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Injuries a concern as Sri Lanka prepare for Asian Rugby Sevens



Sri Lanka faces a mighty challenge of compiling a competitive team for the Asian Rugby Sevens series due to injuries.

By A Special Sports Correspondent  

Sri Lanka’s rugby players got the opportunity to come out of the woods and be back in the game with their participation at the Warrior Cup rugby sevens held recently in Colombo.

New players impressed during the two days of rugby and the sport found a new winner in Sri Lanka Air Force Sports Club who won the Cup Championship; probably for the first time in the domestic seven-a-side rugby history of the game.

The tournament featured mostly players from the security forces establishments and the Police and also two clubs, which are struggling to stay on their feet. CH & FC did well to win the ‘Plate Championship’ and saw five of its players named in an initial national squad of 20. The squad is preparing to contest the upcoming Asian Sevens Series scheduled to be hosted in Dubai on November 19 and 20.

Havelocks SC looked quite ordinary on day one, but played better on the second day to finish as winners of the ‘Shield’ competition. One of the local favourites Havelocks SC had many ‘youth’ in its line-up, but none of them were named in the initial national squad announced soon after the tournament. According to reliable sources many players named in the squad are carrying injuries-sustained at the domestic sevens tournament- which would mean that there will be new names added to the squad as training progresses with coach Nilfer Ibrahim and the watchful eyes of Ben Gollings, who serves as the Consultant Director of Rugby Sevens.

Probably the injuries were expected because the players were in ‘cold storage’ for a good part of the past one and a half years due to restrictions on sport due to Covid regulations.

Despite the rustiness shown by players at the domestic rugby sevens, expectations are high that they’ll bounce back to their usual strengths as they go through the training sessions conducted by experts hired for the task.

Sri Lankans have the knack for the abbreviated form of rugby union and have kept their heads high in the Asian Sevens Series with some telling performances in the past. There have been many occasions when Sri Lanka showed the potential and had good preparation for the Asian Sevens, but teams like Hong Kong and Japan have often taken the game away from the islanders.

This season is going to be a challenge for the players. This is because the national pool has been formed with players being drafted from as many as five different clubs; in the past the best sevens players came from Kandy SC, CR & FC, and Havelocks SC. But this time around Havies didn’t have their players in the initial pool and the players from Kandy and the Longden Place club were not considered for selection because they didn’t take part in the domestic sevens championships.

 Rugby critics however point out that some of the national players who could not be involved in the recent selection tournament should be considered for selection taking into account past performances and their services to national rugby. It would be unthinkable for Sri Lanka to compile a winning line-up at an international rugby sevens tournament without players in the calibre of Danush Dayan, Kavindu Perera, Srinath Sooriyabandara, Jason Dissanayake and Tarinda Ratwatte; who are all members of the Nittawela Club.

Sri Lanka has been pooled along with teams like UAE and Asian giants China in ‘Pool B’. The teams forming ‘Pool A’ are South Korea, Philippines, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

The initial Sri Lanka squad for the Asian Sevens Series was picked by a selection committee headed by former Sri Lanka skipper Asoka Jayasena. This squad is likely to include new faces, according to informed rugby sources.

Training concurrently with the men’s national team is a women’s rugby pool which will also contest the tournament in Dubai.

The following is the initial national squad picked to go into training for the Asian Sevens: Nuwan Perera, Ishara Madushan, Ramith De Silva, Anjula Hettiarachchi (Air Force), Sachith Silva, Iroshan Silva, Vageesha Weerasinghe, Suranga Kasun (Police), Sudharaka Dikkubura, Nalaka Maduranga, Lasantha Kumara, (Army), Adeesha Weeratunga, Kanchana Ramanayake, Chathura Senevirathne, Nishon Perera (Navy), Samual Ogbebor, Hirantha Perera, Kushan Indunil, Reeza Raffaideen, Janidu Dilshan (CH&FC).

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Thehan clinches men’s singles tennis title  



Thehan Wijemanne won his first Colombo Championships open singles title on Wednesday. (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

106th Colombo Championships

Royal College player Thehan Wijemanne clinched the men’s open singles title of the 106th Colombo Championships as he beat Chathurya Nilaweera in the final played at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Wednesday.

Wijemanne who partners Nilaweera in the men’s open doubles was tied 1-1 in the singles final before pulling off a 10-7 win to seal his victory. The final scores read 6-4, 4-6, 10-7.

The Royalist beat Kiran Vairavanathan and Archana Lokuge in a row to book his final place to meet the champion of the Under 18 age category.

Wijemanne registered a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Lokuge in the semis after beating Vairavanathan 4-2, 3-5, 11-9 in the quarter-final.

It is the first Colombo Championships singles title for Wijemanne who will celebrate his 18th birthday later this month. He is also the reigning Clay Courts Singles champion after winning the March final against Luca Knese.

Meanwhile, Gehansa Methnadi of Musaeus College reached the Under 12 girls’ singles final after recording a convincing straight sets win in the semi-final played on Wednesday. She beat Movindi Fernando 4-1, 4-1 in the afternoon.

In an Under 12 girls’ singles quarter-final Akeesha Silva beat Venuli Jayasinghe 4-1, 4-0 to reach the semi-final.

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Karunaratne climbs up in Test Player Rankings 



Sri Lanka’s win in the first match of the ICC Men’s Test Championship has put the team on top of the table powered by MRF (on percentage points), and several players including skipper Dimuth Karunaratne have improved their rankings after the first Test in Galle.

