by Reemus Fernando
After her double gold medal triumph at the Asian Junior Athletics Championships, Ratnayake Central, Walala runner Tharushi Karunaratne will have a bigger challenge ahead when she competes in the senior version of the regional event in Pattaya, Thailand next month.
She has been selected in the Senior Asian Athletics Championship team to compete in two individual and two team events alongside senior counterpart Gayanthika Abeyratne, with whom she shares the top two spots in the list of Asia’s fastest 800 metres runners this season.
The athlete trained by veteran coach Susantha Fernando produced her personal best of 2:01.39 seconds in the 800 metres to upset veteran runner Abeyratne in March before her training regimen was disturbed by an illness. However, despite the setback she lived up to her reputation to win the gold in the 800 metres, silver in the 400 metres and another gold in the mixed relay events at the Asian Junior Championships concluded on Wednesday.
At the Asian Junior Championships in South Korea, she was hardly challenged in her pet event of 800 metres. She clocked 2:05.64 seconds to win gold.
“We have one month to prepare for the Asian Championships. In Korea, she did not have much competition. Because of that, she could not come close to her personal best. Her best chance is in the 800 metres in which we could strive to improve her ranking,” Susantha Fernando told the Sunday Island on his arrival in Sri Lanka last week.
At the Championship which starts on July 12, she will be competing against seniors with the hope of becoming a schoolgirl medallist. Apart from the 400 metres and the 800 metres, Karunaratne is expected to play a key role in the women’s 4×400 meetres and the 4×400 metres mixed relays alongside Nadeesha Ramanayake who will be the other sprinter taking part in the 400 metres individual event.
Nishendra Fernando and Lakshima Mendis are the other two joining the 4×400 metres relay team, Abeyratne is the reserve of the relays. Apart from the 800 metres, Abeyratne will also compete in the 1,500 metres.
Long jumper Sarangi Silva, triple jumper Randi Cooray and javelin thrower Nadeeka Lekamge will compete in field events.
In the men’s category, US-based high jumper Ushan Thiwanka is selected to make a long overdue senior Asian debut and Shreshan Dananjaya is picked for both the long jump and the triple jump.
The new national number one in the men’s 400 metres, Aruna Dharshana and Rajitha Rajakaruna will feature in their pet events, while former number one Kalinga Kumarage and Pabasara Niku join them to form the 4×400 metres relay team. Pasindu Kodikara is the fifth member of the team. Asian Senior Athletics Championships will be held in Pattaya, Thailand from July 12 to 16.
Decision on sexual assault case against Danushka Gunathilaka next Thursday (28)
The hearing of the sexual assault case against Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilake before the New South Wales District Court concluded today (21) and Judge Sarah Huggett will hand down her decision next Thursday (28).
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Selectors make ‘U’ turn after requesting Shanaka to step down
by Rex Clementine
The national selection panel that met yesterday made a complete ‘U’ turn having earlier requested captain Dasun Shanaka to step down in the lead up to next month’s ICC Cricket World Cup to be played in India. After Sri Lanka’s horrendous show in the Asia Cup final, where the team was bowled out for 50 runs, their lowest total at home, someone had to be scapegoated and Dasun Shanaka fitted the selectors’ bill.
The captain had been informed to step down so that a new captain could be appointed and accordingly Kusal Mendis was tipped to take over. Team management had endorsed Mendis highlighting him as the player who contributed most during team meetings. He was anyway deputy to Dasun in ODIs.
Although Dasun had expressed his willingness to step aside so that the selectors could make the change, the national selection panel decided to retain Dasun following a meeting yesterday.
While a section of the public had wanted the captain gone due to an extended run of poor form with the bat, some others had argued that axing the captain on the verge of an event like the World Cup wasn’t the most sensible move.
Had Dasun stepped down, he was in fear of not finding a place in the team as well as the selectors had wanted the new captain to make the call of having or not having the misfiring ex-captain in the team.
