by Reemus Feranndo
The men’s steeplechase witnessed a new champion after a long time at the recently conducted 98th National Athletics Championships. Eranda Udaya Bandara Herath who has been playing second fiddle to R.M.S. Pushpakumara for some time now, emerged from the shadow of the many time champion to claim his maiden title as he produced his personal best.
“It is a satisfying feeling to win the title against the champion,” said the 25 year old Herath in an interview with The Island.
“It is satisfying because of the circumstances under which we had to train due to the covid 19 pandemic,” said Herath.
The athlete trained by Sumith Prasanna Vithanage clocked 9:00.22 seconds to win, nearly eight seconds ahead of the reigning champion. His performance has earned him the 17th position in the Asian rankings.
The Army athlete who commenced training for this discipline as a school athlete had not even seen a steeplechase when he was first introduced to the challenging event by Vithanage.
“Vithanage Sir saw me hurdling during a practice session and introduced me to the event. That is how I started,” said Herath.
He first tasted victory in his last year as an Under-20 athlete when he clinched the title at the Junior National Championship in 2014. He produced a sub ten minutes feat in winning and he was also the winner of the Sir John Tarbet Senior Championships that year.
Three years later Herath once again clinched a title when he won the Under-23 steeplechase at the 2017 Junior Nationals.
Since then he had been competing against Pushpakumara for the national title. In 2017 he was placed second in the steeplechase at the Nationals and third at the Army Championship.
Herath joined the Army five years ago and was under the guidance of D.M. Dissanayake for one and half years before he rejoined Vithanage.
Vithanage who has trained him since he was a teenager considers his charge as a strong contender to break the national record which has remained unchanged for more than two decades.
“He has the potential to run under eight minutes and 45 seconds. Our target is to achieve that before long,” said Vithanage referring to GSP Mendis’ record mark created in 1998.
Vithanage had another success at the Nationals when his sprinter Fathima Shafiya Yamick was placed third in the women’s 100 metres and second in the 200 metres and will also bank heavily on Amesha Hettiarachchi to achieve World Under-20 Championship entry standards in the 400 metres hurdles when the junior events are held this year.
Australia’s system produces good captains, but you can’t say the same
by Ian Chappell
The subject of captaincy has provoked some vociferous discussion lately, with the daring deeds of England captain Ben Stokes, and manoeuvring in Australia following the announcement that Aaron Finch had retired from ODIs.
Finch’s retirement was lamented in many circles. This is understandable because he is a good white-ball captain. However, his replacement ought also to be an experienced player with strong leadership qualities. The Australian system for producing leaders, while diluted, is still the best of an increasingly cluttered set.
Finch’s retirement needs careful handling, otherwise it could be construed that no other Australian captain would have performed as well. That is an incorrect assumption; there were a number of viable options.
Then there’s the much publicised episode of David Warner requesting the case for his leadership be reassessed by a different management group at Cricket Australia. That raises the obvious question: why, following the original ball-tampering incident at Newlands in 2018 did Warner receive a more stringent punishment in respect to captaincy than the captain at the time, Steve Smith?
They both committed a serious crime at Newlands, but Smith’s as a captain in saying “I don’t want to know” was a greater infraction than Warner’s. If Warner had been alone in hatching the plot – which is not proven – then it was Smith’s job as captain to know about it and put an end to it. Either way they should have received an identical suspension and the fact that they didn’t raises serious questions about whether there was prejudice towards Warner. And surely, no one believes that only three players – the banned trio of Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft – were the only ones involved in the plot?
While Warner has created an intriguing situation with his assertive request, he shouldn’t be appointed captain of an Australia side. The captaincy should always be awarded to a player who still has some prime years remaining. A captain must have in his armoury the ability to regularly lead by example on the field. Warner, with his aggressive approach, would have been a good on-field leader but sadly his best now only appears occasionally and it’s time to appoint a younger captain.
In the case of Stokes, the job was his if he desired a leadership role. While Joe Root is a top-class batter, he was no captain, and in hindsight, should not have been appointed. If Root was the best choice at the time of his elevation – there was a list of potential captains – then the English system is not producing enough true international leaders.
Now England have the right captain in place, it becomes a matter of choosing the best combination to win in the prevailing conditions. It’s not surprising that their results have greatly improved following their disastrous tour of Australia. Their recent games have been in the more comfortable environment of home, and they replaced Root’s dubious leadership with the enterprising captaincy of charismatic allrounder Stokes.
