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‘Warriors Sevens’ to end rugby drought

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Rugby sevens in Sri Lanka has been the ideal tool to find players for the 15-a-side version of the game (Pic by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

by a Special Sports Correspondent

Probably for the first time in the history of Sri Lanka rugby a-seven-a-side tournament-featuring division one clubs- will be played on October 30 and 31 in Colombo without the presence of spectators.

Rugby, like most other sports, has felt the blow from the Covid 19 pandemic and there hasn’t been any rugby activity for the past one and half years except for a friendly rugby encounter which featured players from Sri Lanka Air Force and CH & FC a few months ago.

The truth is that Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) failed to start rugby in the island during the pandemic even though some other sports associations did. Track and Field, tennis, table tennis, cricket and badminton managed to have activities for the players and National Olympic Committee managed to send the island’s representatives to contest the Olympic Games which was held in Japan a few months ago. Even at the Olympics there was a rugby sevens event and Fiji won the title underscoring the fact that rugby can be held during difficult times like this if the necessary precautions and health guidelines are followed.

SSP Nizam Jamaldeen, one of the organisers of the upcoming club rugby sevens- titled ‘Warriors Rugby Sevens’-said that players taking part in the tournament would be going into a bio bubble and the tournament would be played under strict health guidelines and without spectators. “The players have suffered without rugby for almost two years now, so the Police and the security forces were asked to organise a seven-a-side tournament. We have the blessings of Sri Lanka Rugby and Sri Lanka Society of Rugby Football referees and sponsors. Dialog is one of the sponsors and the organisers are optimistic in finding more sponsors before the tournament kicks off,” said Jamaldeen who is also a former national rugby player and a present rugby administrator.

According to the organisers of the tournament the teams that have accepted invitations to contest the tournament are Police Sports Club A, Police Griffins, Sri Lanka Air Force A, Sri Lanka Air Force B, Navy Sports Club A, Navy Sports Club B, Army Sports Club A, Army Colts, CH & FC and Havelocks Sports Club.

Interestingly Kandy Sports Club and Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club have decided against taking part in the tournament due to lack of time to prepare for the event.

Sri Lanka was running the risk of losing a good number of players due to rugby inactivity before this tournament came along. And this tournament greatly serves the task of keeping the players in the game. Most players are in the game because it’s a lucrative occupation and the absence of rugby activities has made them shelve their boots and find other forms of employment that have no connection to rugby.

SLR, some time back, wanted to tie up with Sri Lanka Air Force and have a club rugby sevens tournament, but that never got off the ground with the authorities citing the pandemic as the key reason among other issues for the event being a non-starter.

In rugby all over the world the season starts with a seven-a-side tournament because that’s the method used to select promising players to form the pool for the upcoming gruelling 15-a-side rugby season. According to the organisers of the ‘Warriors Rugby Sevens’ the national rugby selectors would be present at the games to select the national pool for future overseas assignments.

Sri Lanka’s rugby sevens has a decorated history. From the day Policeman K.F Jenkins introduced the abbreviated form of rugby to Sri Lanka on February1, 1931 the islanders have picked up the game with the enthusiasm that a child has for a new toy and enjoyed a fair share of luck at the international scene too.

It must be mentioned here that the fifteen-a-side version of rugby was played in the island before that and its ‘little brother’ (Rugby sevens) though arriving later proved to be a better bet for the pint-sized islanders when locking horns with hefty players in the international scene.

Rugby sevens, unlike today, didn’t know what professionalism was and Asian teams made good progress and could be counted when contesting the much looked forward to Hong Kong ‘Sevens’ tournament. Sri Lanka had the honour of contesting the maiden event of this tournament in 1976 and was a regular till other Asian and African teams moved up in rankings and shoved Sri Lanka out of contention. Sri Lanka won the ‘Bowl’ Competition in 1984. Sri Lanka is not a regular at the professionally organised World Rugby Sevens Series where the stop at Hong Kong is just one of the legs in a series where there are nine other stops when the players starting travelling and playing.

