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G. Brant Little – Advancement of University Sport

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by Fl. Lt Walter. J. May

1948 holds a special place in the history of sport in Sri Lanka due to the outstanding performance of Duncan White at the London Olympics. Earlier that year, G. Brant Little arrived in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), contracted by the Ceylon Amateur Athletics Association (AAA) to coach the Island’s first Olympic team.

Little’s own sporting background was primarily in athletics having represented Canada in the 800 meters at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. He later won a scholarship to Notre Dame University in USA where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education.

After his Olympic mission was completed, Little was appointed as the inaugural Director of Physical Education at the University of Ceylon in 1948. This move hinted as a recognition by the University authorities, particularly the Vice-Chancellor at the time Sir Ivor Jennings, that academic excellence needed to be complemented by participation and success in the field of sport. Sir Ivor also was instrumental in affiliating the University of Ceylon to the All India Inter University Board. This initiative opened the way for sports teams from our University to participate in the annual Inter University competitions conducted by the sporting arm of the Board.

Little’s first major undertaking was the staging of the dual athletic meet between the Universities of Madras and Ceylon. Success in this and later championships was made possible by a very talented group of athletes. The group included athletes of the caliber of John de Saram, Oscar Wijesinghe, Upali Amerasinghe, M.A. Akbar, Lakshman Kadirgamar, T.L. Blaze, D.C. Ariyanayagam and Walter. J. May. In a sequence of years 1949 stands out as the peak year due to two excellent performances. The first was the lowering of all three All Ceylon Relay records on one day (15.10.49) by teams anchored by John de Saram and Oscar Wijesinghe. The other was a resounding win in the All India Inter University Athletic Championships held in Colombo on the 26th and 27th December 1949. The margin of victory was 58 points which in itself was a record. In addition, four new records were established by the Ceylon University athletes. The smooth functioning of the Championships was a testimony to Little’s organizational skills and the runway win a reflection of his coaching ability.

The opening of the Peradeniya Campus in 1952 provided Little with the opportunity and scope to make his most valuable contribution to the advancement of University sport. On his initiative multi-purpose sports complex was built incorporating a cinder track for athletics, tennis, a cricket bowl, rugger and soccer field and a Gymnasium. The Gymnasium was a magnificent building, constructed from the shell of an aircraft hangar – a legacy of World War II. Little used his connections with the Canadian High Commission to secure the hangar. With a floor area of 34m by 71 m it could anytime accommodate one or more court for tennis, basket ball, volleyball, netball, badminton, table tennis and an area for wrestling and weightlifting. It was completed in 1956 and was adjudged by sports professionals to be decades ahead of time.

These sports facilities were put into immediate use with the University staging (for the second time) the All India Inter University Athletic Meet and Boxing Meet in December 1953. Twenty Universities participated in these Games. In athletics, the University of Ceylon maintained its high reputation being runner-up to Punjab University by a mere four points. It won the Boxing Championships decisively.

During Little’s tenure, the groundwork was completed and the pattern was set for the University to participate in All India Inter University tournaments. Teams from most sports thereafter regularly competed in these contests with invariably, encouraging results.

Central to Little’s success on and off the field was his easygoing manner, ability to motivate and organizational skills. At the outset, his outgoing friendly approach to all and sundry required some adjustment on the part of those used to the more traditional reserved British attitude to personal contact. However, it did help to break down barriers by easing the lines of communication and open many doors as was evidence for instance in the special treatment the University received in the Inter University contests at Bangalore and Allahabad.

To many sportsmen and others motivation was his forte. His motivational techniques were many and varied and extended to other sports besides. He was a great supporter of the award of colours and colours nights. For a time, he produced a regular newsletter or column for the newspapers entitled “Varsity Spotlight” which reviewed the main sporting activities at the University for the period and highlighted both team and individual excellence. This not only served as an incentive for enhanced performances but also raised the profile of the University Sport. He also provided support for university sportsmen by attendance at games/events regardless of his familiarity with the sport. He is said to have attended cricket matches resplendent in the University blazer and tie despite his closest acquaintance with a similar ball game being baseball.

There is little need to elaborate on his organizing skills and initiative. The number of sporting activities that he initiated and successfully carried out attest to his capabilities in this regard. His master plan for Peradeniya also called for management and organizing ability of a very high order to bring it to fruition. He was no stranger to innovation and was the first to introduce the concept of the Relay Carnival to Sri Lanka. The first contest of this type was the Inter Hall Relay Carnival in Peradeniya in 1955. The Public Schools Athletic Association adopted this concept a decade later.

The foregoing confirms the invaluable contribution Little made to University sport. His vision and organizing ability was largely responsible for the excellent facilities provided for every sport. In addition, he raised the profile of sport at the University and made it an integral part of University life. There will be a general consensus that University sport made unprecedented and giant strides forward due to his endeavors.

The following observations by a fellow professional (though of later vintage) constitute the most appropriate summing up of Little. He designed a 50 year ahead of its time. A most genial person and a very good motivator. He was an organizer “par excellence.”

-Walter May was the Captain of Athletics of the University of Ceylon in 1971-72.



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Thewin, Pawan help Trinity as Gishan bags eight wickets  

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Under-19 cricket

by Reemus Fernando

 A laboured 44 runs by Thewin Amarasinghe in the first innings and an unbeaten 76 by Pawan Pathiraja helped Trinity avert defeat in the traditional Under-19 cricket encounter dominated by Royal at Reid Avenue on Friday. 

Royal declared their innings on the overnight score of 403 for two and spinner Gishan Balasooriya picked up five wickets to rattle the Trinity batting line up.  A painstaking 44 runs by Thewin Amarasinghe (in 155 balls) was the only highlight in Trinity’s first innings. 

