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Has Education Ministry forgotten value of sports?

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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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Rainy Florida awaits confident USA and demoralised Ireland

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Aaron Jones captained USA in Monank Patel's absence against India [ICC]

Florida is in the midst of a tropical disturbance  that has brought intense rainfall. And there’s no respite for the remainder of the week. A flash-flood emergency in the region threatens to wash out the entire leg of matches at Central Broward Park.

Two days ago, Nepal vs Sri Lanka was washed out before there could be a toss. Friday’s morning fixture between USA and Ireland will likely meet the same fate. If that happens, USA can celebrate; a Super Eight berth will be theirs along with India from Group A. It will mean a dagger through Pakistani hearts; it will seem inevitable after they opened their campaign with back-to-back losses to USA and India.

Saurabh Netravalkar may need to change the date of his out of office email from June 17 until possibly the end of the month. It’s likely he won’t need to tell his employers why. The cricketing world watched his opening salvo with the new ball as he famously dismissed Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in successive overs on Wednesday morning.

Ireland are entering this game with slim hopes of qualifying. Having begun the tournament with two morale-shattering losses themselves, including one to Canada, they need to win both their remaining games by considerable margins.

But instead of plotting and planning, they will likely be scouring weather forecasts, and that may not change anything. It’s that bleak.

Monank Patel missed Thursday’s match against India due to a shoulder niggle. The USA captain has been in good form too; his half-century was pivotal in their taking the game against Pakistaan into a Super Over. In the lead-up to the T20 World Cup, he struck two match-winning half-centuries against Canada, while a cruicial 42 helped steer USA home against Bangladesh. While the team management is optimistic of him being ready for Friday, the rain may just come as a blessing in disguise to give him two extra days to recover in time for the Super Eight.

He can make heads turn with his robust approach in the powerplay, but Paul Stirling has endured a lean run lately, dismissed for 2 and 9 in Ireland’s first two games. His highest score in seven T20Is since the start of May is 36 against Netherlands. Ireland will need much more than that if they are to compete. Stirling has been a part of several giant-killing acts during the course of his career. Can he come up with another to keep the group alive, if rain allows play?

Monank is likely to come in for Shayan Jahangir for the hosts.

USA possible XI: Monank Patel (capt & wk),  Steven Taylor,  Andries Gous,  Aaron Jones,  Nitish Kumar,  Corey Anderson, Harmeet Singh, Jasdeep Singh,  Saurabh Netravalkar,  Ali Khan,  Nosthush Kenjige/Shadley van Schalkwyk.

Conditions will probably dictate who among Ben White, the legspinner, or Craig Young, the fast bowler, play.

Ireland possible XI:  Paul Stirling (capt),  Andrew Balbirnie,  Lorcan Tucker (wk),  Harry Tector,  Curtis Campher,  George Dockrell,  Gareth Delany,  Mark Adair,  Barry McCarthy,  Josh Little,  Craig Young.

[Cricinfo]

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Afghanistan storm into Super Eight; New Zealand knocked out

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Fazalhaq Farooqi was named the Player of the Match for his 3 for 16 [ICC]

Afghanistan booked their place in Super Eight, thereby knocking New Zealand out of men’s T20 World Cup 2024 after a seven-wicket win over PNG in Tarouba.

Their win was set up by new-ball spells from fast bowlers Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen-ul Haq that saw PNG lose five wickets inside the powerplay. A total of four run-outs did not help PNG’s cause either as they were dismissed for 95.

Afghanistan romped home with 29 balls to spare with Gulbadin Naib staying unbeaten on 49. The result meant that for the first time since 2014, New Zealand bowed out before the semi-final stage of a men’s World Cup – ODI or T20.

With six points and a net run rate of 4.230, Afghanistan lead Group C.

A target of 96 would not have worried Afghanistan. Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran had added century stands for the opening wicket in each of their first two games. Gurbaz had struck fifties in those outings. As a result, the middle order had barely had time in the middle. On Thursday, Afghanistan’s worst fears nearly came true.

