by Rex Clementine
In Australia, they run cricket like a business. In Sri Lanka there was a man who ran cricket like a family. Arjuna Ranatunga is his name and on a day like this, 19 years ago, he retired from the game with his swansong being at the ground that has been home for him for many decades – SSC.
It was an end of an era. Arjuna captained 56 of the 93 Tests he played. He ran the sport with an iron fist.
There was one golden rule in cricket. Never cross Arjuna’s path. He only knew two ways; my way or the highway.
Those whom he thought had a future had to comply and he would back them come hell or high water. Take the case of Sanath Jayasuriya. He was the original ‘bits and pieces cricketer’ having managed just one half-century in his first 50 innings. But the faith and perseverance that Arjuna had shown was such that once he found his feet in the internatioanl arena, he unleashed hell ending the careers of many a cricketer from Manoj Prabhakar to Kabir Ali. They never played cricket again. Arjuna had created a monster.
Not all players he backed were successful. Pramodaya Wickremesinghe for example. He played in more games than the wickets he took! But for Arjuna those players who made the team into a family mattered, more than match winners. Even those who were average cricketers played for Sri Lanka; Eric Upashantha and Suresh Perera to name a few. The only reason they played was they were in the good books of the captain.
Pity those who didn’t fall in line with Arjuna’s thinking. They hardly got a look in. It mattered to him that everyone who took the field with him was on the same wavelength. If he’d asked them to go through a brick wall, they would do it.
Of course, Arjuna could bat. Test runs he has over 4000. Some 1000 more he walked to finish with over 5000 runs.
His battles with leading fast bowlers of his generation were a treat to watch. He was comfortable with pace. Rather than taking them apart, he relied on using the pace to his advantage; nudging boundaries through third man or fine-leg with those late cuts and flicks. Alan Donald or Waqar Younis, the quickest of his generation never bothered him. Wasim Akram with his swing did. Usually, when the opponent was better than him, Arjuna had another way to win the contest; to get under his skin.
Against spin; sweep was his staple diet. Easily, he was the best sweeper of his generation. Of course there was Waruna Waragoda. But he committed a blunder. He had crossed Arjuna’s path, during a mercantile game involving HNB and Union Assurance. And he never played for Sri Lanka.
Arjuna had this knack to identify good potential. He picked Mahela Jayawardene soon after school at the age of 20. Sanath Jayasuriya isn’t the only monster he created.
Arjuna is the only player to feature in a nation’s first Test and its 100th. In between he had missed a dozen Tests. He had his share of injuries but a fair share of fights with the establishment too for which he was axed. In the end, he finished on 93 Tests.
The Board’s CEO was his elder brother and his father was right-hand man of President Chandika Kumaratunga. Had he wished, he could have gone onto play 100 Test matches, becoming the first Sri Lankan to do so. Instead, he opted to go on his terms having played two stunning knocks just before retiring.
In his last tour, in Rawalpindi, Waqar left him with a broken thumb. With the side in peril, with a Test match to be won, Arjuna walked in having taken a pain killer injection and saw Sri Lanka over the line in what was one of the most exciting Test matches ever. He was tough like Allan Border, cunning like Diego Maradona and skillful like Michael Jordan.
Then in his penultimate Test at Asgiriya against Proteas when the team had collapsed to 133 for six chasing 177, he produced another masterclass scoring 88 runs. The old fox had not lost his guile.
He was too good a player to have not scored more than four Test hundreds. But then, in his generation only Aravinda had won more matches than him.
Not everyone agreed with Arjuna’s thinking. But he commands huge respect. Even today, if he tells his team mates to be at his house for a meal on Friday at 7pm, Asanka Gurusinha would make sure he flies all the way from Melbourne to be there on time.
“Players must study and maintain their game as well”- Niranjan
By A Special Sports Correspondent
Tennis coach Niranjan Cassie Chetty is a versatile personality. When he is not into coaching he is an avid reader and enjoys music. And above all what’s interesting about this man is that one can have an interesting chat with him because his interests in life and sport spread far and wide.
We know little about the people who contribute to players from ‘behind the curtain’. Niranjan is a coach who shuns the limelight and prefers his chargers to bask in the glory of success and take home the silverware and decorate their trophy cupboards.
This year he produced two national singles champions-Yasitha De Silva (Men’s Singles winner) and Anjalika Kurera (Women’s Singles winner). These feats were recorded at the 106th Tennis Nationals worked off recently.
