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Ministry of Education delivers another blow to endurance events

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Schools long distance relay dropped again

by Reemus Fernando

The Ministry of Education has scrapped the distance medley relay which was reintroduced to the programme of the All Island Schools Relay Carnival at its last edition. The relay is not in the All Island Schools Relay Carnival agenda of the recently issued circular outlining the programmes pertaining to school sports.

Sports authorities of the ministry have also disregarded numerous requests to include the 4×800 metres relay into the Under-16 age category.

The decision to scrap the distance medley relay comes as a surprise as the organizers of the last edition were determined to reintroduce the event to the Under-20 age category as well following the success of the event in the Under-18 age category at the 2019 edition.

The distance medley relay was reintroduced to the programme in 2019 after many schools nurturing athletes for long distance events made requests to include it.

Sports Authorities of the Ministry of Education have given scant regard to endurance events, despite local athletes proving potential to impress at regional international events in the 800 metres and long distance events as of late.

Currently the country’s top three 800 metres runners in the women’s category occupy top positions in Asian rankings. Sri Lanka’s women’s 800 metres specialists Nimali Liyanarachchi, Gayanthika Abeyratne and Dilshi Kumarasinghe are currently ranked third, fifth and sixth respectively in Asian rankings. In 2020 the trio were responsible for producing the second, third and fourth fastest times in the Asian region. Currently the only athlete to have come closer to booking a berth at the Tokyo Olympic, Nilani Ratnayake, is also a distance runner.

Currently the athlete who is closest to achieving entry standard for the World Under-20 Athletics Championship, Shanika Lakshani is also a distance runner having 800 metres as her pet event.

The country’s highest achievement at the 2017 Asian Youth Athletics Championship (Under-18) came in the 800 metres when Harsha Dissanayake won a silver.

Sri Lanka’s only Youth Olympic medalist, Paarami Wasanthi won her medal at the Buenos Aires Games in 2018 in a long distance event, the 2000 metres steeplechase.

The Sports Authorities of the Ministry have made changes to the lower age category competitions removing the points system and introducing merit standards to issue certificates instead of recognizing the first second and third positions of events in the Under-12 and under-14 age categories. That has been cited by some as the only positive move the authorities have made.

Sources close to the Education Ministry said that there had been numerous requests to introduce middle and long distance events to the schools track and field programmes. Such requests includes introduction of the 3,000 metres to the Under-18 age category. Currently the 3000 metres event is competed in this age category at the Junior National Championship conducted by Sri Lanka Athletics and the Sir John Tarbet Senior Championships conducted by Sri Lanka Schools Athletics Association. But the Ministry of Education has continued to give a wide berth to long distance events.

The absence of long distance relays will badly affect schools and coaches promoting long distance events among athletes largely hailing from outstations. Many coaches and school officials promote All Island Schools Relay Carnival among their athletes to keep them interested in track and field as the event encourages team spirit and provides the second string a rare opportunity to win medals alongside prominent athletes.



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Gateway win three Basketball Championships in a row

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Standing (L-R): Mr. Kevin Bennet (Coordinator), Mr. Tharindu Fernando (Head Coach), Sashein Perera, Seth Abeysekara, Yoosuf Nazih, Abhee Witharana, Samuel Tsung, Mathisha Udumalgala, Julan Senvitha, Mikyle Reza, Giyan Fernando, Mr. Fawzan Thariq (Coordinator) Seated (L-R): Usman Shafraz (Vice-Captain), Abdullah Jazeel, Aadhil Ammar, Taresh Samarasinghe, Ashain Thevarapperuma (Captain)

Gateway College Juniors comfortably beat Elizabeth Moir School 31-8 at the Semi Final and Colombo International School 19-10 to win the Under 13 Inter-International Schools’ Basketball Championship that was hosted by the Colombo International School. Earlier in the year, Gateway College secured the Under 17 and Under 19 Championships.

During the group stages, Gateway College Colombo had little resistance as they beat Wycherley International School 40-2, Lyceum International School Nugegoda 35-0, Gateway College Kandy 48-7 and the British School in Colombo 40-11.

Usman Shafraz was named as the Best Defensive Player and Ashain Thevarapperuma as the Most Valuable Player.

Gateway’s outstanding performances during the recent years include several National and International School tournaments which has set the stage for a few of it’s players to represent the country in Basketball.

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Glenn Maxwell added to Australia Test squad after Travis Head joins injury list

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Glenn Maxwell has been added to Australia’s Test squad ahead of the opening match against Sri Lanka in Galle after Travis Head joined a lengthy injury list with a hamstring strain which ruled him out of the final ODI.

