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Sprinting with giants yet feeling dwarfish

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For two years Ambepitiya had the rare privilege of having sprint king Usain Bolt and his closest contender to world titles Yohan Blake as his training partners but what became of his long cherished ambitions after heavy loads of training in Jamaica is something that should be seriously studied by those who propose foreign training for Sri Lankan athletes. Shehan Ambepitiya flanked by Usain Bolt and Glean Mills.

Foreign training for local athletes

Story of a Lankan youth who trained alongside Bolt

by Reemus Fernando

Sprinter Shehan Ambepitiya had the privilege of being trained by probably the best sprint coach in Sri Lanka. He had bagged several coveted international medals by the time he turned 20. By 2010 he was just three milliseconds behind the Olympic qualifying mark for 100 metres (judging by the 2008 qualifying standards) when the highly excited National Olympic Committee provided him with an IOC scholarship to be trained by Glean Mills alongside world record holder Usain Bolt. For two years Ambepitiya had the rare privilege of having sprint king Usain Bolt and his closest contender to world titles Yohan Blake as his training partners but what became of his long cherished ambitions after heavy loads of training in Jamaica is something that should be seriously studied by those who fancy foreign training for Sri Lankan athletes.

There are many Sri Lankan track and field athletes who benefitted from foreign training and reached Olympic qualifying standards and international medal winning standards. Olympians from S. L. B. Rosa and Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam to Manjula Kumara, who had US University scholarships and from Olympic medalist Susanthika Jayasinghe to Asian Championship medalist Sachith Maduranga, high performance training overseas had a huge positive impact on their sporting careers.

But from sprinters Ambepitiya to Chandrika Subashini to long jumper Sampath Dissanayake it was a different story as they struggled to reach their personal best after undergoing training meant for track and field’s super stars. Current sprinter Himasha Eshan, who also had a training stint in Jamaica also had to face a similar predicament and remodel his training plans after returning from Jamaica.

“It was a good experience to train alongside the likes of Bolt and Blake but I never ran closer to my personal best after training in Jamaica,” said Shehan Ambepitiya in an interview with The Island on Monday.

“I was following the same training schedule Bolt and Blake was following. It was not an individualised training plan. Obviously, the focus during training was on Bolt.”

By 2008, Ambepitiya had burst like a rocket into international scene under Sunil Gunawardena’s guidance. He had shown lot of promise at a very young age that he was looked up to as a future medal prospect at senior World level. That year he became the first Sri Lankan male athlete to feature in a final of a World Athletics event when he finished seventh in the 100 metres final at the U20 World Championships. The same year, the former Gateway College and President’s College, Rajagiriya, athlete won three gold medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games in India.

In 2010, Ambepitiya clocked his personal best of 10.31 seconds as he won gold to become South Asia’s fastest man. Athletics had unearthed a wonderful talent. Something had to be done.

Neither the NOC nor the authorities who influenced him to take up the IOC scholarship to be trained in Jamaica meant bad for Ambepitiya. But Sunil Gunawardena, the person who had the knowledge of the athlete was not consulted. Would it have made a difference if had they consulted Gunawardena?

Ambepitiya said: “Sir [Sunil} did not give his consent. At that time I also did not understand why he was not willing to send me for training in Jamaica.”

When he returned from Jamaica, Ambepitiya had a nagging hamstring injury to cope up with and those who were expecting miracles to happen wondered why he had not qualified for the 2012 London Olympics.

“Everything was different in Jamaica from food to training. Sunil Sir was yet to introduce me to lift heavy weights in training here. In Jamaica, I was introduced to them without any evaluation.

But when I returned I was far behind my personal best. It took years before I could run below 10.50 seconds again.”

Despite failing to improve his personal best, Ambepitiya continued training under Gunawardena with a lot of commitment for years and was a part of the team that established the current national record in the men’s 4×100 metres at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Asked for his views on foreign training for local athletes, Ambepitiya opined that he would not recommend it for track and field athletes.

Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa has highlighted the need to provide foreign training for country’s best athletes. It has been reported that the best athletes selected from this year’s competitions would be sent abroad for training. It is doubtful whether there would be competitions this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But when the competitions are held and future prospects emerge it would be advisable to weigh the pros and cons of overseas training carefully. Foreign training which is perfect for one may not be so for another as in the case of Ambepitiya.



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Mathews regrets Mankading of Buttler

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by Rex Clementine 

In an interview with our sister paper ‘Divaina Online’ former captain Angelo Mathews admitted that he regretted Mankading of England batsman Jos Buttler in 2014 at Edgbaston. This was the tour where Mathews had skippered Sri Lanka to an ODI and Test series wins in England. The teams had come into the final ODI with the series squared 2-2 and everything to play for. Buttler was run out for 21 as he was backing up too far at the non-striker’s end by off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake.

The umpires asked captain Mathews whether Sri Lanka were serious in their appeal. Mathews answered in the affirmative and Buttler had to go. But there was a storm of protest in England saying that Sri Lanka had contravened the Spirit of Cricket. Many believe that Mankading is unsportsmanlike as batsmen leave the crease unwittingly and not in a bid to gain undue advantage.

Mathews was adamant at that point that  he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again, but now seven years older and a veteran of 100 Tests, the former captain regrets the decision.

