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India Under 19 and their development squads have been under Rahul Dravid for some time now. He’s done a terrific job nurturing the careers of some young players like Prithvi Shaw.

 

By Rex Clementine

So, the general consensus seems to be that the IPL has taken Indian cricket to different league altogether. That may be true, but let us dig deeper. Who has been in charge of Indian Under-19 team and their development squads for the last so many years? There is a certain individual called Rahul Dravid; a fine role model, a perfectionist and one of the finest brains in the sport. Can you ask for a better person than that?

Dravid’s 164 Tests is the fifth most by a cricketer. How many people who have even played 25 Test matches will have the humility to take up something like the Under-19 team. Dravid has no ego. While modern day greats will be happy to do an IPL stint or a short-term contract as a batting coach, no one would come forward to put in the hard yards with young lads where there is little glamour. Dravid has been a godsend to Indian cricket. He has been building up India’s bench strength. One of those guys who made his debut at RPS on Sunday stepped out and whacked the first ball he faced for six. You will see much more from Ishan Kishan in this series.

There is not just technical brilliance that you get with Dravid. You have got the whole package. Someone with a deep passion for the game and someone who never made headlines for wrong reasons. Look at how many young Sri Lankan players who have been so promising when they walked into the side get into trouble before they play ten Test matches. India where there is larger media scrutiny, players have stayed out of trouble and their development is truly amazing.

In our system, we have a High-Performance Center, which neither has a swimming pool nor an indoor net. These basic facilities at RPS were prioritized by Hemaka Amarasuriya when he was President of Sri Lanka Cricket in 2002. Sadly, he could not see to the completion of these as his term ended after one year. Since then, for 20 years, there have been lame excuses although Sidath Wettimuny tried to fix it in 2015. Yet again, he too had to pack his bags after just one year in office.

India’s development squads under Rahul Dravid get regular exposure both home and overseas. They frequent places like England and Australia. The bench strength is too strong. Australian had been unbeaten at the Gabba for 30 years. When India put an end to it early this year, they did virtually with their second-string side. There was no Kohli, no Ashwin and no Bumrah. Instead, T. Natarajan and Washington Sundar were making Test debuts. They had been well prepared for the challenges of the biggest stage by Dravid.

We have been repeatedly told that SLC has been unable to organize ‘A’ team cricket due to COVID. That’s understandable. But let’s go back to ten years and find out how much ‘A’ team cricket India has played and how we have played. Down the line we had a board President in 2012 who said that ‘A’ team cricket is futile as the board wasn’t making any money. With men like that heading the board, our cricket did not need any enemies.

Rubbing salt in the wound, our authorities doubled the number of First-Class teams in 2016. With 25 First Class teams competing in the domestic tournament, the level of competition has been diluted. Double hundreds and triple hundreds are all too frequent in our First-Class cricket. Did you know that Sachin Tendulkar never scored a triple hundred in First-Class cricket? Did you know that Steve Waugh did not score a triple hundred in First Class cricket. Did you know that Jacques Kallis did not score a triple hundred in First Class cricket? But Ramesh Mendis has a triple hundred in First Class cricket. So does Minod Bhanuka. Basically, that should sum up the story.

Ah yes, you may argue that with our current system we had a Pathum Nissanka making a hundred on debut and a Praveen Jayawickrama claiming 11 wickets on debut. You can keep pampering yourself. Things are going to fall apart worse than you could ever imagine.



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So near yet so far for several junior athletes

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Medhani Jayamanne (centre) wins the girls’ 100 metres. (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

by Reemus Fernando

While sprinters Isuru Kaushalya and Medhani Jayamanne further cemented their places in the team for the World Junior Championships it was a case of so near yet so far for a number of athletes who missed qualifying standards by narrow margins at the Junior Trial held at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo on Tuesday.

After going through many a hardships to continue training amidst the Covid 19 pandemic junior athletes produced some outstanding performances during the one-day competition yesterday.

St. Joseph’s College triple jumper Pasindu Malshan missed the qualifying standards after his best jump of 15.76 metres was measured with a wind reading of +3.7. The qualifying standards (QS) achieved with a tail wind of +2 are not considered eligible. He had two outstanding jumps measured at 15.76 metres (+3.7) and 15.47 metres. The qualifying standard is 15.60 metres.

Hurdlers Amesha Hettiarachchi from Kandy, M.D. Dharshana of Ambagamuwa Central and Kaveesha Bandara of Royal College, Colombo narrowly missed the qualifying mark. Amesh, despite failing to maintain the rhythm from the penultimate hurdle, returned a time of 62.66 seconds (QS: 60.75secs)

Dharshana hardly had any competition in the boys’ 400 metres hurdles and returned a time of 53.22 seconds which was a fraction of a second behind the qualifying standards (QS: 53.10). Royal hurdler Bandara was unlucky as he battled wind to return a time of 14.34 seconds in the 110 metres hurdles (QS: 14.15).