It’s good that the forces and the Police are in the forefront and organising this sevens rugby tournament. But critics would sure have their reservations because without CR&FC and Kandy SC the event will definitely lack the sparks and glamour. For the record the players from Kandy had wanted to field a team at the upcoming tournament under the name Kandy ‘Lions’, but their request was turned down along with several other similar requests coming, of course from Division B sides, because the authorities were not going to take responsibility for the players’ welfare given the challenging health situation in the country.

Spectators will have to catch the action from Police Park on these two days from televisions at their living rooms at home. Rugby needs the spectators, cheering and that sense of camaraderie, but the times don’t permit any of that. Rugby has its way of connecting and given the ‘new normal’ spectators would soon find a way to relate to rugby on the tv screen and find contentment. Let the games begin!



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Thehan clinches men’s singles tennis title  

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Thehan Wijemanne won his first Colombo Championships open singles title on Wednesday. (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

106th Colombo Championships

Royal College player Thehan Wijemanne clinched the men’s open singles title of the 106th Colombo Championships as he beat Chathurya Nilaweera in the final played at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Wednesday.

Wijemanne who partners Nilaweera in the men’s open doubles was tied 1-1 in the singles final before pulling off a 10-7 win to seal his victory. The final scores read 6-4, 4-6, 10-7.

The Royalist beat Kiran Vairavanathan and Archana Lokuge in a row to book his final place to meet the champion of the Under 18 age category.

Wijemanne registered a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Lokuge in the semis after beating Vairavanathan 4-2, 3-5, 11-9 in the quarter-final.

It is the first Colombo Championships singles title for Wijemanne who will celebrate his 18th birthday later this month. He is also the reigning Clay Courts Singles champion after winning the March final against Luca Knese.

Meanwhile, Gehansa Methnadi of Musaeus College reached the Under 12 girls’ singles final after recording a convincing straight sets win in the semi-final played on Wednesday. She beat Movindi Fernando 4-1, 4-1 in the afternoon.

In an Under 12 girls’ singles quarter-final Akeesha Silva beat Venuli Jayasinghe 4-1, 4-0 to reach the semi-final.

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Karunaratne climbs up in Test Player Rankings 

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Sri Lanka’s win in the first match of the ICC Men’s Test Championship has put the team on top of the table powered by MRF (on percentage points), and several players including skipper Dimuth Karunaratne have improved their rankings after the first Test in Galle.

Captain Karunaratne’s Player of the Match effort of 147 and 83 has lifted him four places to seventh, just one below his career-best sixth position attained in August 2019. Former captains Angelo Mathews (up two places to 23rd) and Dinesh Chandimal (up four places to 46th) have also advanced.

Left-arm spinners Lasith Embuldeniya (up four places to 37th) and Praveen Jayawickrama (up six places to 44th) and off-spinner Ramesh Mendis (up 28 places to 57th) have improved in the rankings for bowlers.

Fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has made it to the top five of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s Test Player Rankings for the first time in his career after a fine show in the first Test against Bangladesh which Pakistan won by eight wickets.

The 21-year-old left-arm bowler, who grabbed seven wickets including a haul of five for 32 in the second innings of the Chittagong Test, has moved up three places to fifth position after overtaking James Anderson, Kagiso Rabada and Neil Wagner.

Shaheen’s new-ball partner Hasan Ali too is at a career-best position after finishing with a similar seven-wicket match haul that included a five-for in the first innings. Hasan has advanced five places to 11th place. His previous best in Tests was 14th, reached in May this year.

Pakistan’s opening batters were not the ones to be left behind. Abid Ali may have missed out on a century in each innings but his scores of 133 and 91 helped him shoot up 27 slots to a career-best 20th position while Abdullah Shafique enters the rankings at 83rd with scores of 52 and 73.

