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Of Sports Schools and schools sports

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The absence of infrastructure at Ratnayake Central was compensated by well laid out individualized training plans for each sports scholarship holder. It was the key to Ratnayake Central dominating All Island Schools Games.

by Reemus Fernando

Introduced to the education structure with the objective of nurturing future sportsmen and women of Sri Lanka, the two dozen Sports Schools doting the island from north to south have lasted three decades without going through a proper scrutiny. Names of majority of Sports Schools are not even heard of when the All Island Schools Games are held annually. While semi government, private and international schools have gone on to dominate school sports, some half a dozen Sports Schools have survived the gross negligence of education authorities and storms of change that have swept through the schools set up during the last two decades to perform relatively well.

The success of these few schools were purely due to the dedication of a few qualified individuals who had gone out of their way to uplift standards. With the Education Ministry and the Sports Ministry preparing to upgrade the standard of Sports Schools around the country it should be noted that while addressing the infrastructure needs, emphasis should also be given to appoint qualified and dedicated officials to take responsibilities of these institutions.

When the Sports Schools were started in 1989 with the Ibbagamuwa Central as the first such school the project was overseen by an Education Ministry official who had obtained his sports education qualifications from a reputed institution in Germany. The decisions relating to physical education and sports in the Ministry of Education had his influence. Results were available to see in the form of success in athletics at Asian level during the late 90s and early 2000s with athletes who came through that system later graduating with the help of top level coaches. Ministry of Education has a handful of qualified individuals who are operating as instructors or coaches but at decision making level they do not have a say.

Infrastructure verses qualified officials

Ratnayake Central Walala, the only Sports School to have maintained the supremacy in track and field sports right throughout does not have a proper ground to date, not even a proper 200 metres track. The absence of infrastructure was compensated by well laid out individualized training plan for each sports scholarship holder. Susantha Fernando who was instrumental in guiding the destiny of many top level athletes also had an eye for talent identification and made sure the school had a continuous supply of raw talent every year. The school boasts of Asian Junior Athletics Championships medallists to Olympic participants to South Asian Games medallists. Fernando’s training was responsible for the majority of medals won at the last South Asian Games as well.

Sumana Balika, Ratnapura was probably the next best Sports School in the girls category taking in to consideration the number of times the school became runners-up to Ratnayake Central. Once again it was the coaching qualifications of an individual that mattered. Sumana Balika excelled as long as R.B. Palitha was their instructor. Seevali Central the other Sports School of Ratnapura had a similar experience. They could dominate as long as Palitha was their mentor.

Henegama Central did well during Prabath Fernando’s stint and Rajasinghe Central is the only Sports School in the Western Province to maintain its stature as a Sports School with Jayalal Ratnasuriya, a qualified World Athletics coach overseeing the progress of its athletes. Vijitha Central, Dickwella and Kuliyapitiya Central are among few other Sports Schools to have made their presence felt during the last several years.

No amount of infrastructure development can make a Sports School competitive. Once a stronghold of Sri Lanka’s national sport, volleyball, the name of Sports School Senanayake MV, Madampe is hardly heard these days. Ibbagamuwa Central, the first Sports School is not functioning though the school’s instructor trains a few high jumpers. Some of the 23 Sports Schools are either not operating at all or are performing below par. Had there been qualified individuals in the Ministry of Education to scrutinies these institutions.

Talent identification failures and emergence of private schools

One of the brightest prospects to emerge from the schools system during the last few years is Asian Junior Athletics Championship gold medallist Aruna Dharshana. Hailing from Seruwila, Trincomalee, Dharshana bypassed several Sports Schools in two other districts to find refuge at Weera Keppetipola MV, Akuramboda. He was lucky to have the guidance of Asanka Rajakaruna at that Sports School. Wasn’t there a system to identify his talent at his home place? Trincomalee is home to two Sports Schools.

While the standards of Sports Schools were crumbling, a good number of private and government schools had given priority to sports and athletics in particular. A number of schools in Colombo and Kandy and International Schools elsewhere started investing heavily on sports during the last one and half decades. Sports training at these schools are no longer overseen by officials attached to Ministry of Education. For example, the track and field coach of a leading government school in Colombo is a sports officer of the Ministry of Sports and a qualified World Athletics coach and instructor. These schools have been responsible in producing many athletes to represent Sri Lanka at junior Asian and junior World level. The emergence of these schools has also given rise to an unprecedented talent exodus from outstations.

A particular school in Colombo launched a recruitment drive during the last three years to an extent that that school now has the luxury of winning the All Island Schools track and field title with their second string. Some of these schools hellbent on winning have gone on to the extent of jeopardizing the education of these recruits from outstations. Many junior athletes recruited from outstations find themselves out of place in the midst of their English-speaking classmates and hardly attend classes. They are guaranteed jobs when they are recruited and find education non essential. To be continued…………….. 



