by Reemus Fernando
When the former national record holder in the men’s javelin throw, Sachith Maduranga suddenly announced a premature retirement from athletics he said that he was ‘thoroughly disappointed the way higher authorities managed the sports affairs of the country.’ He was just 23 and had an Asian Athletics Championship medal and a national record against his name. His best performance was good enough to earn Olympic qualification by then standards. Eight years after the former Army athlete quit, country’s top throwers are probably experiencing the same predicament. The only difference is that they are not venting their frustration the way Maduranga did.
Waruna Lakshan and Sumedha Ranasinghe have both thrown distances further than Maduranga and are throwers who are good enough to challenge counterparts from other countries who have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics which is starting in a couple of weeks.
The two leading national throwers were ranked among the top 100 athletes in the world by December 2020. The national record holder and Rio Olympic participant Sumedha Ranasinghe was ranked 30th in the world while Waruna Lakshan was ranked 75th in the world then. It should be noted here that both Ranasinghe (83.04m) and Lakshan (82.19m) have some outstanding feats as their personal best performances.
By the time the qualifying period for the Tokyo Olympics ended on June 29, Ranasinghe had been ranked 45th in the Road to Olympic Rankings. Between December 2020 to June 2021 the two throwers had only the local competitions to take part. Ranasinghe got an opportunity to take part in the 60th Interstate Athletics Championship in the eleventh hour. The more than 30 hour long journey had taken its toll on Sumedha when he finally took the javelin in Patiala. Despite that he reached his seasonal best of 77.28 metres on the last day of the qualifying period. Waruna who too was to compete in India was axed from the team after authorities put pressure on Sri Lanka Athletics to reduce numbers.
When Waruna competed last in May at the Sugathadasa Stadium he had just received the first jab of the vaccine and was feeling ill. Yet he threw the javelin to a distance of 75.91 metres. While their counterparts in other countries took part in quality competitions country’s top athletes seeking Olympic qualification did not get that opportunity.
The present day qualifying standards for Olympics are tough but they are achievable if proper competition opportunities are made available to compensate systematic training. Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon could obtain a world ranking quota for Olympics due to the top grade competitions he took part in. He needed just one good Diamond League performance to break into the higher echelon of world rankings.
It is incumbent upon authorities to make these competitions available to local athletes who strive to achieve top rankings. Otherwise they would be leaving room for athletes to feel the same disappointment felt by Maduranga eight years ago.
As Maduranga said in his last press conference in 2013, the problem is not the absence of talent.
Are the selectors scared of Bhanuka Rajapaksa?
by Rex Clementine
With sheer pace and skill Kagiso Rabada cut the big talking Bhanuka Rajapaksa to size. Bhanuka had made us all believe that the entire cricketing fraternity was against him and that he wasn’t getting a fair deal. Bhanuka can not walk the talk. The whole nation watched it live. Mickey Arthur was spot on in assessing him. Bhanuka is a lazy, overhyped; sloppy cricketer who is not just had troubles with the Sri Lankan team management but even his own club; BRC.
In this series against South Africa Bhanuka got three ducks in a row. He should have been axed but the selectors persevered with him.
Well, you can understand the selectors’ dilemma. Bhanuka has met their fitness criteria, he is one of the few players who can clear the boundary and more importantly he has a powerful social media network. So the selectors have all the reasons to be scared of him and preserve with him.
But at the same time what wrong has Avishka Fernando done? For Bhanuka to be continued after scoring three successive ducks and Avishka to be axed three innings after he had scored a hundred doesn’t make sense. Bhanuka will turn 30 next month. Avishka is 23. He certainly is the future. You are willing to give the long rope to Bhanuka, but you are not prepared to do the same to Avishka.
Then there is this ridiculous argument put across that Avishka’s numbers in T-20 cricket are not that spectacular although he has done exceptionally well in ODIs. Is that so? Then how come you give Bhanuka a place in the ODI side having initially brought him to the T-20 team? There can be only two reasons. Either the selectors are scared of Bhanuka or they have got no clue.
When Pramodaya Wickramasinghe axed a whole bunch of seniors promising to rebuild he created the image of a tough guy who will not take any nonsense. Four months later, he has been taken for a ride by an average First Class cricketer who can not pass a simple fitness test on the first time.
The press has so many questions to ask Pramodaya, but he has avoided the media like the plague. If you think that in these days of the pandemic there’s no room for media briefings, let us tell you that SLC has a vibrant media unit that has conducted over 100 media briefings virtually since the pandemic restricted movements.
Pramodaya has to come out and explain his policies. At the moment it looks as if the he is groping in the dark.
