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Victorious Air Force rugby team felicitated by the commander



The victorious team posed for a photograph with the commander.

The Sri Lanka Air Force Rugby 7’s team who clinched the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s title on Sunday were felicitated by the commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana at a ceremony held at Air Force Headquarters yesterday.

The victorious team posed for a photograph with the commander who also presented the Head Coach of SLAF Rugby, Shamlie Afraz Nawas and the Assistant Coach, H.D.S.D. Soysa with special appreciations in recognition of their untiring effort and dedication displayed in developing the sport of rugby. During the ceremony, the commander appreciated the hard work and dedication of the SLAF rugger pool that led to winning this title. This win of a major rugby title was achieved by the SLAF after a laps of 35 years.

In addition to this historical victory, four rugby players from the SLAF have been selected for the national squad. They are Leading Aircraftman Nuwan Perera, Leading Aircraftman Ishara Madushan, Aircraftman Anjula Hettiarachchi and Officer Cadet Ramitha de Silva.

The Chief of Staff, members of the Air Force Board of Management, the Chairman of SLAF Rugger, Group Captain Subash Jayathilaka, officers and other ranks from the Air Force Sports Council were present. The event was held with due consideration to health guidelines for the prevention of spreading Covid 19.

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Stability in ODI team but flaws still exist 



The recalling of Dimuth Karunaratne into the ODI side was a move in the right direction. The irony is that the same set of selectors who axed him have called him back.

by Rex Clementine 

One Day International (ODI) cricket has been played for over half a century now and early this year the sport saw the biggest ever defeat in that format of the game in the Indian city of Trivandrum when Sri Lanka suffered an ignominious defeat by a massive 317 runs at the hands of India.

On that fateful day, Sri Lanka (SL) had been shot out for just 73 runs with rookie Nuwanindu Fernando top scoring with 19. SL had got their combination awfully wrong in that series. They were playing five all-rounders in that Trivandrum game – Captain Dasun Shanaka, Ashen Bandara, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dunith Wellalage and Chamika Karunaratne.

Those who follow the game closely well know that former captain Mahela Jayawardene (MJ) plays a very much hands on in his role as consultant coach. Be it team selections, selection of coaches, support staff or structure of our cricket, all these need to be okayed by him. There’s no harm in giving him full powers, but on his part he’s got to take up responsibility for his decisions too.

Certain individuals have an axe to grind with MJ. They believe that given his monthly USD 18,000 pay packet from Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), he is not spending enough time with the national cricket team. But the real issue is not that. MJ is like a MOSSAD operative carrying out secret missions rather than acting openly.

His sidekicks – the selectors – have not addressed a single media briefing to explain their policies although they have done the job for more than two years now. The conclusion you can draw is that they simply don’t have the answers for decisions that were not theirs.

You find that when Sri Lanka wins the Asia Cup, the Chairman of Selectors praises MJ. But when debacles like Trivandrum happen, the blame is quietly palmed off to Chris Silverwood. Coach Silverwood doesn’t pick teams. Surely, someone of MJ’s stature should be aware that playing as many as five all-rounders was a strategy that was tried out by England two decades ago and it was recipe for disaster.

Thankfully, lessons have been learnt and Sri Lanka have moved away from banking on all-rounders too much. Recalling Dimuth Karunaratne was one key reason for Sri Lanka’s success in the three-match series against Afghanistan. In the crucial second ODI, he provided the platform for the rest of the batters and that turned out to be a winning formula.

It is for that very reason that Dimuth who hadn’t featured in an ODI for four years was recalled for the 2019 World Cup where he did a decent job. But the current selectors dumped him in 2021 and it is a supreme irony that they themselves have recalled him. It was an admission of ‘Yes, we got it wrong.’

But are they being held accountable for the current mess where Sri Lanka is playing the qualifiers while other teams like Bangladesh and Afghanistan have qualified for the showpiece ICC World Cup event later this year?

While the squad selected for the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe is commendable, there are flaws. It’s been said umpteen times that both Dasun Shanaka and Chamika Karunaratne are players of similar style and with Dasun certain to play, there’s no room for Chamika.

