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Has Education Ministry forgotten value of sports?



The Ministry of Education has suspended all sports competitions. If the Junior Nationals is not held hundreds of junior athletes who have endured unprecedented challenges in continuing the sport this year are likely to be without a single competition.

by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Athletics is in two minds with regard to conducting the Junior National Athletics Championship as the number of Covid 19 positive cases has increased dramatically during the last few days. If it is held, the major junior event which was scheduled for November will be the only track and field event to be conducted for junior athletes this year. If it is not, hundreds of junior athletes who have endured unprecedented challenges in continuing the sport this year are likely to be without a single competition.

Palitha Fernando, the President of Sri Lanka Athletics told The Island: “It is too early to say whether we are going ahead with the Junior Nationals or not. The increasing number of covid 19 positive cases has ruined the prospect of conducting competitions. We will soon have to take a decision.”

Sri Lanka Athletics last week postponed the National Trials scheduled for this month, citing health concerns and kept postponing the decision to conduct the Junior National Championship and the National Championship.

A decision by the Ministry of Education to cancel all school competitions to be conducted by them for this year in the wake of the Covid -19 pandemic has already dealt a severe blow to the sport. However, it had granted permission for some schools sports associations to conduct their annual events, adhering to health guidelines. That was some respite for young track and field athletes who continued training in the belief that they would be able to compete in the Sir John Tarbat Athletics Championship conducted by the Sri Lanka Schools Athletics Association and the Junior Nationals conducted by Sri Lanka Athletics.

But last week, the Ministry of Education withdrew approval putting in jeopardy all sports competitions involving school athletes, although it went ahead with the Scholarship and A/L exams.

Like the A/L exam, which is vital for students pursuing higher education and entering the job market, competitions are vital for hundreds of school athletes in the higher age category.

“Competitions and rewards for victory are the stimulants that help athletes keep interested in the sport. When you don’t have competitions you can’t also expect performances to improve,” says a prominent coach who thinks that the impact of the pandemic will not be immediately felt.

Many who are in the Under-20 age category will miss their final competition as school athletes due to the current situation. Athletes’ achievements at national level earn them vital points for University admission.

Although many leading junior athletes are still training in the hope of competing, the track and field sport is in the danger of losing a strong second string in this pandemic.

“If you can’t conduct events with mass participation then you should look for some alternatives,” said the coach.

Sri Lanka Athletics decided to conduct a time trial for top athletes instead of the national trial during the same period they were scheduled to conduct the latter. Similarly, some form of competition should be make available for the junior athletes who trained hard this year.

Competitions are the exams that put to test the athletes’ speed, strength, power and endurance and determine how well they control their emotions in improving their performances in their respective disciplines. Athletes and coaches spend hours developing these skills and need competitions to test how successful their programmes have been. The absence of competitions will deny them that opportunity.

Global sports organisers are preparing to go ahead with the competitions planed for the year 2021 despite the prevalence of the virus. The International Olympic Committee is going ahead with the Tokyo Olympics. There are a number of junior and youth international events taking place in 2021. The World Governing bodies of sports are conducting these events in some countries worst hit by the pandemic.

According to health experts Covid 19 pandemic will not be over soon. Physical health, they say, is the key to survival during a pandemic. Certainly you can’t risk the health of young athletes, but local sports authorities including the Ministry of Education should explore the ways and means of overcoming this hurdle and providing competition opportunities. If there is no health risk in conducting exams in closed environs how will it be risky to conduct non-contact sports events like track and field sports outdoors? Health Authorities have not restricted or banned competitions. Sports activities can be continued with 50% of participation adhering to guidelines.

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Will Smeed hits the Hundred’s first hundred to get Birmingham Phoenix off the mark



Will Smeed hit the first hundred in the Hundred as Birmingham Phoenix thrashed reigning champions Southern Brave by 53 runs in a sun-soaked Second City.On NHS Heroes Night at Edgbaston, with NHS workers and support staff invited along as a thank you for their brilliant work, a 14,000 crowd was royally entertained as Smeed socked an unbeaten 101 off 50 balls to lift his side to 176 for 4.Brave replied with a paltry 123 all out as Henry Brookes enjoyed a dream debut on the ground he has always called home. The Edgbaston product took 5 for 25 and two excellent catches in the outfield as Phoenix banked their first victory of the campaign and handed James Vince’s side their first defeat in nine matches.

After Phoenix were put in, they leaned heavily on Smeed after Chris Benjamin, promoted to open, and Moeen Ali each raced to 17 but then perished. Benjamin sent up a skier off Marcus Stoinis before Moeen, having lifted George Garton deep into the crowd at midwicket, chopped James Fuller’s first ball on to his stumps.Smeed galloped to a 25-ball half-century, reached with six over long off off Jake Lintott in a stand of 80 in 44 balls with Liam Livingstone. Livingstone was the top six-hitter in last year’s Hundred, but this time never really hit his stride, scoring just two from his first seven balls and 21 from 20 before lifting Lintott to extra cover.

