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Unfit, unprofessional, fat Sri Lankans

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by Rex Clementine

The fun filled festive season has many highlights and one of them obviously is the Boxing Day Test match. There were three happening at the same time and while the Indians turned things around remarkably to catch the Aussies off guard at the MCG, Pakistan stretched the game to the final day before going down fighting at the Bay Oval. At Centurion, the Sri Lankans, meanwhile, failed to show up. Not only did they suffer an innings defeat, half their side broke down as well making the Test match a mockery. The national cricket team has become a laughing stock.

It is not a sensible idea to run a team down before the series concludes. There have been instances where the Sri Lankans have turned things around remarkably after losing the opening Test match of a series. But the issue here is that we are left with too many questions and not too sure whose going to answer them.

The amount of pictures Sri Lanka’s cricketers post on social media of them doing gym work makes you believe that these are super fit athletes. But when they go onto the field, they are like the Kerawalapitiya Power Plant; always break down. The list is long. Given the lucrative insurance schemes now in place, you suspect that some may be even faking injuries. That simply is not cricket. Sri Lanka Cricket needs to investigate whether players are misusing the Insurance scheme and if so this needs to be done away with.

You also tend to get the feeling that trainers and physiotherapists feel that their future depends on the recommendations players provide and they may not be totally honest with their injury assessments.

As a result of the pandemic, little cricket was played this year. But all contracted players – some with retainers in excess of US$ 100,000 – were told to look after their fitness by coaching staff. It appears that not everyone was professional with the approach and they were well and truly exposed at the Centurion.

It started with Dhananjaya de Silva pulling a thigh muscle and he has been ruled out of the series. Kasun Rajitha lasted just two overs while Lahiru Kumara is making a habit of breaking down middle of a game. The previous instance it happened was last year in Brisbane. Dinesh Chandimal is also down with a groin strain and it’s not known whether he will be available for Wanderers. Suranga Lakmal and Oshada Fernando are on the mend and it remains to be seen whether they will be fit for the second Test.

There are huge question marks over the modern day training methods. A fast bowler during training does not send down more than 30 deliveries as the team management fears burn out. Perhaps they need to take a look at how some of Sri Lanka’s most successful bowlers trained to be supremely fit.

Chaminda Vaas played international cricket for 15 years and into the bargain played County Cricket in England for ten years but he had just one major injury throughout his career. His training methods were insane and ten kilometer runs were a daily routine for him. Today it’s such a shame that you find fast bowlers with excess weight and no body wants to put them in their place.

Not often teams lose a Test match leave alone by an innings after posting 400 runs in the first innings. When you make 400 runs, you give yourself a good chance to win the game. Had all bowlers been firing on all cylinders, this Test match would have been a closer contest than what it turned out to be. There were positives, like posting their highest total ever in South Africa and all-round skills of Wanindu Hasaranga. But the team was losing a player almost every session and it was painful to watch.

Sri Lanka were asking for trouble when they played a T-20 tournament ahead of a Test series. The gap between the LPL final and the opening Test was ten days. Mickey Arthur has conceded that in hindsight they would have been better off pulling out the fast bowlers from the LPL. Is there a better example of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted!



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Dilshi stamps her class with national record

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Shanika qualifies for World Junior Championships

by Reemus Fernando

Former Ratnayake Central Walala athlete Dilshi Kumarasinghe stamped her class with a new Sri Lanka record performance in the 800 metres while emerging 800 metres runner Shanika Lakshani reached qualifying standards for the World Under 20 Championships and sprinter Mohamed Safan broke shackles to win the 200 metres as the first Selection Trial produced its best on the final day at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.

Kumarasinghe who registered her maiden 400 metres triumph at national level on Wednesday bagged the 800 metres win as well in style on Friday when she clocked the fastest time for the distance by a Sri Lankan in history. Her time of two minutes and 2.55 seconds erased the four year-old national record held by experienced Gayanthika Abeyratne who finished third(3rd 2:03.64 secs) yesterday. Asia’s third ranked 800 metres runner Nimali Liyanarachchi was placed second in a time of 2:03.15 seconds. Former record holder Abeyratne is ranked fifth in Asia.

The 21-year-old athlete trained by Susantha Fernando maintained a steady pace right throughout to win the event for the second time within months. She won her first 800 meters title at senior level at the last National Championships in December. “I am happy to have broken the record. We planned for the record but I am not satisfied with the time,” Kumarasinghe told The Island. Her coach Fernando expressed similar sentiments. “We were planning to produced a far better timing as she has the potential to reach international level,” said Fernando.