Despite the debacle in the final, Sri Lanka had done well to progress to the finals of the Asia Cup having beaten Afghanistan and Pakistan and Bangladesh twice. There were fears of the team not progressing beyond the first round after the bowling attack was completely depleted with injuries.
Although Dasun has been now retained as the captain, he will be under tremendous pressure to deliver following a string of low scores. Having said that, he was Sri Lanka’s best batter when the national cricket team toured India earlier this month.
Sri Lanka will leave for India next week and will be based in Guwahati where they will play two warm-up games against Asian rivals Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Sri Lanka’s first game of the World Cup is against South Africa on the 7th of October in Delhi.
Arachchige to lead second-string Sri Lanka side at the Asian games
Sri Lanka have announced a young squad for the 2023 Asian Games – essentially a Sri Lanka A side – with Sahan Arachchige set to lead the 15-member squad.
Among those with international caps, Ashen Bandara tops the list with 11 white-ball games under his belt. Nuwanidu Fernando and Nuwan Thushara have played four games each, while Arachchige has played two ODIs.
A majority of the team have however appeared in the Lanka Premier League (LPL), so fans may not be completely unfamiliar with some of these names, but this will be a good opportunity to observe them over a more consistent period.
Most of the excitement will arguably surround the batters, with the likes of Lasith Croospulle, Shevon Daniel, Fernando and Arachchige having popped up on the radar during the most recent LPL season.
Croospulle was part of ESPNcricinfo’s LPL 2023 team of the tournament for his 232 runs at an average 33.14, while Daniel too had some exciting cameos opening the innings. At just 19, he also has a first-class double ton to his name.
Fernando meanwhile has the distinction of having played one of the most impactful innings in last year’s LPL, when he scored a 42-ball 63 on a surface all other batters had struggled on. This year as well he compiled an unbeaten 39-ball 56 against Dambulla Aura but wasn’t able to take his side over teh line. As for Arachchige, despite having a subdued LPL, he has impressed in recent games for the Sri Lanka A side, notably notching a pair of centuries against England Lions earlier this year.
In Bandara, Sri Lanka have one of the best fielders in the tournament, while his six ODIs for the national side have already brought about two fifties – his relative experience will hold them in good stead. Rounding out the batting will be wicketkeeper Lahiru Udara, lower-middle order batter Ahan Wickramasinghe and allrounders Lahiru Samarakoon, Nimesh Vimukthi, Ranitha Liyanarachchi, Sachitha Jayathilaka and Ravindu Fernando.
On the fast bowling front, a lot will depend on Thushara. Dubbed podi (little) Malinga due to his slingy action, Thushara has been consistently among the better performers in recent LPL seasons. He makes up for his lack of searing pace with good control and variety. Thushara will be supported by 26-year-old quick Isitha Wijesundara, and allrounders Samarakoon and Liyanarachchi.
In the spin department, Sri Lanka boasts a fair degree of variety. Legspinner Vijayakanth Viyaskanth will the lead the way, having broken into the starting XI of Jaffna Kings – and played a key role in their 2022 championship. Nimesh Vimukthi will share the burden with his slow left-arm orthodox, while Ravindu and Arachchige provide offbreak options. Jayathilaka meanwhile is capable of zippy leg breaks pushed quickly through the air.
Sri Lanka have a direct entry into the Asian Games quarter-finals and play their first game on October 4. All matches will be in the T20 format.
Lasith Croospulle, Shevon Daniel, Ashen Bandara, Sahan Arachchige (capt), Ahan Wickramasinghe, Lahiru Udara (wk), Ravindu Fernando, Ranitha Liyanarachchi, Nuwanidu Fernando, Sachitha Jayatilaka, Vijayakanth Viyaskanth, Nimesh Vimukthi, Lahiru Samarakoon, Nuwan Thushara, Isitha Wijesundera
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