Into the last ten balls, the big question was whether Smeed could complete his first professional hundred. He needed five runs from the last three, and a four and a two took him to the landmark from 49 balls.Phoenix set about defending their total with an increasingly depleted seam attack, Adam Milne (Achilles) having joined Matt Fisher, Chris Woakes and Olly Stone on the absentee list. But Kane Richardson soon stepped up, bowling Vince with his first ball after the Brave captain had smote Moeen for 16 in three balls in the first set.

Richardson conceded just a single from his first five balls and Phoenix struck again when Stoinis was brilliantly caught by Brookes at short fine leg off Tom Helm.Brookes followed that up in sensational style by striking with his second, tenth, 13th, 15th and 17th balls. Quinton de Kock sent back a return catch, Tim David lifted to deep square leg, Alex Davies was bowled through an attempted scoop and Fuller and Garton were pinned lbw. Who needs Milne, Fisher, Woakes and Stone?

Brookes hadn’t quite finished. At 108 for 7, Brave’s one sliver of remaining hope lay in some pyrotechnics from the big-hitting Ross Whiteley, but when he hoiked Benny Howell to long leg who was waiting underneath the ball? Brookes made no mistake and Phoenix closed out a victory which owed everything to the precocious talent of two young Englishmen.Birmingham Phoenix 176 for 4 (Will Smeed 101*) beat Southern Brave 123 (Alex Davies 33, Henry Brookes 5-25, Kane Richardson 3-19) by 53 runs

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Niroshan Dickwella stars in Greens 8-run win over Reds



Opening batsman Niroshan Dickwella hammered an unbeaten 76 off 56 balls packed with 8 boundaries as Team Greens defeated Team Reds by 8 runs to register back to back wins in the SLC Skyexchange Invitational T20 League 2022 at the R. Premadasa International Stadium yesterday. Batting first the Greens ran up 161 for 6 off 20 overs with Dickwella dominating the innings. Skipper Dasun Shanaka struck 21 off 12 hitting 3 boundaries before getting run out followed by Dhananjaya de Silva 19 off 12 with 3 boundaries and Ramesh Mendis 11 off 8 (1×4).

The Reds did make a match out of it making 153 for 5 but lacked the final charge to make it despite having enough wickets in hand. Bhanuka Rajapaksa top scored with 34 off 28 with 2 boundaries while skipper Kusal Mendis made 30 off 28 with 3 boundaries and Kamindu Mendis 24 off 22 hitting a six.Upfront opening batsman Lasith Croospulle struck 31 off 24 inclusive of 3 boundaries for the Reds. Dickwella was adjudged Player of the Match.


Team Greens 161/6 (20 Overs) (Niroshan Dickwella n.o. 76, Dasun Shanaka 21, Dhananjaya de Silva 19,.Dinesh Chandimal 15, Ramesh Mendis 11, Asitha Fernando 2/32, Sahan Arachchige 1/13, Matheesha Pathirana 1/25, Wanindu Hasaranga 1/30).

Team Reds

153/5 (20 Overs) (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 34, Lasith Croospulle 31, Kusal Mendis 30, Kamindu Mendis 24, Sahan Arachchige n.o. 19, Ramesh Mendis 1/22, Nimesh Vimukthi 1/23, Nuwan Thushara 1/32, Dhananjaya Lakshan 1/39).


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New Zealand juggernaut rolls on with another all-round win



Odean Smith’s all-round show went in vain as West Indies’ batting once again did not manage to come to the party. Chasing 186, West Indies fell 13 runs short in the opening T20I in Jamaica as New Zealand’s juggernaut rolled on.

New Zealand had their returning skipper Kane Williamson put up a solid 47 off 33, and with Devon Conway’s 29-ball 43, the pair gave New Zealand a solid foundation to pile on the runs. There was a rain interruption in the 12th over for almost two hours, and although New Zealand lost momentum, briefly then, they recovered pretty quickly. Glenn Phillips and Daryl Mitchell got starts but couldn’t convert them. It was, however, Jimmy Neesham’s 15-ball 33 in the end that propelled New Zealand towards the finish they wanted. Odean Smith finished with a career-best 3-32, striking at vital junctures to dismiss New Zealand’s top three; else the West Indies could’ve been chasing a lot more.

Tim Southee struck in the second over to dismiss Kyle Mayers, but West Indies would take heart from Shamarh Brooks’s fighting 42 off 43 while wickets fell at the other end as all of New Zealand’s bowlers cashed in. West Indies were reduced to 114/7 with the inevitable end drawing closer, but resistance came, albeit late, of 50 off 23 balls from the eighth-wicket stand Smith and Romario Shepherd.

Smith smashed four boundaries and a six in his unbeaten 27 off 12, while Shepherd struck three sixes and a four in his 31 not out off 16 balls. New Zealand’s spinners shone through once again on a wicket that assisted them, returning four wickets. Santner was the pick with 3-19 in his four leading New Zealand’s defence, making the most of the knowledge gained from his CPL experience.

Brief scores:New Zealand 185/5 in 20 overs (Kane Williamson 47, Devon Conway 43; Odean Smith 3-32) beat West Indies 172/7 in 20 overs (Shamarh Brooks 42; Mitchell Santner 3-19) by 13 runs.


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