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Neil’s books on rugby bring back nostalgic memories

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By A Special Sports Correspondent

These are days where sportsmen and women can review their lives and careers. Some would say it’s a must do during these times where there are travel restrictions. We all experience such a period some time during our lives when we are made inactive. From a rugby perspective there is so much literature to read up. Innovative people can do a documentary on rugby or short film clip and post on social media and youtube. This writer remembers the two books penned on rugby by one time recorder of Sri Lanka Rugby Neil Wijeratne.

These are great days to read his two books ‘Rugby Across the Straits’ and our very own ‘Sevens Saga’-which caps the rugby sevens history of the island.

Wijeratne is still the person to go to when a writer wants information for a sports article. He is a serious historian and takes great pain in collecting his facts and figures for his compilations. He has been generous in parting with whatever statistics he has when budding writers and journalists tap him as a source.

He was pushed to keeping sports records on pen and paper because destiny didn’t afford him the opportunity to be a sportsman. Many feel that sport was richly rewarded because this brought the writer out in Wijeratne.

Wijeratne showed his prowess in writing as a schoolboy and penned his first novel ‘Mihiduma Atharin’ in 1968. That pen kept flowing and he produced many gems in writing; his compilations coming out in English and Sinhala languages.

He is one person who saw rugby’s changing face from being an amateur sport to its professional status. Those who speak with him will vouch that his cherished memories were when players played for the love of the game and remained as amateurs.

His writings highlight those achievements by ‘amateur’ rugby players. He mentions of players like Apisai Nagata, Sari de Sylva, Nalin de Silva, Didacus de Almeida, Michael Jayasekare and Nalaka Weerakkody in a note of acknowledgement in his book Sevens Saga. He leaves out two great names that of Hisham Abdeen and Priyantha Ekanayake in that list. But who are we scribes to challenge his thoughts as a writer? May be a writer like Wijeratne sees subtle intriguing qualities and more interesting traits in these players he has mentioned because that total package makes their presence on the field so much interesting.

Wijeratne picked up those bits of information which the spectator might have missed out on and brings them out in his writings. He also never forgot about to write on lesser known sports personalities and people who contributed to sport from behind the scenes.

We Sri Lankans have often caught the attention of overseas crowds when contesting international sevens tournaments. This could be one reason why he dedicated effort and time to pen the early history of the island’s sevens rugby.

According to him it had all happened in 1931 on a February 1st in Ratnapura when the Police team took on a planters combined outfit that marked the first rugby sevens game in Sri Lanka. The writer in his book goes on to find out the exact population in Ratnapura (8497) which adds flavour to the article and brings back nostalgic memories of the past. According to Wijeratne the person credited for introducing rugby sevens to this nation is Welshman K.F Jenkins who was stationed here as a probationary Assistant Superintendent of Police.

As rugby progressed and more clubs came into being Wijeratne simply expanded his horizons. From rugby sevens tournaments in Colombo’s Longden Place and Race Course he has captured the action in tournaments like Sabaragamuwa Sevens, Kurunegala Sevens, Ruhunu Sevens, Uva Sevens, Dimbula Sevens travelling the length and breadth of Sri Lanka. He also writes about Sri Lanka hosting its first international rugby tournament -the Cargills International Sevens-which was won by Fiji Islanders’. The team comprised all Fijian players, who played domestic rugby here, except for Chandrishan Perera, who was probably included here to keep the interest of the local crowd in the tournament till the end. The old style of playing rugby is captured by Wijeratne in his punchy style of writing English. In the article titled ‘Some days are diamond days’ dedicated to Sri Lanka’s Bowl Championship win at the 1994 Fiji Sevens he writes ‘Sri Lanka was very much famous in Fiji not because of any rugby prowess of theirs, but as a country where the Fijians are looking ahead to make lucrative playing careers. Wijeratne brings out the best of Sri Lanka rugby when the islanders are on top and dazzling and still can keep the reader glued to the page with his descriptive writing when the ‘Tuskers’ are struggling with defeat staring in the face.

Still for Wijeratne, he can’t help but find space for two legends like Abdeen and Priyantha Ekanayake in the book ‘Sevens Saga’. He writes extensively on Sri Lanka’s 1984 Bowl Championship win where Abdeen led from the front as skipper. The author underscores the leadership skills and rise to fame of Ekanayake in selected sections of the book. When one begins to think that the book is not complete without the mention of two rugby stalwarts who gave so much opportunities for rugby players one finds the names of Kishin Butani and Malik Samarawickreme and some of their contributions to sevens rugby.

During these lockdown days where rugby activity is absent Wijeratne’s books are ideal to do more than pass the time; they are educative as well.

In his characteristic way of saying it Wijeratne’s rugby books ‘offer a nostalgic pilgrimage to recapture everlasting moments in rugby seen in this island’.



