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Sudarshana brought in as Batting Coach



Sri Lanka Under-19 coach Dhammika Sudarshana will take charge as the Batting Coach of the national cricket team with Grant Flower in isolation after testing positive for Covid.



by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka Cricket has brought in their Under-19 coach to fill in for Grant Flower, the Batting Coach of the national cricket team.

Flower tested positive for COVID and currently is in isolation.

SLC had other senior coaches to look after batting like former Test cricketer Roy Dias, former captain Hashan Tillekeratne, Ruvin Peiris or Malintha Warnapura, but the board opted for Sudarshana, who joined SLC this year.

Sudarshana is a highly rated coach who made Richmond College, Galle the most successful cricket playing school in the island in the last decade. Many current Sri Lanka players have passed out from Richmond while Sudarshana was in charge. Some of those players are Dhananjaya de Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga, Charith Asalanka and Dhananjaya Lakshan.

SLC sources said that Sudarshana was preferred for a variety of reasons. He had been apparently in a bubble and this will be a short stint.

Board sources indicated that they were looking at Flower’s role with the team after continuous batting failures. After the India series, he is likely to be retained with the High Performance Center at RPS. The new batting coach could be a Sri Lankan.

With Head Coach Mickey Arthur and the coaching staff, closest contacts of Flower still in isolation, yesterday’s training session was conducted by spin bowling coach Piyal Wijetunga, another committed, respected cricket coach.

Arthur and rest of the coaching staff will be tested today morning and if their PCRs are negative, they will be attending training from today onwards.

The six match limited overs series was pushed back by five days after two positive cases were identified within the bubble. The players were tested on Sunday and all turned negative.

Although India’s leading players like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah are not part of the squad, this is still a strong Indian side with captain Shikhar Dhawan and deputy Bhubaneswar Kumar having represented India in over 100 ODIs. Kuldeep Yasav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Hardik Pandya have played over 50 ODIs. With Danushka Gunatilleke, Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella suspended, Sri Lanka are really thin on experience. Kusal Janith Perera with 107 games is the most experienced followed by Dhananjaya de Silva with exactly 50 games.

The first ODI will take place on Sunday. All games will be played at RPS.




Yupun’s rise calls for top grade competitions for deserving athletes



by Reemus Fernando

National men’s 100 metres record holder Yupun Abeykoon climbed to the 40th position in the world rankings after the World Athletics updated the event rankings last week. Despite finishing ninth at the last Diamond League final in Zurich (September 9), the Italy based sprinter has climbed five places up in the world rankings highlighting the importance of participating in top grade competitions. What has helped Abeykoon maintain a world rank above 50 in a highly competitive track and field discipline is something that country’s sports authorities should study seriously as there are at least half a dozen others who could emulate him in other disciplines in athletics if they are given similar exposure.

To begin with, the credit for Yupun’s improvement and the laudable world ranking position should be given to his team in Italy. They had prepared the ground work for him to take part in competitions in Europe. Systematic training and top-grade competitions was the key for him to improve on his world rankings. That enabled him to represent Sri Lanka at the Tokyo Olympics.

Yupun broke into the top 100 in the world only in late May. He clocked 10.15 seconds at the Centro Sportivo Fontanassa, Savona, Italy. On May 31st he was ranked 79th and by late June he was occupying a position in the top 50 (49). It took only one good performance at a top-grade competition for him to break in to the top 50. On June 10th, Yupun clocked 10.16 to be placed fourth at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea. That feat earned him 1292 points and secured his ticket to the Olympics. By late July Yupun was ranked 54th but after the Diamond League final in Zurich where he was placed ninth Yupun moved up again.

He has overtaken Japan’s Ryota Yamagata, France’s Jimmy Vicaut, Slovakia’s Jan Volko, China’s Zhiqiang Wu and USA’s Chris Royster and Christopher Belcher to be ranked 40th in the world, a position that would auger well for him ahead of a World Championship year.

It was not only the impressive performances that have helped the 26-year-old secure a top position in world rankings but also the grade of the competitions where he executed them.

