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Killi Rajamahendran, Kerry Packer of Sri Lankan cricket



by Rex Clementine

Kerry Packer was a godsend to Australian cricket. So was Killi Rajamahendran. At a time when cricket in Sri Lanka had no money, he financed the sport, single-handedly. He passed away yesterday at the age of 78.

Killi, as he was fondly known, employed many cricketers; Duleep Mendis, Roy Dias, Arjuna Ranatunga, Ashantha de Mel, Sidath Wettimuny…. the list goes on.

Players need not turn up for work at Maharaja’s, but if they did not attend training, Killi had a bone to pick. Ask Ashantha de Mel. Killi made the sport semi-professional.

Duleep Mendis was identified by Killi when he was at school. He joined Maharaja’s at 20 and remained there for 30 years. He was heart broken by learning Killi’s death. So were the other cricketers.

Sidath Wettimuny’s older brothers had given up cricket in a bid to pursue their professional careers. Sidath wanted to go in the same path. But before doing so, he consulted Killi. And he received sound advice.

“You see Sidath,” Killi had said, “Professionals, I can hire anytime. But a good cricketer like you, that would be hard to find.”

Sidath listened. Then, Lord’s 1984 happened.

The Sri Lankan team had gone to England well in advance to acclimatise to conditions. Generously, Killi gave his London apartment for Sri Lankan players to stay as the board did not have any money to look after their accommodation before the tour got underway.

As the Test match approached, in a bid to encourage the players, Killi told them that if anyone scored a hundred, he was going to give them a gift of 1000 Pounds.

Sidath, Amal Silva and Duleep Mendis scored hundreds. Arjuna Ranatunga missed out. He was dismissed for 84. Arjuna is a tough man, but the fact that he had missed out on having his name in the Lord’s honours board got the better of him and in the dressing room, he was in tears. There was a tap on Arjuna’s shoulder. It was Killi. He too had tears in his eye. All centurions were given 1000 Pounds as promised. But Arjuna received 2000 Pounds. Killi was fond of Arjuna.

People wonder how a developing cricket nation like Sri Lanka could afford Sir Garfield Sobers as their coach in 1980s. All credit obviously goes to Gamini Dissanayake. But every good leader needs a capable second in command. Killi was Gamini’s right hand man and Vice-President of Board of Control for Cricket. It is he who made it possible that Sri Lanka could hire the services of Sir Garry spending generously.

It is a well known fact that Sri Lanka were given Test status in 1981 when Gamini was President. Not many people know that before the Lord’s meeting, the Sri Lankan board had hosted Australian Cricket Board officials taking them around the country showing them our cricket infrastructure. All financed by Killi. Australia had regularly vetoed Sri Lanka’s application for Test status. But after Killi’s hospitality and having taken a good look on the status quo, they could not turn it down again. Like Kerry Packer, Killi knew how cricket politics worked.

Once Australia was on Sri Lanka’s side, England followed suit. Test status achieved; thanks to smart moves by two men; Gamini Dissanayake and Killi Rajamahendran.

After quitting cricket, Killi built up a his media empire. Like all media bosses who love cricket, he had one golden rule; never criticize cricketers.

In 2001, when England came to Sri Lanka to play a first ever three match series, there was lot of excitement. Sri Lanka won the first Test by an innings in Galle. But then from thereon, things didn’t go their way and lost the games in Kandy and at SSC. England clinched the series 2-1. Sirasa were drawing out heavy weapons. Their target, captain Sanath Jayasuriya. Then, Killi called. “That poor boy is already going through hell. Don’t add up to his misery.” Message was loud and clear. Sanath looked up to him like a father figure. So did others from Arjuna to Nuwan Zoysa.

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When your best brains call the shots



by Rex Clementine

There’s a feeling that the national cricket team has turned things around in white ball cricket after some humiliating experiences in the last seven years where there were whitewashes in plenty and failure to earn automatic qualifications for ICC events. Sri Lanka’s come from behind win in the Asia Cup in UAE is definite indication that the team has certainly made a leap forward. A few people were quick to take credit for the team’s success. As they say, victory has thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.

There are some individuals who have enjoyed Sri Lanka’s recent success but haven’t gone onto claim credit. Former captain Aravinda de Silva and his Cricket Advisory Committee comprising Roshan Mahanama, Kumar Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan certainly deserves much credit for revamping the cricket structure and introducing some drastic change.

One of Aravinda’s committee’s main decisions was to bring in youth for white ball teams. The young team wasn’t covering themselves in glory at the initial stages and the idea was even frowned upon. However, with constant exposure and with Dasun Shanaka chosen as the new captain, the team started to compete and earlier this month in UAE hit a purple patch. To win five games in a row was quite an achievement and when you think that three of those wins were against India and Pakistan, world’s number one and two ranked teams, you realize how special this was.

There was also a new fitness regime that was introduced around that time. It became a bone of contention with several players becoming ineligible for selections after failing fitness tests. It helped that Sri Lanka had a Head Coach in Mickey Arthur who valued fitness immensely. This resulted in players taking fitness seriously and the consequences of that were less injuries and improved performances.

Restructuring of the coaching department by depending heavily on local talents was another area that was done by the Cricket Advisory Committee. It was not only the national team that was looked at but dedicated coaching staff for under-19, development squad and the ‘A’ team were timely moves.

