of life. When seeking employment, black South Africans get the preference, followed by coloured and those of Indian origin and the whites come last. So opportunities for them are few and rare. In sports too talent alone won’t get you there. The quota system encourages more black South African representation and as a result the whites are moving out.
In the Lanka Premier League, two South Africans share the new ball for Jaffna Stallions – Kyle Abbott and Duanne Olivier. Both were successful international cricketers before they turned Kolpak settling in England to play County Cricket.
Abbott was playing the New Year Test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town in 2017. That he had signed a Kolpak deal was a poorly kept secret and the news was out during the Test match. Cricket South Africa reacted angrily and wanted to separate. The fast bowler announced his retirement at the conclusion of the Test match. This was the second Test. So for the third game in Johannesburg, the Proteas were short of a fast bowler. They drafted in Duanne Olivier.
Olivier on debut was on the money and his pace was too much to handle for the Sri Lankans. The game was lost inside three days. Two years later when Sri Lanka returned to South Africa, Olivier along with Kagiso Rabada was South Africa’s premier bowlers. Yet, after the second Test, Olivier too turned Kolpak and South Africa lost yet another fine talent in his prime.
All South Africans who have turned Kolpak are doing a terrific job for their respective counties. Their country meanwhile is struggling to make an impact in the sport. South Africa are ranked sixth in Tests and fifth in ODIs and T-20s. Not the true reflection of their sporting greatness.
What the Kolpak ruling means is that citizens of the country who have trade agreements with the European Union countries are eligible to work as locals. Now South Africa is not part of the EU, but they have a trade agreement with EU and that qualifies their citizens. So when English counties hire South Africans, it’s not considered an overseas signing.
In the last few years with Britain exiting from the European union more South Africans turned Kolpak in order to qualify. Cricket authorities in South Africa must be hoping that now their problems will end as Kolpak deal is no longer valid once Britain exits EU. However, unless they deal with serious issues like equal opportunities to all, they are going to face more problems.
Super Rugby 2021 Aotearoa
by Rajitha Ratwatte
We are still in summer in the Southern Hemisphere and international cricket is still being played here in Aotearoa – New Zealand. However, the rugby season has started, and we are into our second week. I guess the media Moghuls have to keep getting richer and certainly we are seeing lots of great running rugby due to the drier conditions.
There are a few new rules being trialled in this largely domestic tournament. Among them the captain’s challenge, a rule that allows 10 seconds to implement and has resulted in the appointment of co-captains, one from the forwards and one from the backs. More on that later.
We saw a game between the Waikato Chiefs and Otago Highlanders played on Friday evening. Chiefs of course being captained by the All-Blacks captain himself, Sam Cane with co-captain, Brad Webber the busy half back or scrum-half as we used to call them. Webber got a run with the All Blacks in preference to the incumbent understudy T.J. Peranara, last year and gave a good account of himself. The Chiefs were also trying out a new no10 Bryn Gatland, pinched from the Highlanders. This probably means that Damian Mackenzie will start at full-back this season, something that he (Damian) may not be too happy about. Liam Squire who was recovering from hip surgery and resulting complications was also starting at no6, a welcome return for a great-hearted player.
The Highlanders were being led by veteran hooker Ash Dickson and the co-captain was Aaron Smith who incidentally didn’t start the game, with new boy Folau Fakatara being picked in the no 9 jersey. Fakatara is a highly talked-up player with a rather fancy hairstyle (reminds me of the tail of a bird of paradise!) who played well but failed to show exceptional skills. The Highlanders were playing in white jerseys and khaki shorts which may be a suggestion for our Police or Army teams back in the Pearl. They looked rather smart. The Highlanders also had Jonah Nareki who had shown so much skill last season at no11, the old number of no doubt, the person whose first name he had been given.
The Waikato Chiefs were tipped by almost everyone to win as they were at home albeit without the loud cowbells of the home team due to Covid 19 restrictions. One factor that should have tipped off any punter was that Sir John Kirwan, the well-known ex All-Black winger tipped the Chiefs to win. JK is also known to get these things horribly wrong and will find it hard to live down his prediction of an Argentine loss to the All Blacks before that historic win by the Pumas!
Things started off on cue with Sam Cane earning a penalty off a ruck within 22 seconds of the start and Damian Mackenzie slotting it with ease. The first 30 minutes or so belonged entirely to the Chiefs and they raced to a 20 – 6 lead. The Highlanders were penalized continually and had two yellow cards dished out, including one to their skipper Ash Dickson. The Chiefs made maximum use of having an extra man on the field and scored twice in quick succession during this period. The only weak link in the Chiefs seemed to be their no10 Gatlin, who consistently made mistakes and made one too many when an attempted chip kick, in the opposition 22, was smothered by the opposition, ended up in the hands of Jonah Nareki who ran the length of the field and scored a try against the run of play. This could be called the turning point of the game and even though the Chiefs still had a healthy lead 20 – 11 at half time, this resurgence of spirit combined no doubt with an expletive-laced “talking to” from their coach (his own admission) at half time saw an amazing turnaround.
The Highlanders didn’t take kickable penalties in the second half and chose to kick for touch and go for the attacking line outs. Shannon Frazelle the All-Blacks blindside flanker who had been steady in the first half was showing more fire and commitment. Five minutes into the second half the hard-tackling Chiefs center and All Black, Lennert- Brown injured his arm and had to go off. “Bird of Paradise” no 9 Fakatava wormed his way through traffic and scored a try for the Highlanders in the 49th minute and was promptly substituted by the one and only Aaron Smith! What a player to be able to bring on at this stage of the game to add weight to a great fightback. The score read 20 -18 with the Chiefs still in the lead.
