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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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Colombo win Super Over thriller in LPL opener

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Colombo Kings came from behind to tie the curtain-raiser of the Lanka Premier League against Kandy Tuskers and then held onto a tensed win in the Super Over at Hambantota yesterday.

There was lot of exciting cricket and Kandy Tuskers looked to be having the game in the bag but Colombo Kings snatched victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to some brilliant all-round performance from Isuru Udana, the only Sri Lankan to get an IPL contract this year.

 Set a stiff target of 220, Colombo were well on course as Dinesh Chandimal produced a fine effort posting 80 off 46 balls. The T-20 format often requires improvisation but Chandimal’s were pure cricketing shots as he showcased that he can still excel in the shortest format of the game without slogging.

Chandimal was guilty of throwing it away though as he sliced a Naveen-ul-Haq delivery to third man where Nuwan Pradeep completed the catch.

Colombo lost Thikshila de Silva and skipper Angelo Mathews in quick succession but the presence of big hitting Andre Russell kept them in the hunt.

But Nuwan Pradeep returned for a second spell to claim two wickets including that of Russell and soon Kandy were in the driver’s seat again.

But Isuru Udana threw caution to the wind smashing 34 off 12 balls including four sixes to tie the game.

Colombo needed three to win in the last ball but Udana could only manage two sending the game to a Super Over.

Colombo managed 16 runs in the Super Over and then Udana was entrusted to defend it and he did a terrific job as Kandy could only get 11 runs.

Kandy owed it to their skipper Kusal Janith Perera, whose splendid effort gave them a competitive total of 219. KJP top scored with 87 runs off 52 balls with nine fours and four sixes.

Together with Rahmanullah Gurbaz (53), KJP gave his side a good start. Kandy’s 100 runs came in the eighth over and from thereon, they only had to bat sensibly to set a daunting target.

In the end, it all proved to be insufficient.

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Successful staging of LPL would pave the way for other sports to resume – Dr. Lal Ekanayake

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by Reemus Fernando

Dr. Lal Ekanayake, the Director General of the Institute of Sports Medicine expressed hope that Lanka Premier League (LPL) cricket tourney which was scheduled to start in the evening yesterday would be the first step towards resumption of sports in the country despite a rise in the number of Covid 19 positive cases.

“Successful staging of the LPL tournament will pave the way for other sports to resume under new normal conditions. The sports minister too is looking at the possibilities of starting other sports events after the successful conclusion of the LPL,” said Ekanayake in an interview with The Island.

“The Covid 19 is unlikely to leave us soon. Experts say that this will stay for a couple of years. In such a scenario responsibility is on us to prepare ways to resume sports,” said Ekanayake.

“Even some countries which are worst affected by the pandemic have resumed sports under new normal. Sometimes there is confusion regarding health guidelines. But if we plan properly sports can resume,” opined Ekanayake.

“Many international sports events scheduled for next year will happen as scheduled. We cannot hold back. We are going to take part in these championships. The postponed Olympics is happening later next year. So are other international events,” said Ekanayake.

Ekanayake said that his institution was looking forward to support sports associations conduct their competitions. Sri Lanka Athletics is one of the hardest hit sports and the track and field governing body has scheduled the National Championship to December after the cancellations of many top level competitions throughout the year.

Ekanayake has expressed his views on resuming track and field sports on previous occasions as well. He has cited track and field sports as a low risk sports and has the ability to resume despite the pandemic.

Sri Lanka’s sportsmen and women are scheduled to take part in a number of international events in 2021 and 2022. Resumption of local competitions including national championships is going to benefit them.

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Diego Maradona – Argentina’s flawed football icon

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Dazzling, infamous, extraordinary, genius, outrageous. Diego Maradona. A flawed football icon.

One of the game’s most gifted players, the Argentine boasted a rare combination of flair, flamboyance, vision and speed which mesmerised fans.

He also outraged supporters with his controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal and plunged into a mire of drug abuse and personal crises off the pitch.

Born 60 years ago in a Buenos Aires shanty town, Diego Armando Maradona escaped the poverty of his youth to become a football superstar considered by some to be even greater than Brazil’s Pele.

The Argentine, who scored 259 goals in 491 matches, pipped his South American rival in a poll to determine the greatest player of the 20th Century, before Fifa changed the voting rules so both players were honoured.

Maradona showed prodigious ability from a young age, leading Los Cebollitas youth team to a 136-game unbeaten streak and going on to make his international debut aged just 16 years and 120 days.

Short and stocky, at just 5ft 5in, he was not your typical athlete.

But his silky skills, agility, vision, ball control, dribbling and passing more than compensated for lack of pace and occasional weight problems.

He may have been a whizz at running rings round hostile defenders but he found it harder to dodge trouble.

Maradona’s 34 goals in 91 appearances for Argentina tell only part of the story of his rollercoaster international career.

He led his country to victory at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and a place in the final four years later.

In the quarter-final of the earlier tournament, there was a foretaste of the controversy that would later engulf his life.

The match against England already had an extra friction, with the Falklands War between the two countries having taken place only four years beforehand. That on-field edge was to become even more intense.

With 51 minutes gone and the game goalless, Maradona jumped with opposing goalkeeper Peter Shilton and scored by punching the ball into the net.

He later said the goal came thanks to “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.

Four minutes later, he scored what has been described as the ‘goal of the century’ – collecting the ball in his own half before embarking on a bewitching, mazy run that left several players trailing before he rounded Shilton to score.

“You have to say that is magnificent. There is no doubt about that goal. That was just pure football genius,” said BBC commentator Barry Davies.

England pulled one back but Argentina went through, with Maradona saying it was “much more than winning a match, it was about knocking out the English”.

Maradona broke the world transfer record twice – leaving Boca Juniors in his home country for Spanish side Barcelona for £3m in 1982 and joining Italian club Napoli two years later for £5m.

There were more than 80,000 fans in the Stadio San Paolo when he arrived by helicopter. A new hero.

He played the best club football of his career in Italy, feted by supporters as he inspired the side to their first league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the Uefa Cup in 1989.

A party to celebrate the first triumph lasted five days with hundreds of thousands on the streets, but Maradona was suffocated by the attention and expectation.

“This is a great city but I can hardly breathe. I want to be free to walk around. I’m a lad like any other,” he said.

He became inextricably linked to the Camorra crime syndicate, dragged down by a cocaine addiction and embroiled in a paternity suit.

After losing 1-0 to Germany in the final of Italia 90, a positive dope test the following year triggered a 15-month ban.

He returned and arrested his slide, appearing to get his act together to play in the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

But he alarmed viewers with a maniacal full-face goal celebration into a camera and was withdrawn midway through the tournament after he was found to have taken the banned substance ephedrin. (BBC Sport)

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