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What Ranil can learn from cricket

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by Rex Clementine

If your grandchildren ask how bad 2020 was tell them that even Ranil Wickremesinghe couldn’t survive as the leader of UNP!

Ranil’s tenure as UNP’s leader has been noteworthy. He assumed duties as the party leader in 1994. The Sri Lankan cricket captain at that point was Arjuna Ranatunga. Since then, Sri Lanka has had 11 different Test captains; England has won a World Cup; International Cricket Council’s founder members have lost their veto powers and India has taken over as world’s leaders of cricket. Even the Catholic Church has seen three different Popes during the last 25 year – John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis I. But Ranil remains UNP’s leader!

Sir Ian Botham is the greatest cricketer produced by England in the last 50 years. So is Ranil. Not many are fit to hold a candle to Ranil when it comes to his oratory skills or his knowledge of the Constitution. But everyone is not a leader. Botham had a brief stint as England captain. When the Ashes was slipping away from England under his charge in 1981, he sensed what was in store for him and stepped down before being axed. Mike Brearley, Botham’s successor was hardly a match winner; he never scored a Test match hundred and ended up with an average of 22. But Brearley, who had degrees from Cambridge for Classics and Moral Science, was an outstanding leader. As Rodney Hogg, the Australian fast bowler put it, “Brearley had a degree in people.”

Ranil failed to see the signs. The writing was on the wall for him in the lead-up to the recent election. Instead of handing over the party reins to someone else he decided to stay put and the voters taught him an unforgettable lesson. Ranil did not have Botham’s humility to play under someone who could never match his abilities or skills.

Having stepped down from captaincy, Botham extended his fullest support to the new skipper. His impact in the 1981 series was such that it was called ‘Botham’s Ashes.’

Not Ranil, though; he dragged his feet on naming Sajith as UNP’s presidential candidate, and after naming him came up with some ill-timed moves that literally derailed his understudy’s campaign.

Ian Chappell is one of the finest captains the game has ever seen. He didn’t hesitate to take on the administration, demanding that his players be paid well and that he be part of the process where decisions were made. Chappell was so straight forward that he didn’t even spare Sir Don Bradman. Chappell was a true leader.

Ranil unfortunately while being in power didn’t fight for his rights or for those of his party members. He has absolved himself of any responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks, claiming that he had not been invited to Security Council Meetings. Ranil shouldn’t have taken it lying down when he was kept out of those important meetings. Then after the attack, his lack of remorse during television interviews gave the impression of a man who did not feel for his people.

Chappell’s grandfather Vic Richardson also captained Australia. The best advice he gave young Chappell was ‘if you ever get a chance to captain Australia, don’t captain like a Victorian.’

Ranil too had close relatives at the helm of politics. They should have told him what ‘disce aut discede’ really meant.

Chappell even dropped his best mate Doug Walters from The Oval Test of 1972. It was the first time ever a New South Walesman did not feature in an Australian Test side. Dick Tucker, a reputed Australian journalist told Chappell that he was surprised at what the latter had done.

Chappell said something interesting: ‘Dick, If you think that I am going to pick Doug Walters because he is a mate of mine when that is not in the best interest of the team, you don’t know me. I am going to pick a team that is going to win a game. I am not going to pick up all my mates and leave out someone who I am not fond of. Ridiculous.”

Ranil has a lot to learn from Chappell. One of the first things he did after being in the opposition for more than a decade was to appoint his mate Arjun Mahendran as Governor of Central Bank. The rest, as they, say is history. After all, here’s a man who said, when President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed Ajith Nivard Cabraal as the Governor of Central Bank, that it was like ‘picking a donkey for a Derby.’

Not just Botham and Brearley, Ranil has a lot to learn from even our own T.M. Dilshan. Not the brightest captain that we have had, Dilshan became the first Sri Lankan skipper to win a Test match in South Africa. But he lost the series. The following day he announced that he was stepping down from captaincy.

Ranil should have stepped down the day after his party was reduced to just one seat in Parliament. He is still hanging on, hoping against hope.

 

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Schools cricket’s age limit change from Under-19 to 20 just not numbers

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Will a change of age limit benefit cricketers aspiring to represent the country at the ICC Youth World Cup where Sri Lanka is the only Test playing nation in the South Asian region to have not tasted victory in this more than three decades old tournament.

by Reemus Fernando

Schools cricket has been in limbo for more than six months now due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Though there had been no action discussions were underway to find means of improving standards. One of the suggestions received by an eminent panel consisting of former national cricketers is to change the age limit of the premier schools cricket tournament from Under-19 to Under-20. When some school sports, including rugby and track and field have Under-20 as their highest age group then why not cricket? Will a change of age limit benefit cricketers aspiring to represent the country at the ICC Youth World Cup where Sri Lanka is the only Test playing nation in the South Asian region to have not tasted victory in this more than three decades old tournament.

