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Mickey not willing to make exceptions for Malinga  

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by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Mickey Arthur has brushed aside suggestions that fast bowler Lasith Malinga could make a comeback again ahead of the T-20 World Cup in India later this year. Although, there are some strict fitness guidelines that are in place to make national players fall in line, a clause that has been included in the players’ contracts says that exceptions could be made in certain cases. This clause has left a bad taste in many mouths.

Sri Lanka’s senior players are up in arms refusing to sign contracts unless SLC removes the controversial clause.

There were suspicions that authorities were having something up their sleeve when they included the clause and yesterday cat was out of the bag when it was claimed that Malinga could make a comeback and could go onto play the T-20 World Cup in India.

However, Sri Lanka Head Coach Mickey Arthur indicated that the team has moved on from Malinga days. “We can not make exceptions at all,” Arthur told The Island.

Arthur has been a strong advocate of high fitness levels and had recommended compatriot Grant Ludon to take over as Fitness trainer of the national cricket team. Since Ludon took over, there has been lot of emphasis placed on the two kilometer run which players are supposed to finish in eight minutes and 30 seconds.

Several players who failed the fitness test including Dilruwan Perera and Avishka Fernando were not considered for selections while others like Prabath Jayasuriya, who failed the skin fold test, also became ineligible.

Players at the moment are on their toes as the signal from Arthur is that more excellence is needed on the fitness count. Once the players get comfortable with the two kilometer run, they are expected to compete it in less than eight minutes.

So, while Arthur is going on one extreme, demanding his players nothing but the best, those who are holding responsible positions seems to be going on another extreme treating certain players with kids’ gloves.

If an exception is made for Malinga, all what Arthur has been building up all these months will be lost and players will be looking for short cuts as fitness has been compromised.

Malinga has had issues with fitness in the past which has led to altercations with authorities. He’s surely passed his prime as well but through some clever maneuvering has managed to not only stick around but hold onto captaincy too.



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Nilani’s chances and the importance of quality competition

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by Reemus Fernando

It will be an anxious few days for country’s number one long distance runner Nilani Ratnayake as the Tokyo Olympic qualification deadline looms. For a better part of the last two years Ratnayake was country’s highest ranked athlete in the ‘Road to Olympic Rankings’. In the Asian Rankings she was only second to Winfred Mutile Yavi of Bahrain in her pet event, the 3,000 metres steeplechase. In the ‘Road to Olympic Rankings she was well within the required rankings to earn the ticket to Tokyo. But two weeks ahead of the Olympic qualification deadline she has dropped to the 39th position. But that is not due to a lack of commitment or form but due to things beyond her control.

Lack of quality competitions to compensate solid training regimens has been a problem ailing country’s progress in track and field. Though experts, mostly the former athletes and Olympians who had benefited from overseas training and competitions, have repeatedly highlighted the need to provide quality competitions for local athletes, they have often fell on deaf ears. The World Athletics’ world ranking system, which heavily favours top grade competitions, requires athletes seeking top rankings to compete in such championships. An athlete seeking Olympic qualification has to excel at top competitions if he or she is to realize the dream of competing at the quadrennial event.

The Covid 19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the aspirations of country’s Olympic hopefuls in the track and field sport as they have been deprived of quality competitions to improve their rankings. The Asian Athletics Championship did not take place due to the pandemic and many other regional competitions also did not see the light of day due to the same reason.

In a desperate move Sri Lanka Athletics tried to send their top athletes for a meet in Kazakhstan but lack of interest from the part of organizers in helping visa proceedings derailed the plan. The Indian Track and Field authorities have extended an invitation to their Sri Lankan counterparts to field a team for their Inter State meet starting on June 25 but the tour was still doubtful when this article went to press.

The US based high jumper Ushan Thivanka climbed up the world rankings in dramatic fashion during the last few months. But he is stranded in the 52nd position in the Road to Olympic Rankings due to unavailability of competitions. Thivanka has a seasonal best of 2.30 metres, his new Sri Lanka record, but needs to clear 2.33 metres or reach a ranking position of 32 if he is to compete in Olympics.

There are others. Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe is currently ranked 48th in the Road to Olympic Rankings, middle distance runner Nimali Liyanarachchi is ranked 55th, just seven ranking positions behind the selection mark and sprinter Nadeesha Ramanayake is ranked 56th and needs to climb just eight positions up if she is to realize her dream.