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Sri Lanka suffer heavy defeat in Galle after dramatic collapse

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Travis Head had never claimed a Test wicket in his career and yesterday in Galle in just 17 deliveries he accounted for four wickets as Sri Lanka collapsed in dramatic style to lose the first Test by ten wickets

Rex Clementine in Galle

After an impressive ODI series win, the national cricket team is back to square one as they suffered a heavy ten wicket defeat in the first Test in the most embarrassing way inside three days here in Galle. Sri Lanka were shot out for 113 runs in their second innings in 22.5 overs as it took Australia less than a session to run through the opposition with spinners sharing all ten wickets. It’s Sri Lanka’s second lowest total ever in Galle.

Trailing by 109 runs in the first innings, Sri Lanka started off well as the openers added 37 runs for the first  wicket. Mitchell Starc’s first over had gone for 17 runs including four boundaries. That was the end of seam as Pat Cummins reverted to an all spin attack and the trio of Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson and Travis Head ensured that Australia were home before lunch.

The Australian batters had used the sweep shot to great effect and Sri Lankans took a leaf out of them trying to bat themselves out of trouble with the high risk stroke. But there was a significant difference. Sri Lanka’s bowling was wayward and all over the place while the Australians were on the money and it was just a matter of time before the batsman perished.

Dimuth Karunarante and Pathum Nissanka fell in successive overs and then Kusal Mendis and Oshada Fernando departed in the space of seven deliveries as Sri Lanka were reduced to 63 for four.

A 32 run stand followed between Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva for the fifth wicket and Pat Cummins figured that Swepson had become predictable. Then he threw the ball to part-timer Travis Head, who had never taken a Test wicket in his career. Soon, he became lethal polishing the lower order as he picked up four wickets in 17 deliveries.

Head claimed his maiden Test wicket with his second delivery as Chandimal was bowled neck and crop. The batsman was standing in disbelief after the ball had spun sharply and went through the gate. Three deliveries later, Dhananjaya de Silva was trapped leg before wicket to leave Sri Lanka with the tail. There was not much resistance as the last six wickets fell for 13 runs as Australia wrapped the Test match inside three days. Australia needed just five runs for victory and Warner leveled the scores with a reverse sweep for four off Ramesh Mendis in the third ball of the innings. The next ball he launched for a six to win the game in style before lunch.

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Isipathana prevail over Wesley in close game

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Isipathana prevail over Wesley in close game

By a Special Sports Correspondent

Isipathana College produced magic in the dying minutes in their Division 1 Segment 1A Group B match against Wesley at the Sugathadasa Stadium to produce a 10-0 win yesterday.

Wesley had only themselves to blame for giving away four yellow cards; two of which went to Shaveen Jayawardene. The score at half time was nil all.

The winners produced a penalty and a conversion while the try came through Wewara Pandith.In the other match played yesterday Trinity beat St. Anthony’s College 25-18 and remain unbeaten after the second week of matches.

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Renuka, Deepti give India 1-0 lead

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India beat Sri Lanka in the opening ODI of the three-match series in Pallekele, but not before a scare. Sri Lanka offspinner Oshadi Ranasinghe took two early wickets, left-arm spinner Inoka Ranaweera took 4 for 39 through the middle overs, and for a brief period, it seemed that Sri Lanka would successfully defend 171.

However, their below-par total meant India’s struggling batting line-up could creep up and register a four-wicket win, bringing relief to a unit that would have wanted to chase it down with ease at the halfway mark.

But, arguably, it was Renuka Singh’s early strike that made the biggest difference in Sri Lanka’s chances of searching for the win after choosing to bat. She got the big wicket of Sri Lanka’s star batter and captain Chamari Athapaththu in the third over of the morning, and later closed her day out with two late wickets of Nilakshi de Silva and Ranasinghe with two slower balls.

Sharma and Renuka Singh picked up three-wicket hauls to bowl out Sri Lanka for 171. Deepti feasted through the middle overs of the first innings, making full use of the big turn on offer, dismissing Hansima Karunaratne for a duck and Hasini Perera for 37. Deepti took the final Sri Lankan wicket too, leaving the hosts with ten deliveries unused.

India Women

176 for 6 (Harmanpreet Kaur 44, Shafali Verma 35, Harleen Deol 34, Inoka Ranaweera 4-39) beat Sri Lanka Women 171 (Nilakshi de Silva 43, Hasini Perera 37, Deepti Sharma 3-25, Renuka Singh 3-29) by four wickets.

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