Then why do you have to take two leg-spinners to Zimbabwe? Hasaranga is anyway going to play. So why do you need a Dushan Hemantha? Worst, Sri Lanka are only carrying six specialist batters for a tournament where there is so much at stake. If someone breaks a finger or pulls a hamstring, the squad doesn’t have a replacement. Then we will be back to square one with both Dasun and Chamika figuring on the team sheet.

When the 16-member squad was selected for the Afghanistan series, it was obvious that if Hasaranga was fit, Hemantha was going to miss out from the trip to Zimbabwe. But it was the big fish, Angelo Mathews, who was axed.

Mathews like Dimuth was recalled to the ODI side after more than two years when Sri Lanka toured New Zealand. Since his comeback, he managed only scores of 18, 0 and 12. The selectors may argue that he deserved the chop. But what about Kusal Mendis?

This year he has played all three ODI series’ that Sri Lanka participated in but managed just one half-century and that too only last week. This is a clear indication that the players are served with different spoons.

Six batters is an awful choice. Mathews should have been there. The selectors will not utter a word. Neither will MJ. The conclusion that you can draw is that some people are trying to settle old scores. That is simply not cricket.

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Akbar Brothers Group and SSC extend their partnership  



From Left - Dimuth Karunaratne - Test Captain, Samantha Dodanwela - Chairman Cricket Commitee -SSC, Mahela Jayawardena - Member-Executive Commitee- SSC,.Nilanka Peiris - Treasurer- SSC, Wasantha Wijesekera - Hon.Secretary -SSC, Charith Asalanka -Cricket Captain SSC, Silva - President SSC, Tyeab Akbarally - Managing Director-Akbar Brothers, Amaan Akbarally, Dasun Shanaka - National Limited Over Cricket Captain, Sanjeewa Jayawardena - Director Sales & Marketing - Akbar Brothers, Hussain Akbarally - Executive Director - Akbar Brothers, Taher Akbarally - Director -Akbar Brothers

Akbar Brothers Group, Sri Lanka’s largest exporter of tea, and Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) reaffirm their commitment to developing cricket infrastructure with an extended partnership for 2023-2024. The collaboration, which builds on their three-year association as principal sponsors across all cricket formats, signifies their shared vision for the sport and its national significance.

Recognized as the premier cricket club since 1899, SSC takes pride in nurturing top-notch cricketers, including Test and ODI captains. I.S. De Silva, SSC President, expressed his appreciation for the continued partnership, stating, “we are proud to continue our association with Akbar Brothers, the leading tea company in Sri Lanka. Their unwavering support has strengthened our legacy and elevated cricket to new heights.”

Hussain Akbarally, Executive Director of Akbar Brothers, noted that it is a pleasure to partner with SSC, saying, “We share their vision and are eager to propel Sri Lanka’s infinite local talent, fostering our next generation of cricketers.”

Former national captain Mahela Jayawardene, representing SSC’s Executive committee, expressed his delight in the extended partnership, noting, “We are delighted to continue our partnership with Akbar Brothers, a company known for its tremendous success and commitment to social responsibility.” He emphasized the positive impact on cricketing skills development and the modernization of cricket infrastructure at SSC.

Samantha Dodanwela, Chairman of SSC Cricket, emphasized the club’s ambition to enhance cricket infrastructure and elevate skill levels among upcoming players. He stated, “Our goal is to grow cricket infrastructure and foster the development of young talents. This extended partnership with Akbar Brothers will be instrumental in achieving these objectives.”

The ongoing collaboration between Akbar Brothers Group and SSC reflects their joint dedication to the cultivation of future cricket stars in Sri Lanka and the growth of the industry. Their shared focus on excellence, innovation, and the advancement of cricket infrastructure underscores their commitment to the sport’s long-term success.

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Tharushi will next vie for medals at Senior Asian Championships 



Tharushi Karunaratne poses with her coach Susantha Fernando after winning one of her three medals in South Korea.

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.

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