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Undergraduate Supuna eyes TT ‘crown’

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The Warusawithana ‘table tennis family’: From left Supuna, Erandhi and Hiruna

by A Special Sports Correspondent

Table tennis player Supuna Warusawithana stole the show at the recently concluded Kegalla District Open Ranking Tournament when he won the men’s singles open and the achievement helped him set his sight to pursue more glory in the sport this year.

What’s special about Supuna is that he comes from a family that has so much involvement in table tennis. His sister Erandhi and younger brother Hiruna are also competitive table tennis players and have won honours in the sport at national level. There was a time when all three were in the national table tennis pool.

However all eyes are on Supuna who is playing well and has his eyes set on reaching the number one ranking in the men’s singles; a feat he achieved before the curtains fell on the sport as a result of the first wave of the Covid 19 pandemic. He is at present ranked fourth in the men’s singles.

Getting there will be hard and Supuna knows that. There is the challenge posed by players like Senura Silva, Krishan Wickremeratne and Chameera Ginige. That’s what makes the table tennis men’s singles event so exciting and doesn’t allow room for complacency in the playing careers of any of these four players.

Supuna is a ‘brain’ and is studying for a Information Technology degree at the University of Moratuwa. He is one player who balanced his studies and sports and reached some stability in life. “I love to continue playing table tennis, but I have realised that only education would secure my future. So my main goal in life is to complete my degree and find suitable employment,” said the 23-year-old player who had his school education at Dharmasoka Ambalangoda and Ananda College Colombo. For the record he obtained nine As at the O’ Level Examination and an A and two Bs at the A’ Level Examination studying mathematics.

As a result of playing table tennis at national level he said he received the expected recognition at the university. “My table tennis back ground gave me that advantage at the university,” said Supuna.

Like all other players Supuna too was affected by the Corona pandemic because it affected his studies and playing table tennis. But like all other players he too was so glad to return to competition when the Table Tennis Association of Sri Lanka conducted three tournaments this year. He also contested the Kegalle District Maheepala Herath Challenge Tournament and the Open Ranking Tournament held at Mount Lavinia and reached the quarter finals and semi finals respectively in the men’s open singles.

At the international scene he dazzled at the 2013 Junior South Asian Championships (Silver in the team event), 2014 South Asian Championships (Bronze in the team event) and 2016 South Asian Championships (Gold in the team event). “Sri Lanka can win a medal at the Commonwealth Games. I have hopes there too,” said Supuna.

Among the blessings he has to follow the sport he counts the supports he receives from his parents Sumudu (dad) and Nipunika (mom). “They’ve never set goals for me, but have given me all the support which is what I need,” he reflected.

It sometimes isn’t easy to play without outside pressure when so many members of one’s family and close relations have had links in table tennis. Apart from his siblings his dad Sumudu (School level), Grandfather Chandradeera (School level) and his uncle Kumudu (national level) were also involved in the racket sport.

But now the focus is on these three children from the same family who have done Ambalangoda proud. There have been occasions when Supuna has partnered his elder sister Erandhi in the mixed doubles. But he shares much more in the sport with his younger brother Hiruna (who schools at Ananda College) who is his partner in the men’s doubles event. “When I play with my brother the left hand right hand combination we produce comes in handy. We both play an attacking game and we share the same ideas in the sport. My sister is a defensive players and that’s her style of playing. There are times when we three practice together and prepare for tournaments. We have a table tennis table at home,” said Supuna.

It is with much love and appreciation that he remembered his coaches N.H Perera (who coached him at Ananda College), Upul Samantha and Chathura Dushan (who coached him at Dharmasoka Ambalangoda) and Nishan Perera who is his present private coach.

He said that he never stopped playing table tennis even close to examinations. But he said that when he does feel stressed out from all his activities he goes on a hike to the mountains with his friends.

One little area where he would like to improve is ‘training in the gym’ because Sri Lanka table tennis players don’t have a huge gym culture like with most of the players in the rest of the world. “I know it’s important to spend the hours in the gym, but the best of Sri Lanka’s players keep winning without the gym workouts,” he said. He said that he also doesn’t follow a special diet despite being a national player.

