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Madugalle and Dharmasena set to officiate ‘home’ Tests

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by Rex Clementine

One of cricket’s sharpest brains – Ranjan Madugalle – is set to appear in his first Test match in Sri Lanka as a Match Referee when Bangladesh tour the island. Madugalle, a veteran of 193 Test matches started his career with the ICC in 1993. Although he has officiated in over 50 Test matches in places like England (12 at Lord’s alone), this is the first time he will be officiating in a Test match in Sri Lanka. It will be also the first time ever that he will function as Match Referee in a game involving Sri Lanka in any format.

With travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Cricket Council has altered playing conditions which allows local match officials to officiate in games. Otherwise, match officials are not from participating nations. As a result, we have seen Chris Broad officiating England’s home games and Madugalle is set to follow suit.

Former Test cricketer Kumar Dharmasena will also stand as an umpire in a Test match for the first time in Sri Lanka. Dharmasena unlike Madugalle gets regular postings in Sri Lanka in white ball cricket where local umpires are allowed but Madugalle’s opportunities in Sri Lanka have been restricted to ICC events such as – 2011 World Cup games and 2012 World T-20 games and they are just a handful.

Madugalle, currently 61, is a former Test captain who retired at the age of 29 to concentrate on his professional career at Ceylon Tobacco. He has had several stints as a member of the National Selection Panel including the one that served during the 1996 World Cup. Arjuna Ranatunga hails him as one of the best selectors he had worked with calling Madugalle, ‘firm but fair.’

Madugalle has been one of the most respected and long standing officials at the ICC having served the organization for more than quarter century now. His 27 year tenure with the game’s governing body has been an unblemished one although there have been the odd tackle or two by our own.

He was making huge strides as a Match Referee when Sri Lanka Cricket surprisingly withdrew his name in 2000. Time was when the home board nominated Match Referees. Madugalle shifted gears and took to commentary like a duck taking to water. He was hugely popular mixing up his in-depth knowledge, mastery of the language and light-hearted nature.

However, his commentary stint lasted just a few months as ICC revamped the Match Referees panel. Then ICC boss Malcolm Speed did away with home boards nominating match officials and instead ICC directly named them.

Madugalle was not only drafted into the new panel but was named as Chief Match Referee ahead of other stalwarts such as Clive Lloyd, Mike Procter and Gundappa Viswanath.

Madugalle has indeed done Sri Lanka proud as he has become the most sought after cricket official in the world. He has become the obvious choice to officiate World Cup finals whenever Sri Lanka have been not involved and other high profile events such as The Ashes and Border – Gavaskar Trophy.

SLC is yet to announce the schedule for the series but originally Bangladesh were set to play three Test matches in Sri Lanka.

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Aruna, Dilshi, Parami among athletes to benefit from World Athletics grant

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Sri Lanka Athletics to receive US$ 40,000.00 grant from World Athletics

by Reemus Fernando

Several Asian Junior Athletics Championship medallists are among the top track and field athletes who will benefit from a World Athletics grant, which Sri Lanka Athletics (SLA) is set to receive shortly.

Sri Lanka Athletics is likely to receive the first half of a grant of US$ 40,000.00 from the world governing body soon, for its youth oriented development plan it has prepared targeting international achievements during the next two years.

“Sri Lanka Athletics proposed a development project targeting the next two years to ‘World Athletics’ and have received their support to spearhead the program. We will be receiving the first half of the funds shortly,” a senior official of Sri Lanka Athletics told The Island.

In the development plan, SLA identified the Women’s steeplechase, Men’s and Women’s 4×400 meter relays and the mixed relay as future medal winning disciplines

Apart from the Tokyo Olympics (2021) Sri Lanka are set to participate at several international events within the next two years. The country has the potential to strive for medals at three major international events namely the 2021 Asian Athletics Championship in Hangzhou, China the Asian Games in the same city in 2022 and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022.

The World Athletics grant will help the local governing body to support its athletes financially to meet their nutritional needs and invest in training gear. The grant will also help them during competitions and the governing body to conduct training camps for the selected athletes through to 2022.

The local governing body in its plan had given priority to athletes who excelled at the Asian Junior Athletics Championship in 2018.

Asian Junior Athletics Championship medallist and 400 meters Championship record holder Aruna Dharshana and Youth Olympic medallist Parami Wasanthi are on top of the list of beneficiaries Sri Lanka Athletics has identified.

