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So near and yet so far for Olympian Sumedha



by Reemus Fernando

Sumedha Ranasinghe became country’s first male javelin thrower at Olympics when he took part in the Rio Games in 2016. A massive 83.04 metres throw at Diyagama in 2015 was the breakthrough moment of his career. Since then the undergraduate has been carrying lot of expectations on his shoulders. Expectations were also high when the qualification period for the Tokyo Olympics opened with him ranked 30th in the Road to Olympics Rankings by virtue of his performances in 2019. But lack of competitions there after resulted in him losing his place and was ranked 45th when he was ready to throw at the 60th Interstate Athletics Championship in Patiala, India on Tuesday, the last day of the qualifying period for the Tokyo Olympics.

Ranasinghe hurled the javelin to a distance of 77.28 metres in his very first attempt and that turned out to be his best throw of the evening. He won the bronze medal behind Uttar Pradesh athletes Rohit Yadav and Shivpal Singh. Singh who had already qualified for Olympics was just three centimeters ahead of Ranasinghe. The winner Yadav was ranked 75th in the world prior to Tuesday’s meet.

Just the analysis of the results of the 60th Interstate Athletics Championship is enough to understand how the qualifying system and the world ranking system work. Consistent performances have to be maintained if you are to retain your rankings. The athletes also need quality competitions where they can gain high ranking points. It would have been a totally different scenario was Ranasinghe able to hurl the javelin to a distance of 85 metres, the direct qualifying standard. That was lot to ask from an athlete who was taking part in his first competition outside Sri Lanka since 2019.

Sri Lankan athletes were hampered by lack of quality competitions. The likes of Ranasinghe, fellow thrower Waruna Lakshan and sprinters Kalinga Kumarage, Aruna Dharshana and Nadeesha Ramanayake were at the receiving end. Steeplechase athlete Nilani Ratnayake who was ranked in 30s fell below the 46th ranking position due to non participation in quality competitions.

Quality training has to be compensated with quality competitions and Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon seemed to have found the right combination. He was able to progress smoothly thanks to the quality competitions. Abeykoon was nowhere near the top rankings when the season began. It was just one good competition, a World Athletics Diamond League championship which was needed for him to break in to the top echelon of world’s highest ranked athletes. World Athletics was yet to publish the updated world rankings by the time this article was ready for print. Based on the rankings of the last week, Yupun was ranked 46th which was good enough to secure a world ranking quota place for Olympics.

Sri Lanka is blessed to have three good throwers who have thrown over the 80 metres mark at least once during their careers. That was thought impossible for Sri Lankans nearly a decade ago. The country may not have earned a place for throwers this time around for Olympics but it certainly has the potential to produce one for the next Olympics. But that will largely depend on how these athletes are nurtured and looked after.

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How lending a bat to Murali landed Flintoff in trouble



Muttiah Muralitharan and Andrew Flintoff were team mates at Lancashire. During a tour of Sri Lanka in 2003, Flitnoff lends one of his bats to Murali, a gesture that would get him in trouble with England hierarchy.

by Rex Clementine

Spin icon Muttiah Muralitharan is a fiercest competitor in cricket, but he is also known for his friendly nature. He is hugely popular among both team mates and opponents. You would hardly come across someone who has something nasty to say about Murali; it’s like finding a needle in haystack. Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya gifting a bat to his Sri Lankan counterpart Chamika Karunaratne made headlines both here and across the Palk Strait. However, much before this, England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff lending Murali a bat made headlines.

Murali and Andrew Flintoff were great mates. They were team-mates at Old Trafford when Murali was Lancashire’s overseas signing.

In 2003, when England came to Colombo for their winter tour, Flintoff was a rising star. Three years later he would go onto become England captain. In his book ‘Second Innings’, Flintoff recalls his camaraderie with Murali.

