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.
The brand of cricket we want to play is free and relaxed: – Sangakkara
The 2008 IPL champions employed five opening pairs in the previous edition.
As many as five opening pairs were experimented with by the Rajasthan Royals last season. Ahead of their season opener against Punjab Kings, Sanju Samson, the newly-appointed captain of the franchise says that this year around, more stability can be expected from the side that chopped and changed so much to the extent of being unable to settle on a side until much later in the tournament.
“Myself and Sanga will try to give the best combination,” said Samson on Sunday (April 11). “From my point of view, it’s crucial to give an individual or a pair of opening partners enough time in the tournament. So, I think a bit of stability will be seen in this tournament. The rest it depends on how we go.”
Much has been debated about the batting order. Whilst Jos Buttler’s record at the top speaks for itself, Ben Stokes has been their go-to man for the opening slot. With Robin Uthappa gone this year, will they persist with Stokes at the top with Yashasvi Jaiswal, or will they promote Buttler up to a position he loves? Without committing too much either way about their preferred sequence, Kumar Sangakkara, the director of cricket at the Royals said the combination will be a decision they will undertake with the “full buying of the players involved”.
“We look to finalise (combinations) later on today before we go for training and we want we want to keep our options open,” said Sangakkara. “The most important thing is that players are communicated to clearly as to what their roles are and get them to commit to it.
“What we planned to do is get a balanced side, everyone available, a full squad, try and have a consistent philosophy of cricket. The brand of cricket that we want to play is quite free and relaxed. Also in terms of preparing well and executing well… to get everyone prepared to think and to be problem-solvers. To think for themselves. It helps Sanju a lot on the field when people are thinking for themselves and know what’s going on. It builds a lot of trust within the group as well. Everyone has individual strengths that they bring into the side which are highly valued. We try and build that into a good unit where everyone knows what they’re doing, what their value is and what their roles are. Then we’ll go and try to play some good cricket.”
An overhaul in how the Royals went about their business was needed, having had finished last in 2020. Rajasthan just couldn’t crack the code of winning matches consistently and a lot of it had to do with the lack of the team striking together. There were moments of brilliance before they fell back.
“We have a lot of match-winners who are absolutely wonderful players…in Sanju Samson, Rahul Tewatia, our fast bowlers. The key is to have different people who do something a little bit special on the day and the point of a great team performance is to have your regular players performing consistently and once in a while. Someone stepping in to do a little bit extra. If it’s a different player most of the time and not the same person, it’s even better.”
Another area of concern last year was the lack of support from the contingent of pace bowlers around Jofra Archer, who was named MVP. Archer missing the first few games will be a big blow for Rajasthan. Sangakkara, however, threw his support behind the inexperienced Indian bowlers in their squad to come good.
“I think inexperience sometimes can work for you and against. Inexperience would probably mean that the opposition has not really seen them either, but fast bowling, specially in the IPL is not an easy task and we saw that yesterday as well. Sometimes the wickets are really good for batting or most of the wickets are, so you have to be quite skillful. So I’m pretty confident that our young fast bowlers will step up. We’ve had Kartik Tyagi who did very well last season in patches in various phases of the game and this year we have a new additions in Kuldip Yadav and Chetan Sakariya. So I think it’s about you know keeping them again focused on what their job is really and get them trained and prepared to execute all the different deliveries and scenarios and match plans for the opposition. But at the same time concentrate in giving them confidence of their own strengths.”
When asked if despite all his years in the game, the highs and lows, he feels pressure of expectations in his new role, Sangakkara didn’t mince his words.
“I think there are always expectations and pressure. You can’t get away from that and you got to accept it. And the only way you deal with it is really, you know ticking off the boxes that you want in terms of training, in terms of preparation, getting combinations right. Get the players involved take ownership of not their own roles, but also the team plans and that makes things a lot easier. You can’t guarantee what will happen on the day of a match, but what you can guarantee is that you can go out and control what you control. Take a great attitude out, and Sanju always talks about playing with passion and with heart. I think that’s a very important point as well. That can really lift a team to do some special things out there when the pressure is on.
“So for me personally, know my job is to get everyone ready and once they get on the field my job is actually secondary. It’s about them going out there and expressing themselves playing really good smart cricket. But we wait and see. I think everyone’s really looking forward to starting the tournament,” he added.
Sheran’s back to back half centuries help Joes
Back to back half centuries by Sheran Fonseka stood in good stead for St. Joseph’s as they forced a draw to their First XI cricket encounter against S. Thomas’ at Darley Road on Monday. Thus they retained the Gilmore Jayasuriya Trophy which they won under the captaincy of Sameera Weerasinghe in 2009.
