As the opening weekend of the National Chess Championships comes to an end, the second seed Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage (Ananda College) came on top by holding the top seeded Susal de Silva to draw in a double rook ending using a French defense. Liyanage then went on to win against Maheesha Dabarera (Maliyadeva College) who was leading the championship at the start of round five through a game where Maheesha opted for Sicilian Kan variation, but Ranindu used a sacrificed exchange in the late middle game to gain an attacking advantage which brought himself to the top of the points table.
Earlier in the day, two former National Chess Champions Minul Doluweera and GC Anuruddha faced off each other in a Caro-Kann set up and a blunder by Minul gave the veteran Anuruddha a comprehensive win on the 26th move of the game.
The evening round gave Anuruddha another favorable result in a match up against Dhanushka Bandara from his club Kandy YMCA where he made a ferocious king side attack in the early stages of the game to have one of his pawns in the 7th rank of the opponent by the 15th move. While Minul was held off for a draw by Theekshana Denuwan (Ananda College) using a Semi Slav set up.
Further in the mid table battles, Buddika Amarasinghe from Jpura Chess Club had a strong finish to the week by scoring 2 wins against Rasika Samaranayaka from Peradeniya University and S Sivathanujan from Grand Prix Chess Club by winning with and against the Sicilian defense. While wins were scored today by IM Romesh Weerawardane and Maheesha Dabare to move them up on the standings.
At the end of the fifth round Ranindu leads the championship by one full point while Minul and Maheesha are stacked behind him to round off the top three according to points.
The start of day 3 for the senior contingent of the Women’s Chess Nationals was not according to plan as reigning champion Sayuni Gihansa faced defeat against the unbeaten Nethmi Fernando from Girls High School-Kandy whereas Ashvini Pavalachandran defeated the strong WIM Sachini Ranasinghe and young Ehsha Pallie won against the experienced Thilini Koswatte. The 4th round did not see any drawn results while Nethmi Fernando finished with a one-point lead after round 4 with Hashara and Ehsha at 3 points.
In the 5th round Nethmi again kept her unbeaten streak in tact by winning against WCM Lasandi Wickramsinghe to finish the day at the top of the table. The chasing group lead by Ehsha and Hashara also scored full points against their opponents to keep the title battle open when both of them will face off against Nethmi in the following 2 rounds. Sachini came good against Niklesha to score a vital point in an effort to push herself towards the upper half of the table while defending champion Sayuni had to settle for a draw against the young Ashvini who was 4th in the ranking table after the end of the 5th round.
Former Under-19 coach Roger Wijesuriya calls for two junior coaches
Roger Wijesuriya coached the Under-19 team for the 2008 and 2016 Youth World Cups.
by Reemus Fernando
Former Sri Lanka cricketer and ex national Under-19 coach Roger Wijesuriya believes that a long term training plan, with two coaches looking after the Under-19 and Under-17 squads right throughout will be the key to success at ICC Youth World Cup.
Sri Lanka is the only Test playing nation in the South Asian region, apart from Afghanistan to have not won the coveted global youth title since the tournament was introduced in 1988. The closest the country came to the title was when they reached the final against India in Colombo in 2000.
The country was eliminated from the first round at the Youth World Cup held early this year. In the first round they suffered defeats against India and New Zealand. Their only win was against minnows Japan. They reached the Plate final scoring wins against Scotland and Nigeria but were defeated by England in the final. The country does not have an Under-19 national coach at the moment and there had been no training nor had there been an Under-19 squad selected this year.
“There is a tendency to rest for months after the ICC Youth World Cup. That will not help. Only a long term plan can. We should have two coaches for the Youth teams. We must have an Under-19 coach who will solely concentrate on preparing the squad for two years for the World Cup. We must also have an Under-17 national coach who will groom a larger squad with probable players, targeting the next World Cup,” said Wijesuriya in an interview with The Island. Roger Wijesuriya was with Sri Lanka Cricket as a coach for ten years and was the Under-19 coach for two Youth World Cups in 2008 and 2016. Sri Lanka Youth team reached the semi final in 2016.
