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Former Under-19 coach Roger Wijesuriya calls for two junior coaches

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Roger Wijesuriya coached the Under-19 team for the 2008 and 2016 Youth World Cups.

by Reemus Fernando

Former Sri Lanka cricketer and ex national Under-19 coach Roger Wijesuriya believes that a long term training plan, with two coaches looking after the Under-19 and Under-17 squads right throughout will be the key to success at ICC Youth World Cup.

Sri Lanka is the only Test playing nation in the South Asian region, apart from Afghanistan to have not won the coveted global youth title since the tournament was introduced in 1988. The closest the country came to the title was when they reached the final against India in Colombo in 2000.

The country was eliminated from the first round at the Youth World Cup held early this year. In the first round they suffered defeats against India and New Zealand. Their only win was against minnows Japan. They reached the Plate final scoring wins against Scotland and Nigeria but were defeated by England in the final. The country does not have an Under-19 national coach at the moment and there had been no training nor had there been an Under-19 squad selected this year.

“There is a tendency to rest for months after the ICC Youth World Cup. That will not help. Only a long term plan can. We should have two coaches for the Youth teams. We must have an Under-19 coach who will solely concentrate on preparing the squad for two years for the World Cup. We must also have an Under-17 national coach who will groom a larger squad with probable players, targeting the next World Cup,” said Wijesuriya in an interview with The Island. Roger Wijesuriya was with Sri Lanka Cricket as a coach for ten years and was the Under-19 coach for two Youth World Cups in 2008 and 2016. Sri Lanka Youth team reached the semi final in 2016.

“Teams for the youth squads can be selected after the Provincial tournament. Even at Under-15 level, Provincial squads can be selected and be trained by specialist coaches. Sri Lanka has enough qualified coaches who can be specialist bowling, fielding and batting coaches at these centres. There is an ongoing Sri Lanka Cricket pilot project in the Central Province. That should be introduced at other places,” said the veteran coach.

Wijesuriya said that the players selected in the Under-19 national pool should be allowed to play for their schools during the first year but should continue with the national coach during the last eight months before the World Cup.

He also pointed out the importance of exposing the Under-19 players to tough competitions. “The Under-19 team should play in the SLC’s Under-23 tournament and Mercantile ‘A’ and ‘B’ Division tournaments. It will be beneficial for them to play in the Premier Limited-Over Club tournament as well. Playing against the Emerging team, is another option. In between, they will also get five to six foreign tours. When it is difficult to get tours against youth national teams there are other options. Even playing against regional teams in India, country teams in England or Australia will definitely benefit the Sri Lanka Under-19 team.”

“For players to get accustomed to playing long innings the Under-15 and Under-17 players should compete in the innings format in matches of two to three day duration.”

Wijesuriya also emphasised on the importance of the continuity of the coaching programmes even after the Under-19 level.

“The training process should continue even after the Under-19 World Cup. Those who are doing well should be promoted to the Emerging squad where they get the opportunity to reach the next level.”

Wijesuriya said that blaming the schools structure was of no use. It’s time to take the baton from the schools and continue the journey.



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Dilshi stamps her class with national record

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Shanika qualifies for World Junior Championships

by Reemus Fernando

Former Ratnayake Central Walala athlete Dilshi Kumarasinghe stamped her class with a new Sri Lanka record performance in the 800 metres while emerging 800 metres runner Shanika Lakshani reached qualifying standards for the World Under 20 Championships and sprinter Mohamed Safan broke shackles to win the 200 metres as the first Selection Trial produced its best on the final day at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.

Kumarasinghe who registered her maiden 400 metres triumph at national level on Wednesday bagged the 800 metres win as well in style on Friday when she clocked the fastest time for the distance by a Sri Lankan in history. Her time of two minutes and 2.55 seconds erased the four year-old national record held by experienced Gayanthika Abeyratne who finished third(3rd 2:03.64 secs) yesterday. Asia’s third ranked 800 metres runner Nimali Liyanarachchi was placed second in a time of 2:03.15 seconds. Former record holder Abeyratne is ranked fifth in Asia.

The 21-year-old athlete trained by Susantha Fernando maintained a steady pace right throughout to win the event for the second time within months. She won her first 800 meters title at senior level at the last National Championships in December. “I am happy to have broken the record. We planned for the record but I am not satisfied with the time,” Kumarasinghe told The Island. Her coach Fernando expressed similar sentiments. “We were planning to produced a far better timing as she has the potential to reach international level,” said Fernando.

