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Schools cricket to recommence in November



by Reemus Fernando


The Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) will commence schools cricket tournaments in November for the Under-19 and Under-14 age categories under a new format to suit newly stipulated conditions by the Ministry of Education and health authorities. With the Ministry of Education expected to give the ‘green light’ to commence schools sports soon the Executive Committee of the SLSCA finalised new formats for the two tournaments on Friday.

“We will commence an Under-19 and an Under-14 tournament under new formats. We made the request and expect that the Ministry of Education to give us the green light soon rather than later to commence schools cricket in November,” J.A.K.S. Indrajith, the secretary of the SLSCA told The Island.

Accordingly the limited overs format will be used for the Under-19 tournament where both the Division I and Division II teams will play in two tiers ‘A’ and ‘B’. The teams will be categorized in to tier ‘A’ and ‘B’ according to their standings of the last league tournament. The first 18 teams will be playing in tier ‘A’ and the last 18 in tier ‘B’.

Teams in both tier ‘A’ and ‘B’ will be divided in to two groups where they will play eight league matches. The winners and the runners up of each group will play a knockout stage in February 2021.

There are 64 teams in Division III. They will be divided in to eight groups.

All matches of the Under-19 and Under-14 tournaments will be played over the weekends.

“With the Ministry of Education giving priority to education during the last two terms we have been compelled to conduct matches only on Saturdays and Sundays. There will be no matches on Poya days and on Religious Holidays,” Indrajith said.

“Although the new format will be only for this season, the results of this Under-19 limited overs tournament will be considered in promoting and demoting teams in the year 2021. For this year there will be no demotions and promotions,” Indrajith detailed.

The first four matches of the Under-19 tournament have to be completed before December 31.

The SLSCA is also considering allowing schools to conduct several of their traditional matches of innings format. A final decision regarding this will be taken after the Fixture Meeting.

The Executive Committee has also decided to conduct an Under-14 tournament also during weekends from mid November.

The usual innings format will be used but these matches will be limited to six hours (three sessions of two hour duration) with the first innings limited to a maximum of 50 overs for both teams. There too teams will be divided into groups of eight and each team will play seven matches.

“There will be no knockout stage. The group champions will be awarded certificates to encourage them,” Indrajith said.

The Ministry of Education canceled all schools sports tournaments and competitions which were halted in March and directed Sports Associations not to recommence them. A circular to that effect was issued early this month.

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Not playing cricket extremely frustrating – Arthur



by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Mickey Arthur has spent almost a year in the job, yet his team has played just one game in Colombo in that period. Such has been the devastating effect of the pandemic that he might end his two year stint with Sri Lanka Cricket without ever being involved in a game at RPS.

This was supposed to be a bumper year for cricket in Sri Lanka with the country set to host four bilateral series plus the Asia Cup. Arthur had drawn up his plans in a bid to bring the team back to the glory days but those plans have been halted due to COVID-19. There was lot of hope that cricket will resume later this month with Bangladesh set to travel for a three match Test series but that has been put off due to quarantine disputes.

“It has been extremely frustrating for me as I am watching live cricket in England, UAE and other parts of the world but we are not playing any cricket,” Arthur told The Island. Sri Lanka have not played any international cricket since February.

“We were all excited about this year. It was a tough year no doubt with some challenging assignments but we were excited about the challenges. The players were shaping up well and the West Indies series we could see a real improvements in many areas. We wanted to build on that and we were heading in the right direction with the Test and ODI teams. We have to do lot of work with the T-20 team but we had our plans in place. We were getting better always.”

“I must tell you that the board has done everything to ensure that our training has been top notch. There has been lot of effort put in by our officials to resume cricket. I want to complement every player in our squad. They have been committed to training and they have brought incredible attitude for training. Great to see they get better technically, physically and mentally. That is why it has been frustrating not to have any cricket. They are ready and I have not seen an international team like this so ready to take on the challenge.”

For the last six months Arthur has been confined to his hotel room. He has not had an opportunity to visit his family. “My family is grown up. They lead their own life. My eldest daughter lives in South Africa. My other two daughters are in Perth. My eldest has given birth to a child so I am a grandfather now. I thought it’s my responsibility to remain in Sri Lanka and work with the boys. So, Grant Flower and I stayed back. I felt the need to give the leadership for boys’ training sessions. They have been quite amazing.”

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Sports Festivals: Double standards at play



by Reemus Fernando

Teen athletes competed in their numbers at Divisional and Inter Divisional Athletics Championships of the National Sports Festival held around the country during the last few weekends. If not for the schools athletes the competition venues of the regional championships of the National Sports Festival would have looked lifeless. Yet, it is doubtful when these athletes will be able to compete for their schools as the Ministry of Education is yet to soften its stance on conducting schools competitions due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

The Divisional and Inter Divisional Athletics Championships of the National Sports Festival and the upcoming Youth Championships will help a small segment of young athletes and their coaches figure out where they stand after a long layoff without competitions. But for a vast majority of school athletes who do not compete in these championships nothing would be more important than the Inter School Competitions and the All Island Schools Competitions, which still remain banned.

