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Mahela leaves Sri Lanka team with a heavy heart  

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Rex Clementine in Sharjah

Former skipper Mahela Jayawardene’s role with the Sri Lankan team as a consultant has worked wonders and everyone from captain, coach to players have praised him immensely. Unfortunately, his stay with the Sri Lankan team will be over today as he had opted to stay only during the qualifiers. In an interview with a few Sri Lankan journalists in UAE, Jayawardene explained that he was leaving due to personal reasons.

“It’s tough. I just counted that I have been 135 days in quarantine and bubbles since June and I am in last legs. But I totally understand and I told them I will be with the group with the technology that we have. I hope that anyone can understand that being a father that I haven’t seen my daughter for that many days. I definitely need to get back home,” Jayawardene explained.

Jayawardene was happy with the way things have gone for Sri Lanka in the qualifying phase. Sri Lanka went through with a game to spare and almost certainly will top the group which means they will avoid the Asian bloc in the second round.

“Things have gone fairly well but there are things that need to be improved going forward. The main thing was role clarity for players and what needs to be done in T-20 cricket. The biggest thing I realized when I spoke to the coaches was fear of failure and playing T20 cricket at this level you need to play without that. Otherwise it’s difficult to get hold of certain situations and put pressure back on the opposition,” he explained.

“We have spoken about this individually. The batting area is something we still need to work quite a bit and continue to do so. The bowling group has a lot of skill sets and creating situation awareness and match-ups to improve the skill set we had. I think so far we have been very good in executing that and hopefully they will be able to do that even though it’s going to be tougher.”

“With the batting group, we still have to work with the guys to help them continue to bat with that freedom and start taking control of certain situations. Those situations we can’t predict. Those will arise like in the last game where we were three down or like the previous game where we had some hiccups and in those situations what needs to be done and have that tempo throughout the innings. Those are situations that we discussed so that the players are aware of those situations so that it won’t be a surprise if they are in that situation.”

The decision to bring Avishka Fernando down to number four took many by surprise and when asked on this, Jayawardene was not willing to spill the beans.  “To elaborate that on a media forum means we are putting out things that are detrimental to the player going forward. With Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis out of this T20 group, we needed to create bit more power in the middle which we lacked and having top heavy power wouldn’t have pitted like when you are going into a competition. You need to have that spread of different players coming and doing those things and continuing the tempo. So to break that we need to do something with Avishka.”

“Yes there were certain issues with Avishka as well where at the top he was finding it difficult with certain bowling match-ups.  So we wanted to take away that element and give him a different role to play.  I also felt that he had the game to do it and obviously when you look at his stats against certain bowler types, we could see his strength.  That’s something we’ve analyzed to see whether he can play that role. So when I spoke to him he was very much keen to take that challenge and now we see him expressing himself well in that role. He understands his role but I do not want to go into too many details which means I am giving out certain information which the opposition might be able to utilize as well.”

Another masterstroke during the Ireland game was to send Wanindu Hasaranga at number five after Sri Lanka were three wickets down for just eight runs in the second over.

“In T20 cricket, its small phases that takes the game away from anyone. It can be four balls or five balls. Ireland game is an example. Those six balls that Wanindu played in the Power Play, sixth over against the off-spinner was the one that got us the tempo and put pressure back on Ireland. And we knew that match up was there and Wanindu has that option. They obviously made a mistake by bowling a spinner in the Power Play against him and he took advantage. So it’s that crucial in a T20 game for you to be able to control those situations and be ready for that match-up.”

Fast bowler Lahiru Kumara has been sensational with his extra pace and he was a last minute inclusion. Jayawardene’s request would have made the selectors to include him in the side. “I have always believed that bowlers win tournaments not the batsmen so having a bowling group that is capable of creating those opportunities is important. Sometimes bowlers will go for runs and a having that attacking option is required. I know it’s against qualifying nations still but even with main teams, especially against good batting line-ups the only way to control those batting line-ups is by being able to pickup wickets and having that attacking option so you need to have that fire power.”

“Lahiru has been bowling really well. Having spoken to Vaasy even before the tournament he was quite happy the way Lahiru had progressed. He has to work hard on his skill, especially the yorker. That was something that he was working quite a while with Vaasy. He was very confident in executing that.  Chameera has come a long way in the last 12 months. He is probably one of the top bowlers in world cricket at the moment with T20 and been able to adapt to different condition.

Today’s game in Sharjah against Netherlands is a dead rubber but with Sri Lanka set to play a few games in the second round in Sharjah, the game will be a good opportunity to adapt to conditions.

“We’ll change the template and the way we want to play in Sharjah. In the Super 12 group, we have three games in Sharjah, one in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi so our template and strategy will change according to the surface and how we want to go about. Before I leave, I’ll put all structures in place and give them a better idea because I was involved in a few games in Sharjah two weeks back in the IPL and we saw how in the playoffs the surfaces were playing.”



