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SLR must put players in a bio bubble

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Sri Lanka’s national players haven’t had international exposure at any form of rugby for a long time due to the present pandemic

by a Special Sports Correspondent

Sri Lanka’s sports scene is similar to a hatchling stepping into the world. Like the newborn learning to cope with new territory, Sri Lanka’s sportsmen and women have to carefully tread wherever they go due to the pandemic that’s raging.

Compared to other sports our rugby players have done little to get their training off the ground during this challenging environment. For their ill luck the inter-club rugby sevens tournament became a nonstarter because Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF), a co host of the event, announced that it wasn’t in a position to go ahead with the tournament because of the pandemic. The tournament was to be organised by SLAF under the supervision of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) to celebrate the former’s 70th anniversary. Most club players who committed themselves even went into a bio bubble to prepare for the tournament. But all efforts channeled towards having a much needed rugby event proved futile in the end.

On the administration side of the equation there is SLR President Rizly Illyas who is struggling to kick start rugby events in the island. Just the other day he was quoted in the newspapers stating that Sri Lanka had received hosting rights for two Asian Rugby Sevens tournaments. However what catches the eye of this writer is a comment Illyas made regarding the announcement of the two tournaments. The SLR President says he is aware of the challenges posed by the pandemic to conduct a tournament of such magnitude. But most importantly he adds ‘We can’t sit back and wait’. That thought can create the platform to launch future rugby activities.

To conduct an international rugby tournament SLR needs the support of the Sports Ministry and Ministry of Health. According to informed sources Illyas is not enjoying the best of support from ‘other influential parties’ who can help the first rugby tournament to get off the ground after rugger activities came to a stop several months ago.

Rugby can take a cue from cricket, badminton, table tennis, chess and athletics. The national cricketers are making tours abroad and continue to be reimbursed despite the pandemic developing into a third wave and disrupting human life activities.

According to sources the majority of domestic rugby players are not getting remunerated hence the difficulty in getting them into a bio bubble and have an international tournament. Unlike the national cricketers the country’s best rugby players are owned by the clubs and not by the rugby controlling body. The SLR has to get its first rugby activity off the ground for the year 2021. Compared to rugby, which is starving, the international cricket calendar is chockablock. SLC CEO Ashley de Silva was quoted in newspapers saying that Sri Lanka hosting the Asia Cup would be put back, due to the pandemic, till late as after the 2023 cricket World Cup. This he says is because the national cricket teams of all countries have a packed schedule.

Even sports must be viewed from a human angle. As much as sports administrators use psychology to motivate players these players must be encouraged when sports activities have come to a standstill. They can take a cue from the Sunera Foundation, founded by Sunethra Bandaranaike. The foundation conducts workshops for differently abled persons. Workshops are conducted so that participants are able to feel, be seen and can express themselves in a creative manner. Rugby players must be made to feel that they are wanted and given opportunities to express themselves through sports.

From the perspective of player wellbeing Sri Lanka Badminton conducted an online fitness programme for the players titled ‘keep shuttle fit’. National coaches and players, members of the ‘challenge pool’ and junior players took part in the programme conducted in the mornings on weekdays. Even a sedentary sport like chess has got off the ground and the country’s national players are at present contesting the Asian Continental Chess Championship via online participation. Sri Lanka’s chances are carried at this chess tournament by Ranindu Liyanage, Minul Sanjula, L.M.S.T de Silva and Theekshan Dinuwan. The tournament is held from May 20-30.

All sports draw ‘oxygen’ form the National Olympic Committee (NOC). This is because the NOC facilitates travel of sportsmen and women to events like the Olympic Games, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. A top NOC official has been quoted in the newspapers that plans are underway to field teams for the Commonwealth Games (UK) and Asian Games (China). The NOC is concerned about how the Sri Lankans will perform, hence the committee has said that it wishes to see two sets of players being sent for the two events to enhance medal prospects and limit injuries.