Following on Pawan Pathiraja scored an unbeaten 76 (in 105 balls, 11x4s) as they reached 115 for six wickets when bad light forced an early end.  

Balasooriya was the pick of the bowlers as he collected a match bag of eight wickets. 

The match will be remebered for the record breaking partnership between Royal captain Ahan Wickramasinghe (210n.o.) and Sadeesha Rajapaksha (152n.o.). They broke the Royal record for the highest partnership held by Sumithra Waranakulasuriya and Ajith Dewasurendra when they put on an unbroken 362 runs stand for the third wicket against Trinity in 1981 which was won by Royal by an innings and 62 runs.   

Scores: 

Royal 403 for 2 in 98 overs

(Ahan Wickramasinghe 210n.o.,  Ashen Gamage 22, Sadeesha Rajapaksha 152n.o.)  

Trinity 133 all out in 62.3 overs

(Thewin Amarasinghe 44, Matheesha Pathirana 16, Ranuda Somaratne 16; Gishan Balasooriya 5/41, Kavindu Pathirathna 2/18) and 115 for 6 in 32 overs (Pawan Pathiraja 76n.o.; Prashan Kalhara 2/29, Gishan Balasooriya 3/44) 

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Dhananjaya returns for West Indies Tests  

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By Rex Clementine

Stylish Dhananjaya de Silva’s calm presence in the middle order had brought so much assurance to the Sri Lankan batting in recent times but he has been out of cricket for almost three months now after pulling a thigh muscle during the Boxing Day Test against South Africa at Centurion. De Silva was cruising on 79 when he attempted a run and pulled the muscle ruling him out of the series and the subsequent home Tests against England. His absence resulted in Sri Lanka struggling to balance the side.

The 29-year-old has been named in the 17 member squad that also includes Lahiru Thirimanne, who tested positive for COVID-19. Roshen Silva, Vishwa Fernando and Lasith Embuldeniya also have been named in the Test squad. All five players will fly to Antigua on Sunday via Doha and New York.

The selectors were contemplating of retaining an 18th player for the two match series. Lahiru Kumara had been named in the squad but he had to be withdrawn after testing positive for COVID. Sources said that either Nuwan Pradeep or Dilshan Maudhsanka could be retained as the additional player. However, no final decision had been made yet.

The players will have to go through 72 hours of quarantine in Antigua before being allowed to resume training.

All-rounder Dasun Shanaka will also travel to the Caribbean on Sunday but he will be taking an entirely different route – literally four flights. He will travel to Dubai from Colombo and will get connecting flights to Paris and St. Martin before reaching Antigua.

Shanaka was unable to get a US visa in time and was not able to be present in Antigua to lead the side. The all-rounder had lost his passport containing a valid US visa and the US High Commission in Colombo was investigating whether his previous visa had been used by someone else.

Sri Lanka will play three ODIs in Antigua prior to the two match Test series. All five games will be played at Sir Viv Richards Stadium. The T-20 series is being played at Alan Stanford Stadium, named after the Antiguan businessman who is currently serving a 110 year jail term in the United States for financial fraud.

Sri Lanka squad for West Indies Tests:

Dimuth Karunaratne (Captain), Niroshan Dickwella,  Angelo Mathews, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dinesh Chandimal, Dasun Shanaka, Dushmantha Chameera, Asitha Fernando, Ramesh Mendis, Pathum Nissanka, Oshada Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Lasith Embuldeniya, Vishwa Fernando, Roshen Silva and Suranga Lakmal.

 

 

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Arushi going from strength to strength to clinch U14 title

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Arushi Thomas receives her trophy from Nishan Gunasekara, Honorary Chairman SSC Tennis House Committee while runner up Dulkini Ranasinghe and Manoj Lakmal, Assistant Referee look on. (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

 

SSC Open Ranking Tennis

by Reemus Fernando

Newstead Girls School, Negombo player Arushi Thomas toppled top seeds and top ranked players on her way to clinch the Under-14 girls’ singles title at the SSC Open Ranking Tennis tournament in Colombo on Friday.

Thomas beat Dulkini Ranasinghe 6-2, 6-2 to win the title after ousting top seeds in the last two stages.

In the quarter-finals, Thomas beat top seed and number two ranked Under 14 player Melasha Randini 7-5, 6-4 before scoring a hard fought 6-7, 7-5, 10-6 to edge out Onali de Silva in the semis.

Thomas commenced the year reaching the last 16 at the Tennis Nationals (Under-14 tournament) in January and improved to reach the semi-finals at last month’s Colombo Championships where she was eliminated by Dinara de Silva.

Meanwhile, top ranked Under-14 player Lisal Goonethlleke ensured a Royal-Thomian clash in the semi-finals when he beat Aweesh Ganegoda 6-3, 6-3 in the quarter-final. The S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia player is set to meet Tharuk Marasinghe of Royal College. The third seed Marasinghe beat Senuk Herat 6-3, 2-6, 10-6 for his semi final place.

Sandas Usgodaarachchi beat fourth seed Dhanushka Dias in his match to meet number two ranked Methwan Wijemanne in the semi-final. Wijemanne advanced to the semi finals on Thursday when he beat Janava de Saram.

 

Results

Under-14 girls singles final

Arushi Thomas beat Dulkini Ranasinghe 6-2, 6-2

Under-14 boys singles quarter-finals

Methvan Wijemanne beat Janava de Saram 6-3, 6-4,

Tharuk Marasinghe beat Senuk Herat 6-3, 2-6, 10-6

Lisal Goonetilleke beat Aweesh Ganegoda 6-3, 6-3

Sandas Usgodaarachchi beat Dhanushka Dias 6-2, 6-3

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