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Schools cricket’s age limit change from Under-19 to 20 just not numbers

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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.

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Successful staging of LPL would pave the way for other sports to resume – Dr. Lal Ekanayake

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by Reemus Fernando

Dr. Lal Ekanayake, the Director General of the Institute of Sports Medicine expressed hope that Lanka Premier League (LPL) cricket tourney which was scheduled to start in the evening yesterday would be the first step towards resumption of sports in the country despite a rise in the number of Covid 19 positive cases.

“Successful staging of the LPL tournament will pave the way for other sports to resume under new normal conditions. The sports minister too is looking at the possibilities of starting other sports events after the successful conclusion of the LPL,” said Ekanayake in an interview with The Island.

“The Covid 19 is unlikely to leave us soon. Experts say that this will stay for a couple of years. In such a scenario responsibility is on us to prepare ways to resume sports,” said Ekanayake.

“Even some countries which are worst affected by the pandemic have resumed sports under new normal. Sometimes there is confusion regarding health guidelines. But if we plan properly sports can resume,” opined Ekanayake.

“Many international sports events scheduled for next year will happen as scheduled. We cannot hold back. We are going to take part in these championships. The postponed Olympics is happening later next year. So are other international events,” said Ekanayake.

Ekanayake said that his institution was looking forward to support sports associations conduct their competitions. Sri Lanka Athletics is one of the hardest hit sports and the track and field governing body has scheduled the National Championship to December after the cancellations of many top level competitions throughout the year.

Ekanayake has expressed his views on resuming track and field sports on previous occasions as well. He has cited track and field sports as a low risk sports and has the ability to resume despite the pandemic.

Sri Lanka’s sportsmen and women are scheduled to take part in a number of international events in 2021 and 2022. Resumption of local competitions including national championships is going to benefit them.

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Diego Maradona – Argentina’s flawed football icon

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Dazzling, infamous, extraordinary, genius, outrageous. Diego Maradona. A flawed football icon.

One of the game’s most gifted players, the Argentine boasted a rare combination of flair, flamboyance, vision and speed which mesmerised fans.

He also outraged supporters with his controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal and plunged into a mire of drug abuse and personal crises off the pitch.

Born 60 years ago in a Buenos Aires shanty town, Diego Armando Maradona escaped the poverty of his youth to become a football superstar considered by some to be even greater than Brazil’s Pele.

The Argentine, who scored 259 goals in 491 matches, pipped his South American rival in a poll to determine the greatest player of the 20th Century, before Fifa changed the voting rules so both players were honoured.

Maradona showed prodigious ability from a young age, leading Los Cebollitas youth team to a 136-game unbeaten streak and going on to make his international debut aged just 16 years and 120 days.

Short and stocky, at just 5ft 5in, he was not your typical athlete.

But his silky skills, agility, vision, ball control, dribbling and passing more than compensated for lack of pace and occasional weight problems.

He may have been a whizz at running rings round hostile defenders but he found it harder to dodge trouble.

Maradona’s 34 goals in 91 appearances for Argentina tell only part of the story of his rollercoaster international career.

He led his country to victory at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and a place in the final four years later.

In the quarter-final of the earlier tournament, there was a foretaste of the controversy that would later engulf his life.

The match against England already had an extra friction, with the Falklands War between the two countries having taken place only four years beforehand. That on-field edge was to become even more intense.

With 51 minutes gone and the game goalless, Maradona jumped with opposing goalkeeper Peter Shilton and scored by punching the ball into the net.

He later said the goal came thanks to “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.

Four minutes later, he scored what has been described as the ‘goal of the century’ – collecting the ball in his own half before embarking on a bewitching, mazy run that left several players trailing before he rounded Shilton to score.

“You have to say that is magnificent. There is no doubt about that goal. That was just pure football genius,” said BBC commentator Barry Davies.

England pulled one back but Argentina went through, with Maradona saying it was “much more than winning a match, it was about knocking out the English”.

Maradona broke the world transfer record twice – leaving Boca Juniors in his home country for Spanish side Barcelona for £3m in 1982 and joining Italian club Napoli two years later for £5m.

There were more than 80,000 fans in the Stadio San Paolo when he arrived by helicopter. A new hero.

He played the best club football of his career in Italy, feted by supporters as he inspired the side to their first league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the Uefa Cup in 1989.

A party to celebrate the first triumph lasted five days with hundreds of thousands on the streets, but Maradona was suffocated by the attention and expectation.

“This is a great city but I can hardly breathe. I want to be free to walk around. I’m a lad like any other,” he said.

He became inextricably linked to the Camorra crime syndicate, dragged down by a cocaine addiction and embroiled in a paternity suit.

After losing 1-0 to Germany in the final of Italia 90, a positive dope test the following year triggered a 15-month ban.

He returned and arrested his slide, appearing to get his act together to play in the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

But he alarmed viewers with a maniacal full-face goal celebration into a camera and was withdrawn midway through the tournament after he was found to have taken the banned substance ephedrin. (BBC Sport)

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LPL rocked by corruption scandal  

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By Rex Clementine 

A former Sri Lanka cricketer is under probe after his alleged attempt to entice a player into corrupt practice in the inaugural Lanka Premier League tournament that will get underway today at Hambantota. 

The former player – an off-spinner with a dodgy action – had represented Sri Lanka frequently from 2012 to 2016 before being discarded after being reported for a suspect action. He has featured in various T-20 leagues since losing his spot in the Sri Lankan side. Cricket officials said that he had been under the spotlight for corrupt activities but had escaped punishment due to lack of evidence. 

The player who was approached was former S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia spin bowler Tharindu Ratnayake. The ambidextrous Ratnayake bowls both left-arm orthodox spin and right-arm off-spin and represents Sinhalese Sports Club in domestic cricket. The former Sri Lanka player had got to know him at the club having also played for the Maitland Crescent club. 

Ratnayake had reported the approach after he received a Watasapp message tempting him to corrupt practice during the Lanka Premier League. Ratnayake represents Colombo Kings. 

Sri Lanka Cricket officials said that while they were disappointed that something of this nature had occurred on the eve of the tournament added that they were happy that players are taking corruption in the sport seriously.

“We have spent a lot of time, energy and money educating our young players of dangers of corruption and we are glad the incident was reported,” a senior cricket official told The Island.

The captain of the Colombo Kings franchise Angelo Mathews also came in for special praise by SLC. “We are glad to note that Angelo as the captain of the Colombo franchise had called up all his players for a meeting and had warned them to be vigilant of nefarious plots,” the official added. 

The official said that Mathews also had vehemently opposed an Indian player who was banned for corruption being flown in to be part of the Colombo franchise which Mathews leads. 

The LPL will get underway today at Hambantota and the scandal was the last thing the organizers wanted having gone through many difficulties in making the event a reality. The organizers were working in a short time frame to make this a reality and in the middle of that the outbreak of the pandemic threatened the event. 

Sri Lanka Cricket has successfully worked with health authorities in bringing down overseas players, support staff and television crew who have gone through isolation before being drafted into a bubble to resume training ahead of the tournament. 

 

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