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Remembering Dalmiya on Silver Jubilee of Sri Lanka’s World Cup triumph

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by Rex Clementine

A new term has entered cricket terminology – SENA countries – it stands for South Africa, England, New  Zealand and Australia. Apparently, winning there or doing well in those countries is the yardstick to measure how good a player is or a team is. 

SENA countries would not agree but it was Jagmohan Dalmiya who changed cricket’s finances. The business tycoon from Calcutta who was a key figure in forming the Asian Cricket Council in 1980s was instrumental in identifying the huge marketing potential of the sport especially through television rights. Dalmiya became the first Asian President of ICC and was instrumental in moving the game’s headquarters from Lord’s to Dubai.

Dalmiya was also a dear friend of Sri Lanka. It is a little known fact that he became the President of ICC before becoming the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. It was as the Secretary of BCCI that Dalmiya made many of his smart moves that SENA countries loathed. He was the head of PILCOM – Pakistan, India and Lanka Committee that was set up to run the 1996 WILLS World Cup.

Dalmiya’s letters to the then Sri Lankan cricket board Secretary Neil Perera reveals much details about behind the scene moves of the Asian block in securing the 1996 World Cup to Asia. Sri Lanka’s representatives for the ICC meeting in 1993 were given clear instructions from President R. Premadasa to vote for South Africa. South African sports associations were using the immense popularity of Nelson Mandela for them to secure global sporting events. They had already secured the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The Cricket World Cup was going to be another feather in their cap.

However, South Africa’s bid had some serious issues. England wanted to host the event and so did Pakistan. With them unable to garner enough support, South Africa withdrew. Neil Perera saw the opportunity and convinced Pakistan to withdraw their bid too – because India would not support them. Instead, Perera wanted India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to put out a joint bid. This proved to be a masterstroke. Pakistan was reluctant initially but later on agreed on one condition. Lahore should host the World Cup final. It was then agreed that India would host both semis. Cricket’s Asian stakeholders had a deal.

Like in every global sporting event, the organizers had to face many challenges. The biggest of them was the refusal of Australia and West Indies to honour their World Cup fixtures in Colombo. Their security concerns was summed up when Shane Warne said a ‘bomb might go off in Colombo’ while he was shopping. It was to Dalmiya that Sri Lanka turned to bail them out.

The Sri Lankan government convinced the Indian cricket supremo that the visiting teams would be presented with security accorded to the Heads of States. Dalmiya then in haste went onto put out a joint India-Pakistan team to come to Colombo and play a friendly match.

Now, convincing the Indian captain to play under a Pakistani captain or vice-versa was such a hard task; the fans would not simply accept something of this sort. Dalmiya had a smart move.  First he appointed someone to manage the team. He needed a high profile figure. So he chose former Pakistan captain Intikhab Alam.

Dalmiya then called up Alam and said, “Now that Pakistan has the post of Manager, it is only fair that India gets the captaincy. I hope you agree. You have got to convince Wasim Akram to play under Mohammad Azharuddin.” 

Dalmiya was able to put out a star-studded side. There was one more issue.  In signing up WILLS as the sponsor, it had been agreed upon that two weeks prior to the tournament there would be no international cricket matches taking place. So, technically this match could not happen. Dalmiya solved that puzzle too. He called up WILLS and said, ‘Never again are you going to get a situation where India and Pakistan playing as one team.  I am going to name this team WILLS World XI. So you better pay me more money.”

The game at RPS was a  huge success and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar attended to greet the players.

With that the fact that Colombo was safe to host cricket matches was established. Dalmiya then demanded Australia and West Indies to honour their World Cup commitments. They refused. Both boards then accused Sri Lanka of refusing to relocate their games to India and wanted full points for themselves. When Sri Lanka board chief Ana Punchihewa disagreed, West Indies and Australia wanted points shared. But sanity prevailed as Dalmiya ensured fair play. As the head of PILCOM he advised ICC to award full points to Sri Lanka.