Gone are the days when you could punch your ticket to the Olympics and World Championships with sheer speed or top performances. The latest qualifying system introduced for such events require athletes to perform consistently at top grade competitions and reach top world rankings to qualify for events. The World Ranking system arguably favours the athletes competing in the European circuit and athletes taking part in competitions like the Diamond League. For an example, in the pandemic plagued season there had been 90 athletes who had produced faster times than Yupun in the world in men’s 100 metres but the latter was able secure a higher ranking by the end of the season as he had produced his most impressive performances at competitions which guarantee higher points.

By the last weekend, Japan’s Ryota Yamagata, who is one of only two Asians to have produced sub 10 seconds this season was ranked 41st, , one point behind Yupun. And two compatriots of Yamagata who are yet to clock sub 10 seconds this season have much higher world ranks of 24 (Shuhei Tada) and 36 (Yoshihide Kiryu).

Yupun’s impressive rise has given enough evidence to prove that country’s top athletes could benefit if they are exposed to top grade competitions. However, it is easier said than done. Just prior to the Olympics Sri Lanka Athletics struggled to find top competitions for country’s Olympic hopefuls. By May, the US based high jumper Ushan Thivanka was on the cusps of earning an Olympic berth with a remarkable personal best of 2.30 metres. Sri Lanka Athletics’ attempts to find him a berth in a Diamond League competition in a bid to get him qualified for Olympics found futile as the Diamond League competitions the governing body was looking for ‘were already overbooked’.

The world has seen only 25 athletes going over the bar at 2.30 metres or above this year in the men’s high jump. Thivanka is one of them. He was so good this season that he could have finished joint eighth at the Olympics with his best feat (which was in May-2.30m) had he been selected for the quadrennial event on merit of his 2.30 metres produced in May. The World Athletics qualifying system has frowned on many such athletes who could not compete at top grade competitions to improve their rankings.

It is incumbent upon World Athletics to provide equal opportunities for athletes of all regions in the world to gain top competition exposure while local authorities need to get their act together to lobby for top competitions for their athletes. The likes of Nilani Ratnayake (steeplechase), Nadeesha Ramanayake (400m), Nimali Liyanarachchi (800m) and Dilshi Kumarasinghe (800m, 400m) in the women’s category, sprinters Kalinga Kumarage and Aruna Dharshana, throwers, Sumedha Ranasinghe and Waruna Lakshan and Ushan Thivanka in the men’s category and several other athletes were craving for top competitions to improve their rankings ahead of the Olympics. They will be heading for the same predicament ahead of World Championships in 2022 if authorities fail to find answers to the problems they faced ahead of Olympics.

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Harshana leads Under-18 age category



Western Asian Online Youth Chess Championships 2021

Harshana Thilakarathne was enjoying a clear lead in the Under 18 boys’ category, while Dahamdi Sanudula and Oshini Devindya Gunawardena had five points against their names after six games at the end of the penultimate day of the Western Asian Online Youth Chess Championships on Sunday.

Thilakarathne had 5 ½ points after six games to lead the table in the Under-18 boys’ category.

Dahamdi Sanudula and Oshini Devindya Gunawardena with five points each were closely following their leaders in their respective age categories.

At the end of the second day India were leading six categories, while players from Iran were dominating four categories. Sri Lanka and Kazakhstan were the only countries outside India and Iran to lead an age group.

The Western Asian Online Youth Chess Championships conducted by the Asian Chess Federation and organized by the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka commenced on Saturday. A total of 850 players were participating in this online chess event which was scheduled to conclude late in the evening yesterday.

The winners of each age group will be selected to play the FIDE World Youth and Cadet Chess Grand Prix 2021 to be conducted by the International Chess Federation.

