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Mercantile Table Tennis Association of Sri Lanka: 65 Years on

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By Eric Motha
Founder member and former president of
Mercantile Table Tennis Association

The Inter Club Championships of the Mercantile Table Tennis Association (MTTA) were successfully conducted in September as a prelude to the Open Championships scheduled for November 2022.

The MTTA has grown in stature and popularity over the passage of time with an array of dedicated officials totally committed to continuing the saga that commenced in the mid 50’s with delegates from the Mercantile Sector and Commercial Banks. It behoves us to recall and remember Messrs. Robin L Rutnam, M. Balaji, AK Nesaratnam, NM Udeshi, Charlie Daniel, Noshir Lakdawalla, C. Paramananthan who guided the destinies of the Association during the formative years. The baton was then handed over to charismatic Chandrakant Mohanlal Vasa whose contribution was unique in many aspects. He will always be remembered with respect and affection by all those who had the fortune of teaming up in implementing several programs during his tenure.

In 1969 history was created when the inaugural “BOUNCING BALL” was organized when Noshir Lakadawalla was president. The event, a first in the Mercantile sector, was revived after a hiatus by energetic Vice President Rodney St. John. It proved the ideal forum for the TT players and guests to join in revelry and camaraderie at the conclusion of the Association’s program. On a sad note Noshir Lakadawalla passed away this year in USA. He held the distinction of having won the National Men’s title whilst as a student at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and aged 15.

Vasa possessed a vision for the MTTA and during his Presidency extending over a decade and ushered in a new era with a marked increase in the number of TT players in the Mercantile sector and securing sponsors, a requisite for a viable sports organization. He was ably assisted by a team comprising Rodney St. John, W. Daluwatte, AK Issadeen, Rasakantha Rasiah, Annesley Gomez, Lucian Alles, Leonard Perera, NE Thangarajah, Sarath Gunaratne, Sunimal Salgadoe. Francis Legrand, Austin Fernando, Ajith Gamage, MR Jabir, Sunil Meewewa, Darlon Pereira, DM Munasinghe, Shirley Botejue, ACM Rauff, D’Oliviera, Tony Antonius and Robert Joseph among others. The writer succeeded Vasa at the helm followed by GEP Jayatileke, MR Jabir, Sarath Gunaratne, Ajith Gamage, Rajive Wijetunge, Vimarshana Gammanpila, Sukhita Samarakkody and Chanaka Perera the current President.

It is on record that several officials of the MTTA were elected to serve in the Table Tennis Association of Sri Lanka. They were involved in both Associations and carried out their duties with equal candour and dedication solely motivated by an innate desire to serve. The officials were: Sarath Gunaratne, Rajiva Wijetunge, Lalith Priyantha (Presidents) V. Gammanpila and Ashan Wickramanayake (VP) Ajith Gamage, Reza Latiff and Dhananjaya Dharmarathne (Secretary) and Gamunu Prabath (Asst. Treasurer)

It is a matter of pride that the MTTA had through the decades produced a galaxy of players who emerged as national champions and ranked players and represented the country at international tournaments with success: NM Udeshi, Charlie Daniel, Chrys Gunaratne, Noshir Lakdawalla, Paul Thambinayagam, RK Singham, K Arichandran, KC Chandraraj, Pesi Pestonjee, Annesley Gomez, Suresh Melvani, Ashok Melvani, Angelo Santiago, Rasakantha Rasiah. Sarath Gunaratne, MB De Silva, Ramesh Dharamdas, George Van Hoff, I Jayasiri, Lalith Priyantha, Shabbar and Shabbir Hussain,WA Buddhasiri,Nihal Gunaratne, Lalith PereraThilina Piyadasa, Nirmala Jayasinghe, KST Chalitha Rangana, Chameera Ginige.

Belle Weerakoon, Cuckoo Fonseka, Nandini Daniel, Srini Lucas, Carol Rudolph, Swarna Peiris, Namal Gunasekera, Shyamalee Dias, Tamara Hewage, Kalpani Herath, Srimali Wimalaratne, Deepika Kotinkaduwa, Saranga De Silva, Sachie Tennekoon. My apologies for omissions, if any.