Ironically, Sri Lanka would defeat India in the World Cup semi-final in Dalmiya’s backyard stunning 110,000 fans to silence. While Dalmiya would have been disappointed that India did not progress to the final, deep down he would have been happy for the tiny island of ours. He had played a huge role in Sri Lanka’s development in the world stage.



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Track and field action from Diyagama

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Olympian Sumedha Ranasinghe was the winner of the men’s javelin throw as he cleared a distance of 78.31 metres.

The Track and Field season commenced with some of the best athletes in the senior and Under 20 age categories producing notable performances during the two-day Junior and Senior Selection Trial concluded at Diyagama on Tuesday. Here are some action pictures from the day two of the event.

(Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

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Dharshana’s false start dampen an otherwise remarkable day

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Tharushi Karunaratne beat Nadeesha Ramanayake to win the women’s 400 metres.

by Reemus Fernando

Sprinter Aruna Dharshana gave athletics fans both joy and heartache on an otherwise remarkable day as the Junior and Senior Track and Field trials concluded with a number of athletes achieving their personal bests at Diyagama yesterday.

Athletics analysts were waiting for Dharshana to reach his personal best in the men’s 400 metres final after the Army athlete produced the best performance in the heats where as many as five athletes clocked sub 47 seconds. When Dharshana followed up his 200 metres winning time of 21.12 seconds with a feat of 46.43 seconds in the 400 metres many expected him to produce a sub 46 seconds performance in the final.

But the shocking foul start meant that he will have to wait for more than a month to test his true potential. Incidentally, Kalinga Kumarage, who was off-colour in the heats (47.51 secs – second in heat 3) won the final with a feat of 46.27 seconds. However, 100 metres sprinter Medhani Jayamanne who was disqualified for a foul start in the women’s 100 metres heats was not so unlucky, as athletics officials gave her an opportunity to compete in the women’s 100 metres final, though her place was (2nd) not recognised. She clocked 12.16 seconds in the final.

Chamod Yodasinghe reached his personal best to win the men’s 100 metres.

In Dharshana’s absence four others, namely, Kumarage, R.N. Rajakaruna, Dinuka Deshan and Pabasara Niku clocked sub 47 seconds.

In the corresponding women’s 400 metres, schoolgirl Tharushi Karunaratne continued to shock her senior counterparts. Having won the women’s 800 metres on day one, the Ratnayake Central prodigy also bagged the 400 metres victory as she clocked 53.41 seconds to beat Asian Championship participant Nadeesha Ramanayake.

In the men’s 100 metres Chamod Yodasinghe reached his personal best as he clocked 10.37 seconds to win the final.

In the women’s 100 metres final, Rumeshika Ratnayake clocked 12.01 seconds to win running against the wind (-2.9). In the heats, she clocked sub 12 seconds.

In the morning, Gayanthika Abeyratne finished the women’s 1500 metres just three seconds shy of her national record mark as she clocked 4:12.53 seconds to win closely followed by steeplechase national record holder Nilani Ratnayake. Abeyratne’s national record established last year stands at 4:09.12 seconds.

In the Under 20 age category events Malith Yasiru produced the second-best performance of the Asian region in the Under 20 boys’ triple jump this year when he cleared a distance of 15.43 metres to win the event.

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Sri Lankan sailing teams compete in Pakistan

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The Sri Lankan national team of two sailors and one windsurfer, with the Navy team of a sailor and a windsurfer, were invited to participate at the first Chief of Navy Staff International Sailing Regatta 2023 held from March 14 to 20 in Karachi, Pakistan. Twelve countries including Australia, Bahrain, Croatia, Egypt, China, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Oman, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey had sent their teams to Karachi. The Sri Lankan national team consisted of Laser Standard sailor (ILCA 7) NGMU Ghanawardene, Sri Lanka Navy, Priyantha Gunawardene, Sri Lanka Navy participating in the Windsurfing RSX Class and Laser 4.7 (ILCA 4) sailor Tharen Nanayakkara. The Navy team consisted of Laser Standard sailor (ILCA 7) JMPL Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka Navy and WAS Weeratunge, Sri Lanka Navy participating in the Windsurfing RSX Class.

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