After the 6th round the top standings of the age categories were:

Under 8 – B Vishruth (India) 6/6

Under 10 – TalebianZadeh (Iran) 6/6

Under 12 – Mrinmoy Rajkova (India) 6/6

Under 14 – Ergali Suleiman (Kazakhstan) 5 ½ /6

Under 16 – Rohith Krishna (India) 5.6

Under 18 – Harshana Thilakarathne (Sri Lanka) 5 ½ /6

Under 8 (Girls) – Ava Moktari (Iran) 6/6

Under 10 (Girls) – Rosa Akbari – (Iran 6/6)

Under 12 (Girls) – Sara Davari (Iran 6/6)

Under 14 (Girls) – Anupam M Sreekumar (India) 6/6

Under 16 (Girls) – Divya Deshmuk (India) 6/6

Under 18 (Girls) – Susmitha Bowmik (India) 5/6

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Kohli: Skillsets of Hasaranga and Chameera will be of huge help in UAE



Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli believes that the additions of Sri Lanka duo Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera, especially in the UAE conditions, will be a “huge help” for the team’s campaign in the second leg of IPL 2021.

Kohli said that missing the likes of Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson should not have that big an impact on the team, considering they have roped in players who have a significant understanding of subcontinent conditions.

“Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa who were with us in the first leg for a bit, were an integral part of the team, they made a decision not to play in the second leg for reasons which are absolutely understandable,” Kohli said during the unveiling of the team’s blue jersey on Saturday. “The replacements we have got for those guys are two players who know these conditions. The conditions in subcontinent this time of the year are pretty similar. Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera are two guys who have played so much cricket for Sri Lanka and they understand how to play on pitches like these and their skillsets will be of huge help for us playing in Dubai. Understanding how hot and humid conditions can be and how the pitches will play out, they know everything.

“The guys coming in blend into the team culture and the plan of the team very well. The core group is also motivated. We haven’t focused at all on what we’ve missed out on but we feel stronger as the new additions have given us few other dimensions.”

Legspinner Hasaranga could straightaway slot into Royal Challengers’ first XI – that’s the sort of impression he has made in recent times with his bowling smarts coming to the fore especially during Sri Lanka’s recent series against India. He has played 17 of his 25 T20Is in the subcontinent, and he also has numbers to show how impactful he has been in these conditions: 26 wickets at an outstanding average of 14.65 and an economy rate of 6.60. During the tour of England, he also showed off his batting skills, contributing some handy runs from the lower order.

Seamer Chameera, who made a comeback into the Sri Lanka side in all three formats earlier this year after missing out on selection for two years, has also been among the wickets, particularly impressing in England in June and then against India at home. He has picked up 15 wickets in 12 matches at a 17.86 average and 6.51 economy rate since his return to the T20I side this year.

Kohli, along with his India and Royal Challengers team-mate Mohammed Siraj, flew to the UAE from England following the postponement of the Manchester Test last week. He spent six days in mandatory quarantine, following which he joined the rest of the squad in the bubble for his first practice session on Friday. He found the team to be in great spirits during training despite meeting them after months.

“After quarantine, I stepped out to practice yesterday for the first time,” Kohli said. “I did not feel that we went away at all. I felt like this is just an extension of where we left. The camaraderie was the same, there was excitement in the air, players understanding what they work hard for at the start of the IPL in the first leg. It was a high-intensity practice that we had and everyone was giving everything they had. I was very pleased to see that and very happy to finally be out of quarantine and get into the groove of the IPL.”

Royal Challengers are currently third on the table, having won five out of the seven matches during the first leg. Kohli said that the team was keen on playing with the same kind of passion and commitment as they begin their second leg on September 20 against Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi, when they will be wearing blue jerseys to pay tribute to frontline workers.

“We’ve had a great start to the campaign and that is our value factor and our motivating factor knowing that we can play a certain brand of cricket which we have shown in the first leg, with really strong and consistent performances and every player chipping in somewhere or the other, and people standing up and making impact performances for the team.

“Having played this game for so long at this level we understand that whether you have seven wins in the row, you have to start the next game with the same passion and commitment. And if you have no wins in five games which we have experienced as a team, you still have to find motivation. You just cannot afford to take things for granted. The reason why we played that way was because we were not looking beyond the day that we were part of – we never looked at how many games are left, how many points we need to qualify. We did not focus on that at all. What we focused on was the culture of the team, enjoyment among the players.”


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