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Sri Lanka Athletics gives priority to Asian Games

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by Reemus Fernando

 Sri Lanka Athletics will give priority to Asian Games over the Commonwealth Games as the two major sports events take place within five weeks from each other in 2022. The track and field governing body indicated their priorities at a meeting with the National Olympic Committee yesterday.

“Our best chances are at the Asian Games. We are trying to get the best out of the talent we have. To achieve that we have set our priorities right. Though we are going to select a team for both events at the same stage we might not send some athletes for the Commonwealth Games,” a senior official of Sri Lanka Athletics told The Island after a meeting with the NOC yesterday.

“For example our best chances for the men’s 4×400 metres relay team is at the Asian Games. We might not field that team for the Commonwealth Games,” Saman Kumara, the statistician of Sri Lanka Athletics said.

“In 2002 we had both the Commonwealth Games (July 25- August 4) and the Asian Games within a span of two months. We had three men who could run 400 metres in 45 seconds. We had the best chance of winning the 4×400 metres gold in Busan but the Commonwealth Games had its toll on the runners when the time came for the Asian Games,” said Saman Kumara who has experience as both a selector and manager of teams for these games.

While the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held from July 28 to August 8 in Birmingham, the Chinese city of Hangzhou will host Asian Games from September 10 to 25.

“We are almost certain of fielding a men’s 4×100 metres relay team for the Commonwealth Games provided they meet selection criteria. The men’s 4×400 metres relay team will be reserved for the Asian Games.”

Though medal prospects are dim in track events at the Commonwealth Games, Sri Lanka’s men’s 4×100 metres relay team consisting of Himasha Eshan, Shehan Ambepitiya, Vinoj Suranjaya and Mohamed Ashrafu had a memorable outing at the last edition in Gold Coast where they established the current national record clocking 39.08 seconds.

That record will be in danger now with Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon improving the national record this year and showing the ability to further improve the record.

Sri Lanka Athletics will update the current elite and national pools after concluding the remaining events of the National Championship at the end of next month. That pool will be maintained till March 2022 when the teams for both the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games are selected. The centenary National Championships in 2022 April (8,9,10) will be the final selection trial for both the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games.

Sri Lanka Athletics will also target forming a mixed relay team for the Asian Games as there are two strong contenders to fill the women’s spots in Nadeesha Ramanayake and Dilshi Kumarasainghe. While Kalinga Kumarage and Aruna Dharshana are the front runners for the men’s sports in the mixed relay, the next few months will be crucial for the rest of the sprinters aspiring to win a place in the team for the men’s 4×400 metres relay.

Given their current form, the 100 metres, 400 metres, 4x100metres, 4×400 metres, high jump, long jump, and javelin throw, in the men’s category, 800 metres, steeplechase, long jump, and marathon in the women’s category and the mixed relay are the disciplines in which athletes have shown potential in reaching qualifying standards.

Sri Lanka has won the majority of Asian Games medals in track and field events though the country has not witnessed medal success after the men’s 4×400 metres quartet of Rohan Pradeep Kumara, Rohitha Pushpakumara, Prasanna Amarasekara and  Ashoka Jayasundara won the bronze in 2006 in Doha. Since 2006 the country has won only two medals, both in cricket.



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Cricket moans nation’s first Test captain’s death

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by Rex Clementine  

There are some who always back underdogs. While the winners’ men go places, those who support the underdogs remain at odds with the system. With the larger circle of course, the fans for example, which is what matters, they remain hugely popular. One such breathed his last yesterday after a brief illness. Bandula Warnapura the nation’s first Test captain was 69.

Two of his contemporaries, Roy Dias and Duleep Mendis, also 69ers, were speechless. They had played lot of cricket together. The trio had toiled to put Sri Lanka in the world map and after retirement had shaped Sri Lankan cricket to great heights. While Roy and Duleep still contribute sharing the wealth of their knowledge, Bandu has gone, too soon and leaving a huge void.

Bandu was not an authoritative captain. You don’t have to be to succeed as captain. There was bit of Kane Williamson in him; friendly, trustworthy and authentic. His best virtue as skipper was his instincts. Filling in for injured skipper Anura Tennekoon during the 1979 World Cup, Bandu sensed an opportunity. Not because Sri Lanka were better than India. Man to man, India with Gavaskars, Vengsarkars, Viswanaths, Kapils, Amarnaths and Bedi, were a far better side. But there was in fighting among Indians and as a result none of the above captained the side. Venkataraghavan had become captain, by default. Bandu went for the kill and Sri Lanka were victorious. There was no denying of Test status from thereon.

The fact that Bandu faced Sri Lanka’s first ball in Test cricket made him the nation’s first Test cricketer as Bob Willis delivered the first ball in Test cricket in Sri Lanka. His time in Test cricket was short lived having got on the payroll of Dr. Ali Bacher opting to go to apartheid South Africa.

Morally it was not the right thing to do. South Africa was whites only those days. As a black, you would be made a honourary white citizen so that you could move around Wanderers, Newlands and Kingsmead.

His conscience would have told Bandu that this was not the right thing to do. But there comes a time in life where all of us have to make choices. Having lived through COVID for 18 months now where there have been so many financial challenges, you tend to break a few rules. Not to rob a bank but set aside your values and settle for something that provides you some financial security to look after your family. Some of us get away with these things. Some of us pay a small price. Some others pay a heavy one. Bandu lost everything having been banned for 25 years.