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Savinka, Rashmi win U-19 singles titles

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Under 19 boys’ runner up Jason Homer(left) and champion Savinaka Weerasekara.

38th National Junior Badminton Championships

Savinaka Weerasekera of D.S. Senanayake College and Rashmi Mudalige of Gateway International School emerged Under-19 boys’ and girls’ champions respectively while Pulina Wellalage of St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa clinched a triple crown at the 38th National Junior Badminton Championships held in Colombo.

At the annual event conducted by Sri Lanka Badminton in association with Sri Lanka Schools Badminton Association, Weerasekera defeated Jason Homer of the Royal Institute International School 21-11, 21-11 in the Under-19 boys’ singles final at the Sugathadasa Indoor Sports Complex.

Weerasekera then teamed up with Homer to beat Ashinsa Herath and Vidusha Sumanadasa of Royal College 21-18, 21-16 to win the doubles title in the same age group.

In the Under-19 girls’ singles final, Rashmi Mudalige beat Ondi Sethuki (Southland’s College, Galle) 16-21, 21-14, 21-14.

Mudalige also secured her second title when she teamed up with young badminton sensation Wellalage to defeat Shenuk Samararatne and Sithuki Onadee 17-21, 21-19, 21-19 and win the U-19 mixed doubles final.

In the U-19 girls’ doubles final, Thisuni Liyanarachchi and Lawandi Umagiliyage of Sangamitta College, Galle, denied Mudalige a third title when they defeated the latter and her Gateway College partner Natasha Gunasekara 21-15, 21-18 in the final.

Meanwhile, Wellalage, the younger brother of national cricketer Dunith, beat Thilina Rajakaruna in straight sets (21-10, 21-16) to win the U-17 boys’ singles title, his second in the Championships.

Wellalage’s Triple Crown was completed when he and partner Shenuk Samararatne defeated Sanjula Handapangoda and Thilina Rajakaruna 21-13, 18-21, 25-23 in an all-Sebastianites Boys’ U-17 doubles final.

Meanwhile, the young national shuttle sensation Ranithma Liyanage of the Christ Church College, Baddegama, who later went on to be crowned national Champion, defeated her Girls’ U-17 singles opponent Ranumi Manage (Musaeus College) in the final with ease (21-2, 21-13).

The presentation ceremony was held with Director General of Sports Development, Amal Edirisuriya as the chief guest in the presence of Sri Lanka Badminton President Rohan de Silva, SLB officials and former players.

Winners and Runners-up

Under 11 Boys Singles

Champion –

Prithish Abeygunawardena (Richmond), Runner-up – Nesandu Hapukotuwa (Dharmaraja)

Under 11 Girls Singles

Champion –

Gajali Padmabandara (St. Anthony’s Girls, Katugastota), Second Runner-up – Sanumi Metsara (Musaeus)

Under 13 Boys Singles

Champion

– Hasandu Fernando (St Sebastian’s, Moratuwa), Runner-up – Amawan Amarasinghe (Panadura Lyceum)

Under 13 Girls Singles

Champion –

Fatima Amani (Hill Country Girls, Kandy), Runner-up – Thenuki De Silva (Siridhamma College)

Under 13 Boys Doubles

Champions –

Duvindu Edirisinghe/ Satsara Pubudu (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa), Runners-up – Tenuja Galahitiawa/ Satish Avishka (St. Anthony’s, Katugastota)

Under 13 Girls Doubles

Champions –

Fatima Amani/ Netsara Yenuri (Hill Country Girls/ Sujatha Girls, Nugegoda), Runners-up – Inuki Bandara/ Divyadharani Dayaratne (Musaeus/ Lyceum, Wattala)

Under 15 Boys Singles

Champion –

Tejana Herath (St. Anthony’s Katugastota), Runner-up – Senut Sethmina (Ananda College)

Under 15 Girls Singles

Champion

– Viswani Vanniarachchi (Gateway International), Runner-up – Lakshya Sajeevakumar (Lyceum Wattala)

Under 15 Boys Doubles

Champions –

Janeesha De Silva/ Mihila Jayaweera (St. Joseph’s/ Wattala Lyceum), Runners-up – Akash Shamal/ Tejana Herath (St. Anthony’s Katugastota)

Under 15 Girls Doubles

Champions –

Sanuti Gurusinghe/ Pavani Ileperuma (Sanghamitta Galle), Runners-up – Dihini Mendis/ Lakshya Sajeevakumar (Southland Galle/ Wattala Lyceum)

Under 17 Boys Singles

Under 19 girls’ champion Rashmi Mudalige (left) and runner up Sithuki Onadee.

