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Sweeping their way to disaster

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by Rex Clementine

When South Africa hosted the 2003 World Cup, their first major cricket event to be staged in the country, Dr. Ali Bacher and his team put up a superb show. They were quite sure of going through all the way as well but their cockiness came back to hurt them as they were knocked out in the first round itself. The manner in which they failed to qualify made South Africa the laughing stock as they made an error with calculations of their target in rain affected games. It is one of the most embarrassing moments in history of cricket. Last week, in Galle  Sri Lanka came up with an equally disgraceful performance as they surrendered the first Test before lunch on day three.

Sri Lankan batsmen lacked intent, character and focus as they were shot out in 22.5 overs. That’s the most gutless performance a Sri Lankan side has come up with in the recent history. A Sri Lankan under-19 side would have come up with a better performance and given the Test team’s effort, the selectors will be left with little choice than to throw someone like Dunith Wellalage into the deep end hoping that there will be someone who values his wicket rather than giving in meekly without a fight.

Even the Australians were surprised and bemused as to how sheepishly the hosts surrendered. What that defeat also means is that Sri Lanka’s hopes of an appearance in the World Test Championship are as good as over. The team had got their batting strategies awfully wrong. There are players in this line-up who have come up with back to the wall match winning and match saving efforts under pressure both home and away.  But in the first Test, instead of trusting their defense, Sri Lankan batsmen were content to sweep their way out of trouble. Their theory was that with fielders crowding the bat and the ball turning viciously, survival was impossible. Now that the sweep backfired, what if had they trusted their natural game. Someone like Dimuth Karunaratne has seen far better spin attacks than what Australia had. Anyway he’s not a big sweeper. There are ofcourse sweepers in the side like Niroshan Dickwella. The team would have been better off trusting their strengths. Simply because the sweep worked for Australia, you can’t say it’s going to work for you too. The sweep is an high risk shot. Why Australia succeeded playing it largely was because Sri Lanka bowled crap. Australia bowled decent stuff. By bowling decently, on that Galle wicket Travis Head picked up four wickets. He had not taken a single wicket in Test cricket prior to that. It was also poor planning by Sri Lanka. Lasith Embuldeniya had struggled in Bangladesh and was dropped. He could have played against Australia ‘A’ and made a comeback. But they didn’t do that. Instead, he was told to regain his confidence playing against world’s number one ranked team in Test match cricket. How can you miss a basic thing like that?

It emerged at the post match media briefing that the sweep was premeditated. It seems they will do the same in the second Test too. Good luck to them.

The first Test lasted three days. So did the Tests in Mohali and Bangalore where they suffered heavy defeats against India. There have been series wins over West Indies and Bangladesh in between, but against bigger boys, the Sri Lankans are failing to show up. They suffered an embarrassing series defeat prior to that against England. There was talk at one point of two tiers of Test cricket. If Sri Lanka come up with such pathetic performances, you can not but agree that they deserve to play alongside Afghanistan, Ireland, West Indies and Bangladesh in the lower tier while bigger boys India, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand engage in the top tier. You don’t take a Test match beyond lunch on day three, you don’t deserve to play at the highest level. A shameful performance.



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All Seeded players through to semis

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P & S Sri Lanka Junior Open Golf Championship

The P&S Sri Lanka Junior Golf Match-play championship, sponsored by P&S Bakers group, entered the knock-out stage, with the quarter-final matches worked off with the seeded players moving through comfortably bar the thrilling cliff-hanger match between Jacob Norton Seeded 3 in the Silver Division and Varun Fernando (6th Seed) who fought all the way to take the match to the 20th hole, where Jacob prevailed.

Jacob Norton will meet second-seeded H.D. Adithya Weerasinghe (A’pura) who beat T. Deshan 6 & 4 comfortably. The top-seeded Reshan Algama beat Kaiyan Johnpillai convincingly 7 & 6, and will face fifth-seeded Jevahn Sathasivam who defeated fourth Seeded Keshav Algama with an easy 7 & 6 victory.

In the Gold Division, second-seeded Yannik Kumara withdrew after the qualifying round as he was scheduled to play in a tournament overseas and was not included in the match-play draw.

The top seed Haroon Aslam breezed through to the semi-final pulverizing W.G. Isurur  Shimal 9 & 7 and will meet Pranav Muralidharan the fourth seed who handsomely beat an experienced T. Vikash 7 & 6. In the bottom half of the Junior  Championship  Draw, second-seeded K. Danushan smashed Thenuk Sathnidu 8 & 7. He will play third seed Vinuka Weerasinghe who beat Yehan Kenthula 6 & 4.

In the Girls Gold Division number one seed Kaya Daluwatte will meet Yehani Perera who received a walk-over from Dhanushi Wanasinghe. Third seed Dhavinka Kanag-Isvaran beat R.M. Dinumi Sanjana 7 & 6 to set-up the second semi-final against second seed Sherin Balasuriya who also received a walk over from Sanduni Wanasinghe.