Captain Karunaratne’s Player of the Match effort of 147 and 83 has lifted him four places to seventh, just one below his career-best sixth position attained in August 2019. Former captains Angelo Mathews (up two places to 23rd) and Dinesh Chandimal (up four places to 46th) have also advanced.

Left-arm spinners Lasith Embuldeniya (up four places to 37th) and Praveen Jayawickrama (up six places to 44th) and off-spinner Ramesh Mendis (up 28 places to 57th) have improved in the rankings for bowlers.

Fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has made it to the top five of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s Test Player Rankings for the first time in his career after a fine show in the first Test against Bangladesh which Pakistan won by eight wickets.

The 21-year-old left-arm bowler, who grabbed seven wickets including a haul of five for 32 in the second innings of the Chittagong Test, has moved up three places to fifth position after overtaking James Anderson, Kagiso Rabada and Neil Wagner.

Shaheen’s new-ball partner Hasan Ali too is at a career-best position after finishing with a similar seven-wicket match haul that included a five-for in the first innings. Hasan has advanced five places to 11th place. His previous best in Tests was 14th, reached in May this year.

Pakistan’s opening batters were not the ones to be left behind. Abid Ali may have missed out on a century in each innings but his scores of 133 and 91 helped him shoot up 27 slots to a career-best 20th position while Abdullah Shafique enters the rankings at 83rd with scores of 52 and 73.

For Bangladesh, Mushfiqur Rahim is up four places to 19th with scores of 91 and 16 while Liton Das has moved up 26 places to a career-best 31st position after accruing 114 and 59. Left-arm spinner Taijul Islam has progressed two places to 23rd after an eight-wicket match haul that included seven scalps in the first innings.

The thrilling draw in Kanpur between India and New Zealand had quite a few performances from either side that reflect in the latest weekly update that also includes the first Test between Sri Lanka and the West Indies at Galle, which the host side won by 187 runs.

Debutant Shreyas Iyer’s Player of the Match effort of 105 and 65 helped him enter the rankings in 74th position while opener Shubman Gill (up six places to 66th) and Wriddhiman Saha (up nine places to 99th) also made notable progress after notching half-centuries.

Ravindra Jadeja is up two places to 19th among bowlers with five wickets in the match and is also up one place to second among all-rounders. Ravichandran Ashwin is the third-ranked all-rounder and 79th among batters.

For New Zealand, Tom Latham’s knocks of 95 and 52 place him back in the top 10 as he goes up from 14th to ninth. Fast bowler Kyle Jamieson is ninth among bowlers, his three wickets in each innings resulting in a gain of six places. Tim Southee has gained 15 rating points to reach within one point of second-placed Ashwin (840) after his eight-wicket match haul.

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Mickey’s ‘sloppy cricketers’ hand Windies the edge



This could be the series defining moment as Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne is run out by a direct hit during Sri Lanka’s second innings of the second Test in Galle yesterday. West Indies have never won a Test match in Sri Lanka. 

Rex Clementine in Galle

Sri Lanka Head Coach Mickey Arthur once told The Island that he hates ‘sloppy cricketers’. Given how Sri Lanka approached batting in their second innings here in Galle yesterday, the 53-year-old would have given them a firm dressing-down. Having conceded a first innings lead of 49 in the second Test, Sri Lanka had to bat well to set West Indies a decent target. With the wicket turning square, the batsmen already had their work cut down and to gift West Indies two wickets through run outs was not ‘sloppy cricket’ but committing hara-kiri.

There’s a lot at stake here. Sri Lanka have never lost a Test match at home to the Windies and everyone is looking forward to give Arthur a grand send off. To make things worse, Angelo Mathews is down with a hamstring injury and that leaves a huge hole in the batting line-up. Sri Lanka’s batsmen barring Dimuth Karunaratne have been susceptible against spin and unless they bat out at least two full sessions on day four, history could be in the making for West Indies.

Dimuth was the first to be dismissed. Having pushed one to backward of point, he attempted a risky single, but instead of rushing he was watching the fielder. Kyle Mayers picked up the ball one-handed and threw down the stumps with a  direct hit to find the batsman well short.

The comedy of errors continued when Oshada Fernando was run out with the total on 39. Having pushed one to point, Oshada was walking down the track, half-hearted not knowing whether a run was on. There was none there and by the time he was sent back by the non-striker it was all too late and not even a dive could save him.

Sri Lanka’s batsmen spoiled the brilliant efforts of their spinners who did well to bowl out West Indies for 253. The tourists were well placed at one stage at 166 for two but then Ramesh Mendis’ career best figures of six for 70 saw Sri Lanka bounce back. West Indies at one stage slumped to 208 for eight, losing six wickets for 42 runs. But a ninth wicket stand of 38 runs between Mayers and Veerasammy Permaul ensured they ended up with a decent lead.

Kraigg Brathwaite was brilliant as he top scored with 72 runs that came off 185 deliveries with nine fours. A peach of a delivery from Lasith Embuldeniya accounted for the captain. The ball pitched outside of the leg-stump, spun viciously past the right-hander and clipped the top of off-stump.

Spinners accounted for all ten wickets to fall with Embuldeniya and Praveen Jayawickrama sharing four wickets between them well supporting Mendis.

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