“Teams for the youth squads can be selected after the Provincial tournament. Even at Under-15 level, Provincial squads can be selected and be trained by specialist coaches. Sri Lanka has enough qualified coaches who can be specialist bowling, fielding and batting coaches at these centres. There is an ongoing Sri Lanka Cricket pilot project in the Central Province. That should be introduced at other places,” said the veteran coach.
Wijesuriya said that the players selected in the Under-19 national pool should be allowed to play for their schools during the first year but should continue with the national coach during the last eight months before the World Cup.
He also pointed out the importance of exposing the Under-19 players to tough competitions. “The Under-19 team should play in the SLC’s Under-23 tournament and Mercantile ‘A’ and ‘B’ Division tournaments. It will be beneficial for them to play in the Premier Limited-Over Club tournament as well. Playing against the Emerging team, is another option. In between, they will also get five to six foreign tours. When it is difficult to get tours against youth national teams there are other options. Even playing against regional teams in India, country teams in England or Australia will definitely benefit the Sri Lanka Under-19 team.”
“For players to get accustomed to playing long innings the Under-15 and Under-17 players should compete in the innings format in matches of two to three day duration.”
Wijesuriya also emphasised on the importance of the continuity of the coaching programmes even after the Under-19 level.
“The training process should continue even after the Under-19 World Cup. Those who are doing well should be promoted to the Emerging squad where they get the opportunity to reach the next level.”
Wijesuriya said that blaming the schools structure was of no use. It’s time to take the baton from the schools and continue the journey.
Schools cricket’s age limit change from Under-19 to 20 just not numbers
Will a change of age limit benefit cricketers aspiring to represent the country at the ICC Youth World Cup where Sri Lanka is the only Test playing nation in the South Asian region to have not tasted victory in this more than three decades old tournament.
by Reemus Fernando
Schools cricket has been in limbo for more than six months now due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Though there had been no action discussions were underway to find means of improving standards. One of the suggestions received by an eminent panel consisting of former national cricketers is to change the age limit of the premier schools cricket tournament from Under-19 to Under-20. When some school sports, including rugby and track and field have Under-20 as their highest age group then why not cricket? Will a change of age limit benefit cricketers aspiring to represent the country at the ICC Youth World Cup where Sri Lanka is the only Test playing nation in the South Asian region to have not tasted victory in this more than three decades old tournament.
“There is something wrong in our system. Former Sri Lanka Under-19 coach Naveed Nawaz could guide Bangladesh to Youth World Cup victory. It was something he could not do with a team here. You have to seriously take note of our Under-19 cricket structure. An age limit change will help our young cricketers get mature. It will also help reduce the gap between the Under-23 tournament conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket and the highest age group tournament of the schools association,” says Dinesh Kumarasinghe, the head of Sports of S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. Kumarasinghe has been involved in schools cricket as a coach for nearly three decades now.
The suggestion to change the age limit is learnt to have come from influential schools cricket coaches who are eager to make amends for dropping standards.
It is not the first time that such a change had been suggested. Four years ago the Ministry of Education changed the age limit only to withdraw the circular within months for reasons best known to them.
The last time the tournament had been played as an Under-20 tournament was nearly one and a half decade ago. It is widely believed in schools cricket circles that the change (to Under-20) was to facilitate a politico’s son to captain his alma mater. That Under-20 rule lasted only a year and the tournament reverted to Under-19.
“The suggestion to increase the age limit to Under-20 had been opposed vehemently at SLSCA meetings on many previous occasions due to the administrative difficulties and problems relating to maintaining discipline,” a former official of the SLSCA says.
Currently the Under-19 tournament is played by cricketers who are not over the age of 20 on September 1 of the concluding year of the tournament. Unlike tournaments of other sports cricket’s highest age group tournament had been played for decades from September to April.
