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.
Dambulla Giants cruise to comfortable win in LPL
Dambulla Giants cruised to a comfortable 18 run win in their Lanka Premier League fixture against Colombo Stars yesterday at R. Premadasa Stadium. Some big hitting by Giants batsmen powered them to a huge 195 for six and Stars in reply could only manage 177 all out in 18.5 overs.
Stars needed a big knock from one of their top order batsmen to challenge Giants but their batting did not click. Tom Banton (23), Kusal Perera (20), Pathum Nissanka (12) and Sherfane Rutherford all got starts but were not able to post a big score.
A 38 run stand between Dhananjaya de Silva and Dinesh Chandimal for the sixth wicket kept the Stars interested but the scoreboard pressure saw them taking too many risks. Dhananjaya made 21 while Chandimal went onto top score with 26 runs in 16 deliveries with two fours and two sixes.
Giants may not have any big international names in their ranks but their batting is firing on all cylinders coming up with formidable totals. Their 195 for six yesterday is the competition’s highest total so far. They improved on their previous best of 190 for seven against Warriors on Monday. Explosive Welsh batsman Philip Salt continued his excellent form in the competition smashing 62 off 34 balls with eight fours and two sixes.
Salt, who has already represented England in white ball cricket, batted only for ten overs but that was sufficient to give his side an explosive start and a solid foundation. Dushmantha Chameera was called back to the attack with things getting out of hands for Stars and he provided the breakthrough by dismissing Salt.
After the excellent start, captain Dasun Shanaka and Najibullah Zadran provided the innings the much needed impetus in the death overs as they added 77 runs for the sixth wicket in 49 deliveries. Najibullah posted 54 that came off 40 deliveries with six fours and two sixes while Shanaka finished on 38 having faced 25 deliveries and hit three sixes and two fours. Chameera was on the money again sending down the penultimate over and his extra pace accounted for both batsmen.
Guyanese all-rounder Keemo Paul was the costliest with his three overs going for 48 runs.
With that win, Giants are second in the points table.
Himasha Eshan suspended for doping
by Reemus Fernando
Former national 100 metres record holder and South Asian Games medallist Himasha Eshan has been suspended from track and field activities after being found positive for a banned substance during a random test conducted by Sri Lanka Anti-Doping Authority (SLADA).
The sprinter, coached by Chaminda Perera, played a key role in Sri Lanka Artillery’s victory at the recently concluded Army Athletics Championships. Incidentally, the SLADA has collected Himasha’s urine samples at the Army quarters at Narahenpita on the final day of the Army Athletics Championships where he was involved in record breaking feats. He was part of the Medley Relay team that established a new meet record at the event and also ran a wind assisted 10.29 seconds to win the men’s 100 metres.
The SLADA letter addressed to Himasha Eshan states that his ‘A’ sample test has indicated an adverse analytical finding and he has been found positive for an anabolic androgenic steroid norandrosterone.
It is the second time the former Kalutara Vidyalaya sprinter has been found positive for a banned substance during an otherwise glittering carrier. “Since it is the second time that he had been found positive for a banned substance it will make it difficult for any disciplinary committee to treat the matter leniently,” a source conversant with the proceeding told The Island on condition of anonymity.
The 26-year-old has been requested to appear for an initial inquiry at the SLADA headquarters on December 15, where he would be able to request his ‘B’ sample to be tested.
However, sources close to Sri Lanka Army and Sri Lanka Athletics said that the sprinter had left the island for Italy after the Army Athletics Championship.
Himasha who holds the current national record in the men’s 4×100 metres was also the national record holder in the 100 metres until his 10.22 seconds feat was beaten by Italy based Yupun Abeykoon in September 2020.
Himasha was still a teenager when he rose to prominence winning the national title but was first found positive for banned substance methylhexanamine in 2012. His doping violation was treated leniently on that occasion as he was still a school athlete. When he was first tested positive for a banned substance it was reported that the young athlete had been advised by his coach Chaminda Perera to take a supplement available in the market and doping authorities suspected the adverse findings were a result of taking the supplement.
While Himasha was banned for one year, Perera continued to train young aspirants and was the sprint coach of many top athletes.
A source close to anti-doping authority said “according to 33/13 convention against doping in sports criminal charges can be raised against members of the support staff for doping violations in sports.”
Dialog Powers the Battle of the Saints
87th Joe-Pete next week at SSC
Sri Lanka’s premier Catholic boys’ schools, St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and St. Peter’s College, Colombo are set to battle it out for the Rev. Father Maurice J. Le Goc Trophy, on 13th & 14th December 2021, at the SSC Grounds, Colombo.