For the last World Cup in the UK, we entered uncharted territories rather than going with the flow. Swimming against the current seems to be the trend in our backyard as we fielded half a dozen players who had at least not played an ODI in more than a year. Remember Eoin Morgan’s tongue in cheek comment that Sri Lanka were the surprises package in the World Cup. You reckon something similar is in store this time around too. Teams put out their best outfits for World Cups after years of planning. Sri Lanka are taking a bunch of rookies. Half of the team picked for the World Cup have played less than a handful of T-20 Internationals and that is recipe for disaster.
Dimuth Karunaratne was one guy who was doing a decent job as one-day captain. What was the mighty hurry in sacking him? What wrong had he done? Then you get someone who has not even captained his school to lead the side. The trial with Kusal Perera lasted just one month. Then the job is handed to Dasun Shanka who is not sure of his place in the ODI side. The selectors have run out of options. There are no more leaders to be given the job. The game is at its lowest ebb.
We can not afford to have a bunch of amateurs doing selections. We need professionals and people who are well respected in the game to do one of sport’s toughest tasks.
Chameera and Hasaranga to miss Oman T-20s due to IPL
by Rex Clementine
Sri Lankan cricketers Dushmantha Chameera and Wanindu Hasaranga will miss Sri Lanka’s tour of Oman next month due to their IPL commitments. The two Sri Lankans are with Royal Challengers Bangalore and they have been given clearance to remain with the franchise till 10th October.
Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur told The Island he had no issues in the players missing the two games in Oman.
“It’s a great opportunity for them and I have not raised any objections. They will join the team on the 10th of October and be ready for the first warm-up game on the 12th of October,” Arthur said.
The IPL was suspended in May due to the rise of COVID cases within the bubble with still 31 matches remaining. The tournament will resume in UAE on Sunday and will finish on the 15th of October, just before the ICC T-20 World Cup.
Sri Lanka will play two T-20 Internationals in Oman on the 7th and 9th of October and then travel to UAE to play warm-up games ahead of the World Cup. The two players are expected to join the team in UAE.
RCB have seven games left in the competition and will take on Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday. Their last league game is on the 8th October.
RCB are currently third in the table with ten points behind Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings.
If they make the plays offs, the tournament will go beyond 10th October. If necessary, RCB will ask clearance from SLC to have them in the franchise set up and the board is unlikely to object as Sri Lanka’s first game in the World Cup is on the 18th of October. The IPL final is scheduled on the 15th of October.
No Sri Lankan had been picked for this year’s IPL at the start of the season, but after Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa and left-arm quick Daniel Sams pulled out, the franchise signed up the two Sri Lankans for the remainder of the competition. Both Chameera and Hasaranga had done well when India visited Colombo for a bilateral series last month.
Meanwhile, SLC has agreed to a request by the national selection panel to carry five additional players to UAE in case of injuries. Kusal Perera is doubtful for the World Cup and Lahiru Madushanka has been ruled out. SLC will bear the additional costs for the extra players.
CFSL ready to organize its biggest Online Chess Championship
Western Asian Youth Chess Championship 2021
Sri Lanka has the luxury of fielding a World Champion in their team when the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka (CFSL) organizes the Western Asian Online Youth Chess Championships from 18 to 20 September on the Tornelo Platform.
Ferguson High School, Ratnapura player Oshini Devindya Gunawardena, who won the Under-10 title of the FIDE Online Youth Chess Cup 2021 recently, is among some 300 participants fielded by Sri Lanka.
Luxman Wijesuriya, the president of the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka said that his federation was ready to organize the biggest Asian Online Event, the Western Asian Online Youth Chess Championships and the event which is conducted by the Asian Chess Federation has attracted more than 1000 players from 14 Western Asian Countries.
The event open for girls and boys will be held under six age categories, namely, the Under 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18. The Asian Chess Federation has categorized, South Asia, Arab and Russian-speaking countries of Asia as Western Asian Countries. More than 1000 players from the region have fielded their entries to participate in the event.
India has fielded the biggest contingent of 378 players while Sri Lanka field more than 300 players. Iran has entered a team of 161 players. Other countries registered for participation are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, Oman, Kuwait, Palestine, Jordan and UAE. One player is joining under FIDE, the World Chess Federation flag.
Sri Lanka team includes players who excelled at recently held online competitions and at the CFSL Online Youth Chess Championship 2021.
The Championships will be conducted on the Swiss System in nine rounds, having three games a day. The Newly approved FIDE Online Chess regulations will be followed and the time control will be 15 minutes a side with 10 seconds increment for each and every move played. Only the laptop/desktop computers are allowed to be used while all games will be closely monitored by the arbiters via zoom. Players will be switching on two cameras during the competition. According to CFSL one camera (Webcam) will monitor the player while the other will observe his or her surroundings.
The Virtual Opening Ceremony will be held at 11.00 a.m via Zoom on Saturday. Namal Rajapakse, the Minister of Sports is expected to participate as the Chief Guest with Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nehyan, the President of Asian Chess Federation.
The CFSL will be awarding attractive cash rewards to the Sri Lankan players who win medals of any colour.
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