Thilina Piyadasa has annexed the National Men’s Championship for a record seven times.

Rajiva Wijetunge holds a prolific record as an administrator, selector and player having participated in MTTA tournaments for 40 years and helped Ceylon Tobacco and MAS Holdings to win the ‘A’ Division Championships on several occasions. He won the Veterans Singles Championship too. Rajiva holds the record of being the 1st Sri Lankan to win a Medal for TT at the World Masters Games held in Canada in 2006. He also won medals for Sri Lanka with creditable performances at the World Masters and Masters Championships in South Africa and New Zealand adding to his laurels. The Association had the privilege and patronage of sponsors and Vice Patrons since its inception. Messrs. M. Balaji, NM Udeshi. AK Nesaratnam, Ana Punchihewa, Dr. IA Ismail, LCR Wijetunge, Inayet Akberally, Aloy Ratnayake and Chandrakant Vasa made a significant contribution.

Sukhita Samarakkody during his term as President organized a very successful Awards Night. The tradition will continue with the Colours Awards ceremony scheduled for December 10, 2022 under the chairmanship of Chanaka Perera, the current President.

Rajiva Wijetunge, Ajith Gamage and M Ruzaik Jabir teamed up well with Vimarshana Gammanpila, Sukitha Samarakkody and the incumbent President who followed them in office with their advice and necessary assistance in furthering the activities of the MTTA with diligence and commitment. The amalgam between the MTTA and TTASL was a key factor in the smooth functioning of both sports bodies. It is encouraging to learn that this partnership in promoting Table Tennis at the Mercantile and National levels proved a great success.



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Sports

Selection impasse continues 

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by Rex Clementine  

Sri Lanka Cricket and Ministry of Sports are at daggers drawn and virtually naming of new selectors has become impossible after SLC submitted the same set of names to be reappointed. SLC wants a fresh term for Pramodaya Wickramasinghe under whose tenure the team won the Asia Cup. The Sports Ministry meanwhile wants Wicky gone. Among other things, they aren’t happy that he retained Danushka Gunatilleke on tour after he was injured during the World Cup. The top order batsman brought international shame to the country after his arrest in Sydney. He was charged with sexual assault.   In order to break the deadlock, the Sports Ministry now  wants to issue a gazette and call for interested former players to apply. The age old practice has been for SLC to advertise for the post and among the applicants, ten names are handpicked and sent to the Sports Ministry, which then chooses five out of those ten names and appoint them as selectors. But it’s all going to change now. The board will no longer have a say on selections. The selectors are answerable to the Ministry of Sports. But the board will pay their salaries. This is not an ideal situation and let’s hope it’s just a one off. SLC should have known better and instead of going on a collision course should have negotiated for a better deal.

Getting selectors to apply is never the ideal thing. Greg Chappell was a selector of Australia for a long period of time and if someone had asked him to apply he would have given that person a piece of his mind. Chappell’s role was a unique one from rest of the panel. He was responsible to alert the selectors on the next biggest talent in the country having scrutinized a player.

Similarly a Sidath Wettimuny, an Aravinda de Silva or  a Marvan Atapattu aren’t going to apply for the post of selector. They’ll come and serve if protocols are followed and obviously they would want a free hand. That’s the best way forward too. Surely you don’t want your best brains left behind simply because they didn’t apply for a post. What’s it with Wicky that he wants to hold onto this post so much. He needs to learn to let go. He’s anyway known as someone who’ll not take a backward step but what about little Kalu? Now that’s a man who is very conscious about his  reputation. If the system doesn’t want you, then there’s no point in hanging around. Take a break and make a comeback when there’s an opportunity. The present selectors maybe feeling that they have done a good job and need a fresh term. Well it doesn’t always happen that way.

Duleep Mendis is a case in point. Through meticulous planning, he had helped the national team for a maiden Test win in South Africa in 2011. The whole county was excited at what the team had achieved. Yet, two weeks later he was sacked along with captain T.M. Dilshsn and Head Coach Geoff Marsh.