In any given situation what matters is not how challenging the situation is, but how big the person put in charge of the situation is. All national sports bodies must have an innovative and determined president to make sure their respective sports don’t lose players. Just the other day we read in newspapers that some of our national cricketers are contemplating premature retirement because of reduced payments to them. But the SLC has made alternate plans to reimburse players with the best available paying scheme. The idea is to keep the players in the game during difficult times. Given the present situation this writer hears of a sad story from the south. A known rugby coach is now undertaking home painting contracts in the absence of any money coming his way from rugby coaching. There is another rugby coach, possessing a bike license, who has taken up transporting food and has signed up with a food delivery company.

Going down memory lane to the late 1980s most defence establishments allowed their players to represent domestic clubs in SLR conducted tournaments at a time when the JVP insurgents threatened security forces personnel with death if they didn’t quit their places of employment. Careers of many rugby players were saved as a result of far thinking by the SLR (Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union back then).

The SLR has to come to the fore and sign contacts with players with the motive of putting them in a bio bubble when future international tournaments approach. This is the best time for the SLR to break the monopoly on players by clubs and look to the future and escape from the pandemic blues.



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Sports

Pay disputes aren’t new but are they reasonable?   

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by Rex Clementine  

Pay disputes go back to the times of Bandula Warnapura, our first Test captain. But he was an absolute beauty. He is more of a working-class hero. There was a bit of Ian Chappell in him. He fought for his players. Not for seniority payment or anything.  

Sri Lanka Cricket at times have cut down pay for players significantly just to rein them in. There have been Sri Lankan teams in the past that have refused to sign contracts, but gone on tour, won the championship and then demanded the pound of flesh, which in a way is fair enough.  

So if Kusal Perera’s side beats England, the world’s number one ranked team, in the upcoming series, the cricket-loving public will not mind even if the players are paid triple the bonus they have been promised.  

But what is happening right now is bizarre. The players have said that they are willing to play free as long as their employers show them the formula with which the annual contracts were formulated. Surely, there has to be a better reason than that for you to go on war path with your employers. Mind you players have been warned with three years suspension from all forms of cricket which is quite serious.  

Past greats have taken on the board for reasons other than pay. There have been instances when some players have pulled out of tours when their colleagues have been unceremoniously axed from the side. Can’t remember anyone from the current side standing moral high ground when cricket’s beauty was butchered. Then, why suddenly show yourself as a paragon of virtue wanting to know the mechanism the contracts were formed on.  

Of course, the seniors have been made to go through pay cuts. Some of them will lose at least US$ 50,000. But that seems their least concern. If the mechanism is indeed your issue, did you have to put through such a drama where you even refused to sign a tour declaration?  So virtually, there’s more to it than players wanting clarity about how players were categorized into contracts. 

We aren’t saying that the contracts offered to the players are without loopholes. Take the case of Niroshan Dickwella for example. He had not featured in an ODI for more than two years but ended up on a topmost contract. Then there is Kasun Rajitha who played just two games across all formats of the game and ends up with a C1 contract.  

SLC has said that the pandemic has forced it to suffer major financial losses and pay cuts are inevitable. However, none of the top executives of the board have taken pay cuts.  

As Director of Cricket Tom Moody tried to explain it is far better to stick to a performance-based payment structure than doling out money on a seniority basis. It is certainly unfair on some of the players who have represented the country for over a decade now but sadly, the team’s performance has been so poor that our global rankings have hit rock bottom in recent times.  

The system needed a shake-up and the players a huge wake-up call to get their act together. Cricket is something that we Sri Lankans love so dearly and the game can not suffer more setbacks. Professional sportsmen cannot finish two kilometers in eight and half minutes while others can’t give up chocolates. True that someone like Arjuna Ranatunga would have never survived the current fitness regime. But do keep in mind that he never let his performances drop. He was one of the fiercest competitors on the cricket field.   

Also, there’s a hue and cry about the salary of Tom Moody. It is said that the Director of Cricket is paid a princely sum of US$ 1900 daily. People have little clue that Bangladesh’s spin bowling coach is paid US$ 1500 daily. The common man on the streets just wants one thing now that is to fix the current cricket mess. Hopefully, we will come out of it sooner.  