For Bangladesh, Mushfiqur Rahim is up four places to 19th with scores of 91 and 16 while Liton Das has moved up 26 places to a career-best 31st position after accruing 114 and 59. Left-arm spinner Taijul Islam has progressed two places to 23rd after an eight-wicket match haul that included seven scalps in the first innings.

The thrilling draw in Kanpur between India and New Zealand had quite a few performances from either side that reflect in the latest weekly update that also includes the first Test between Sri Lanka and the West Indies at Galle, which the host side won by 187 runs.

Debutant Shreyas Iyer’s Player of the Match effort of 105 and 65 helped him enter the rankings in 74th position while opener Shubman Gill (up six places to 66th) and Wriddhiman Saha (up nine places to 99th) also made notable progress after notching half-centuries.

Ravindra Jadeja is up two places to 19th among bowlers with five wickets in the match and is also up one place to second among all-rounders. Ravichandran Ashwin is the third-ranked all-rounder and 79th among batters.

For New Zealand, Tom Latham’s knocks of 95 and 52 place him back in the top 10 as he goes up from 14th to ninth. Fast bowler Kyle Jamieson is ninth among bowlers, his three wickets in each innings resulting in a gain of six places. Tim Southee has gained 15 rating points to reach within one point of second-placed Ashwin (840) after his eight-wicket match haul.

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Mickey’s ‘sloppy cricketers’ hand Windies the edge

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This could be the series defining moment as Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne is run out by a direct hit during Sri Lanka’s second innings of the second Test in Galle yesterday. West Indies have never won a Test match in Sri Lanka. 

Rex Clementine in Galle

Sri Lanka Head Coach Mickey Arthur once told The Island that he hates ‘sloppy cricketers’. Given how Sri Lanka approached batting in their second innings here in Galle yesterday, the 53-year-old would have given them a firm dressing-down. Having conceded a first innings lead of 49 in the second Test, Sri Lanka had to bat well to set West Indies a decent target. With the wicket turning square, the batsmen already had their work cut down and to gift West Indies two wickets through run outs was not ‘sloppy cricket’ but committing hara-kiri.

There’s a lot at stake here. Sri Lanka have never lost a Test match at home to the Windies and everyone is looking forward to give Arthur a grand send off. To make things worse, Angelo Mathews is down with a hamstring injury and that leaves a huge hole in the batting line-up. Sri Lanka’s batsmen barring Dimuth Karunaratne have been susceptible against spin and unless they bat out at least two full sessions on day four, history could be in the making for West Indies.

Dimuth was the first to be dismissed. Having pushed one to backward of point, he attempted a risky single, but instead of rushing he was watching the fielder. Kyle Mayers picked up the ball one-handed and threw down the stumps with a  direct hit to find the batsman well short.

The comedy of errors continued when Oshada Fernando was run out with the total on 39. Having pushed one to point, Oshada was walking down the track, half-hearted not knowing whether a run was on. There was none there and by the time he was sent back by the non-striker it was all too late and not even a dive could save him.

Sri Lanka’s batsmen spoiled the brilliant efforts of their spinners who did well to bowl out West Indies for 253. The tourists were well placed at one stage at 166 for two but then Ramesh Mendis’ career best figures of six for 70 saw Sri Lanka bounce back. West Indies at one stage slumped to 208 for eight, losing six wickets for 42 runs. But a ninth wicket stand of 38 runs between Mayers and Veerasammy Permaul ensured they ended up with a decent lead.

Kraigg Brathwaite was brilliant as he top scored with 72 runs that came off 185 deliveries with nine fours. A peach of a delivery from Lasith Embuldeniya accounted for the captain. The ball pitched outside of the leg-stump, spun viciously past the right-hander and clipped the top of off-stump.

Spinners accounted for all ten wickets to fall with Embuldeniya and Praveen Jayawickrama sharing four wickets between them well supporting Mendis.

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