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Handicapped SLR can still be the guardian of rugby  

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SLR got the sport going after a long break for the covid pandemic and even found a sponsor to boost the domestic inter-club tournaments. 

by a Special Sports Correspondent  

Rugby in Sri Lanka is in a state of limbo at the moment with an order being carried out to suspend the registration of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) with the Ministry of Sports Youth Affairs.

There were many reports in the media regarding this move which were misleading because some of those appearing in newspapers said that the suspension was temporary. The Director General Sports of the Ministry of Sports confirmed that the suspension stands and there is nothing temporary about it.

The suspension comes at the time when the club rugby tournament was commenced with the greatest of difficulties and the SLR President Rizly Illyas did well to find a sponsor to boost the conducting of rugby activities in the country. Now the SLR must understand one thing. With the suspension, this sports body returns to the status where at one time it was not affiliated to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. That means this sports body cannot field a team to an international tournament and call it the national team. It can oversee rugby activities in the country.

Sri Lanka Rugby was earlier known as the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU). The union then had a few affiliated clubs and there were matches played between member clubs. The clubs grew in number over the years and there were over ten clubs playing Division One rugby. But some of those clubs are defunct and at present the number is eight. These eight teams are contesting a domestic inter-club league rugby tournament which is nearing an end now. The suspension imposed on the SLR in no way hinders the tournament. Rugby in Sri Lanka has grown and the SLR is represented by representatives of seven provincial unions.

Informed sources told this newspaper that the SLR’s elected body must do one thing; state clearly on its letterhead that its registration with the Ministry of Sports has been suspended. It is known that the SLR plans to conduct a knockout tournament and a seven-s-side tournament for member clubs this season after the league tournament. These too can take place under the supervision of SLR.

The main reason as stated in the newspapers for the suspension imposed is that the SLR disregarded the Sports Minister hence paving the way for the suspension. We also read in the newspapers that some provincial unions had not paid their subscriptions to the SLR, during the past two years, but had been actively involved in SLR’s AGM. It is said that these provincial unions to be readmitted to the SLR had to get the sports minister’s approval, but that protocol had not been followed. But this point is contested by rugby stalwarts who underscore that the SLR is an independent sports body and the sports ministry gets involved only when approval is needed for a national team to represent the country abroad and not in general administrative matters and disputes. Other than that if a member provincial union or a club has a dispute with SLR it can obtain redress for its grievances by seeking the assistance of the law.

We are nearing the time for the next Annual General Meeting of the SLR and it is interesting to see what the Sports Ministry plans regarding its next step. Just for the record back in 1996 the then Minister of Sports S.B Dissanayake suspended the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Federation (SLTF). Later an AGM was called by the Sports Ministry and a new set of office bearers were appointed. The founder of the SLTF fell out with the new committee. His only way out was he started promoting one of the affiliated clubs of the SLTF which is the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Association (SLTA). At present, the SLTF has close links with the ministry of sports while the SLTA works independently with no opportunity to send a national team abroad.

The competent authority which has been appointed to oversee rugby activities in the country plans to work with the administrative staff of the SLR.

A real problem will arise if the competent authority for rugby takes steps to conduct an AGM. In that event will the suspension of SLR’s registration with the Sports Ministry be lifted so that it would be fair by all parties involved in this dispute? This is the right thing to do, according to top figures in the rugby fraternity. We all know that the AGMs of all national sports bodies must be conducted before the first quarter of the year ends.

It is a known fact that the SLR’s president and the sports minister were not in a position to see eye to eye on rugby matters. Informed sources say the rugby’s big boss resented moves made by the sports minister when the latter wanted to interfere in rugby’s activities.

Rugby is at present not in a healthy position to get into disputes. It has earned a sponsor after much sweat. SLR got the sport going after a long break for the covid pandemic. The Sports Minister being a past player should have thought better and acted much wiser. Many consider the sports minister’s move to ‘block’ the SLR at this juncture as a very unreasonable and unjust act.



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Kandy, Galle, Puttalam Schools win combined schools hockey titles

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Kandy Schools ‘Blues’ and Galle Schools ‘Golds’ were declared as boys’ joint winners.