It means the prospect of Maxwell playing his first Test since 2017, against Bangladesh in Chattogram, and his first first-class match since 2019 if he is included for the game next Wednesday. All seven of his Tests have come on the subcontinent with a top score of 104 against India in Ranchi.

Before the tour, national George Bailey kept the door open for Maxwell’s return. He has been in good touch during the ODIs with a match-winning unbeaten 80 in the opening game followed by 30 and 33.

“We know Glenn has had some red-ball success in these types of conditions and we’re looking forward to him getting back and playing a good block of cricket through the T20s and one-day cricket,” Bailey said. “If he shoots the lights out or anyone else does particularly well, there’s always going to be opportunities.”

Head sustained his injury late in the fourth match and has just six days to recover before the first Test in Galle. GPS data showed that Head had run 26km in the field across the third and fourth matches of the series. The strain is said to be on the minor side, but if he is not available for the opening game next Wednesday, it would require Australia to rejig their middle order.

Maxwell has been called up ahead of any of the Australia A batters who have been taking part in the four-day matches against Sri Lanka which includes Marcus Harris, Matt Renshaw and Nic Maddinson.

However, three spinners from the A squad – Jon Holland, Matthew Kuhnemann and Todd Murphy – will remain in Sri Lanka with the Test squad to assist with preparations and to further their development. Kuhnemann has already been part of the ODI squad following Ashton Agar’s side injury and if Australia opt for three spinners during the Tests there could be further chance for promotion. (Cricinfo)

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Dickwella; brilliant with keeping, hopeless with batting

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Niroshan Dickwella pulled off a stunning stumping of David Warner on Tuesday as Sri Lanka secured a series win against Australia with a game to spare

by Rex Clementine

One of the game’s modern day greats Ricky Ponting used to be a riot in his early days. Late night brawls at pubs left him with bloody nose and sanctions from Cricket Australia. It was Steve Waugh who took him to a side and told him to get his act together. Ponting went onto play a record 168 Test matches, won two World Cups as captain and today he is a successful cricket coach.

Similarly, with Virat Kohli there were lots of hope when he came onto the big stage having captained India to the ICC Under-19 World Cup title. But he was overweight and underperforming with India’s senior side. One Sachin Tendulkar mentored him and today Kohli is in a different league. It’s such a pity that none of our greats have done the same with Niroshan Dickwella.

When Sampath Perera, one of the country’s most successful school cricket coaches, took on a bigger responsibility we asked him which young player we should keep an eye for. He told this newspaper to watch out for Niroshan Dickwella. This was some talent that will take Sri Lankan cricket places, Perera suggested. But he also warned us. He feared that Dickwella will get into trouble due to his off the field antics.

After nearly a decade in Sri Lankan colours, Dickwella has rarely delivered. While wicketkeepers like Quinton de Kock and Rishab Pant have gone places winning games to their sides, Dickwella is struggling to hold onto his place. He has been just average. Anywhere else in the world if you had not scored a hundred after 50 Tests, you’d be kicked out. He’s been tolerated with the hope that the prodigal son will finally deliver.

There was proof of what Sampath Perera was trying to tell us during the fourth ODI at RPS.  Dickwella pulled off a stunning stumping with David Warner on 99. Until that moment, the Aussies were on cruise mode to square the five match series. Dickwella turned the game and the series in Sri Lanka’s favour in a flash with the stumping of the year.

Sri Lanka have often backed batsmen who could do the job behind the stumps. In the process, they have turned a blind eye towards their best keeper who is Dickwella. Tuesday we saw why Dickwella should be backed as he is the team’s best keeper. Players of the caliber of Warner are going to give you just a half chance and you need to grab them like Dickwella did.

While Dickwella’s keeping is flawless, the problem is with his batting. There’s no consistency and worse, most of the time his ways of getting out are irritating.

Despite the excellent Warner stumping, the selectors have sent a strong message that unless he shows application with the bat, he is not going to be tolerated as he was dropped for the next game. They seem to want him to take more responsibility. At least this will bring the best out of him.

The other area that Dickwella has not made any improvement is his reviewing. True that the ultimate choice of reviews rests with the captain but the manner in which Dickwella urges the skipper leaves him with little choice. Dimuth Karunaratne, the Test captain, seem to be taking Dickwella’s inputs on reviews with a pinch of salt. White ball captain Dasun Shanaka seem to be still trusting his keeper but it’s only a matter of time before he too loses faith.

Reviews sum up Dickwella – impulsive, immature and even incorrigible. That’s seen in his overall cricket too. Fans will be hoping that the day comes where Dickwella is spoken of in the same breath as Pant and de Kock.

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