Commencing from 344 for nine overnight, the Thomians declared their innings after Yasiru Rodrigo completed his century, an unbeaten 103 runs.
It was Rodrigo’s day as he followed up his century with a three wicket haul to trouble the home team.
The Joes lost wickets at regular intervals but Fonseka’s contribution helped them post 176 for nine wickets declared. Soon they were asked to follow on but the open batsmen put up a healthy stand to prevent a repetition of first innings disappointments.
Fonseka scored an unbeaten 57 runs and was involved in a first wicket stand of 123 runs with Sadeesh Jayawardena who scored 62.
Meanwhile the match between Mahanama and St. Anne’s ended in a draw at Kurunegala after the home team posted 164 for nine wickets in reply to visitors’ 169 runs.
S. Thomas’ V St. Joseph’s at
S. Thomas’ 344 for 9 overnight 350 for 9 decl. in 103 overs (Anuk Palihawadena 54, Ryan Fernando 71, Thenuka Liyanage 36, Yasiru Rodrigo 103 n.o., Gunaratnam Caniston 53; Dunith Wellalage 3/111, Shenuka de Silva 2/13)
St. Joseph’s 176 for 9 decl. in 51 overs (Sheran Fonseka 92, Mithira Thenura 20; Yasiru Rodrigo 3/48, Gunaratnam Caniston 3/42, Anuk Palihawadena 2/48) and 127 for 1 in 31 overs (Sadeesh Jayawardena 62, Sheran Fonseka 57n.o.)
Mahanama V St. Anne’s at Kurunegala
Mahanama 169 all out in 71.2 overs (Sadishan Chamodya 22, Pavan Rathnayake 81, Sachira Weliwatta 23; Pasindu Tennakoon 4/51, Manaan Muzammil 2/49, Kalindu Wijesinghe 2/28)
St. Anne’s 79 for 1 overnight 164 for 9 in 69 overs (Dilhara Deshabandu 39, Kavindu Ekanayake 43, Pivithu Fernando 22, Shevan Nimantha 20; Devindu Kekirideniya 4/57 ) (RF)
Dahamdi, Esha win Round Robin stage
Sri Lanka Girls U-14 Chess Grand Prix 2021
Sanudula Dahamdi of Musaeus College and Esha Pallie of Visakha Vidyalaya were the winners of Group ‘X’ and ‘Y’ respectively at the end of the Round Robin stage of the Sri Lanka Youth Girls’ (Under-14) Chess Grand Prix 2021
Dahamdi was outstanding right throughout as she remained unbeaten to score nine points in nine games. Pallie won Group ‘Y’ with a score of 7 ½ points.
Dahamdi beat L.H.M.G.S. Somarathne, Nemindi Linaya Ramanayake and Sasmi Sithumsa in the second session to remain unbeaten.
Esha had a tough competition in last three rounds with a win against Piyumi Uthpala Amarathunga and a draw against Onwli Vithanawasam. She lost her encounter Tenuli Dahamna Rathnayake.
Nemindi Linaya Ramanayake( Central College, Veyangoda), Tharuli Vihansa Ranganath(Yoshida International School) and Oshini Devindya Gunawardhana (Pushpadana High School) scored 5.5, 5.0 and 5.0 respectively and managed to win second, third and fourth places in Group ‘X’ respectively by selecting to the quarter finals.
Oneli Vithanawasam (Lyceum International, Wattala), Desandhi Dhihansa Gamage (Sirimavo Bandaranayake BV) and Tenuli Dhahamna Rathnayake (Gothami Balika Vidyalaya) were placed second, third and fourth in Group ‘Y’.
Esha Pallie, Oneli Vithanawasam, Desandhi Gamage and Dhahamna Rathnayake are now in the quarter-finals.
The top four players in Group ‘X’ and ‘Y’ will play a knocked out rounds.
The Youth Girls Chess Grand Prix 2021 which commenced on April 2 with 18 leading Girls Under 14 Chess players will culminate on April 16.
A – Q/F 1 – X winner V Y 4th – Dahamdi V Tenuli
B – Q/F 2 – Y Winner V X 4th – Esha Pallie V Oshini
C – Q/F 3 – X Runner Up V Y 3rd – Nemindi V Desandi
D – Q/F 4 – Y Runner Up V X 3rd – Oneli V Tharuli
The Chess Federation of Sri Lanka is offering Rs. 55,000/= as cash awards for the winners.
The event is held according to the strict health guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health and The Medical Unit of Ministry of Sports.
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