“Though the tournament is called Under-19, we have players over the age of 19 when the tournament concludes in April. It is actually an Under-20 tournament already. Why do you need to further extend it,” a former official of the SLSCA questions.
If not for the Covid 19 pandemic the 2020/21 Under-19 tournament would have commenced by now with players born after September 1, 2001 being eligible to compete. Which means some players would be already 19 plus when the tournament starts.
Those who are pushing for the change argue that by extending the age limit (from September 1 to April 1) more players, who are still in school would be eligible to compete.
When contacted, Thilak Waththuhewa, the president of the SLSCA said that the proposal to extend the age limit will soon be discussed at the SLSCA Executive Committee meeting and the decision will be known sooner rather than later.
A former official who had served at the SLSCA when the age limit was extended to Under-20 one and half decades ago said that a number of schools found it difficult to address discipline issues that year. “We received complaints against players who had already found employment at private firms still playing for schools,” says the former official.
However, this time the decision to change the age limit has been put forward for discussion and a knowledgeable panel of former cricketers are considering the pros and cons. Enthusiasts believe that the decision would be taken with the best interest of country’s cricket in mind.
It should be noted here that the ICC’s Under-19 age limit date for the Youth World Cup is also compatible with Sri Lanka’s schools tournament age limit date of September 1.
13 year old Sandamini, Asian Youth medallist Isuru best athletes at Kalutara
Shihara Sandamini Silva and Isuru Kaushalya Abeywardena were adjudged the best athlete of the Kalutara District Inter Division Championship held at Bandaragama.
National Sports Festival- District Championships
by Reemus Fernando
The 13-year-old long jumper Shihara Sandamini Silva and Asian Youth medallist Isuru Kaushalya Abeywardena won the best athlete titles of the Kalutara District Inter Division Athletics Championship of the National Sports Festival concluded at Bandaragama on Sunday.
The two young athletes who have already excelled at All Island Schools championships won the coveted titles against a host of senior athletes.
The Good Shepherd Convent, Panadura athlete came almost close to matching her personal best with a feat of 5.20 metres in the women’s long jump. The athlete trained by veteran coach Prasanna Perera, has a personal best of 5.24 metres achieved at the same ground last year.
Sandamini, hogged the limelight at schools national level when she established the Under-12 long jump record in 2018. Yesterday, instead of competing in the Under-16 age category, Sandamini opted for the Open category and competing against the seniors produced the best jump which was also adjudged the best performance of the meet.
Incidentally, the Under-16 age category event was won by Harini Adithya also from Good Shepherd Convent.
Isuru Kaushalya who won the medley relay silver medal at the Asian Youth Athletics Championship in 2019 lived up to his reputation winning both the 200 metres and the 400 metres. Kaushalya, who was nursing an injury towards the latter part of 2019, was in sublime form producing a stunning 22.00 seconds performance to win the 200 metres on Saturday. The athlete trained by D.R. Munasinghe backed up his feat with another notable 50.5 seconds performance to win the 400 metres yesterday.
“I am looking forward to reach 47.6 seconds before the end of this year,” Kaushalya told The Island after the victory.
Kalushalya edged out senior athlete Dinusha Deshan to the second place to win the 400 metres. Pasindu Malshan who was placed third in the 400 metres, compensated for the defeat winning the 100 metres. The St. Peter’s College sprinter clocked 11.4 seconds to win on a wet track.
The men’s 800 metres was won by Mithila Viraj who beat training partner Pasindu Munasinghe to the second place. Later the duo teamed up with Isuru Nethsara and Isuru Lakshan to win the open men’s 4×400 metres relay for the Beruwala Division.
In the women’s 400 metres Githmi Sanjana won gold for Beruwala, while Ishin Praveesha from Kalutara Division won the 100 metres dash. K.M. Buddhika won the 200 metres sprint.
Kalutara Division were the winners of the District Championship.
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