Kumarasinghe who is currently ranked sixth in Asia behind local counterparts Liyanarachchi and Aberatne is set to improve her ranking when the World Athletics update statistics next week.

Holy Cross College, Gampaha athlete Shanika Lakshani became the second junior runner at this championships to earn qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next August. Her coach Madura Perera said that it was a huge relief to witness his trainee accomplish the target after missing it by a whisker at the National Championships in December. Lakshani, running alongside the veterans clocked 2:07.02 seconds (Qualifying mark: 2:08.70 seconds).

On Wednesday Isuru Kawshalya Abewardana of Ananda Sastralaya Matugama reached qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship when he returned a time of 47.24 seconds in the Junior Men’s 400 metres final.

In the men’s 200 metres, Mohamed Safan turned tables on National Champion Kalinga Kumarage as both clocked sub 21 seconds, a rarity at local athletics. Safan was playing second fiddle to Kumarage at the last National Championships where he clocked 21.41 seconds. Yesterday Safan returned a time of 20.81 seconds, while Kumarage clocked 20.85 seconds.

In the women’s 200 metres, Nadeesha Ramanayake was the winner. She clocked 24.28 seconds.

The men’s 800 metres, conspicuous by the absence of national record holder Indunil Herath, was won by the Asian Championship participant Rusiru Chathuranga, who clocked 1:49.82 seconds.

Herath was not the only leading athlete who was absent at the First Selection Trial which was organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to provide much needed competition opportunity to top athletes vying to reach Olympic qualifying standards.

The next track and field competition for top athletes will be the next month’s National Championship.

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COPE; a toothless tiger?

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by Rex Clementine

Parliamentary watchdog COPE – Committee on Public Enterprises has made a scathing attack on some of the corrupt practices at Sri Lanka Cricket. COPE Chief, Professor Charith Herath has gone onto claim that by fighting out certain legal battles and writing off money that companies and member club owed SLC, insiders may have been receiving kickbacks. This is a very serious allegation by the  legislature.

Professor Herath wants legal action taken against SLC officials. It remains to be seen whether any culprits can be hauled up before courts or whether COPE is just a toothless tiger.

In the absence of SLC bigwigs, CEO Ashley de Silva bore the brunt of the criticism. In January this year, in these pages we wrote that Ashley’s time was up. While there are many questions about his efficiency and decision making abilities, it can be safely said that Ashley is no crook. The real crooks are hiding behind the CEO.

There have been some decent men as well at SLC like Mohan de Silva, who was President in 2004. De Silva had warned his colleagues that their excesses could tarnish the reputation of the institution, but his concerns fell on deaf ears.

Not only the guardians of SLC but even those who let them enter into these corrupt deals need to be probed. While most of these allegations will take time to prove, certain things can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. For example fixing a domestic match in 2017 by some prominent members of SLC.

However, four successive Sports Ministers – Dayasiri Jayasekara, Faizer Mustapaha, Harin Fernando and Namal Rajapaksa – failed to take action. All four turned a blind eye despite having overwhelming evidence in front of them. Ravin Wickramaratne, the number one suspect, went places in cricket circles. He is now SLC’s alternate ICC Director.

At a time when the game has been so badly managed, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s decision to backdate a gazette notification extending the term of SLC’s Executive Committee has not gone down well with many. Rather than giving a clean bill of health to SLC hierarchy, he should have perhaps taken the bad eggs out.

The ball is back on Namal’s court. It is his Ministry that has to now decide which deals need to be proved and against which officials’ action needs to be taken in courts of law.  From the start, Namal has treated SLC hierarchy with kids’ gloves. Now that their deficiencies have been exposed well and truly, he needs to watch his steps. If he continues to play politics with cricket governance, his popularity is going to wane, fast.

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Saha wins U12 boys’ singles title  

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Saha Kapilasena beat Sasen Premaratne to win the Under-12 boys’ singles title of the Clay Court Nationals conducted at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday. 

Kapilasena scored 6-3, 6-1 to win the title. Kapikasena ousted third seed Aahil Kaleel in the semi-final, Premaratne eliminated number one seed Methika Wickramasinghe in the semi-final. 

In the mixed doubles final Anika Seneviratne and Thangaraja Dineshkanthan were the winners as they beat Sanka Athukorale and Neyara Weerawansa 7-5, 6-4. 

Sanka Athukorale and Yasita de Silva beat Rajeev Rajapakse and Renouk Wijemanne 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the men’s doubles title.  

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