“In that series, it panned out that I wasn’t bowling too much short stuff at Murali and he wasn’t bowling too many doosras at me. Which was a bit naughty, I can see that. I’d had dinner with him the night before one match. Murali said, ‘Fred, I haven’t got any bats left. Can I borrow one of yours?’ It was a bit tricky because Nasser Hussein had put a ban on us even talking to Murali. We were supposed to be freezing him out,” Flintoff recalls.

“Murali tried again on the morning of the match, asking for a word. Nasser was glaring at me from a distance, clearly very unhappy. So I said to Murali as quickly as possible, ‘When we go out to field, go into the England dressing room. Just nip in the back door and take one of my bats – but keep the whole thing under your hat.’

“Once the match was under way and we took a few Sri Lankan wickets, Nasser brought me on to bowl out the tail, as was the plan in those days. Out strides Murali, carrying my bat. Nasser, meanwhile, talks me through the plan. ‘I want you to go at him. Short stuff.’

“Hmm. Tricky one this, on lots of levels, especially given the status of bouncers and doosras for me and Murali.

‘Nasser, I think I can get a yorker through him, nice and full will do the job here,’ Flintoff tells Hussein.

But he doesn’t get an approval. ‘No, I just told you,’ Hussein says. ‘I want you to go at him.’

Flintoff doesn’t sour his relationship with Murali. So he decides to pin Sri Lanka’s number 11 with a yorker instead of a bouncer. ‘No, I’m going to try and bowl him. Hit the stumps. Job done,’ he tells himself.

“So, I ran in, trying to bowl a yorker, directly against instructions. Didn’t get through. In fact, it found the middle of the bat, my bat – good middle it had, too.”

“Nasser threw all his toys out of the pram. I was taken off. Then Murali started charging the other bowlers, smashing them.

“After one huge six, Murali walks between me and Nasser at the change of ends. I can see Nasser ready to explode. Murali has a huge grin on his face: ‘F****** good bat, Freddie.”

Sri Lanka won the match by an innings and 225 runs to seal the series. Any guesses about Player of the Series; Muttiah Muralitharan.

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Suresh who captained Thomians to President’s Trophy triumph passes away



The Thomians won the inaugural President’s Trophy Day-Night Tourney under Suresh Goonesekere’s captaincy

Former S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia cricketer Suresh Goonesekere who was the captain when the school won the Inaugural President’s Trophy passed away. He was living in the UK.

The S. Thomas’ Sports officials said that Goonesekere will always be remembered as a very good sportsman who brought honour to the school.

A batting opener Goonesekere played in the S. Thomas’ First XI team from 1990 to 1992, captaining the team in his last year. The names of both Suresh Goonesekere and his father P.N.W. Goonesekere are etched in the Battle of the Blues Big Match history.

The Thomians won when P.N.W. Goonesekere captained the team in 1964. When Suresh Goonesekere captained the school in 1992 the Thomians amassed massive 328 for nine wickets and restricted Royal to 145 runs in the first innings. While Royal had scored over 300 runs previously, it was the first time the Thomians had scored over 300 runs in the historic Battle of the Blues.

The Thomians were the winners of the Inaugurai President’s Trophy Day-Night Tourney when Goonesekere skippered team beat Ananda in the final in 1992.

Goonesekere also played for SSC in the Division I tournament.

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Isuru Udana retires from international cricket



Sri Lankan left-arm pacer Isuru Udana has announced his retirement from international cricket, Sri Lanka Cricket confirmed on Saturday (July 31). Udana’s last appearance for the national side came in the second T20I against India earlier this week.

Udana first made his debut for Sri Lanka in the 2009 World T20 in England and played five games in the competition including the final. He made his ODI bow against India in 2012 where he played two games but had to wait for almost seven years to break into the XI again.

The pacer managed to feature regularly only towards the latter part of his career after developing a reputation for being a white-ball specialist. Apart from being a wily customer with the ball using his variations to good effect, the 33-year-old also was known for being a hard-hitter lower down the order that helped him fetch gigs in T20 leagues around the world. (cricbuzz)

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