Kumarasinghe who is currently ranked sixth in Asia behind local counterparts Liyanarachchi and Aberatne is set to improve her ranking when the World Athletics update statistics next week.

Holy Cross College, Gampaha athlete Shanika Lakshani became the second junior runner at this championships to earn qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next August. Her coach Madura Perera said that it was a huge relief to witness his trainee accomplish the target after missing it by a whisker at the National Championships in December. Lakshani, running alongside the veterans clocked 2:07.02 seconds (Qualifying mark: 2:08.70 seconds).

On Wednesday Isuru Kawshalya Abewardana of Ananda Sastralaya Matugama reached qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship when he returned a time of 47.24 seconds in the Junior Men’s 400 metres final.

In the men’s 200 metres, Mohamed Safan turned tables on National Champion Kalinga Kumarage as both clocked sub 21 seconds, a rarity at local athletics. Safan was playing second fiddle to Kumarage at the last National Championships where he clocked 21.41 seconds. Yesterday Safan returned a time of 20.81 seconds, while Kumarage clocked 20.85 seconds.

In the women’s 200 metres, Nadeesha Ramanayake was the winner. She clocked 24.28 seconds.

The men’s 800 metres, conspicuous by the absence of national record holder Indunil Herath, was won by the Asian Championship participant Rusiru Chathuranga, who clocked 1:49.82 seconds.

Herath was not the only leading athlete who was absent at the First Selection Trial which was organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to provide much needed competition opportunity to top athletes vying to reach Olympic qualifying standards.

The next track and field competition for top athletes will be the next month’s National Championship.

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COPE; a toothless tiger?

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by Rex Clementine

Parliamentary watchdog COPE – Committee on Public Enterprises has made a scathing attack on some of the corrupt practices at Sri Lanka Cricket. COPE Chief, Professor Charith Herath has gone onto claim that by fighting out certain legal battles and writing off money that companies and member club owed SLC, insiders may have been receiving kickbacks. This is a very serious allegation by the  legislature.

Professor Herath wants legal action taken against SLC officials. It remains to be seen whether any culprits can be hauled up before courts or whether COPE is just a toothless tiger.

In the absence of SLC bigwigs, CEO Ashley de Silva bore the brunt of the criticism. In January this year, in these pages we wrote that Ashley’s time was up. While there are many questions about his efficiency and decision making abilities, it can be safely said that Ashley is no crook. The real crooks are hiding behind the CEO.

There have been some decent men as well at SLC like Mohan de Silva, who was President in 2004. De Silva had warned his colleagues that their excesses could tarnish the reputation of the institution, but his concerns fell on deaf ears.

Not only the guardians of SLC but even those who let them enter into these corrupt deals need to be probed. While most of these allegations will take time to prove, certain things can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. For example fixing a domestic match in 2017 by some prominent members of SLC.

However, four successive Sports Ministers – Dayasiri Jayasekara, Faizer Mustapaha, Harin Fernando and Namal Rajapaksa – failed to take action. All four turned a blind eye despite having overwhelming evidence in front of them. Ravin Wickramaratne, the number one suspect, went places in cricket circles. He is now SLC’s alternate ICC Director.

At a time when the game has been so badly managed, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s decision to backdate a gazette notification extending the term of SLC’s Executive Committee has not gone down well with many. Rather than giving a clean bill of health to SLC hierarchy, he should have perhaps taken the bad eggs out.

The ball is back on Namal’s court. It is his Ministry that has to now decide which deals need to be proved and against which officials’ action needs to be taken in courts of law.  From the start, Namal has treated SLC hierarchy with kids’ gloves. Now that their deficiencies have been exposed well and truly, he needs to watch his steps. If he continues to play politics with cricket governance, his popularity is going to wane, fast.

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Saha wins U12 boys’ singles title  

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Saha Kapilasena beat Sasen Premaratne to win the Under-12 boys’ singles title of the Clay Court Nationals conducted at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday. 

Kapilasena scored 6-3, 6-1 to win the title. Kapikasena ousted third seed Aahil Kaleel in the semi-final, Premaratne eliminated number one seed Methika Wickramasinghe in the semi-final. 

In the mixed doubles final Anika Seneviratne and Thangaraja Dineshkanthan were the winners as they beat Sanka Athukorale and Neyara Weerawansa 7-5, 6-4. 

Sanka Athukorale and Yasita de Silva beat Rajeev Rajapakse and Renouk Wijemanne 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the men’s doubles title.  

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