“There is something wrong in our system. Former Sri Lanka Under-19 coach Naveed Nawaz could guide Bangladesh to Youth World Cup victory. It was something he could not do with a team here. You have to seriously take note of our Under-19 cricket structure. An age limit change will help our young cricketers get mature. It will also help reduce the gap between the Under-23 tournament conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket and the highest age group tournament of the schools association,” says Dinesh Kumarasinghe, the head of Sports of S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. Kumarasinghe has been involved in schools cricket as a coach for nearly three decades now.

The suggestion to change the age limit is learnt to have come from influential schools cricket coaches who are eager to make amends for dropping standards.

It is not the first time that such a change had been suggested. Four years ago the Ministry of Education changed the age limit only to withdraw the circular within months for reasons best known to them.

The last time the tournament had been played as an Under-20 tournament was nearly one and a half decade ago. It is widely believed in schools cricket circles that the change (to Under-20) was to facilitate a politico’s son to captain his alma mater. That Under-20 rule lasted only a year and the tournament reverted to Under-19.

“The suggestion to increase the age limit to Under-20 had been opposed vehemently at SLSCA meetings on many previous occasions due to the administrative difficulties and problems relating to maintaining discipline,” a former official of the SLSCA says.

Currently the Under-19 tournament is played by cricketers who are not over the age of 20 on September 1 of the concluding year of the tournament. Unlike tournaments of other sports cricket’s highest age group tournament had been played for decades from September to April.

“Though the tournament is called Under-19, we have players over the age of 19 when the tournament concludes in April. It is actually an Under-20 tournament already. Why do you need to further extend it,” a former official of the SLSCA questions.

If not for the Covid 19 pandemic the 2020/21 Under-19 tournament would have commenced by now with players born after September 1, 2001 being eligible to compete. Which means some players would be already 19 plus when the tournament starts.

Those who are pushing for the change argue that by extending the age limit (from September 1 to April 1) more players, who are still in school would be eligible to compete.

When contacted, Thilak Waththuhewa, the president of the SLSCA said that the proposal to extend the age limit will soon be discussed at the SLSCA Executive Committee meeting and the decision will be known sooner rather than later.

A former official who had served at the SLSCA when the age limit was extended to Under-20 one and half decades ago said that a number of schools found it difficult to address discipline issues that year. “We received complaints against players who had already found employment at private firms still playing for schools,” says the former official.

However, this time the decision to change the age limit has been put forward for discussion and a knowledgeable panel of former cricketers are considering the pros and cons. Enthusiasts believe that the decision would be taken with the best interest of country’s cricket in mind.

It should be noted here that the ICC’s Under-19 age limit date for the Youth World Cup is also compatible with Sri Lanka’s schools tournament age limit date of September 1.

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13 year old Sandamini, Asian Youth medallist Isuru best athletes at Kalutara

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Shihara Sandamini Silva and Isuru Kaushalya Abeywardena were adjudged the best athlete of the Kalutara District Inter Division Championship held at Bandaragama.

National Sports Festival- District Championships

by Reemus Fernando

The 13-year-old long jumper Shihara Sandamini Silva and Asian Youth medallist Isuru Kaushalya Abeywardena won the best athlete titles of the Kalutara District Inter Division Athletics Championship of the National Sports Festival concluded at Bandaragama on Sunday.

The two young athletes who have already excelled at All Island Schools championships won the coveted titles against a host of senior athletes.

The Good Shepherd Convent, Panadura athlete came almost close to matching her personal best with a feat of 5.20 metres in the women’s long jump. The athlete trained by veteran coach Prasanna Perera, has a personal best of 5.24 metres achieved at the same ground last year.

Sandamini, hogged the limelight at schools national level when she established the Under-12 long jump record in 2018. Yesterday, instead of competing in the Under-16 age category, Sandamini opted for the Open category and competing against the seniors produced the best jump which was also adjudged the best performance of the meet.

Incidentally, the Under-16 age category event was won by Harini Adithya also from Good Shepherd Convent.