The ‘Battle of the Saints’, which is renowned for its exciting and competitive brand of cricket is the only annual two-day cricket encounter that strategically limits the first innings to 60 overs each to create greater interest and result orientation. In the 2021 encounter the lads from Darley Road will be led by Sri Lanka Under 19 Captain, the brilliant allrounder Dunith Wellalage, while the boys from Bambalapitiya will be under the captaincy of the stylish batsmen and 5th year Coloursman, Nipunaka Fonseka.
“The global pandemic has crippled the world and yet, we are fortunate to embrace a unique tradition, a game of cricket which helps protect and preserve traditions, values and history” Rev. Fr. Rohitha Rodrigo, the Rector of the hosting school, St. Peter’s College, Colombo, said. “The Joe-Pete fosters a unique sense of brotherhood, unity, peace and harmony and this year, even without spectators at the grounds the spirit will prevail. Let me express my gratitude to all who fought back with courage, discipline and responsibility during the pandemic to overcome the challenges. My sincere thanks to our Principal sponsor Dialog Axiata for their support for our inspirational brand”
Rev. Fr. Ranjith Andradi, Rector, St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, said, “We have, through divine intervention and the hard work of so many, succeeded in preparing the stage for another Joe-Pete cricket encounter which brings together a spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie that exists in an unbroken chain for generations. Our students have practiced hard, and we intend to give them this momentous opportunity to showcase their talents. I would like to thank the sponsor, Dialog Axiata and wish both teams the best of luck.”
St. Joseph’s College leads the series tally with 12 wins, their last win coming under the captaincy of Ruwantha Fernandopulle in 2008, while St. Peter’s College were the winners of the 2016 encounter under Vinu Mohotty, bringing their tally to 10 wins, which ensured the Rev. Father Maurice J. Legoc Trophy was kept securely in the trophy cabinet at Bambalapitiya.
This year due to the pandemic to ensure the health and safety of all, spectators will not be present, but it is expected that large numbers of passionate past and present students will watch safely from private, remote locations. Additionally, all the very important requirements and safety protocols of the Ministry of Health will be followed.
The highly anticipated Josephian-Peterite limited overs match played for the ‘Fr. Peter A. Pillai Memorial Trophy’ which was the first one day encounter among schools commencing in 1975, has always attracted the highest number of spectators for a school’s 50 over cricket match is scheduled to be played on the following Thursday, 16th December 2021 and will also be played behind closed doors at the same venue. The Josephian’s lead the one-day encounter 23-20 with 2 matches ending with no result.
Adding excitement to the games this year is the fact that six players – Dunith Wellalage, Shevon Daniel, Sadeesh Jayawardena from St Joseph’s and Wanuja Sahan, Danal Hemananda, Lahiru Dewatage from St Peters played against the touring Bangladesh U19 team and five of them are presently playing against the touring English juniors. Dunith Wellalage, Captain of St Joseph’s was appointed the Sri Lanka U19 Captain for both tours while Wanuja Sahan of St Peter’s and Shevon Daniel of St Joseph’s were regular match winners during the two series. The five playing in the English tour are tipped to be in the Sri Lanka squad which leaves on the 19th December for the U19 Asia Cup in The UAE and the U19 World Cup in the West Indies.
The two schools have produced many National Caps. Current Sri Lanka test skipper Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews, Chaminda Vaas, Thisara Perera, Ashley De Silva, Michael Van Dort, Roshen Silva, Priyamal Perera and Sadeera Samarawickrama are the Josephians who represented Sri Lanka while the Peterites are Roy Dias, Rumesh Ratnayake, Vinodhan John, Amal Silva, Russel Arnold, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Malinda Warnapura and Angelo Perera.
As the principal sponsor, Dialog Axiata has made arrangements to LIVE stream the match via Thepapare.com in the interest of all present boys, old boys, parents, supporters, well-wishers and the cricket-loving public who are encouraged to watch the match in safe and secure locations and ensure all safety protocols are maintained.
One of Sri Lanka’s largest banks, Hatton National Bank has also come forth as a co-sponsor for this year’s prestigious ‘Battle of the Saints’ encounter.
Dialog Axiata is the proud sponsor of the Sri Lanka National Cricket, Volleyball and Netball teams. The Company also has a close association with the President’s Gold Cup Volleyball, Junior Volleyball, National Junior and Senior Netball tourneys, Schools Rugby League, Knockout and Sevens tourneys, Premier Football and Paralympic sports – by powering the Army Para Games, National Para Games and the Sri Lankan contingent to the World Paralympic Games.
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