Semo Kamea brought in for vice-captain Charles Amini, almost struck first ball when Ibrahim was ruled out lbw. He used the DRS to his benefit but lost his stumps three balls later while trying to attack an inswinger from Kamea. In the next over, fast bowler Alei Neo knocked over Gurbaz, who also charged down to heave one across the line. PNG could have put even more pressure on Afghanistan had wicketkeeper Kiplin Doriga hung on to Naib’s outside edge in the fifth over.

PNG were left to rue those chances on a surface with dry grass, which, as Daren Ganga had said in his pitch report, contributed to variable bounce. The proof was in Azmatullah Omarzai’s dismissal when a length ball from Norman Vanua barely got up and bowled him.

But Naib, in the company of Mohammad Nabi, countered the conditions to ensure Afghanistan faced no further hiccups.

PNG made almost the right start after being sent in. A double through fine leg, a single through point, a cut shot for four – they were ticking along without any risk. But it all went south when captain Assad Vala was run out in the second over. Going for the third run, his bat was in the air at the non-striker’s end when Gurbaz nailed a direct hit at the bowler’s end. Had Vala slid his bat, he would have been safe.

Farooqi then did what he does best: flummox batters with swing. He had Lega Siaka caught behind by Gurbaz diving full length to his right and then, on the next ball, Sese Bau also nicked one behind.

When Naveen got Hiri Hiri to chop one onto his stumps on the first ball of the fourth over, PNG had lost four wickets in nine balls. Batting first on a used surface that hosted the West Indies-New Zealand clash just 24 hours ago, that was handing over advantage on a platter.

When Naveen crashed through Tony Ura for his 50th T20I wicket, PNG were reduced to 30 for 5. PNG needed to bat a few overs safely at that point, and Chad Soper and Doriga did that for 24 balls while scoring 16 runs. But in the tenth over, both were guilty of ball-watching, which resulted in Soper being run out.

Doriga then used the slog sweep and sweep to rotate strike against Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmad. Neo punished the seamers when they bowled on his pads. The pair was effective without being enterprising and added 38 off 34 balls.

Once Doriga was done in by a wrong’un from Noor to be trapped lbw, PNG lost their last three wickets for just seven runs.

Brief scores:
Afghanistan 101 for 3 in 15.1 overs  (Gulbadin Naib 49*; Alei Neo 1-26, Semo  Kamea 1-16, Norman Vanua 1-18) beat Papua New Guinea 95 in 19.5 overs (Kiplin Doriga 27; Fazalhaq Farooqi 3-16, Naveen Ul-Haq 2-04, Noor Ahmad 1-14) by seven wickets

[Cricinfo]

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Sri Lankans left stranded as state of emergency declared in Florida

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An airplane is seen on the runway as heavy rain falls over the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Wednesday. Many flights were either canceled or delayed due to the bad weather. (pic Miami Herald)

Rex Clementine in Miami

Life came to a standstill here in Miami on Wednesday due to torrential rain and subsequent flood and the Sri Lankan team was left stranded in their hotel in Fort Lauderdale. After the team was knocked out of the ICC T-20 World Cup with the game against Nepal washed out, Sri Lankan players and support staff were set to leave for St. Lucia Wednesday evening. However, flood forced the team to stay at the hotel.

Sri Lanka’s next game agent Netherlands is on Sunday and the team is expected to fly out after the situation settles in Florida.

There were some 200 flight cancellations at Fort Lauderdale while over 300 flights were cancelled in the nearby Miami International airport.

While flights were having issues to take off due to the bad weather, passengers faced challenges as well with no cabs available to travel to the airport as the roads were flooded.

Restaurants and malls were closing up in Fort Lauderdale area due to inclement weather and the government issued a warning to people to stay indoors.

Sri Lanka – Nepal game was the first in Florida in this World Cup. The venue is set to host three more games and all three of them now face abandonment as bad weather is predicted until the weekend.

A state emergency has been declared by Mayor of Fort Lauderdale. Several roads and even highways were shut down due to flooding.

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