During an interview Niranjan had with ‘The Island’ newspaper he spoke about the importance of balancing both studies and sport in a country like Sri Lanka. This he said is important because in Sri Lankan school and university players don’t get any aid as concessions where classroom education is concerned. He cited Yasitha De Silva’s journey in tennis and said that the champion had a hard time balancing his studies and the sport and before emerging as the national champion and also completing his degree at the Colombo University.
“In other countries players at university can attend training in the mornings and then do some home studies where education is concerned. This helps immensely when players are training for international competitions and training is demanding,” said Niranjan who had played competitive tennis during his young days.
Niranjan opined that it would be ideal for the Sri Lanka Tennis Association, Sports Ministry and the Education Ministry to come together and have an arrangement for the national tennis players so that they can pursue education in a flexible manner which doesn’t hinder their training.
Niranjan advises strongly against taking a break for studies because staying away from tennis for a year or so can really jeopardize a career. “When you are around 16 years of age players are forced out of the tennis court due to academic commitments and this can be costly in terms of seeing a drop in performance. After age 16 players start their A Levels and some move on to university and this reduces time spent on the court which eventually causes a drop in volume in the players,” he explained. His advice is to not take that break from the game and move to another level where individual capacity is concerned; regarding handling studies and sport. “They have to study and maintain their game as well” he underscored.
He rues the fact that the game was severely affected by the pandemic when the entire world experienced Corona. “But I think the Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA) managed the difficult time well and we were able to have some tennis and even take part in international competitions. The SLTA allowed three players and one coach in the court in 2020 during training. I downloaded some training apps and we were able to retain the condition of players to a certain extent. But overall it was an opportunity lost,” he said.
As a coach he is concerned about the country losing talented players after age 16 to education. This leaves Sri Lanka with no other option, but to play junior players at the Davis Cup; where Sri Lanka is at present playing in Group 4. There have been occasions where Sri Lanka has contested this event in the Group 3 and even Group 2, but for that challenge the best senior players must make themselves available.
Just the other day Singles champion Yasitha De Silva was quoted during an interview with a daily newspaper recently saying that he would face a tough challenge in the future when retaining his slot as current champion because he would be playing against young schoolboys who are full time players. Does this go on to state that the present national champion is a part-time tennis player?
Niranjan is of the opinion that Sri Lanka’s players must consider playing abroad in events organised by their academies because this arrangement guarantees players would remain active during the tour period and get to play sufficient tennis whereas in a tournament one runs the risk of getting knocked out and being a spectator thereon-wards. But this he said was only till the country is able to once again retain the senior players in the game. And if this is done, it would guarantee Sri Lanka’s chances in overseas competitions. He said players from Sri Lanka have the habit of playing in academy events in countries like India and Spain.
He hailed the efforts of the tennis authorities to have tournaments and conduct tennis events in the outstations. But he added that the tennis hub is in Colombo and the tennis fraternity was a small community. “I think I stuck on with the sport because I started young and there was a culture supporting the players in the game from my time. I can remember my parents listening to commentaries through the radio when Wimbledon matches were on and that kind of culture generates a lot interest for tennis,” recalled Niranjan.
Coaches like Niranjan have a lot to offer to the sport and it will augur for tennis’ future if they are offered a platform to speak from and positively influence the sport.
Dialog National Netball Championship 2021
Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata PLC, continuing its promise of uplifting Sri Lanka sports has come forth once again for the third consecutive year to power the Dialog National Netball Championship 2021, which will be played from 22nd to 23rd January at the Digana Ground, Kandy.
The Dialog National Netball Championship 2021 will see 34 teams island-wide battle it out for top honours. The preliminary round of the tourney will be played in a league structure and from there onwards will be played on a knockout basis.
The National Netball Championship is the premier tournament conducted by the Netball Federation of Sri Lanka (NFSL) annually to identify and select talented players, coaches and umpires to train them to be champions of tomorrow in the international arena.
“The National Netball Championship is the most important tourney in the annual domestic calendar and I’m indeed thankful for Dialog Axiata for extending their support for the sport especially at a time the country and the economy is impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ranjani Jayakody, President, Netball Federation of Sri Lanka said. “The National Team has performed well in the past few years, hence tourneys such as the Dialog National Netball Championship is critical to maintain the form of national players and discover new talent.”