Dharshana clocked a record setting 45.79 seconds to win the gold medal at the Junior Asian event in Gifu, Japan in 2018. He has been dominating the senior Men’s event ever since and the silver medalist of the 2018 event, Pasindu Kodikara too is among the athletes picked. St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa sprinter Navishka Sandesh who won the silver medal at the Asian Youth Athletics Championship in Hongkong last year is the other 400 meters specialist.

Dilshi Kumarasinghe, the golden girl of the last South Asian Games, was also a winner at the last Asian Junior event. The former Ratnayake Central athlete clinched the silver in the Women’s 400 meters and clocked a personal best of 2:04.53 seconds to settle for bronze in the 800 meters. She also won a bronze in the 4×400 meters.

Parami Wasanthi who won the gold medal in the Women’s 3,000 meters Steeplechase in Hongkong and followed it up with the bronze at the Youth Olympics together with her training partner Ashmika Herath are in the development program as steeplechase specialists.

Among the athletes who have already been selected, the women’s 400 meters specialist Nadeesha Ramanayake is the only one who is not in that age category. She was part of the team that established a new Sri Lanka record in the Women’s 4×400 meters at the Asian Athletics Championship in Doha in 2019.

The senior official of Sri Lanka Athletics said that they were preparing to expand that team after reviewing the strengths of athletes at the National Trial. The National Trial and all track and field events scheduled for the last few months of the year were canceled or postponed due to the outbreak of Covid 19.

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Tokyo Cement Group renews Foundation of Goodness partnership

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Tokyo Cement Group pledged its support to the Foundation of Goodness for another year, to extend their multi-prongged activities aimed at rural cricket development. 2020 marks the fifth year of partnership between the two organizations, who have united to unearth talented young cricketers from rural Sri Lanka.

The Company’s long-standing partnership with the Foundation of Goodness (FoG) established cricket training facilities, that included upgrading two school grounds in Hikkaduwa and Seenigama, to undergo formal cricket training. Hikkaduwa Sri Sumangala MCC Lords and Seenigama Sri Wimala Buddhi Surrey Oval, are the two cricket grounds that are managed and operated by FoG under the patronage of Tokyo Cement Group, where regular training sessions are held. Budding school cricketers in the area are welcomed to enroll themselves for regular Cricket Coaching Camps conducted free of charge by reputed coaches at the two training centers, that have indoor and outdoor practice nets.

Founded on the vision of Kushil Gunasekera, Founder/Chief Trustee of the Foundation of Goodness, the Tokyo Cement Group’s partnership intends to make a positive impact on the lives of talented young cricketers from remote backgrounds who have very limited access to quality training facilities to pursue their dreams. Anura de Silva, Director of Sports at the Foundation of Goodness heads the Cricket Academy together with a pool of coaches and qualified physical trainers. The special monthly training sessions are conducted by renowned cricket coach Hemantha Devapriya, a former Head Coach of Sri Lanka’s National Ladies’ Cricket Team, with his team of cricket coaches. From time to time, the Academy gets the service of famed local and international cricket stars who get involved in the program on a voluntary basis.

Since inception, the Academy has so far trained over 1,100 promising young cricketers from nearly 20 regional schools in the area. The program also conducts an elite coaching camp for star performers, where they get to hone their innate talents under specialized supervision. The Southern Coaching Camps produced several top-notch National U19 Players who now represent various Division I clubs in the country. In August 2017, the partnership extended the Cricket Coaching Camps to the North and East, conducting programs in Jaffna, Killinochchi, Oddusuddan, Mankulam, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya, Mannar, Batticaloa, Kalmunai and Ampara, to unearth young cricketing sensations.

Speaking on the impact the Cricket Academy makes on the lives of young school boys and girls, Anura De Silva pointed out that, having access to top quality training facilities under the wings of world class coaching expertise is itself a great contribution to uplift the future of Sri Lankan cricket. He also said the success of the Academy lies in allowing these novices to maintain and polish up their natural style in either bowling, batting or fielding, so that they grow in confidence, as much as in their skill while undergoing the coaching program.

