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Sajith: Small steps can help win big

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by Reemus Fernando

Respected track and field coach Sajith Jayalal, the guru behind the success of highest ranked Sri Lankan athlete, believes that achieving tough Olympic qualifying standards is a matter of proper management of athletes and coordination of a diverse range of professionals from psychologists, nutritionists to doctors to get the best out of top athletes. “You don’t need big investments on infrastructure to achieve top performances. You can leap-frog to top international standards without being stagnated at Asian level if you can make available the services of professionals who can address nutritional, health, psychological and other issues of athletes,” said Jayalal in an interview with The Island.

Jayalal who is also the Director of the National Institute of Sports Sciences has trained numerous athletes to excel at international level and is the coach of steeplechaser Nilani Ratnayake who has come closer to achieving Olympic qualifying standards in track and field sports. In the absence of her pet event Ratnayake clinched two golds in her supporting events (1,500m, 5,000m) at the last South Asian Games.

“Look at the number of professionals working around athletes winning at Asian level. There is the coach, the officials from the federation, physio, psychologist, nutritionist and many others. These professionals work together to improve standards. I urge authorities to get involved to make this happen here. The coach is isolated here. You don’t need to spend big to achieve this,” Jayalal opined.

“At junior level, a coach can play several roles but at elite level it is different. You need only to have a system in place. I have under me several athletes who win at Asian level. There are others who train such athletes. If they can obtain the support of these professionals I have mentioned, Sri Lanka can win big,” said Jayalal.

“Coach should do the technical part. The training part. There are people who are willing to support without monetary gain. I am speaking as a coach not as the Director of an institution attached to the ministry of Sports. I am coaching because I have a burning desire to do that. I am not paid for coaching. There are people like that. Doctors, nutritionists and others who are willing to help. What we need is that help. Not money. What we need is the mechanism to bring these resource persons together to support elite athletes.

Jayalal also stressed the importance of managing athletes and their affairs. “I have had enough talented athletes but there was no one to manage them apart from me. There should be someone from the Association to manage the athletes in the elite pool. There should be a qualified individual to do that. For example I am not willing to send my athletes to Colombo from Boralanda even for a meeting conducted by Sri Lanka Athletics if that meeting falls during a peak training week. By sending my athletes I will be ruining the whole build up to that week. Since my athlete is not coming to the meeting, some other athlete in Colombo also takes that as an excuse to skip the meeting. I have to negotiate with the head of Sri Lanka Athletics to resolve matters. These matters should be taken care of by a manager. Managing these is a different area when it comes to elite level.”

Absence of quality and safe supplements for recovery has been the bone of contention. The veteran coach stressed the importance of regulating supplements. “We are afraid of taking protein supplements because there are no safe places to purchase them. If we do not provide athletes with correct nutrients and legal means of obtaining them then they will opt to take what ever available. There should be some responsible institution or company who could be trusted to provide pure protein supplements not contaminated with banned substances.”

Sajith Jayalal has dozens of his elite athletes engaged in high altitude training at Boralanda where the climatic conditions remain dry making it possible to maintain an uninterrupted training programme compared to Nuwara Eliya. While Ratnayake is based in Diyatalawa with Sri Lanka Army looking after the well-being of the athlete, some of his other elite athletes are housed at a rented place in Boralanda.

Speaking on Sri Lanka’s prospects of qualifying for Olympics Jayalal had this to say.

“Olympic qualifying standard have become tough. But if we prepare strategically we can qualify in several events. We can have hopes on the mix relay. Qualifying in the 100 metres relays will be really tough. According to what we observed before the lock down we had a chance in 400 metres relays. If we manage the athletes properly we can have hopes of qualifying. Hiruni Wijeratne (marathoner) is already doing well in the US. Then we have Sumeda Ranasinghe (javelin thrower), Nilani Ratnayake, even the two women’s 800 metres runners (Gayanthika Abeyratne and Nimali Liyanarachchi). Though the qualifying standards is high if they can break the national record they might come closer achieving entry standards. Then we have the men’s long jumpers. If five of our athletes could qualify for Olympics then we can build on that to succeed at regional international events. Coaches should work hard to achieve that.”

Lack of quality competitions had hampered the preparation of many a top level athlete in the past. The prevailing health issues around the world emanating from the Covid 19 pandemic has worsened the situation preventing the possibilities of taking part in competitions overseas in the immediate future. Jayalal said that tough competitions were necessary to improve standards. “We do not have proper competitions. We get Singapore Open or Thailand Open. We don’t get challenged at those races. We win by big leads there. For the elite athletes we need tough competitions. Where we get beaten. We must compete in competitions in Kazakhstan, Bahrain and India and if possible events in the European circuit where we can strive to be among the first five.”



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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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