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When ‘siri’ means failure?

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Cricket and national security:

by Rex Clementine

Such was the popularity of Dayasiri Jayasekara when he was named Chief Ministerial candidate of Wayamba a few years ago, there were posters that read, ‘Wayambata siri, Dayasiri’. The popular politician has a history of shooting from the hip, and some of his supporters have changed the slogan to ‘Ammatasiri Dayasiri.’

A lawyer by profession, during his interactions with the media as Sports Minister, he appeared to be quite knowledgeable, broadminded and fair. More than anything, he has not lost the common touch so much so that some old-timers in the media thought he had a brighter future.

However, it needs to be added Dayasiri has to mend his ways in some respects. He has earned notoriety for changing sides in politics. He entered politics from the SLFP and then crossed over to the UNP. He again pole-vaulted to the SLFP.

Now, Dayasiri is taking on religious leaders. Earlier this week, he lashed out at Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith for criticizing Maithriapala Sirisena, who , as the President in 2019, failed to prevent the Easter Sunday carnage despite several early warnings of the terror strikes.

Cardinal Ranjith is one of the most respected religious figures in the Catholic Church and according to Vatican observers, he will be one of the Papabile in an upcoming conclave. The prelate has spoken for his flock. Serious lapses on the part of the ‘yahapalana’ government caused more than 250 Catholics to be killed; people are scared of going to church as a result.   

Men stay out as guards near Catholic churches while women and children are praying. That has been the case all around the country although the presence of armed forces during the Holy Week was a massive relief. This situation has come about thanks to Dayasiri’s political boss, Sirisena’s failure to safeguard national security.

As Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara started with so much promise, having identified all the right things that needed to be done.  But he gave in to political pressure, and his term turned out to be a disaster.  When Dayasiri took over, there was an Interim Committee in place running cricket.  Sidath Wettimuny was presiding over the affairs of SLC, having been put in there for one purpose—introducing a new constitution for SLC. Dayasiri called for cricket elections. Guess who benefited? His SLFP colleague, Thilanga Sumathipala, who returned as President of SLC after a lapse of more than ten years.

It is not only ‘siri’ in their names that Sirisena and Dayasiri have in common; both are known for their failure to deliver. Sirisena failed as the President and Dayasiri as the Sports Minister. Failures seem to have become the pillars of the SLFP!

Dayasiri’s interference in the game of cricket was too much. In 2017, he recalled Sri Lanka’s ODI cricketers back in the middle of the night after they had enplaned to travel to India. Sri Lanka’s legendary cricketers being asked to get off the plane and return home made international headlines. Whom did Dayasiri try to please by making such drastic actions? Was he taking any sides after SLC’s Executive Committee and National Selection Panel ended up on a collision course over some selections?

Some players did not mince their words when they took on Dayasiri. Lasith Malinga was one of them.

The performance of the national cricket team during Dayasiri’s tenure was horrendous. Sri Lanka lost a first-ever Test match to Bangladesh and were whitewashed 5-0 by India and Pakistan. Into the bargain, the national cricket team also suffered a home ODI series defeat to Zimbabwe, a defeat that has been probed by the ICC. It should be also mentioned that when Dayasiri was the Sports Minster, the cricket board gave away funds to construct a state-of-the-art cricket facility in his electorate at the expense of many deserving schools.

Dayasiri should stop trying to defend the indefensible and cutting a pathetic figure in the process. Sirisena will never be able to absolve himself of the sin of having failed to prevent the terror strikes. Dayasiri and his equally failed boss will not be able to get anywhere by taking on the upright religious leaders who are on the side of the truth and are fighting for the people’s right to life.



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Sports

KJP urges to play fearless cricket

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by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka’s newly appointed ODI captain Kusal Janith Perera has urged his team to play without fear of losing in the lead up to his first assignment. The national cricket team will be heavily involved in limited overs cricket during the next two months traveling to Bangladesh for three ODIs on Sunday and then playing three ODIs and three T-20s in the UK. In July, they will be hosting India for three ODIs and possibly five T-20 Internationals.

KJP was named as captain with an eye for the 2023 World Cup as six seniors were axed following a string of poor performances in limited overs cricket.

“We have to play fearless cricket. Can’t be playing to protect your place in the side. When you do that you don’t give 100 percent. What I am telling the team is to give your best and that will work in crunch situations,” KJP told journalists yesterday.

“What I want is to create a winning culture. Fear of losing is not going to help us and we need to adopt a brand of cricket where we play fearless cricket. Personally, I have been successful batting fearlessly and I want the team to follow the same method. We won’t be hundred percent successful, but the important thing is that we need to be positive,” KJP explained.

KJP has struggled with fitness and injuries in recent years particularly hurting his hamstring too often. However, the reasoning behind the think tank of Sri Lankan cricket is clear as they want the team to adopt a bold approach without playing it safe.

