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Killi Rajamahendran, Kerry Packer of Sri Lankan cricket

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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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Chameera and Hasaranga to miss Oman T-20s due to IPL

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by Rex Clementine

Sri Lankan cricketers Dushmantha Chameera and Wanindu Hasaranga will miss Sri Lanka’s tour of Oman next month due to their IPL commitments. The two Sri Lankans are with Royal Challengers Bangalore and they have been given clearance to remain with the franchise till 10th October.

Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur told The Island he had no issues in the players missing the two games in Oman.

“It’s a great opportunity for them and I have not raised any objections. They will join the team on the 10th of October and be ready for the first warm-up game on the 12th of October,” Arthur said.

The IPL was suspended in May due to the rise of COVID cases within the bubble with still 31 matches remaining. The tournament will resume in UAE on Sunday and will finish on the 15th of October, just before the ICC T-20 World Cup.

Sri Lanka will play two T-20 Internationals in Oman on the 7th and 9th of October and then travel to UAE to play warm-up games ahead of the World Cup. The two players are expected to join the team in UAE.

RCB have seven games left in the competition and will take on Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday. Their last league game is on the 8th October.

RCB are currently third in the table with ten points behind Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings.

If they make the plays offs, the tournament will go beyond 10th October. If necessary, RCB will ask clearance from SLC to have them in the franchise set up and the board is unlikely to object as Sri Lanka’s first game in the World Cup is on the 18th of October. The IPL final is scheduled on the 15th of October.

No Sri Lankan had been picked for this year’s IPL at the start of the season, but after Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa and left-arm quick Daniel Sams pulled out, the franchise signed up the two Sri Lankans for the remainder of the competition. Both Chameera and Hasaranga had done well when India visited Colombo for a bilateral series last month.

Meanwhile, SLC has agreed to a request by the national selection panel to carry five additional players to UAE in case of injuries. Kusal Perera is doubtful for the World Cup and Lahiru Madushanka has been ruled out. SLC will bear the additional costs for the extra players.

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CFSL ready to organize its biggest Online Chess Championship 

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Western Asian Youth Chess Championship 2021 

Sri Lanka has the luxury of fielding a World Champion in their team when the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka (CFSL) organizes the Western Asian Online Youth Chess Championships from 18 to 20 September on the Tornelo Platform.

Ferguson High School, Ratnapura player Oshini Devindya Gunawardena, who won the Under-10 title of the FIDE Online Youth Chess Cup 2021 recently, is among some 300 participants fielded by Sri Lanka.

Luxman Wijesuriya, the president of the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka said that his federation was ready to organize the biggest Asian Online Event, the Western Asian Online Youth Chess Championships and the event which is conducted by the Asian Chess Federation has attracted more than 1000 players from 14 Western Asian Countries.

The event open for girls and boys will be held under six age categories, namely, the Under 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18. The Asian Chess Federation has categorized, South Asia, Arab and Russian-speaking countries of Asia as Western Asian Countries. More than 1000 players from the region have fielded their entries to participate in the event.

India has fielded the biggest contingent of 378 players while Sri Lanka field more than 300 players. Iran has entered a team of 161 players. Other countries registered for participation are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, Oman, Kuwait, Palestine, Jordan and UAE. One player is joining under FIDE, the World Chess Federation flag.

Sri Lanka team includes players who excelled at recently held online competitions and at the CFSL Online Youth Chess Championship 2021.

The Championships will be conducted on the Swiss System in nine rounds, having three games a day. The Newly approved FIDE Online Chess regulations will be followed and the time control will be 15 minutes a side with 10 seconds increment for each and every move played. Only the laptop/desktop computers are allowed to be used while all games will be closely monitored by the arbiters via zoom. Players will be switching on two cameras during the competition. According to CFSL one camera (Webcam) will monitor the player while the other will observe his or her surroundings.

The Virtual Opening Ceremony will be held at 11.00 a.m via Zoom on Saturday. Namal Rajapakse, the Minister of Sports is expected to participate as the Chief Guest with Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nehyan, the President of Asian Chess Federation.

The CFSL will be awarding attractive cash rewards to the Sri Lankan players who win medals of any colour.

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Wheelchair tennis team to leave for World Team Cup on Saturday 

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The Sri Lanka Wheelchair Tennis team led by Tokyo Paralympian Suresh Dharmasena will leave for the World Team Cup on Saturday.

The BNP Paribas World Team Cup is the premier team competition for Wheelchair Tennis with four qualifiers and two wildcards joining the top ten teams in the world for the 16 nation competition being held in Sardinia, Italy.

Great Britain, France, Japan, Argentina, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, USA, Korea Rep. and Brazil are the top ten teams.

When the Team Cup qualification event was held in May, Sri Lanka beat Croatia 3-0 in the quarter-finals to be in the last four alongside Israel, Greece and Poland but was beaten by Israel in the semi finals.

In the qualifying event Gamini Dissanayake beat Croatia’s Sven Maretic 6-0, 6–2, while Suresh Dharmasena beat Anto Joskic 6-2, 6-0, before joining Lasantha Ranaweera to oust Anto Joskic and Sven Maretic 6-0, 6-0 in the doubles.

The World Team Cup will be held from October 4-10.

The Sri Lanka Tennis Association said that the team were engaged in final preparations at Green Path, ahead of their departure to Europe. The team comprising of Suresh Dharmasena (ITF Rank #64), DM Gamini (#81) Lasantha Ranaweera (#85) have been undergoing specialist training under coaches Jagath Welikala and Guyanga Weerasekera since July.

The Wheelchair Tennis Program is a project run by the Sri Lanka Tennis Association initiated in 2002. The project is overseen by the President of SLTA Iqbal bin Issack, General Secretary Pradeep Goonasekera, VP Wheelchair Tennis Major General Shiran Abeysekera and principal sponsor Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT).

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