Isuru Kaushalya who won the medley relay silver medal at the Asian Youth Athletics Championship in 2019 lived up to his reputation winning both the 200 metres and the 400 metres. Kaushalya, who was nursing an injury towards the latter part of 2019, was in sublime form producing a stunning 22.00 seconds performance to win the 200 metres on Saturday. The athlete trained by D.R. Munasinghe backed up his feat with another notable 50.5 seconds performance to win the 400 metres yesterday.

“I am looking forward to reach 47.6 seconds before the end of this year,” Kaushalya told The Island after the victory.

Kalushalya edged out senior athlete Dinusha Deshan to the second place to win the 400 metres. Pasindu Malshan who was placed third in the 400 metres, compensated for the defeat winning the 100 metres. The St. Peter’s College sprinter clocked 11.4 seconds to win on a wet track.

The men’s 800 metres was won by Mithila Viraj who beat training partner Pasindu Munasinghe to the second place. Later the duo teamed up with Isuru Nethsara and Isuru Lakshan to win the open men’s 4×400 metres relay for the Beruwala Division.

In the women’s 400 metres Githmi Sanjana won gold for Beruwala, while Ishin Praveesha from Kalutara Division won the 100 metres dash. K.M. Buddhika won the 200 metres sprint.

Kalutara Division were the winners of the District Championship.

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Sorry state of South Africa cricket

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by Rex Clementine

Most players will not pick South Africa as their favourite destination but most cricket reporters would pick it. There are many reasons. A vast country, South Africa has much to offer. While most love the wildlife and weather, others prefer the variety of beers and meat. The visa process is the easiest while it literally takes you less than five minutes to complete the accreditation process. Like Sri Lankans, the people in South Africa are the most friendly. Then their cricketing centers are right up there with other world class facilities be it Kingsmead in Durban, Newlands in Cape Town or Wanderers in Johannesburg.

But cricket in South Africa is facing hard times at present. Some observers have even pointed out that the country is facing the threat of suspension from the International Cricket Council due to government interference. If the unthinkable happens, it will be a black day for one of the greatest sporting nations.

Three decades ago, when South Africa were readmitted to the ICC following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, which ended the apartheid regime, there was new found hope.

The cricketing world witnessed Alan Donald for the first time during the 1992 World Cup. He was so quick and earned the nickname ‘White Lightning’

A year later, when South Africa made their maiden visit to Sri Lanka, the players had discussed at length how they were going to tackle Donald. But they were blown away by someone called Brett Schultz, whose left arm thunderbolts were unplayable.

As long as Mandela was in power, he ensured fair play. Mandela was a generous man. He was perhaps too honest. The South African constitution allowed him two terms. But he decided to retire after serving just one term. His successors were not so generous.

The racial quota introduced in South Africa has had a devastating effect in sports. Of the 11 South Africans in a cricket team, there can be only five whites. That is for international cricket and the chances of whites playing domestic cricket is even more less. Hence, the whites have moved in massive numbers to greener pastures in England, Australia and New Zealand. As a result, we have seen the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Marnus Labuschagne and Grant Elliott playing the sport for other countries.

The worst is that white South Africans giving up their international status and moving to the UK to play First Class cricket taking a KOLPAK deal. A KOLPAK deal briefly means that countries that have trade agreements with European Union (EU) also have same rights as member countries of EU.

Duanne Olivier debuted for South Africa when Sri Lanka toured that country. He bowled some hostile spells and Sri Lankans were in full awe given the pace he generated. But he opted for a KOLPAK deal giving up his chances of playing for South Africa. That was in 2019. In 2018, Morne Morkel turned KOLPAK and in 2017 Kyle Abbott had done the same. These are some of the finest fast bowlers produced by South Africa.

South African authorities don’t have to force it on the system to have a certain number of non white players. Equal opportunities for everyone means fine talents will emerge. Take the case of Hashim Amla, one of the finest batsman to play the game. Or go and ask Kumar Sangakkara who among current fast bowlers he hates facing. You can be assured his answer will be Kagiso Rabada. The quota system has only created unwanted issues. A non-white player effectively carries the stigma of representing his country not on merit. Not just players, even those none whites who were in administration had splendid careers. Haroon Lorgat was initially Chairman of Selectors and then went onto become CEO of the board and headed the ICC. There was also Lerato Malekutu, the long standing Media Manager of the team who did a splendid job.

Cricket South Africa recently has been unstable. In the last three years, the board has had four CEOs. They have also lost several sponsors in the last few years and could be heading for a financial crisis.

A vibrant South Africa is very much needed for the sport to thrive. With the Big Three again flexing their muscle, it is South Africa that can lead other smaller nations like Sri Lanka and Pakistan to keep the sport strong.

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