Supuna would soon complete his degree and if all goes well he might reach the number one ranking this year and also become the national singles champion. The journey ahead for him in sport is hard, but achieving his dreams wouldn’t be that challenging with his brother and sister cheering him on and offering him all the assistance.



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Scoops, ramps, paddle and reverse sweeps no good for ODIs  

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by Rex Clementine  

Anybody who attempts to scoop Kagiso Rabada’s first ball – a thunderbolt clocked at 150 kmph – over the wicketkeeper’s head must be out of his mind; unless he is Niroshan Dickwella. This was not on the slow surfaces of Dambulla or Suriyawewa, but at The Wanderers, a fast bowler’s paradise. Dickwella with his fearless approach and cheeky batting should be a must in the ODI team but in Sri Lanka he is a Test match specialist. His last ODI was more than two years ago – in March 2019.  

It was confirmed that Dickwella will be snubbed during the Bangladesh ODIs as well after captain Kusal Janith Perera admitted that he will keep wickets. But here’s are a few points for the selectors and Head Coach Mickey Arthur to ponder.  

Dickwella has cemented his place in the Test team and more recently has shown maturity as well. He’s been so good with the bat that in 2021, he’s the sixth highest run getter in the world in Tests. 

Not that Dickwella has suddenly transformed himself as a Test batsman. He has cut down a few high risk shots but still provides entertainment. Sri Lanka from a few shaky positions have gone onto consolidate thanks to Dickwella whose biggest strength is not being afraid to play shots. He is someone who is quickly able to put pressure back on the bowlers.  

When he is able to pull off such tricks in a format where there are few fielding restrictions, imagine what he is capable of doing when restrictions are on. To be fair, Dickwella’s best returns have come in ODI cricket as he has scored two hundreds and nine fifties in 49 innings at an average of 32 and strike rate of 93. Well, true, it’s nowhere near M.S. Dhoni class who averaged 50 in ODIs.  

Dickwella is pretty good with his glove work too. Is he the finish product yet? Of course not! Someone needs to sit down with Dickwella and have a long chat on a few things. Let’s start with reviews. The wicketkeeper’s input is so valuable in reviews and Dickwella misleads his captain. The expert opinion of Dickwella during reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt, very much like input of the nation’s intelligence chief during the Yahapalana regime. Both are flawed, highly.  

When England whitewashed Sri Lanka 3-0 in 2018, Dickwella’s reviews were outrageous. At occasions he had exhausted all reviews before the team’s best bowler – Rangana Herath had come onto the attack. Impulsive and immature, Dickwella has never learned and it has reached a point where the captain doesn’t trust him anymore. 

Still, he’s got to be part of the ODI side. He is fearless to the extent that he does some crazy stuff. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread they say. Dickwella is like the fool who is willing to go any distance just for the sake of winning.  

His infamous fight with Virat Kohli in Calcutta in 2017 surprisingly earned the Indian captain’s applause.  “I like to see that character. I liked that competitiveness on the field. He is a very feisty character and that works for his game. Credit for him for maintaining that and I am sure he will do many good things in Sri Lankan cricket,” Kohli said.  

In that same series, in Delhi, Sri Lanka were battling to save the Test match. Entering into the last hour, they had an outside chance to win – requiring 110 runs in 15 overs. Dickwella urged his partner Roshen Silva to have a crack but the senior opted to play it safe. 

Sri Lanka were 1-0 down in the series. Dickwella’s attitude was to square the series and in the process if the team ended up losing 2-0 tough luck. Here’s a guy who plays to win. You need chaps like that moving forward.   

KJP has already got too much on his plate. This is a young side. He has to lead from front and why take up the additional burden of keeping wickets too. Let him give it to the nation’s best wicketkeeper – Dickwella.  

We are yet to see Dickwella’s best – both cricket skills and madness. Sometimes madness is required to get under the skin of someone like Virat Kohli. Not often does the Indian captain get into an ugly altercation with an opponent and then praises him.  