England were certainly unlucky in Australia because they were deprived of some first-choice fast bowlers through injury. However, it’s patently clear that selecting the ageing Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad in the same team anywhere but in England is a mistake. It’s acceptable, but not ideal, to select a right-arm seam attack in England because it can suit the pitch and surrounding conditions. However, that doesn’t work on Australia’s bouncy pitches, where you need variety and the genuine pace of a Jofra Archer and a Mark Wood to have a chance of victory.
Spin bowling is another major headache for England. Jack Leach or Moeen Ali aren’t the right bowlers to succeed against teams like Australia. England tend to choose a holding spinner, whereas what they really need is a potential wicket-taking one. Ideally they need a spin bowler like Graeme Swann, who could handle either role because he was a top-class operator.Apart from Stokes, Test captaincy in England is currently a lottery because of the lack of candidates. However, the Australian system still generally produces acceptable leaders, with Pat Cummins being the prime exhibit in the case of outstanding captains.
Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Laver Cup for personal reasons
Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Laver Cup on Saturday for personal reasons, his press spokesperson confirmed to ESPN.Nadal partnered with Roger Federer in his last professional match at the team competition between Europe and the rest of the world in London on Friday, losing in a deciding match tiebreak to Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe.
Nadal, 36, has struggled with an abdominal injury for much of the summer. The pain caused him to pull out before his semifinal at Wimbledon and he then suffered more problems with it after losing in the fourth round of the US Open.In the early hours of Saturday morning, after a joint press conference with Federer, Nadal told reporters at London’s O2 Arena he needed to return home.
“I’m not good, I’m not good,” Nadal said. “The truth is these have been difficult weeks in that sense. Few, very few hours of sleep, a bit of stress in general, slightly more difficult situations than usual at home.
“As a result, well, I’ve had to deal with all that, which is a different pressure to the one you’re used to in your professional life. But, well, luckily everything is good and we are much more calm. And in that sense, I’ve been able to come here, which for me was the most important thing.”
Nadal won the Australian Open in January and then won the French Open for a 14th time to take his Grand Slam total to a record 22 titles. (ESPN)
Messi on debut season at PSG: I had a ‘bad time,’ struggled to find myself
Lionel Messi has said he endured a “bad time” during his debut season at Paris Saint-Germain but added he is enjoying his football again, with Argentina’s World Cup campaign two months away.The Argentina captain, after spending 21 years at Barcelona, moved to Paris last summer and only contributed 11 goals and 14 assists for the Ligue 1 champions in his first season.- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (U.S.) Messi has already netted six goals and assisted eight times in 11 appearances this term and said his revival is down to a different mentality.
“I feel good,” Messi said after Argentina’s 3-0 win over Honduras. “It’s different from last year and I knew it was going to be like that.
“Last year, as I already said, I had a bad time. I never finished finding myself and this time is different. I arrived with a different mindset, more adapted to the club, to the locker room, to the game, to my teammates. The truth is that I feel very good, and I’m enjoying myself again.”
He scored twice in Argentina’s victory over Honduras in Friday’s international friendly in Miami to extend their unbeaten run to 34 games.Messi, 35, will play in his fifth World Cup in Qatar and Argentina head into the tournament in high spirits after winning the 2021 Copa America, their first major title in 28 years following past disappointments.
“I’m very eager, excited and anxious for it to arrive,” he added. “But at the same time, I’m calm because we know there is still some time. We have to do well at our clubs to arrive at that point in good form. We have a great team, a great group, the World Cup is special, and we have to take it one step at a time.”
Argentina will be hopeful of Messi avoiding injury before they begin their World Cup campaign against Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22 but the forward said he will not alter his game.
“There are many games and little rest time, but you have to face it as always,” Messi said. “If you are going to play thinking about the World Cup, taking care of yourself or avoiding contact, in the end it could be worse.
“I am one of those who thinks that things happen because they happen and if things have to happen, they will happen. God willing, nothing happens to anyone, and we can all arrive as we are.”
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is also delighted that his star player has rediscovered his best form.
“I think that PSG have found a way to play that understands him and I think he has taken a step ahead in his team,” he said earlier this week. “We are very happy with how things are currently going.”
Following the win on Friday, Scaloni added: “The important thing is that he [Messi] is comfortable and that he is enjoying playing football. He is enjoying playing for his club and that is important. When he enjoys it, we all enjoy it. May it continue.”
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