Another decision taken by them was introducing a new payment scheme for players whereby a performance based system was introduced. Although it was challenged at the start, the stakeholders bought into the new system as it was on merit rather than seniority. The Cricket Advisory Committee’s tenure was short lived but the structures that they put in place were vital in reviving the fortunes of the national cricket team.

Not all parties agreed with the changes that were introduced but they were needed. The Asia Cup win was Sri Lanka’s first major series triumph in eight years. If Sri Lanka wishes consistency on the cricket field moving forward, we need to make most of some of the best brains that we have in the game. Credit should go to Sri Lanka Cricket as well for agreeing to take a back seat and allowing their former captains to call the shots on vital matters in a bid to make the national cricket team competitive again.

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Junior Development Committee commences Youth Awakening 2026 ahead of next Youth Olympics



The Junior Development Committee (JDC) appointed by the National Olympic Committee (NOC) is launching its operations under the program “Youth Awakening 2026” to identify and support young sportsmen and women of the highest caliber with a focus to produce star class athletes and increased success for the Sri Lanka National team in the international arena.

“Youth Awakening 2026” being the first of its kind looks to provide young athletes with consistent and continuous mentoring and training through a comprehensive threefold strategy adapted by the Junior Development Committee, by way of Programs, Direct Athlete Support and Funding.

“When it comes to high performance, we take the top athletes in Sri Lanka. Although they are top in Sri Lanka they are far below against the rest of the world and the strategy put together by the JDC would be the answer that would raise the standard of sports in Sri Lanka and allow our athletes to compete with the rest of the world” says Chairman of the Junior Development Committee of the NOC Shirantha Peiris.

Through Programs created and developed to promote fundamental principles and values of Olympians in Sri Lanka, Athletes could look forward to being connected with trainers, nutritionists and sports psychologists who would play a key role in creating a healthy mindset and a positive approach towards their education, sports, and career.

Young High Potential players are offered a unique advantage with the ‘Direct Athlete Support Program’ designed to identify and provide opportunities aimed to facilitate their development and expose them to the next level of their chosen pathway through School Placement programs and holistic sports training. Two interesting developments of the program include a ‘Health cover’: where all JDC contracted athletes will be provided with a free of charge medical cover for the duration of their contract; as well as a ‘Medal incentive funding program’ that would promulgate state funded grants or corporate funded incentives to athletes who showcase true potential to win a medal in the international games.

The JDC takes pride in this unparalleled and one-of-a-kind program that is fully self-funded thereby reiterating its ethos which is to uplift athletics in Sri Lanka. Development of merchandise, marketing international competitions to attract sponsors, sustainability initiatives are a few steps taken towards direct funding.

While the JDC, through “Youth Awakening 2026” will truly awaken athletics in Sri Lanka to its true potential, Sri Lanka will see a continuity of top-notch athletes being produced making it an unceasing revolution. This movement is an ever advancing one, that would resonate throughout; in the face of Youth Olympics, Youth Paralympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games etc. which presents itself as an excellent opportunity for corporates to add to their story and join hands with this exceptional initiative by dedicating themselves towards transforming the sports scene in Sri Lanka.

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Men’s Ashes 2023 to begin on June 16 at Edgbaston




Men’s Ashes 2023 will get underway on June 16, with the first Test at Edgbaston. The last of the five Tests will begin on July 27 at the Oval, with Lord’s Headingley and Old Trafford hosting the three in between. These are the same five venues that hosted Ashes 2019. ECB also confirmed that the 2023 World Test Championship final will be held at the Oval in June, while the 2025 final will be hosted by Lord’s. The Women’s Ashes meanwhile, will begin on June 22, with one five-day Test match at Trent Bridge. Australia and England will then play three ODIs and three T20Is – the last of which will be played on July 18. Edgbaston, Lord’s and the Oval will host women’s Ashes T20Is for the first time.

“The Ashes series are among the most significant sporting events in world sport and we are looking forward to these highly anticipated contests in England next year, Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley said.

“There is no bigger challenge than retaining the Ashes away from home. There is huge excitement from our teams as they look to write themselves into Ashes folklore.

Australia will also travel to England for a T20I series early next month in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup Down Under. Following the multi-team event, Australia then host England for a three-match Dettol ODI Series in Adelaide (November 17), Sydney (November 19) and Melbourne (November 22).

“While these series are on the horizon, we’re excited for the cricket immediately ahead this summer as our men’s team host England across two highly anticipated Dettol T20I and ODI Series either side of the T20 World Cup.”

Before the Ashes, the men’s side will host Ireland for a Test match at Lord’s, starting on June 1, 2023. The two sides last played a Test at that venue in 2019. England will also play Ireland in three home ODIs – at Headingley, Trent Bridge and Bristol – from September 20 to 26.

“As a player, there’s no doubt that Test cricket is the absolute pinnacle of our sport. We were fortunate to play a Test against England at Lord’s back in 2019 – which was a memorable occasion for players and fans alike – so the news that we will be returning to play at Lord’s next year is very welcome,” Ireland Test skipper Andrew Balbirnie said.

“That match against England in 2019 was the last Test we have played, so we are excited to be returning to play the red-ball game next year. It’s one of four Test matches we are scheduled to play in 2023, which is so important for such a relatively young squad. There is no better place to really learn, develop and test your game as in multi-day cricket,” he added.


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