Now take the case of Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon. He needed just a single Diamond League Competition last week to overtake more than thirty athletes and secure a position among the top 50 athletes in the world rankings. He was placed fourth there. He is now almost certain of his participation in the Olympics as he has couple of more competitions to maintain his rankings.

It is no simple task to secure a position among the top 100 athletes in the world. There are other local athletes who have secured positions among the top 100 athletes in the world in their respective disciplines despite not taking part in quality international competitions. They have toiled hard for years to reach where they are and with the hope of doing their best this year. They will feel hard done by as hopes of reaching qualifying standards diminish due to lack of competitions.

Nilani Ratnayake’s chances of competing in Tokyo will depend on the performances of her rivals who are ranked below her during the next week. Ratnayake last competed in an international event in 2019. She needs to remain within the top 48 athletes in world rankings by June 29 if she is to take part.

True that the Covid 19 pandemic was responsible for the lost opportunities that denied chances of improving world rankings but it is incumbent upon authorities to realize the value of making available quality competitions for deserving athletes.

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Sportsmen, sponsors and ambush marketing

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by Rex Clementine

For the T-20 World Cup that is scheduled for later this year, the Sri Lankan players like all else will be supposed to sign participation agreements and one key point in these agreements is the ‘Ambush Marketing Clause’. This particular clause protects the sponsors of the International Cricket Council and players are supposed not to endorse any rival products of the official sponsors during and 30 days either side of the event.

How and why did the ‘Ambush Marketing Clause’ come about? Here’s how.  During the 1996 World Cup, Coca-Cola had signed up as one of the tournament sponsors and promoted their drinks with the tag-line, ‘the official soft-drinks of the World Cup’. Pepsi, another giant in the trade, hit back running television advertisements that you are chilled out and relaxed with a Pepsi in hand and they used some clever words, ‘Nothing official about it.’

They went a step or two further actually.  Pepsi had leading Indian players like Mohammad Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar as their brand ambassadors. Now during drinks break, a Coke trolley would come  into the ground but none of India’s leading players would go closer to it and one of the reserve players from the dressing room would bring them drinks separately.

This was a huge cause for concern and the ICC had to address the issue. Soon, the Ambush Marketing Clause came to effect. The players were up in arms, naturally, as they were losing out some big endorsements. But with home boards promising to compensate the players, they eventually signed the contracts.

Some Sri Lankan players too cashed in during the 2003 World Cup. They never had any deals with rival companies of the official sponsors but they made most of the stance the Indian players had taken.  Hemaka Amarasuriya, the Chairman of the Cricket Board at that point, told the players to sign the agreement, play the tournament and that they would be compensated accordingly. Amarasuriya kept a gentleman’s agreement by parting ways with 25% of the participation fee that the ICC paid the board.

Successive Sri Lanka Cricket administrations have followed Amarasuriya’s  lead although the amount has been cut down in recent times as the performance of the team has been below par.

There was a reason for us to suddenly bring up the Ambush Marketing Clause. Anyone who is following EURO 2020 would have seen the plight of soft drinks giant Coke after Portugal captain Christiano Rolando removed two Coca-Cola bottles from the press conference table.  Coke has reportedly suffered four billion US$ fall of the share prices.

Since Ronaldo, other players have followed suit.  Each sponsor paid a sum of US$ 30 million for the organizers and the fall out is sure to have major repercussions. Incidentally, Coke used to be a personal sponsor of Ronaldo years back.

Ronaldo’s action is nothing new in sports. During  the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, basketball star Michael Jordan covered the Reebok logo in his official kits strategically draping it with an American flag. This was to show solidarity with his personal sponsor Nike.

The millions that sponsors pour in is vital to nurture any sport at grass root levels. The marketing experts of sports bodies must be fretting over on the measures that need to be taken to protect their sponsors from superstars who have massive following all over the world. Ronaldo’s actions could take sports marketing to different scales.

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Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society win third place

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The medal winning karatekas with Chief Instructor Sensei Lakshman Saparamadu.

 

Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won 33 medals at the E – Kata International Karate Tournament recently.

This team were placed third at the tournament organized by the United Universal Shotokan Karate Association. The event was conducted using video technology. Some thirty counties participated in this tournament.

Karatekas fielded by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won twelve gold, eleven silver and ten bronze medals. They were trained by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society’s Chief Instructor, Sensei , Lakshman Saparamadu. (Text and pic by W.D. Vithana Delgoda Corr.)

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