Last week, one School Sports Association, which was looking forward to ending months of inaction, in November, received a directive from the Ministry of Education to limit their competitions to friendly practice matches. The letter issued by the Ministry of Education included number of regulations which further discourage competitions.

Undoubtedly, serious precautions should be taken in the face of the present pandemic. Student athletes’ health should not be put to risk. But aren’t they currently being exposed to the virus more at packed private tuition classes, overcrowded buses and trains and even in their own class rooms in schools.

If taking part in competitions is a risk to their health, shouldn’t the school athletes be stopped from competing at the Divisional and Inter Divisional Athletics Championships of the National Sports Festival conducted by the Sports Ministry. Certainly the Ministry of Education cannot stop teen athletes from representing clubs during weekends at the above said competitions. If what is more important is the health of young athletes, then what is considered good for them by one Sports Ministry should not be deemed harmful by the Ministry of Education.

There are some health measures like measuring temperature at some of the above-said competitions, where The Island was present. Why can’t the Ministry of Education conduct competitions adhering to health guidelines?

Schools sports suffered setbacks even before the Covid 19 pandemic hit Sri Lanka. A better part of the preceding year was characterised by uncertainty caused by the Easter Sunday bomb attacks.

Even when normalcy prevails a vast majority of country’s schools do not conduct even a sports meet annually. Sports is probably the last on the priority list of the Ministry of Education. Physical health is the key to survival during a pandemic. Ironically, physical education is neglected badly in schools in these times of ‘new normal’. Even at leading schools, both private and public, the outsourced Sports Instructors were the first to lose jobs in the education sector during the lockdown. Both public and private schools may have saved some funds by cutting on salaries but they have certainly opened new avenues for disaster. Once, Olympian turned sprint coach Sunil Gunawardena told in an interview with this newspaper that he would have become a rogue or a rebellion had he not taken to sports.

The schools have been the nurseries of country’s sports. From the two Olympic medalists the country has ever produced to the world cup winning cricketers who have become famous world over, the seeds of sporting success has been sown at schools. Hundreds of thousands of others who took part in sports enthusiastically at school level would vouch for the invaluable lessons they learnt outside the classroom and how much sports helped build their character.

The Ministry of Education has taken serious note of the number of learning hours the students have lost due to the pandemic. Private tuition masters in packed halls are going hell for leather to finish the syllabuses in time of the all important O/L, A/L and Grade five Scholarship exams. The Covid 19 pandemic has come as a blessing in disguise to the sports authorities of the Ministry of Education. Repercussions from a year without sports at schools or how to compensate for the time lost in sports seems to be things they hardly worry about. Results of exams come within months and if you fail you certainly can try again. Country’s prisons are overflowing. We can only hope that what Gunawardena said about himself wouldn’t come true as regards the thousands of young men and women giving up sports this year.

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Tamil Union looks to an exciting season



Head Coach Kalpage and Consultant Herath to turn tables for Tamil Union

With former international cricketer Ruwan Kalpage appointed as the Coach, Tamil Union is planning to field a strong team for the cricket season under the direction of a new committee.

Kalpage brings over 15 years of international and national coaching experience to his new role.

Tamil Union has appointed former test captain, Rangana Herath as their Cricket Consultant ; recognized as the most successful left arm spinner all time, Herath has taken 433 test wickets in his career. He is expected to add a new sense of dynamism to the Tamil Union side for this season. The Tamil Union team is captained by national cricketer Suranga Lakmal, former test captain who has played in 60 test matches to date.

The Tamil Union Cricket Committee is headed by former SLC Secretary and first class cricketer, business leader Prakash Schaffter and assisted by Cricket Secretary former Josephian and SL U-19 first class cricketer Charinda Fernando.

As the cricket season gets underway, Tamil Union Cricket & Athletic Club is looking forward to consolidating its presence, says Prakash Schaffter, Head of the Cricket Committee at Tamil Union.

Head of the committee, Prakash Schaffter brings the experience of a long association with cricket ; he was Secretary – Sri Lanka Cricket in 2011 and 2015 and will be able to combine his business acumen and leadership skills in spearheading Tamil Union’s thrust into the season this year.

Long standing member and current President Ramesh Schaffter says “Tamil Union has a unique legacy of supporting national cricket in Sri Lanka. During its historic innings spanning over 120 years, Tamil Union has been very consistent in producing world class cricketers who have excelled in the national team. We have always been a place of growth, fostering talented cricketers from rural Sri Lanka. Among them are national cricketers the caliber of Mutthaiah Muralidharan, Champaka Ramanayake, Athula Samarasekara,Upul Sumathipala, Upul Chandana and Suranga Lakmal.”

The Tamil Union team is confident of facing the season with optimism. Representing them is a world class team headed and inspired by some of the best cricketing talent produced by Sri Lanka.

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