Kandy Schools ‘Blues’ and Galle Schools ‘Golds’ were declared as boys’ joint winners and Puttalam Schools were the girls’ winner at the 55th Sri Lanka Combined Schools Under 20 boys and girls Hockey Nationals held from 27th to 30th June at the Torrington Astro Turf .

The boys’ final, between Kandy and Galle ended in a one-all draw; both goals scored in the first half, Kushan Ratnasuriya scoring for Galle and the equalizer by Bhanuka Ranasinghe for Kandy.

In the play off for the third and fourth places, Colombo beat Matale 1-Nil.

In the Semi Finals – Galle beat Colombo 4/3 on penalties and Kandy beat Matale 4/3 also on penalties.

Tharusha Pallewatte from Kandy ‘Blues’ was adjudged the best player and Anushka Maduwantha from Galle ‘Golds’ was picked as the best Goal Keeper.

In the girls’ final, Puttalam Schools beat Kandy Schools by two goals to nil. Both goals were scored in the second half via Madushika Fernando and Dinuli Nihansa.

In the play-off for the third and fourth places, Matale beat Colombo ‘Reds’ 1-nil.

Puttalam Schools were the girls’ winners.

In the Semi Finals – Kandy beat Colombo, 3-nil and Puttalam beat Matale, 4-nil.

Nipuni Ishara Fernando was adjudged as the best player and Neeliya Kaushini was picked as the best Goal Keeper (both from Puttalam).

The finals & the closing ceremony was attended by Athula Jayawardhana, Director of Sports, Central Province Education Department, (Chief Guest), Deva Ellepola, Vice Patron /Mercantile Hockey Association (Guest of Honour), Shashikala Senadheera (President), Anuruddha Herath Bandara (Secretary), Chandrakanthi Karunanayake, ( Deputy President), Wasantha Kumara (Vice President), Indrawansa Herath (Vice President) – All from Sri Lanka Schools Hockey Association.

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More barriers ahead for hurdler Dharshana

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by Reemus Fernando

In the Under 20 age category, athletes of only four countries in Asia have run the men’s 400 metres hurdles under 52 seconds, this year. One of them is a Sri Lankan. Dhanuka Dharshana, who is only 18 years old, has been the hurdler to beat during the last two years in his age category in Sri Lanka. In April, the athlete trained by reputed coach Anura Bandara turned the tables on his senior counterparts to emerge the national champion in the men’s 400 metres hurdles at the Centenary National Athletics Championships.

One of the first Sri Lankan juniors to qualify for the World Junior Athletics Championships to be held in Cali, Colombia in August, Dharshana is the most consistent performer in the men’s category among the Sri Lankan juniors to qualify for the event. However, like the few junior athletes who showed potential to excel in the future in the pet event of Olympic Medalist Duncan White during the last two decades, will Dharshana find track and field not so exciting to pursue after leaving school?

“It is incumbent upon us to motivate our athletes to remain in the sport. But how can you do so when they do not get the opportunity they deserve. Participation in World Junior Championship is something that young athletes cherish. It is a huge learning opportunity for the up-and-coming athletes and will motivate them to remain in the sport,” said Dharshana’s coach Bandara.

Like Dharshana many others who reached qualifying standards for the World Junior event remain uncertain about the prospect of competing in Cali due to the financial constraints the country is currently facing though Sri Lanka Athletics has sent the names of seven out of the nine athletes who reached qualifying standards for the World event for the Sports Ministry approval and financial assistance. The Ministry has given only the approval and their participation will heavily depend on Sri Lanka Athletics’ ability to find much-needed funds for the costly trip.

Dharshana’s pet event, the 400 metres hurdles is the discipline that has won the highest number of medals for Sri Lanka at the junior Asian level during the last decade though a vast majority of the athletes who won those medals did not pursue track and field after leaving school. The most prominent female hurdler to emerge during the last one and half decades also came from Dharshana’s school, Ambagamuwa Central and was trained by Anura Bandara. Yamani Dulanjali won the first Asian Youth Championship hurdles gold medal in 2015, held the Under 20 Junior National Championship 400 m hurdles record until this year. With impressive performances as a junior, she was expected to excel at the senior level as well. Hailing from a not-so-well-to-do family she instead took up a teaching job.