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“Players must study and maintain their game as well”- Niranjan

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Niranjan (centre) pictured with his two champions Yasitha (left) and Anjalika. (Pic by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

By A Special Sports Correspondent   

Tennis coach Niranjan Cassie Chetty is a versatile personality. When he is not into coaching he is an avid reader and enjoys music. And above all what’s interesting about this man is that one can have an interesting chat with him because his interests in life and sport spread far and wide.

We know little about the people who contribute to players from ‘behind the curtain’. Niranjan is a coach who shuns the limelight and prefers his chargers to bask in the glory of success and take home the silverware and decorate their trophy cupboards.

This year he produced two national singles champions-Yasitha De Silva (Men’s Singles winner) and Anjalika Kurera (Women’s Singles winner). These feats were recorded at the 106th Tennis Nationals worked off recently.

During an interview Niranjan had with ‘The Island’ newspaper he spoke about the importance of balancing both studies and sport in a country like Sri Lanka. This he said is important because in Sri Lankan school and university players don’t get any aid as concessions where classroom education is concerned. He cited Yasitha De Silva’s journey in tennis and said that the champion had a hard time balancing his studies and the sport and before emerging as the national champion and also completing his degree at the Colombo University.

“In other countries players at university can attend training in the mornings and then do some home studies where education is concerned. This helps immensely when players are training for international competitions and training is demanding,” said Niranjan who had played competitive tennis during his young days.

Niranjan opined that it would be ideal for the Sri Lanka Tennis Association, Sports Ministry and the Education Ministry to come together and have an arrangement for the national tennis players so that they can pursue education in a flexible manner which doesn’t hinder their training.

Niranjan advises strongly against taking a break for studies because staying away from tennis for a year or so can really jeopardize a career. “When you are around 16 years of age players are forced out of the tennis court due to academic commitments and this can be costly in terms of seeing a drop in performance. After age 16 players start their A Levels and some move on to university and this reduces time spent on the court which eventually causes a drop in volume in the players,” he explained. His advice is to not take that break from the game and move to another level where individual capacity is concerned; regarding handling studies and sport. “They have to study and maintain their game as well” he underscored.

He rues the fact that the game was severely affected by the pandemic when the entire world experienced Corona. “But I think the Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA) managed the difficult time well and we were able to have some tennis and even take part in international competitions. The SLTA allowed three players and one coach in the court in 2020 during training. I downloaded some training apps and we were able to retain the condition of players to a certain extent. But overall it was an opportunity lost,” he said.

As a coach he is concerned about the country losing talented players after age 16 to education. This leaves Sri Lanka with no other option, but to play junior players at the Davis Cup; where Sri Lanka is at present playing in Group 4. There have been occasions where Sri Lanka has contested this event in the Group 3 and even Group 2, but for that challenge the best senior players must make themselves available.

Just the other day Singles champion Yasitha De Silva was quoted during an interview with a daily newspaper recently saying that he would face a tough challenge in the future when retaining his slot as current champion because he would be playing against young schoolboys who are full time players. Does this go on to state that the present national champion is a part-time tennis player?

Niranjan is of the opinion that Sri Lanka’s players must consider playing abroad in events organised by their academies because this arrangement guarantees players would remain active during the tour period and get to play sufficient tennis whereas in a tournament one runs the risk of getting knocked out and being a spectator thereon-wards. But this he said was only till the country is able to once again retain the senior players in the game. And if this is done, it would guarantee Sri Lanka’s chances in overseas competitions. He said players from Sri Lanka have the habit of playing in academy events in countries like India and Spain.

He hailed the efforts of the tennis authorities to have tournaments and conduct tennis events in the outstations. But he added that the tennis hub is in Colombo and the tennis fraternity was a small community. “I think I stuck on with the sport because I started young and there was a culture supporting the players in the game from my time. I can remember my parents listening to commentaries through the radio when Wimbledon matches were on and that kind of culture generates a lot interest for tennis,” recalled Niranjan.

Coaches like Niranjan have a lot to offer to the sport and it will augur for tennis’ future if they are offered a platform to speak from and positively influence the sport.

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Dialog National Netball Championship 2021

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Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata PLC, continuing its promise of uplifting Sri Lanka sports has come forth once again for the third consecutive year to power the Dialog National Netball Championship 2021, which will be played from 22nd to 23rd January at the Digana Ground, Kandy.

The Dialog National Netball Championship 2021 will see 34 teams island-wide battle it out for top honours. The preliminary round of the tourney will be played in a league structure and from there onwards will be played on a knockout basis.

The National Netball Championship is the premier tournament conducted by the Netball Federation of Sri Lanka (NFSL) annually to identify and select talented players, coaches and umpires to train them to be champions of tomorrow in the international arena.

“The National Netball Championship is the most important tourney in the annual domestic calendar and I’m indeed thankful for Dialog Axiata for extending their support for the sport especially at a time the country and the economy is impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ranjani Jayakody, President, Netball Federation of Sri Lanka said. “The National Team has performed well in the past few years, hence tourneys such as the Dialog National Netball Championship is critical to maintain the form of national players and discover new talent.”