From this point, it was the Jonah Nareki show! First a scything run, at the end of which he found the inspired Shannon Frazelle, who strolled over the line. They say Nareki has low hips and is hard to tackle, be that as it may, the loss due to injury of hard tackling Lennert- Brown may have also contributed as Nareki kept coming in off his wing and running through the midfield. Nareki completed a hat trick of tries and took the Highlanders to victory with the final score reading 23 – 39.
However, there was one more drama in store. The captain’s challenge or captain’s referral is a new rule that allows the captain to challenge a decision by the referee once during the game. The captain has only 10 seconds to do it in. Hence the need for co-captains in case one of the captains is detained elsewhere in the field. The Chiefs scored a try almost at full time, but the run of play had led to one of the Chiefs players going into a tackle “leading with his arm” a possible red card offense that was missed by the referee. Aaron Smith was quick to point this out to the ref and the resulting video check showed this challenge was valid. The try was disallowed, and a simple penalty awarded to the Highlanders. This was the first time this trial “rule” was invoked. It needs a few more instances to prove its worth.
The overall refereeing was good with the officials even spotting crooked throws into lineouts, which was refreshing. Usually, the referee stands to one side of the line out and misses these offenses. The commentators tried to insinuate that a large number of penalties and yellow cards awarded against the Highlanders were excessive but when the highlanders got their act together in the second half, things returned to normal. In fact, it may have been these penalties that resulted in a better second half of rugby. Jonah Nareki is a name to remember for the future! Even though the national team has a wealth of wingers, this young man can even play center and is certainly a better choice than Ricco Ioane of the Auckland Blues, who seems to be being groomed for the job and is nothing but a no 11 or 14.
Methvan wins U14 singles title
SSC Open Ranking Tennis
Number two ranked Methvan Wijemanne overcame a set defeat to beat Tharuk Marasinghe in a all-Royal final to win the Under-14 boys singles title of the SSC Open Ranking Tennis tournament in Colombo on Sunday.
Wijemanne scored 2-6, 6-2, 10-4 in the final to beat the third seed. While Wieemanne beat number five seed Sandas Usgodaraachchi in the semis, Marasinghe eliminated top ranked player Lisal Goonetilleke in a Royal-Thomian clash.
In the men’s doubles final Yasitha de Silva and Sankha Atukorale beat Thangaraja Dineshkanthan and Gayanga Weerasekara 6-3, 6-4.
Meanwhile, the semi finalists were found in the Under-18 boys’ and girls’ singles yesterday.
Anithra Dharmarathne, Ruvi Lewkebandara, Wishmi Serasinghe and Nelani Jayasuriya secured semi final places as they won their quarterfinals.
Hasal Ahangama, Matheesha Nettasinghe, Ransath Peiris and Anujaya Abeywickrama advanced to the semis in the boys category.
Under-18 girls’ quarter-finals
Anithra Dharmarathne beat Senulya Wijayawardhane 6-4, 7-6 (5)
Ruvi Lewkebandara beat Nishka Vivekanandan 6-1, 6-0
Vishmi Serasinghe beat Oneli Perera 7-6(5), 6-1
Nelani Jayasuriya beat Sethmi Sumanaweera 7-6(4), 6-3
Under-18 boys’ quarter- finals
Hasal Ahangama beat Wenuka Kithnula 6-3, 1-0 retired
Matheesha Netthasinghe beat Nisal Hemakumara 6-4, 2-6, 10-8
Ransath Peiris beat Heshika Perera 6-4, 7-5
Anujaya Abeywickrama beat Vichinthaya Nilaweera 7-6(4), 7-5 (RF)
SLC to make cricket most popular sport among girls
Cricket is by far the popular sport among boys’ schools. On the contrary, cricket doesn’t even feature among the top three popular sports among girls’ schools. While netball remains the number one sport among girls at schools, they also give preference to basketball followed by swimming and athletics. Apsari Tillakaratne, the convener of women’s cricket, is on a mission. Her plan is to make cricket the most popular sport in school. That’s one of her long term plans.
Apsari also has short term plans. The foremost of them is to pick a decent team for the upcoming ICC Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh in December.
She had her plans set in putting up a formidable outfit for the first ever Under-19 World Cup for girls, but those plans received a severe blow due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Now she goes about her business meticulously, visiting schools and encouraging interested young players.
The support she has received from District and Provincial coaches and the talent search manager of SLC has been enormous. Sri Lanka Schools’ Cricket Association and the Ministry of Education have also provided full support for her efforts.
With December in mind, there is not enough time to put through teams at schools. Instead, her plan has been to encourage individual players and direct them to coaches. District and Provincial Cricket Associations have been tremendous help as Apsari reaches out to outstations where there are many talents.
While doing all these activities, strict health guidelines have been followed as safety of players and coaches is paramount.
Apsari does keep an eye on schools and those who are in-charge of the sport at schools for the enthusiasm they show and if there is keenness, she is happy to invest on those schools as a start.
The interest for women’s cricket has grown by many folds in the last decade and these initiatives will surely help create more awareness.
The interest for cricket among girls has gone through the roof in the last ten years. Regular ICC events in both 50 overs and 20 overs being conducted are one such reason and more importantly these games are televised nowadays.
India has taken a huge lead in promoting women’s cricket given their recent good showing in global events and more girls are taking part in cricket. Sri Lankan girls like Chamari Atapattu making it to the Big Bash League and other televised franchise based events is creating interest and you will see more and more schools taking to the sport.
Cricket among girls at schools has been promoted through Big Matches but as we move forward Apsari sees the need to have regular competition for girls. Parents who are keen to see their children taking part in sports tend to channel their little ones to cricket when they see regular competitions being held.
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