Eventually, Gamini Dissanayake mellowed. He reduced the ban to eight years. But that was for the players. The captain had to serve one more year before he could be allowed into cricket.

Bandu went places at SLC. He was only second in command to Duleep Mendis holding the post of Director, Cricket Operations. From there, he went to Malaysia and joined Asian Cricket Council and went a step further joining the ICC. He was hugely popular among his colleagues and superiors. Quite efficient too as he oversaw the development of several up and coming teams.

There was no better story teller in cricket than Bandu. He had one for every occasion. Television channels used his expertise in reality shows where he held his own.

But cricket could have used his services more than local television stations. They chose not to. Bandu was in a different camp. Actually, he was an independent man. What is it with our cricket that we keep our captains at arm’s length or maybe even avoid them like the plague? Bandu had no role to play in recent years. Duleep has no role to play. Arju has no role to play. Sanath has no role to play. Marvan has no role to play. Mathews has no role to play. The list goes on.

Bandu will be missed. May he attain the supreme bliss of nibbana.

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Sri Lanka U19s pull off one run win

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Sri Lanka Under 19s took a 2-0 lead with a stunning one run victory over Bangladesh as bowlers did well to defend a total of 228 runs in the second Youth ODI at Dambulla on Monday.

Chasing a target of 229 runs to win Bangladesh were in control after top order did well to take them past 100 runs for the loss of two wickets. They were troubled by spinners Dunith Wellalage and Treveen Mathew and paceman Matheesha Pathirana in the middle overs but the visitors still had hope as they needed just 19 runs in the last three overs. That was when Pathirana changed things picking up two wickets in the 48th over.

The match went to the last over with visitors just eight runs behind the target but Sri Lanka kept their cool to inflict a run out to pull off a stunning win with three balls remaining in the Bangladesh innings.

Earlier electing to bat first home team lost their first wicket for 11 runs before the St. Joseph’s College pair Sadeesh Jayawardena and Shevon Daniel added 66 runs for the second wicket. While Jayawardena top scored with 58 runs (4x4s) Daniel added 34. That was before Trinity batsman Pawan Pathiraja came up with his second consecutive half century of the series to make the middle order strong.

The late order batting by Raveen de Silva and Chamindu Wickramasinghe who added valuable 20s and a run a ball 15 by skipper Wellalage enabled the hosts reach their eventual total.

The two teams will next meet in the third Youth ODI on Wednesday.

Scores:

Sri Lanka U19s

228 for 8 in 50 overs (Sadeesh Jayawardena 58, Shevon Daniel 34, Pawan Pathiraja 51, Raveen de Silva 25, Chamindu Wickramasinghe 27; Ashikur Zaman 2/54, Ripon Mondol 3/49)

Bangladesh U19

227 all out in 49.3 overs (Mahfijul Islam 75, Iftikher Hossain 36, SM Meherob 33, Ariful Islam 23; Dunith Wellalage 3/30, Treveen Mathew 2/47, Matheesha Pathirana 3/26)

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Sri Lanka one step closer to World Cup qualification

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Sri Lanka completed a seven wicket win over Namibia yesterday in Abu Dhabi.

Rex Clementine in Abu Dhabi

They say, well prepared is half done. Sri Lanka’s intense preparation ahead of the ICC T-20 World Cup stood in good stead for them as they cruised to a seven-wicket win with 39 deliveries to spare winning their first qualifying game against Namibia here at Sheikh Zayed Stadium yesterday. Following the comprehensive win, the former champions are one more win away from qualifying for the showpiece event.

Sri Lanka’s bowling was too strong for the Namibians as they were shot out for 96 with three deliveries to spare.

Maheesh Theekshana was going to be their trump card in the qualifying round and he was on the money picking up a wicket off his first ball and finished with figures of three for 25.

Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga and Lahiru Kumara, a last minute addition to the squad finished with two wickets each. However, the bowler who impressed most in the game was Dushmantha Chameera, who bowled a quick spell clocking 149 kmph at one point.

Sri Lanka’s obvious target would be to qualify but if they need to go further in the competition, Chameera with his ability to pick up early wickets is going to be the key.

Sri Lanka chased down the target in 13.3 overs and the big win helping them to sit comfortably with a healthy Net Run Rate.

There was bit of a scare as Sri Lanka lost three wickets for 26 runs inside the Power Play. But a 74 run unbroken stand in 51 balls between Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Avishka Fernando helped them to get over the line comfortably.

Avishka has been scoring heavily leading up to the competition and he has been the in-form batsman. Sri Lanka will be feeling happy that Bhanuka ended up top-scoring with 42 runs as his form has been patchy. He ended the game with a flicked six. His unbeaten 42 came off 27 balls and contained four fours and two sixes.

Avishka Fernando was unbeaten on 30 off 28 balls with two sixes.

As expected, Sri Lanka held Avishka back playing him at number four. With their batting sorted, Sri Lanka, written off by many, look to make an impact in the competition.

Sri Lanka’s next game is on Wednesday where they take on Ireland at the same ground. They will move to Sharjah for the final qualifying round game against Netherlands on Friday.

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