St. Peter’s College javelin thrower Ramesh Tharanga who is one of the promising throwers to have emerged from the junior circuit hurled the javelin to 68.33 metres (QS: 69.5m) which was just short of the target.

Long jumper Hirusha Hashen too narrowly missed the target as he cleared 7.31 metres (QS: 7.58 m).

Lumbini College missed a rare opportunity to field two 100 metres sprinters for the World Junior Championships when Chalith Piyumal had to run against the wind (-2.1). When Medhani Jayamanne who is also from Lumbini achieved the qualifying standards in the girls’ 100 metres, Piyumal clocked 10.78 seconds running against the wind (QS: 10.58).

 

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Kaushalya, Medhani dazzle as chance looms for mixed relay team

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by Reemus Fernando

Ananda Sastralaya Matugama sprinter Isuru Kaushalya produced one of the best performances by a junior athlete in Asia in the 400 metres this year when be bettered the World Junior Championship qualifying mark for the second time this season at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka Athletics conducted a Junior Trial yesterday to provide competition-starved junior athletes a chance to reach qualifying standards for this year’s World Under-20 Athletics Championships.

Kaushalya and sprinter Medhani Jayamanne were probably the best performers on the day as several athletes met disappointment after having come almost close to achieving qualifying standards for the World Junior Championship which will be held in three weeks time in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kaushalya, who had already achieved qualifying standard when he entered the one-day meet, clocked 46.90 seconds in the 400 metres final. His outstanding feat is the seventh fastest time this year by a junior athlete in Asia. While only seven junior athletes had clocked sub 47 seconds in Asia, Kaushalya improved his personal best clocking sub 47 seconds and now is the seventh fastest Asian over the 400 metres in his age category.

Medhani Jayamanne, who qualified for the world event in the 200 metres at the Interstate Championship in India recently, did her best to qualify in the 100 metres as well. Her efforts aided by a tail wind (of +2) stopped the clock at 11.85 seconds, the exact qualifying standard required to enter the event.

Holy Cross College, Gampaha runner Shanika Lakshani and Ratnayake Central athlete Tharushi Karunaratne are the others who had already qualified for the World Junior Championships. Having already secured her place in the team in the 800 metres, Karunaratne tried to achieve 400 metres qualifying standards as well yesterday. She fell just short of the target as she returned a time of 55.19 seconds (qualifying standard: 54.85 secs).

St. Joseph’s College triple jumper Pasindu Malshan missed the qualifying standards after his best jump of 15.76 metres had a wind reading of +3.7. There were a number of others who met similar disappointment.

Chance to field mix relay team

Sri Lanka is yet to field a mix relay team for any international event. However with strong performances in both the boys’ and girls’ 400 metres yesterday Sri Lanka Athletics has a golden opportunity to provide youngsters an opportunity to compete in the combined event in Kenya.

In the girls’ 400 metres, both Tharushi Karunaratne (55.19 secs), who has already qualified for the World Junior event in the 800 metres, and Holy Cross, Gampaha athlete Lakshima Mendis (55.29secs) both produced their personal best performances. In the corresponding boys’ event Wekada MV sprinter R.D. Bandara who finished second behind Kaushalya clocked 47.55 seconds.

With junior athletes lacking international exposure, exploring chances of fielding a mix relay team will augur well for their future.

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Second T-20 postponed after Pandya tests positive

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by Rex Clementine

Yesterday’s second T-20 International between Sri Lanka and India at RPS was postponed after Indian player Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID. The game is expected to be played today followed by the final T-20 International on Thursday depending on the PCR results of the remaining players.

During the Antigen test taken on all players yesterday afternoon, Pandya had tested positive. Accordingly, seven other players who are identified as his close contacts were isolated.

All players of the Indian team and support staff then did PCR tests and although the results were expected by 6 pm yesterday, there was no official announcement when this edition went to print. Sources said that Pandya had tested positive in his PCR test as well.

There were a few concerns as to how Pandya tested positive as all players and coaching staff are in bio-secure bubbles and outside interaction is little. Health authorities were conducting investigations.

It is not clear as to how many days Pandya’s close contacts have to remain in isolation. However, India are carrying an extended squad and fielding a decent team should not be a worry.

This is the second instance the series has been postponed due to the pandemic. Earlier, after Sri Lanka Batting Coach Grant Flower tested positive, all Sri Lankan players were isolated and the series was pushed back by several days.

The Sri Lankan team was informed about the series being pushed back when they gathered for the team meeting at the hotel at 3pm. The Sri Lankans are staying at Cinnamon Grand while the Indians are at Taj Samudra. Both teams were supposed to stay at Taj but the Sri Lankans were evacuated after Flower tested positive.

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