As the principal sponsor, Dialog Axiata has made arrangements to LIVE stream the match via thepapare.com, Dialog ViU mobile app and will also be shown LIVE on Dialog TV Channel 140.

Dialog Axiata is the proud sponsor of the Sri Lanka National Cricket, Volleyball and Netball teams. The Company also has a close association with the President’s Gold Cup Volleyball, Junior Volleyball, National Junior Netball tourneys, Schools Rugby League, Knockout and Sevens tourneys, Premier Football, Schools Cricket, and Paralympic sports – by powering the Army Para Games, National Para Games and the Sri Lankan contingent to the World Paralympic Games.

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Sithum shines as De Mazenod beat Ananda

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Under 17 Division I Cricket  

by Reemus Fernando  

Notable all-round performances by Sithum Fernando for De Mazenod, an underdog’s triumph by Sri Sumangala, Kandy over Dharmaraja and Mahinda rattling Devapathiraja for 45 runs were among the highlights of the Inter School Under 17 Division I Cricket tournament matches played on Wednesday.

Sithum Fernando’s heroics helped de Mazenod beat Ananda by 54 runs at Ananda Mawatha. An unbeaten 60 by Maleesha Perera was the only bright spot in the home team’s run chase.

At Galle, Mahinda wrecked havoc on Devapathiraja as their pacemen Dinura Kalupahana and Shehan Hasaranga took five wickets each to skittle out the visitors for 45 runs. Pacemen have not accounted for all ten wickets in school matches often.

Thenuka Ekanayake scored a half century and took two wickets as a good team effort powered Sri Sumangala College to a remarkable 102 runs victory over Dharmaraja at Lake View.

Richmond, Galle, Bandaranaike, Gampaha and St. Benedict’s also registered victories in the matches played on Wednesday.

Match Results

 

De Mazenod beat Ananda at Ananda Mawatha

 

Brief Scores:

De Mazenod

243 for 9 in 50 overs (Nehan Dias 36, Sithum Fernando 53, Hasith Sandeepa 46, Thareen Sanketh 28, Vihas Perera 20; Ayesh Sashimal 3/48, Isuru Ayesh 2/32, Maleesha Perera 2/49) 

Ananda

189 all out in 38 overs (Viduna Wijebandara 30, Maleesha Perera  60n.o., Isuru Ayesh 20; Sithum Fernando  4/40, Thareen Sanketh 3/49) 

Mahinda rattle Devapathiraja for 45 runs at Galle

Brief Scores:

Devapathiraja

45 all out in 17.4 overs (Pathum shaminda 10; Dinura Kalupahana 5/12, Shehan Hasaranga 5/16) 

Mahinda

46 for 2 in 12.1 overs (Dhanuja Induwara 23) 

Bandaranaike MV, Gampaha beat Sri Dharmaloka, Kelaniya by four wickets at Godigamuwa

 

Brief Scores:

Sri Dharmaloka

266 for 9 in 50 overs (Sanura Ruwantha 46, Nadiv Manchanayaka 25, Helanka Viduranga 40, Sanira Nimnal 41, Uditha Shehan 57, Themira Mukashana  19n.o.; Yasiru Wijesinghe 2/49, Runada Rajapaksha 2/50, Ashen Wickramasinghe 3/56)   

Bandaranaike MV

268 for 6 in 49.3 overs (DInujaya Hettiarachchi 42, Runada Rajapaksha 78, Kusal Karunarathne 35, Ashen Wickramasinghe 43, Vihanga Wijerathne 22n.o.; Nadiv Manchanayaka 2/57, Helanka Viduranga 2/34) 

St. Benedict’s register eight wickets win at Panadura

Brief Scores:

St. John’s

125 all out in 37.4 overs (Geethama Fernando 26, Chamod Sanchethana 37n.o.; Hasanga Nanayakkara 2/31, Supun Senanayake 2/17, Kojitha Nimsara 2/20, Chamath Chathuraya 3/24) 

St. Benedict’s

127 for 2 in 22.1 overs (Viduneth Wilson 64n.o., Nethan Fernando 22, Shenel Samarathunga 22n.o.) 

Sri Sumangala beat Dharmaraja by 102 runs at Lake View

 

Brief Scores:

Sri Sumangala

203 all out in 48.2 overs (Madawa Rathnayake 48, Thenuka Ekanayake 67, Tharindu Lakshan 40; Saranga Uduwella 2/47, Arosha Mahagedara 3/43, Dulara Bandulasena 3/21) 

Dharmaraja

101 all out in 24.2 overs (Hesara Rajapaksa 21; Thenuka Ekanayake 2/21, Buddi Sanchitha 4/12)  

Richmond pull off 25 runs win over Vidyaloka at Galle

Brief Scores:

Richmond

148 all out in 49 overs (Imesh Sasindu 27, Tharinda Nirmal 28, Sanahas Ramindu 26; Hansaka Randipa 4/14) 

Vidyaloka

123 all out in 47 overs (Prageeth Bimsara 20, Thinuka Kalhara 37; Sharon Abhishek 3/31, Manuja Dulneth 3/31)

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