“It was a spur of the moment thing. In hindsight we shouldn’t have done it. I could have told the umpires that I’m withdrawing the appeal.  Yes, I regret the decision. But we had warned Buttler several times. Not only at Edgbaston but even in the previous game at Lord’s,”  Mathews said.

There was more  to it than what everyone had witnessed that night. Sri Lanka coach Marvan Atapattu is meticulous with his planning and he had observed in the previous game that Buttler converting many singles into two and twos into threes. It had been observed that Buttler had run ten twos in the last ten overs in the previous game. Marvan had given the thumbs up for Mankading of Buttler.

The incident was not well received in England. Mathews was a public enemy and a much despised figure. Not even David Warner and Steve Smith after the sandpaper gate had received such a hostile reception in England during Australia’s Ashes campaign.

Mathews and England captain Sir Alastair Cook had exchanged words during the game and Cook minced no words at the post match media briefing. “There’s a line and that line was crossed here. I’ve never seen it before in the game and I was pretty disappointed by it. As captain of your country, there are certain ways you want your team to operate. And obviously he is fine with it. He has said he will do it again.”

Sri Lanka’s Manager at that point was the equally eloquent Michael de Zoysa and he queried, ‘Who marks those lines.’

Michael was also careful to protect his captain. Instead of sending Mathews for the post series media briefing as was the custom, he brought down Mahela Jayawardene. MJ was diplomatic. “We had warned Buttler at Lord’s and we warned  him in the 42nd over in this game and when he did it again in the 44th over, we ran out of options,”  he said.

Buttler  had  been a serial offender and had been dismissed backing up too far in the IPL as well with Ravichandran Ashwin effecting the run out.

The MCC, the guardians of Cricket’s Laws put an end to the debate with a tweak in the Law in 2017. Earlier, it had been suggested that the batter could take off when the bowler landed his back foot. But now the non-striker can take off only after the bowler has released the ball and it seals the deal.” The MCC Cricket Committee that introduced the change included some of the finest brains in the game  like Kumar Sangakkara, Ricky Ponting and  Brendon McCullum.

What does the term Mankading means? Well, Indian cricketer Vinoo Mankad had famously run out Australia’s Bil Brown in 1947 in Sydney for backing up too far after multiple warnings. There was controversy but Australian captain Sir Don Bradman had defended Mankad’s actions. The press had a field day and gave birth to a new English word, ‘Mankading’.

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Stage set for Battle of the Golds- UVA

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St. Joseph’s College First Row (from left): Uthpala Imendra (Captain), G. Nalanda (Asst. Coach), R.B. Dulinda Abelanka (P.O.G), Laksiri Jayantha (Principal), Kapila Weerasekara (M.I.C), Chandana Bandara (Coach), K.H. Yasiru Ruwantha (Vice Captain) Second Row: D.M. Nishan Pramod, A.G.Sarith Malinda, T.M. Sachin dilanka, W.D. Ashan Ravindu, M.F.M. Shaheed, K.Sahan Hansaka, A.M.D. Sasitha Prabath, Akila Sawmya, D.M.Sithija Chamindu, R.M. Tharusha Nirmal, N.A.Themiya Sheheran, E.M. Hesara Dulaj, K.H.M. Oshada Devinda,L.M. Dilakshana Umesh

The 17th ‘Battle of the Golds – Uva’, the annual cricket encounter between St Joseph’s College, Bandarawela and Central College, Bandarawela will be played on August 18 and 19 at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in Sooriyawewa.

St Joseph’s will be led by Uthpala Lankathillake, while Sadith Prabhath Rathnayaka will skipper Bandarawela Central. This year’s edition of the Big Match, is organised by the Bandarawela Central College Past Pupils’ Association.

St. Joseph’s lead the victory tally of the series having won the Big Match on three occasions. Central College has won the encounter on two occasions.

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Mel Jones to step down as Cricket Australia Director

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Mel Jones, who joined Cricket Australia as a director in December 2019, has decided to step down from her position at the next Annual General Meeting of the board in October because of her media and other work commitments in Australia and abroad.

“It has been an honour to serve for three years on the CA Board but my future work commitments, particularly given that I will be overseas for many months of the year, mean that I will not be able to devote the time required to fully support my fellow Board members after this year,” the former Australia batter said. “Consequently I will not be standing for re-election and will complete my three-year term at the next AGM.

“I would like to thank the Chairs and Board members, Cricket Australia staff and committee members and wish all those involved in Australian Cricket every success as we embark on an exciting new strategy and build on the game’s great foundation for the future. I am delighted, of course, to be able to continue my long-standing connection to cricket through my commentary, sporting and business interests and broad range of cricket relationships,” she added.

“Mel has been an outstanding member of our Board and her unique perspective and insights have been invaluable as we have set the strategy to ensure the continuing future health of the game,” Cricket Australia Chair Lachlan Henderson said. “Mel has made an enormous contribution to cricket through her playing days and subsequent involvement in coaching, commentary and work in the community, and will continue to do so.

We look forward to formally recognising Mel’s contribution on the CA Board at the AGM in October.”

Jones, who made her ODI debut in 1997, went on to play 61 ODIs for her country scoring 1028 runs. She was also part of two Australian squads that lifted the 50-over World Cup trophy in 1997 and 2005 respectively. She also represented Australia in five Test matches, aggregating 251 runs at an average of 35.85.

(Cricbuzz)

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