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Bangladesh selectors okay if Hathurusingha is included in selection panel

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There’s been a buzz after BCB president Nazmul Hasan announced that newly-appointed coach Hathurusingha will have a say in selection, although a decision on whether he will be officially included in the selection panel like in the past is yet to be made.

“Whether Hathurusingha will be included in the selection panel will be decided by the board. There are two selections: preliminary (squad) and final selection (playing XI),” said Nazmul Hasan, BCB President. “The final selection is always made by the captain and coach, and the captain decides whereas the coach gives suggestions but basically it is the captain.”

Many feel that if Hathurusingha is included in the selection panel, that will take away power from the selectors. However, BCB’s chief selector Minhajul Abedin and his long time associate in the selection panel Habibul Bashar disagree with it.

“I am not sure whether he will be included in the selection panel or not but I don’t think it will be a problem and we didn’t have any problems last time too,” Minhajul told Cricbuzz on Thursday, adding that he is in regular touch with the Sri Lankan to keep him updated.

Habibul told Cricbuzz that he has seen Hathurusingha working from close quarters and feels that there are lots of misconceptions floating in the air about him.

“It is not true that he had given us a paper” said Habibul. “We always discussed about our team with the head coach and always take his suggestion whether he is a part of selection panel or not. And it was the same with him as well.

“I don’t think he is any kind of strict headmaster. Instead what I feel is that he always looked at the cricketers equally.”

Khaled Mahmud, current team director and a close ally of Hathurusingha, feels that Hathurusingha is now much more matured than before.

“He has worked in Bangladesh before. There were a lot of good performances during his time. He is more mature now, which is good for the team. I think it is a positive thing that he is coming for a second time. He understands us well, as he is also from the subcontinent.” said Mahmud, who had worked as team manager during Hathurusingha’s first stint

Hathurusingha spent three years from 2014 to 2017 before leaving abruptly for the Sri Lanka role. He is expected to arrive by January 20 and his first assignment will be against England at home.

(Cricbuzz)

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SportUnleash Schools Sports Awards 2022

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Fifteen outstanding school sports persons were felicitated at the inaugural SportUnleash School Sports Awards 2022 held at the BMICH recently.Minister of Education Susil Premajayanth was the chief guest at the awards ceremony while MP Eran Wickramaratne was the guest of honor.

The award winners for 2022

ATHLETICS:

Track events-Nadun Kaveesha Bandara of Royal College, Colombo,

Field events –

Ashmika Keshan Korala of Yoshida International School, Sapugaskanda,

BADMINTON: Viren Nettasinghe of St Peter’s College,

BASKETBALL:GG Minoli Mariya Direkze of HFC Bambalapitiya,

BOXING: Pasindu Umayanga Mihiran, Nalanda College,

CHESS: LM Susal T de Silva, Nalanda College,

CRICKET: Dunith Wellalage, St Joseph’s College,

KARATE: CA Tharuki Sashindi, Sapugaskanda Visaka Vidyalaya,

NETBALL:

Hiruni Heshani, HFC Kurunegala,

ROWING: Shaylon Shayan Gunaratna, Asian International School,

RUGBY: Dinupa Seneviratna, DS Senanayake College,

SWIMMING:Ganga Seneviratne, Visaka Vidyalaya,

TENNIS:Dinara de Silva, St Bridget’s Convent,

VOLLEYBALL:Kavishka Madushanka, Rajasinghe Central College, Ruwanwella,

WRESTLING: Nethmi Ahinsa Fernando, Welpalla Sangharathana Maha Vidyalaya, Giriulla,

COACH OF THE YEAR: TS Suranga Kumara,

SPORTING SCHOOL –Nalanda College.

The Jury Medals for Sports Excellence, were awarded to Danindu Chirath Sellepperuma of Ananda College and Vishmi Gunaratne of Rathnawali Balika Vidyalaya, Gampaha for their noteworthy performance in cricket and to Tharushi Karunarathne of A. Ratnayake MMV, Walala in Athletics.

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