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Dimuth, Mathews, Lakmal and others get pay cuts

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Several Sri Lankan cricketers have refused to sign central contracts after significant pay cuts.

Dickwella and DDS secure US$ 100,000 contracts  

by Rex Clementine

Former captains Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal and Dinesh Chandimal along with current Test skipper Dimuth Karunaratne and a few regulars will not sign contracts offered by Sri Lanka Cricket after they were forced to undergo significant pay cuts, The Island learns.

The biggest gainers in the new contracts that will be announced shortly will be wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella and Dhananjaya de Silva, who will each earn US$ 100,000. In fact, they are the only two players in the top category.

Mathews will lose as much as US$ 50,000 after his retainer was cut from US$ 130,000 to US$ 80,000. He will turn 34 next month and with the selectors indicating that they intend to move on with a younger crop of players for limited over games, there will be little motivation for him to accept the contract especially with Sri Lanka set to play just two more Tests for this year.

Dimuth Karunarante, who has made rapid strides in Test match cricket this year, will also receive a pay cut of US$ 30,000. Following his stunning hundred at the Wanderers in January and after finishing the Bangladesh series with 427 runs in three innings, Karunaratne, would have at least expected to stay on par with his previous contract of US$ 100,000, but his pay has been brought down to 70,000.

Suranga Lakmal will also get a pay cut of US$ 45,000 having been demoted to the second category from the first tier where he earned US$ 100,000 the previous year.

Everything about the contracts are not gloomy though with someone like Pathum Nissanka, who made a stunning debut in the Caribbean two months ago receiving a retainer worth US$ 55,000.

Kasun Rajitha would consider himself that he has won a lottery with him finishing with US$ 50,000. The quick from Matara, who recently shifted clubs, represented Sri Lanka in just two games last year across all three formats but he ends up with a lucrative pay package. Dinesh Chandimal is in a lower category than Rajitha earning just 45,000 US$.

Danushka Gunatilleke probably gets the unkindest cut of all having been lowered to the last category where he will earn a mere US$ 30,000. The left-hander has emerged as the most consistent batsman in white ball cricket in recent times having had a good tour of West Indies.

 

 

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Yupun clocks year’s third fastest time in Asia

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Breaks national 100 metres record

Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon improved his Sri Lanka National record in the 100 metres with Asia’s third fastest time of the season at the 10th edition of the Memorial Giulio Ottolia at the Fontanassa Sports Centre in Savona, Italy on Thursday.

Abeykoon clocked 10.15 seconds to break the national record in what turned out to be his first competition of the year at the northwestern Italian city.

Abeykoon bettered his previous record by 0.01 seconds. His previous record of 10.16 seconds was established in September last year.

Competing in Thursday’s final he was placed second behind Italian sprinter Lorenzo Patta who clocked 10.13 seconds to win in the absence of European indoor 60m champion Marcell Jacobs who stole the show early with a new Italian national record in the heats.

Jacobs clocked 9.95 seconds to break the Italian record in the heats but pulled out due to a calf cramp. Abeykoon too clocked a wind assisted faster time in the heats.

Abeykoon’s performance is just 0.10 seconds shy of the direct Olympic entry standard but it is the third fastest time by an Asian sprinter this year.

China’s Bingtian Su with a feat of 9.98 seconds (in April ) has the fastest 100 metres time in Asia this year. While Japanese sprinter Ryota Yamagata’s 10.14 seconds (also in April) is the second fastest time, Yupun’s time of 10.15 seconds is ranked third above Zhenye Xie (China 10.16 secs) and Tosin Ogunode (Qatar 10.21 secs).

Abeykoon’s feat is the second Sri Lanka record registered within days after US based high jumper Ushan Thivanka broke the national record in his event. While European and US training and competitions have helped the duo produce their best, lack of quality competitions due to the Covid 19 pandemic have held back the progress of a number of top local athletes who are on the edge of Olympic qualifying standards.

(RF)

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