As the principal sponsor, Dialog Axiata has made arrangements to LIVE stream the match via thepapare.com, Dialog ViU mobile app and will also be shown LIVE on Dialog TV Channel 140.
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 Netball tourneys, Schools Rugby League, Knockout and Sevens tourneys, Premier Football, Schools Cricket, and Paralympic sports – by powering the Army Para Games, National Para Games and the Sri Lankan contingent to the World Paralympic Games.
Sithum shines as De Mazenod beat Ananda
Under 17 Division I Cricket
by Reemus Fernando
Notable all-round performances by Sithum Fernando for De Mazenod, an underdog’s triumph by Sri Sumangala, Kandy over Dharmaraja and Mahinda rattling Devapathiraja for 45 runs were among the highlights of the Inter School Under 17 Division I Cricket tournament matches played on Wednesday.
Sithum Fernando’s heroics helped de Mazenod beat Ananda by 54 runs at Ananda Mawatha. An unbeaten 60 by Maleesha Perera was the only bright spot in the home team’s run chase.
At Galle, Mahinda wrecked havoc on Devapathiraja as their pacemen Dinura Kalupahana and Shehan Hasaranga took five wickets each to skittle out the visitors for 45 runs. Pacemen have not accounted for all ten wickets in school matches often.
Thenuka Ekanayake scored a half century and took two wickets as a good team effort powered Sri Sumangala College to a remarkable 102 runs victory over Dharmaraja at Lake View.
Richmond, Galle, Bandaranaike, Gampaha and St. Benedict’s also registered victories in the matches played on Wednesday.
De Mazenod beat Ananda at Ananda Mawatha
243 for 9 in 50 overs (Nehan Dias 36, Sithum Fernando 53, Hasith Sandeepa 46, Thareen Sanketh 28, Vihas Perera 20; Ayesh Sashimal 3/48, Isuru Ayesh 2/32, Maleesha Perera 2/49)
189 all out in 38 overs (Viduna Wijebandara 30, Maleesha Perera 60n.o., Isuru Ayesh 20; Sithum Fernando 4/40, Thareen Sanketh 3/49)
Mahinda rattle Devapathiraja for 45 runs at Galle
45 all out in 17.4 overs (Pathum shaminda 10; Dinura Kalupahana 5/12, Shehan Hasaranga 5/16)
46 for 2 in 12.1 overs (Dhanuja Induwara 23)
Bandaranaike MV, Gampaha beat Sri Dharmaloka, Kelaniya by four wickets at Godigamuwa
266 for 9 in 50 overs (Sanura Ruwantha 46, Nadiv Manchanayaka 25, Helanka Viduranga 40, Sanira Nimnal 41, Uditha Shehan 57, Themira Mukashana 19n.o.; Yasiru Wijesinghe 2/49, Runada Rajapaksha 2/50, Ashen Wickramasinghe 3/56)
268 for 6 in 49.3 overs (DInujaya Hettiarachchi 42, Runada Rajapaksha 78, Kusal Karunarathne 35, Ashen Wickramasinghe 43, Vihanga Wijerathne 22n.o.; Nadiv Manchanayaka 2/57, Helanka Viduranga 2/34)
St. Benedict’s register eight wickets win at Panadura
125 all out in 37.4 overs (Geethama Fernando 26, Chamod Sanchethana 37n.o.; Hasanga Nanayakkara 2/31, Supun Senanayake 2/17, Kojitha Nimsara 2/20, Chamath Chathuraya 3/24)
127 for 2 in 22.1 overs (Viduneth Wilson 64n.o., Nethan Fernando 22, Shenel Samarathunga 22n.o.)
Sri Sumangala beat Dharmaraja by 102 runs at Lake View
203 all out in 48.2 overs (Madawa Rathnayake 48, Thenuka Ekanayake 67, Tharindu Lakshan 40; Saranga Uduwella 2/47, Arosha Mahagedara 3/43, Dulara Bandulasena 3/21)
101 all out in 24.2 overs (Hesara Rajapaksa 21; Thenuka Ekanayake 2/21, Buddi Sanchitha 4/12)
Richmond pull off 25 runs win over Vidyaloka at Galle
148 all out in 49 overs (Imesh Sasindu 27, Tharinda Nirmal 28, Sanahas Ramindu 26; Hansaka Randipa 4/14)
123 all out in 47 overs (Prageeth Bimsara 20, Thinuka Kalhara 37; Sharon Abhishek 3/31, Manuja Dulneth 3/31)
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