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Plight of school coaches Some working as pump attendants

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by Reemus Fernando

His love for the game of cricket forced Aman Uditha to take up one of the toughest coaching assignments at Vijayaba National School, Hungama (Hambantota District), a place that does not have a strong cricket culture to attract highly qualified coaches. The school which has produced a pace bowler in the Sri Lanka Under-19 team in recent times is one of the many lower division schools struggling to pay their coaches after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coaches in almost all the Division III and a majority of Division II cricket playing schools and some Division I schools are paid by the School Development Societies (SDS), which largely rely on contributions from parents. Schools have found it difficult to sustain these funds due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

Many such schools have either totally stopped paying their coaches or have reduced their salaries by big margins, forcing them to look elsewhere for a living. Unlike well-established schools, those in the lower divisions depend on a single coach to train all age group teams in the school. Uditha is responsible for coaching the Under-13, 15 and 17 teams of Vijayaba National School.

Affairs in some of the premier Division I cricket playing schools too have fallen to the same level as the underprivileged schools thanks to the pandemic. Many coaches, contacted comment, lamented about the unprecedented salary cuts they had been compelled to bear with in the recent months.

Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association with the help of Sri Lanka Cricket recently granted some concessions to coaches affected by the pandemic but it is just a short-term measure, and the coaches continue to suffer.

“I have been a cricket coach for years. I do not have experience in any other field and at this age, I cannot train myself for any other job; I am in a dilemma,” a level I coach of a Big Match playing school from the suburbs of Colombo told The Island. The coach of the premier cricket playing school has been training all age group teams (U13, 15, 17 and 19). His salary was first reduced by 25% due to the pandemic; it has been reduced by 50% during the recent months.

A group of coaches mentioned that some of their colleagues from underprivileged schools had been compelled to work at filling stations to keep home fires burning.

Meanwhile, some coaches whose contracts were terminated following the first wave of the pandemic are looking forward to securing new contracts elsewhere for the new season. But a recent Ministry of Education circular, which canceled all sports competitions in schools, has shattered their hopes.

However, a few coaches have been lucky. All coaches contracted by S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia continue to receive their full remuneration. The 70 plus coaching staff, training young Thomian sportsmen in 27 sports, are lucky while hundreds of their counterparts, employed by public and private schools are experiencing severe hardships.

A senior sports administrator of S. Thomas’ College told The Island: “We have paid all coaches their full salaries though we had to cancel training following Ministry of Education directives. We are paying them through the budget allocated in December,”

Uditha comes from the same district Suranga Lakmal, who was lucky to find a place in the Richmond College team before earning a place in the Sri Lanka team. Uditha found a place for his medium pace at Devananda College, Ambalangoda before taking up coaching. It is coaches like Uditha who spot talent like that of Lakmal for Sri Lanka Cricket. Sri Lanka Cricket, which is the richest sports body of the country and the Ministry of Education, should, therefore, look into the grievances of coaches and redress them.



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Sri Lanka men’s and women’s teams ready to contest FIBA Asia Tournament

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by a Special Sports Correspondent

The Sri Lanka Men’s and Women’s basketball teams took flight to Singapore on Tuesday for the FIBA Asia 3×3 Basketball tournament.

The two teams have been in preparation since April and are being coached by Ajith Kuruppu.

The men’s team has to first prove its worth against China and Tonga and one more team before qualifying for the main tournament. “It’s going to be a tough tournament, but the men’s and women’s teams have been practicing well. Our preparations were good and we want to make an impact at the tournament,” said Kuruppu. According to the Sri Lanka teams’ coach China will be a tough challenge in the men’s segment of the tournament.

“We’ve been gelling together as a team during training and the players have a good understanding when playing as a unit,” said Sri Lanka’s Mens’ Team skipper Shehan Fernando.

Sri Lanka’s women’s team has made a direct entry into the tournament. Sri Lanka Women’s team skipper Anjali Ekanayake said that the ranking of the players in the national 3×3 team is good. “These players have got much exposure playing in this format of the game. We’ve been focusing on nutrition and shooting over the past few months. Training went well for the tournament,” said Ekanayake.

Coach Kuruppu took this opportunity to thank Vaaj Fitness for sponsoring the two national teams to Singapore and for making their gym available for the players to do strength and conditioning training.

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Chathurya, Dinara, Saajida, Vishmi advance to second round

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ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament

Chathurya Nilaweera ousted India’s Dhanush Varma to reach the second round of the ITF Junior Tennis Week 2 Tournament continued at the SSC Tennis Courts on Tuesday.

Nilaweera was the only player in the boys’ category from Sri Lanka to advance from the first round as he beat Varma 6-2, 6-0.

In the girls’ category Dinara de Silva, Saajida Razick and Vishmi Serasinghe reached the second round when they won their respective first round matches on Monday.

Dinara beat Yu Ching Wang of Taipei 6-3, 7-6(4) and Razick beat Indian Anushka Bhola 6-1, 6-1, while Serasinghe ousted Wei Chiao-Chen also from Taipei 6-1, 6-1.

In the other matches Dinethya Dharmarathe, Dahamna Methnadi, Nesangi Hemakumara, Vinethya Dharmarathne and Gehansa Metnadi conceded first round defeats.

In the boys’ category Vichinthya Nilaweera, Methwan Wijemanne, Abdul Bashit Cader, Thilina Dissanayake and Zahid Zihar were eliminated in the first round.

The boys’ and girls’ second round matches will be played today.

The tournament which commenced on July 4 will culminate on Friday.

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Sri Lanka add more spin options after first Test disaster

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Maheesh Theekshana and Dunith Wellalage are likely to make their Test debuts in the series-deciding second Test in Galle.

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka have taken some desperate measures leading up to the second Test against Australia in Galle by adding more spin options indicating that the team management and the selectors are willing to make wholesale changes after the pathetic performance in the first Test which they lost before lunch on day three.

Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya has been sent home after he failed to make an impact following the ten-wicket loss last week. In an inexperienced attack, the 25-year-old with 17 Test caps is the senior most bowler but he had got his lengths wrong in a game dominated by Australian spinners. Embuldeniya had struggled in Bangladesh as well and was dropped. Instead of letting him fight his way back, he was drafted into the first Test against Australia and it wasn’t surprising to see him failing to make an impact. Now with the series at stake, Sri Lanka have pressed the panic button.

Even if Dimuth Karunaratne’s side win the second Test, Australia will retain Warne-Murali Trophy since they are the holders having blanked Sri Lanka 2-0 in 2019.

Sri Lanka’s desperation is evident by the fact that they have recalled Maheesh Theekshana, who hasn’t played a First-Class game in four years. In fact, Army had been told not to consider Theekshana for the ongoing one-day competition to help him recover from niggles but suddenly he finds himself in the hot seat with a Test series at stake.

Uncapped Dunith Wellalage also has been added to the squad giving the left-arm spin option that has been taken away following the axing of Embuldeniya. Support left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama had tested positive for COVID.

Former captain Angelo Mathews who was in isolation after testing positive for COVID has returned a negative test and has rejoined the team.

Off-spinner Lakshitha Manasinghe is the third player to be added to the group. He had an impressive series against Australia ‘A’ too. It is expected that Wellalage will make his Test debut while the slot for the third spinner is a toss-up between Jeffrey Vandersay and Maheesh Theekshana. The leg-spinner was untidy in the opening Test and the more realistic option seems to be that Theekshana debuting alongside Wellalage.

Although three replacement spinners have been added, some wonder why Sri Lanka have not thought of some batting replacements. It was a pathetic display by the team in the second innings where they were shot out inside a session and faced only 22.3 overs.

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