Champion –

Pulina Wellalage (St. Sebastian’s Moratuwa), Runner-up – Thilina Rajakaruna (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa)

Under 17 Girls Singles

Champion –

Ranithma Liyanage (Christ Church Girls, Baddegama), Runner-up – Ranumi Manage (Musaeus)

Under 17 Boys Doubles

Champions –

Pulina Wellalage/ Shenuk Samararatne (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa), Runners-up – Sanjula Handapangoda/ Thilina Rajakaruna (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa)

Under 17 Girls Doubles

Champions –

L.A. Dinethya/ Devmi Ubesirivardhana (Sujatha Balika, Matara), Runners-up – Dilini Ambalangodage/ H.G. Sandani (Anula College/ Sujatha College Matara)

Under 19 Boys Singles

Champion –

Savinaka Veerasekera (D.S. Senanayake), Runner-up – Jason Homer (Royal Institute)

Under 19 Girls Singles

Champion –

Rashmi Mudalige (Gateway), Runner-up – Ondi Sethuki (Southlands, Galle)

Under 19 Boys Doubles

Champions –

Jason Homer/Savinaka Weerasekera (Royal Institute/ DS. Senanayake), Runners-up -Ashinsa Herath/ Vidusha Sumanadasa (Royal)

Under 19 Girls Doubles

Champions –

Tisuni Liyanarachchi/ Lavandi Umagaliyage (Sanghamitta, Galle), Runners-up – Natasha Gunasekara/ Rashmi Mudalige (Gateway)

Under 19 Mixed Doubles

Champions –

Pulina Vellalage/Rashmi Mudalige (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa/Gateway), Runner-up – Shenuk Samararatne/ Situki Onadi (St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa/ Sujata Vidyalaya Matara)

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Wanindu only SL player in ICC’s teams of the year

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Wanindu Hasaranga

Wanindu Hasaranga, who took more wickets than anybody at the Men’s T20 World Cup, is the only Sri Lanka male player selected in any of the ICC’s teams of the year announced on Tuesday.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) completed announcements of the ICC Teams of the Year, a feature of the ICC Awards 2022 which captures the best-combined XIs across the different formats of men’s and women’s international cricket after an action-packed year of competition.

Two days of staggered announcements have seen five lineups revealed; the ICC Men’s and Women’s T20I Teams of the Year, the ICC Men’s and Women’s ODI Teams of the Year and the ICC Men’s Test Team of the Year. In total, 11 countries are represented across the various lineups, which feature a number of World Cup winners, ICC Players of the Month and some of the most exciting emerging talents from the past calendar year.

Teams were identified from selections submitted by the specialist panel of media representatives that make up the ICC Voting Academy. The esteemed panel made their selections based on player performances throughout the calendar year, nominating their one to 11 and choosing a captain and a wicketkeeper for each.

Wanindu is selected in the ICC Men’s T20I Team of the Year which includes three Indian players. The others in the team are Jos Buttler (captain -Eng), Mohammad Rizwan (Pak), Virat Kohli (Ind), Suryakumar Yadav (Ind), Glenn Phillips (NZ), Sikandar Raza (Zim), Hardik Pandya (Ind), Sam Curran (Eng), Wanindu Hasaranga (SL), Haris Rauf (Pak) and Josh Little (Ire).

In the women’s category, Inoka Ranaweera has been selected in the ICC Women’s T20I Team of the Year.

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Rusanda propels Petes to big score

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Under 19 Traditional Cricket

Rusanda Gamage top scored with 170 runs, his highest knock in the Under 19 age category, to propel St. Peter’s to a total of 350 for seven wickets before bad light forced an early end to the first day’s play in the traditional cricket encounter against Ananda at Ananda Mawatha on Monday.

Gamage scored 21 fours and one six in his knock which came in 184 balls. It was his second century of the season as he went past 400 runs in what turned out to be his fifth match.

In the other traditional match started in Colombo, Lumbini fought back after being bowled out for 131 runs to restrict Isipatana to 94 for six wickets at stumps.

Match Details

Rusanda propels Petes to 350 for seven at Ananda Mawatha

Scores:

St. Peter’s

350 for 7 in 81 overs (Chamindu Perera 31, Rusanda Gamage 170, Nimutu Gunawardana 25, Kavika Jayasundara 58, Shennan Rodrigo 20; Isuru Ayesh 4/64)

Lumbini 131, Isipatana 94/6 at BRC

Scores:

Lumbini

131 all out in 51.5 overs (Pasindu Mahisha 34; Kevin Samuel 3/33, Yeshith Kalupahana 3/16, Sithuka Gunawardene 2/19)

Isipatana

94 for 6 in 27 overs (Tharushika Ashel 32, Dushan Malinga19, Mohomed Asjad 27; Dumindu Sewmina 3/28, Malith Bimsara 2/35) (RF)

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