The number of cricketers who have risen from District / Provincial level to various National-level teams speak volumes for the Academy’s ability to unearth unique cricketing talent. Among them is Navod Paranavithana who is the Sri Lanka U-19 World Cup opener and captain of the Mahinda College Cricket Team, Galle, who shattered the batting records by becoming the first schoolboy to score a quadruple century in a school match. Navod joined the Cricket Academy at U-13 level and is a recipient of a MCC Cricket scholarship offered through The Foundation of Goodness. Kavisha Dilhari is another 17-year-old cricketing prodigy hailing from the Academy, who created the record as the youngest school girl cricketer to score a triple century at school level and also became the youngest person to represent Sri Lanka as part of the National Ladies Cricket Team. Furthermore, four young cricketers from the Seenigama Ladies Cricket Squad were selected to play for Sri Lanka at the Women’s Cricket World Cup 2020 in Australia.

With the extension of the partnership this year, Tokyo Cement Group and the Foundation of Goodness will continue the training sessions that gives schoolboy and schoolgirl cricketers the chance to hone their dormant skills. During this year, FoG has completed 12 coaching camps in the South, maintaining the training momentum of the players while looking after the facilities in their top condition, despite the many disruptions that occurred. Anura and his team of FoG coaches, together with Hemantha Devapriya and his team of coaches remain fully committed to this far-reaching initiative with the patronage of Tokyo Cement Group, whose objective is to provide the youth new opportunities to polish up their talent in the game of cricket. The Foundation of Goodness conducts a wide range of holistic development programs aimed at bridging the urban rural gap, that touch the lives of over 31,500 beneficiaries annually, free of cost, from over 400 villages island-wide. The two organizations united their forces in this endeavor with the shared objective of creating foundations for the future generations to become well-rounded leaders.

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Plight of school coaches Some working as pump attendants

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by Reemus Fernando

His love for the game of cricket forced Aman Uditha to take up one of the toughest coaching assignments at Vijayaba National School, Hungama (Hambantota District), a place that does not have a strong cricket culture to attract highly qualified coaches. The school which has produced a pace bowler in the Sri Lanka Under-19 team in recent times is one of the many lower division schools struggling to pay their coaches after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coaches in almost all the Division III and a majority of Division II cricket playing schools and some Division I schools are paid by the School Development Societies (SDS), which largely rely on contributions from parents. Schools have found it difficult to sustain these funds due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

Many such schools have either totally stopped paying their coaches or have reduced their salaries by big margins, forcing them to look elsewhere for a living. Unlike well-established schools, those in the lower divisions depend on a single coach to train all age group teams in the school. Uditha is responsible for coaching the Under-13, 15 and 17 teams of Vijayaba National School.

Affairs in some of the premier Division I cricket playing schools too have fallen to the same level as the underprivileged schools thanks to the pandemic. Many coaches, contacted comment, lamented about the unprecedented salary cuts they had been compelled to bear with in the recent months.

Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association with the help of Sri Lanka Cricket recently granted some concessions to coaches affected by the pandemic but it is just a short-term measure, and the coaches continue to suffer.

“I have been a cricket coach for years. I do not have experience in any other field and at this age, I cannot train myself for any other job; I am in a dilemma,” a level I coach of a Big Match playing school from the suburbs of Colombo told The Island. The coach of the premier cricket playing school has been training all age group teams (U13, 15, 17 and 19). His salary was first reduced by 25% due to the pandemic; it has been reduced by 50% during the recent months.

A group of coaches mentioned that some of their colleagues from underprivileged schools had been compelled to work at filling stations to keep home fires burning.

Meanwhile, some coaches whose contracts were terminated following the first wave of the pandemic are looking forward to securing new contracts elsewhere for the new season. But a recent Ministry of Education circular, which canceled all sports competitions in schools, has shattered their hopes.

However, a few coaches have been lucky. All coaches contracted by S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia continue to receive their full remuneration. The 70 plus coaching staff, training young Thomian sportsmen in 27 sports, are lucky while hundreds of their counterparts, employed by public and private schools are experiencing severe hardships.

A senior sports administrator of S. Thomas’ College told The Island: “We have paid all coaches their full salaries though we had to cancel training following Ministry of Education directives. We are paying them through the budget allocated in December,”

Uditha comes from the same district Suranga Lakmal, who was lucky to find a place in the Richmond College team before earning a place in the Sri Lanka team. Uditha found a place for his medium pace at Devananda College, Ambalangoda before taking up coaching. It is coaches like Uditha who spot talent like that of Lakmal for Sri Lanka Cricket. Sri Lanka Cricket, which is the richest sports body of the country and the Ministry of Education, should, therefore, look into the grievances of coaches and redress them.

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