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Dates announced for India’s tour of Sri Lanka

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by Rex Clementine

India will send a second string team to Sri Lanka later this month for a six-match bilateral series. The teams will be involved in three ODIs and three T-20 Internationals with all games taking place in a bio-secure bubble at RPS. It is unlikely that spectators will be accommodated for the series due to current rising numbers of COVID cases. RPS underwent extensive renovation recently and hasn’t hosted a game in two years.

India have made tremendous progress in the game in the last ten years that they are able to send their main team to England, that too an extended squad and then send a second string team that looks not too bad on paper to Sri Lanka. IPL has opened up a whole lot of new opportunities for India.

India must be confident of winning in Sri Lanka even with a second string side. For example, their main team whitewashed Sri Lanka 5-0 in ODIs when they toured here in 2017 and the following year at the Nidahas Trophy, they sent a second string team and won the competition where Sri Lanka even failed to make it to the finals.

Sri Lanka’s players or SLC will not be complaining. Tours by India will result in huge profits for SLC. Board of Control for Cricket in India has been extremely generous in helping out Sri Lanka coming in for hastily arranged series previously to bail out SLC that was feeling the pinch. This tour, however, was part of the Future Tour Programme.

In the three match ODI series, 30 points will be up for grabs in the ICC World Cup qualifiers and pitted against a weaker Indian team, Sri Lanka will be fancying their chances to win and boost their opportunities of automatic qualification for the sport’s showpiece event. At the moment Sri Lanka are languishing last at 13th position.

India will arrive on the 28th of June and after mandatory quarantine they will be allowed to train. The ODIs will be played on the 13th, 16th and 18th of July followed by the T-20s on the 21st, 23rd and 25th of July.

 

1st ODI

– 13th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

2nd ODI

– 16th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

3rd ODI

– 18th July – RPS – 2.30pm 

1st T20I

– 21st July – RPS – 7.00pm 

2nd T20I

– 23rd July – RPS – 7.00pm 

3rd T20I

– 25th July – RPS – 7.00pm

 

India’s squad:

 Shikhar Dhawan (Captain), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (Wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (Wicket-keeper), Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Vice-captain), Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya 

Net Bowlers:

 Ishan Porel, Sandeep Warrier, Arshdeep Singh, Sai Kishore, Simarjeet Singh. 

 

 

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Ranindu draws with grandmaster, settles for third place

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Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021

National Champion Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage fought hard to secure a draw against grandmaster Enamul Hussain on the final day as he settled for the third position of the Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021.

Starting with the Sicilian Defense the grandmaster sacrificed a pawn and got a strong knight against Ranindu’s bad bishop early in the game. He used all tricks available to earn points as a win would have earned him the gold medal and the possibility to play in the Chess World Cup 2021. But Ranindu had other ideas as the Anandian achieved the third spot winning six points from nine games.

Bangladesh grandmaster Ziaur Rahman (2434) also secured a draw in a hard fought game against 11-year-old, Manon Reja Neer who is also from Bangladesh and settled for eight points. Bangladeshi grandmaster Enamul Hussain needed a full point to tie with the leader but finally settled for the second position as he drew with Ranindu. He had 7 ½ points.

Grandmaster Ziaur won the gold medal and the ticket to the FIDE Chess World Cup. A total of US$ 3,000.00 is distributed among the winners. While the champion receives US$ 1,000.00, the runners up wins US$ 700.00. Ranindu is entitled for US$ 500.00 as he was placed third.

FIDE master Susal de Silva of Nalanda College met his colleague A.A.C.B. Amarasinghe of SJP Chess Club and the game ended in favour of Amarasinghe. Amarasinghe scored six points out of nine games. There were five other players who had scored six points each but he was placed eighth according to the tie breakers. Susal had a total of five points after nine games. Amarasinghe too is entitled for US$ 100.00.

The Asian Zonal Chess Championship 2021, the preliminary event for the FIDE World Chess Cup 2021 for the South Asian region started on June 1 and was held on the Tornelo platform. A total of 39 players from South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka participated in the event. India is considered a single zone by FIDE and has a direct entry to the FIDE World Cup.

The Bangladesh Chess Federation conducted the event from Dhaka and the Sri Lankan players competed from the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka headquarters, Gangodawila, Nugegoda. The event which concluded on Wednesday was conducted according to the Swiss System of nine rounds.

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