Kaushalya Madushani, another 400 metres hurdler, who won junior Asian international medals, joined Sri Lanka Army, the final refuge for many a future prospect, after leaving school. She was yet to reach her full potential when she died a couple of months ago; it is alleged she took her own life.

Maris Stella College hurdler, Uditha Chandrasena, was yet another bright prospect to have excelled in the 400 metres hurdles at the junior level. He too gave up athletics after leaving school.

Although Sri Lanka has seen the emergence of hurdlers in the calibre of Dhanuka Dharshana at the junior level there had been no system to nurture them and make them stick to track and field.

Dharshana, who too is hailing from an ordinary family, has received the support of Olympian and Asian Games Gold Medalist Sugath Thilakaratne, the most famous product of his coach, Anura Bandara. He has also received the support of the school’s PTIs Indika Prasad and Amali Abeytunga and another benefactor whom he identified only as Nayana. But pursuing track and field as a senior athlete is an uphill task which requires more funding.

Ambagamuwa Central, where Dharshana learnt his ABC of athletics, has reaped the benefits of Bandara’s coaching with the school winning podium places at junior competitions every year. And, every year Bandara faces a dilemma as his trainees leaving the school have not found the right platform to launch a career in athletics.

With the junior athletes’ participation at the forthcoming World Junior Championships remaining uncertain to date, the coaches like Bandara will find it even harder to persuade athletes to remain in track and field.

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Lyon set to become second most successful off-spinner in history

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Lyon is currently among the top ten wicket takers in the world and if he takes seven wickets in Galle in the second Test starting on Friday, he will go onto become the second most successful off-spinner in the history of Test cricket.(Getty Images)

by Rex Clementine

Leg-spin legend Shane Warne retired from cricket in 2007 having achieved two key milestones; Australia had regained the Ashes and Warne had become the first man in history to take 700 wickets in Test match cricket. Since his retirement, Australia tried various spinners to fill his big shoes but with little success. Fellow leg-spinner Stuart MacGill was the natural successor to Warne, but he too threw in the towel 18 months after Warne’s retirement. Then Cricket Australia tried a host of finger spinners and some wrist spinners without much success. The wait ended in 2011 in Sri Lanka. For some reason, all good spin bowlers make their impact in our shores.

Australia arrived in Sri Lanka in 2011 with a new captain in Michael Clarke and their spin resources were untested. In fact, the team’s lead spinner was uncapped. His story was interesting. He had been a curator at Adelaide Oval and with his skill to bowl off-spin identified he was given a break in Sheffield Shield cricket. Seven months later, he was set to make his Test debut against the likes of Sangakkaras, Dilshans, Jayawardenes and Samaraweeras. That too in Galle, the Gabba of Sri Lankan cricket. There the legend of Nathan Lyon was born.

Lyon’s first ball in Test cricket was round the wicket to a left-hander. The ball pitched, turned and had bounce. The batsman was playing away from his body with an open face; the ball took the outside edge and was snapped up by Michael Clarke at slip. A wicket off first ball in Test cricket is just the dream stuff. It’s even more special when the batsman you have dismissed is Kumar Sangakkara, word’s number one ranked batsman at that point.

Lyon didn’t look back from thereon. He claimed a five wicket haul in the first innings as Australia secured a big win and went onto claim the series.

Ten years on, Lyon was quite handful again as he was the standout performer in the first Test in Galle. Sri Lanka’s spin was thin on experience and yet the hosts chose to prepare a track that would turn from day one and they ended up playing into Lyon’s hands as he finished with nine wickets.

Sri Lanka’s young spinners have much to learn from Lyon. He just figured out a length to bowl and kept pitching it there consistently and with batsmen taking too many risks with cross batted shots, it was just a matter of time before a wicket fell.

Lyon’s overall wicket tally is now 436 in 109 Tests and during the Galle game he went past several greats of the game like Kapil Dev (434), Rangana Herath (433) and Sir Richard Hadlee (431).

Lyon is currently among the top ten wicket takers in the world and if he takes seven wickets in Galle in the second Test starting on Friday, he will go onto become the second most successful off-spinner in the history of Test cricket. Muttiah Muralitharan leads the list with 800 and India’s Ravichandran Ashwin follows him as the second most successful offie with 442 wickets.

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