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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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Dates announced for India’s tour of Sri Lanka

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by Rex Clementine

India will send a second string team to Sri Lanka later this month for a six-match bilateral series. The teams will be involved in three ODIs and three T-20 Internationals with all games taking place in a bio-secure bubble at RPS. It is unlikely that spectators will be accommodated for the series due to current rising numbers of COVID cases. RPS underwent extensive renovation recently and hasn’t hosted a game in two years.

India have made tremendous progress in the game in the last ten years that they are able to send their main team to England, that too an extended squad and then send a second string team that looks not too bad on paper to Sri Lanka. IPL has opened up a whole lot of new opportunities for India.

India must be confident of winning in Sri Lanka even with a second string side. For example, their main team whitewashed Sri Lanka 5-0 in ODIs when they toured here in 2017 and the following year at the Nidahas Trophy, they sent a second string team and won the competition where Sri Lanka even failed to make it to the finals.

Sri Lanka’s players or SLC will not be complaining. Tours by India will result in huge profits for SLC. Board of Control for Cricket in India has been extremely generous in helping out Sri Lanka coming in for hastily arranged series previously to bail out SLC that was feeling the pinch. This tour, however, was part of the Future Tour Programme.

In the three match ODI series, 30 points will be up for grabs in the ICC World Cup qualifiers and pitted against a weaker Indian team, Sri Lanka will be fancying their chances to win and boost their opportunities of automatic qualification for the sport’s showpiece event. At the moment Sri Lanka are languishing last at 13th position.

India will arrive on the 28th of June and after mandatory quarantine they will be allowed to train. The ODIs will be played on the 13th, 16th and 18th of July followed by the T-20s on the 21st, 23rd and 25th of July.

 

1st ODI

– 13th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

2nd ODI

– 16th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

3rd ODI

– 18th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

1st T20I

– 21st July – RPS – 7.00pm 

2nd T20I

– 23rd July – RPS – 7.00pm 

3rd T20I

– 25th July – RPS – 7.00pm

 

India’s squad:

 Shikhar Dhawan (Captain), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (Wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (Wicket-keeper), Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Vice-captain), Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya 

Net Bowlers:

 Ishan Porel, Sandeep Warrier, Arshdeep Singh, Sai Kishore, Simarjeet Singh. 

 

 

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Ranindu draws with grandmaster, settles for third place

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Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021

National Champion Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage fought hard to secure a draw against grandmaster Enamul Hussain on the final day as he settled for the third position of the Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021.

Starting with the Sicilian Defense the grandmaster sacrificed a pawn and got a strong knight against Ranindu’s bad bishop early in the game. He used all tricks available to earn points as a win would have earned him the gold medal and the possibility to play in the Chess World Cup 2021. But Ranindu had other ideas as the Anandian achieved the third spot winning six points from nine games.

Bangladesh grandmaster Ziaur Rahman (2434) also secured a draw in a hard fought game against 11-year-old, Manon Reja Neer who is also from Bangladesh and settled for eight points. Bangladeshi grandmaster Enamul Hussain needed a full point to tie with the leader but finally settled for the second position as he drew with Ranindu. He had 7 ½ points.

Grandmaster Ziaur won the gold medal and the ticket to the FIDE Chess World Cup. A total of US$ 3,000.00 is distributed among the winners. While the champion receives US$ 1,000.00, the runners up wins US$ 700.00. Ranindu is entitled for US$ 500.00 as he was placed third.

FIDE master Susal de Silva of Nalanda College met his colleague A.A.C.B. Amarasinghe of SJP Chess Club and the game ended in favour of Amarasinghe. Amarasinghe scored six points out of nine games. There were five other players who had scored six points each but he was placed eighth according to the tie breakers. Susal had a total of five points after nine games. Amarasinghe too is entitled for US$ 100.00.

The Asian Zonal Chess Championship 2021, the preliminary event for the FIDE World Chess Cup 2021 for the South Asian region started on June 1 and was held on the Tornelo platform. A total of 39 players from South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka participated in the event. India is considered a single zone by FIDE and has a direct entry to the FIDE World Cup.

The Bangladesh Chess Federation conducted the event from Dhaka and the Sri Lankan players competed from the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka headquarters, Gangodawila, Nugegoda. The event which concluded on Wednesday was conducted according to the Swiss System of nine rounds.

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Yupun set to climb up Road to Olympic rankings

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Yupun Abeykoon would be delighted to have placed fourth against a solid field that included American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.

 

by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka’s top ranked sprinter Yupun Abeykoon did well to finish fourth at the Rome Diamond League meeting on Thursday. Brushing shoulders against some of the world’s fastest sprinters, the national record holder clocked 10.16 seconds.

The fourth place finish will augur well for the sprinter as he aspires to earn a Tokyo Olympic berth. The 26-year-old is currently placed 65th in the Road to Olympics rankings and needs to secure a spot within the first 56 positions as only 56 athletes are selected for Tokyo Olympic 100 metres. To earn a direct qualification Abeykoon has to clock 10.05 seconds.

With Diamond League competitions guarantying more points, analysts believe that Abeykoon would secure a better position in the Road to Olympic rankings when the World Athletics update the rankings.

To secure the fourth place Abeykoon edged out some leading athletes who are placed higher in the Road to Olympic rankings.

He would be delighted to have placed fourth against a solid field that included American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.

US World Relay champion Michael Rodgers who is ranked 15th in the Road to Olympic rankings was placed fifth in a time of 10.25 seconds.

South African Akani Simbine clocked 10.08 seconds to win while Great Britain’s Chijindu Ujah finished second in a time of 10.10 seconds. Emmanuel Matadi was placed third in 10.16 seconds.

None of Sri Lanka’s male athletes have reached qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics so far while Nilani Ratnayake is the only Sri Lankan athlete who is within the required ranking positions to book a berth. The steeplechase athlete is currently ranked 37th in the Road to Olympics rankings.

Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe is also closer to an Olympic berth in the men’s category. The javelin thrower is currently ranked 43rd in the list. High jumper Ushan Thivanka who has produced a superb 2.30 metres is ranked 51st in the list.

At the Rome Diamond League on Thursday one of the highlights of the night was Dutch long-distance star Sifan Hassan’s performance in the women’s 1 500m. The 10,000 metres specialist showed her prowess in the 1,500 metres, beating Olympic 1 500m champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya in a new meeting record of 3:53.63. It was also a world lead. Kipyegon was placed second in a personal best of 3:53.91.

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