The Bronze Division Semi-Final clash between top seed Thejas Rathis Kanth and Keya Abhayarathne will be the feature battle. Keya Abhayarathne defeated Kaitlyn Norton 6 & 5 to set-up the semi-final match versus the top seed Thejas. In the bottom half of the draw second-seed Mohamed Saqeer Zuhar  will meet third-seeded Yehansa Senananayake.

In the Copper Division played over nine holes, Yuvan Rathis Kanth beat L.G. Anuja Methsara 6 & 4 to meet the second seed Jaeden Sathasivam whilst in the top half of the draw top seed Danik Daluwatte faces Taalia Silva.

The five semi-final matches scheduled for Thursday promise to be thrillers with the youngsters soaking in the pressure and performing well, adapting to the exciting Match-play format, that moulds the character of young golfers.

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Arjuna heads new Sports Council  

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Members of the newly appointed Sports Council pose with the Sports Minister

A new Sports Council was appointed by Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday with World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga taking the reign as the head of the apex body.

The other members of the Sports Council are: Lieutenant General H.L.V.M. Liyanage, Air Marshal S.K. Pathirana, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, Amal Edirisooriya, Maj. Gen. Rajitha Ampemohotti, Dr. Maiya Gunasekara, Shriyani Kulawansa, Ajith Pathirana, Sunil Jayaweera, Chrishantha Mendis, Lasitha Gunaratne, Nalinda Illangakoon, Sudath Chandrasekara, Sujani Bogollagama.

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NH bids adieu to Ladies’ College after 50-year stint as TT coach

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N.H Perera pictured with the Ladies’ College table tennis team players

By a Special Sports Correspondent

Former table tennis National Champion, National Coach and sporting legend N.H Perera probably set a record in the Sri Lankan school sporting arena when he retired from coaching Ladies’ College Colombo in the ping pong ball and racket game after serving this academic institute for 50 years.

NH, as he is fondly known in the table tennis circles, started coaching Ladies College back in 1972 following an invitation made to him by the teacher in charge of sports back then Delita Fernando. When he turns the pages of time the only reason that came to his mind to say yes to this coaching assignment was that he wanted to give something back to the sport. He was quite young then (21 to be exact) and had won the table tennis national singles crown twice (1968/70) by then. He recalled with fondness how the lasses from this school won the National School Games title in 2019.

He produced many outstanding female players from this school and the secret behind his success was him being a strict disciplinarian. At the time he said yes to coaching at Ladies’ College he had laid down a condition for the authorities of the school. That was to arrange practices in the morning. This was because he was gainfully employed in work done outside table tennis. This goes on to show the caliber of players in the golden years of the sport. A good many of them had the capacity to contribute to society using their brains and education unlike today where the players are forced to supplement their income through table tennis coaching. For the record, NH served several companies and institutes in many capacities; proving that engaging in competitive sport and showing commitment to employment are a possibility when the individual has the capacity to manage both. When he finally retired from work he held the post of Marketing Manager at United Arab Shipping Lines.

He had his education at Nalanda College and had the honour of being the first table tennis national captain to be produced by this academic institute.

He rates the 1970s as the golden era of the sport. “I say this because we were invited by the ITTF to contest the Afro Asian Latin American Table Tennis Championship in Peking, China. During his playing days, NH had beaten top players from Russia, China, and also Europe. The picture he sees now in Sri Lankan table tennis is not so rosy. “We even lost to Nepal at the last SA Games. I believe the TTASL must be dissolved and a Board of Control for Table Tennis must be formed instead. Today we see many coaches out there who cannot put the ball over the net,” said Perera.

NH sees more potential in the Sri Lanka female players. According to him, the women’s players from Sri Lanka had finished sixth at the previous Commonwealth Games. “I trust that the way forward would be to bring down a female table tennis coach and male trainer; both from China. This would raise the standard of our playing,” said Perera who many years ago qualified as a coach from the Peking University of China.

He also spoke about the psychological aspects to training players. NH underscored the importance of bringing in psychology to training to help players handle unexpected challenges in the game. “You have to do sessions to develop the minds of the players,” said Perera.

He is at present engaged in coaching the students at S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia. The school by the sea won the All Island Table Tennis Championships in 2019 under his guidance.

NH maintains high standards for his players and himself. He recalls an incident in the past; which occurred during the time he was young and already the national champion. “I was coming out of the YMCA training hall after training and a photographer asked me to pose for a picture. I was in slacks and this picture appeared in the newspaper. I was summoned to the TTASL and a top official asked me why I had disgraced the sport by not being properly attired for a photograph that appeared in a national newspaper. I learned a valuable lesson in life,” concluded Perera.

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