One of the best knocks in Test match cricket in the history of Sri Lankan cricket was produced by KJP in Durban two years ago when he threw caution to wind batting with last man Vishwa Fernando and pulled off a stunning win against South Africa. His unbeaten 153 set the tone for the rest of the series as Sri Lanka became the first Asian country to win a Test series in South Africa.

However, he has not been able to hold onto his place in the Test side but the move has been criticized by some of the finest brains in the sport. His elevation to the captaincy seems to have come with their blessings.

KJP’s appointment is a bold move and it’s an indication that Sri Lanka need to cast away their traditional way of playing limited overs cricket.

Fielding has been one area that has been sloppy and has received little attention but with a new captain and a crop of young players in the side, this is an area that should improve vastly.

Exciting times are ahead for Sri Lankan cricket and it remains to be seen whether KJP with his attacking style is able to bring the team back to winning ways.

KJP is expected to keep wickets as well. It is the first time Sri Lanka have appointed a wicketkeeping captain since Kumar Sangakkara quit in 2011.

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Bertie Ekanayake – The versatile Sports Personality of the Royal Ceylon Air Force

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Flight Sergeant Bertie Ekanayake (Clk GD) is considered as one of the finest sportsmen ever to be produced by the Royal Ceylon Air Force (RCyAF). Ekanayake was an old boy of Zahira College Colombo. He represented Ceylon in Boxing from 1958 to 1964 and represented Defence Services in rugger, boxing, basketball and soccer. He represented the RCyAF in rugger, boxing, basketball, soccer, athletics, cricket and hockey.

Bertie Ekanayake was a key member of the RCyAF Boxing team which won the prestigious Xavier Roche Memorial Challenge Shield presented by the ABA Ceylon to the Most Successful Boxing Club of the year in 1961.

He represented Ceylon in Boxing from 1958 to 1964. He was the Fly Weight Champion of Sri Lanka in 1958, 1959 and 1960, Feather Weight Champion of Sri Lanka in 1961 and 1963, Feather Weight Champion of Pakistan in 1963, Defence Services Champion in 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 and 1964. He was the undisputed RCyAF Champion from 1958 to 1963 and the only winner at the Ceylon Vs Pakistan contest held in Ceylon in 1961 (Pakistan won 6 – 1). Ekanayake toured with the National Boxing Team to India, Thailand and Pakistan and captained the National Boxing team at the First Asian Boxing Championship in Bangkok in 1963. He was selected to represent the country at the Rome Olympics in 1960, however an injury prevented him from attending.

In rugby, he excelled as a fine full back and represented the Air Force from 1959 to 1973. He represented Defence Services from 1959 to 1962, 1965 and 1968. He was a key member of the RCyAF team which became runners up of Clifford Cup championship in 1965. He was selected for Ceylon Trials in 1961 and 1965 and represented Colombo Clubs vs. Presidents XV. Bertie Ekanayake functioned as the Assistant Manager of the Ceylon Rugger team in 1972. In basketball, he represented Combined Services team at the All-India tournament in 1962.

Flight Sergeant Ekanayake was the first winner of the prestigious ‘Varatharasa Trophy’ in 1962, which recognizes the Best Sportsman of the year in the RCyAF. He won the award again in 1963.

 

by Air Cdre Padman De Costa

(Former Secretary Air Force Sports Council and Defence Service Sports Board)

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National Athletics Championship disciplines prioritized for Olympic hopefuls

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by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Athletics published on Wednesday the list of eligible athletes for the first stage of the 99th National Athletics Championship which will be held on May 22 and 23. The track and field governing body has prioritized nine disciplines for the first stage with the hope of giving Olympic hopefuls a final chance to achieve qualifying standards as the cutoff date for entries nears.

On Wednesday Sri Lanka Athletics picked five women’s events, namely the 3,000 metres steeplechase, 800 metres, 400 metres, 100 metres and javelin and four men’s disciplines, the 100 metres, 400 metres, long jump and javelin for the first leg. They are the disciplines where some of the country’s leading athletes have the chance to reach qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics.

The time is running out for Sri Lanka Athletics to identify athletes who have reached qualifying standards for the quadrennial event.

On Sunday Sri Lanka Athletics Executive Committee decided to conduct the 99th National Championship during four weekends starting from May 22 and 23 to minimize the number of athletes per day per venue due to the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic. Sri Lanka Athletics announced only the eligible list of athletes for the first stage (May 22, 23) yesterday and did not comment on the fate of the other three stages.

Women’s steeplechaser Nilani Ratnayake and men’s high jumper Ushan Thivanka are currently on the threshold of earning entry standards for the Olympics. The US based Thivanka cleared 2.30 metres to establish a new Sri Lanka record in the men’s high jump on Saturday in Texas. While he is fast improving his world ranking (48) a performance of 2.33 metres would make him eligible as a direct qualified athlete. He will be competing in meets in the USA.

Ratnayake has to clock 9:30.00 seconds if she is to earn direct qualification, though she is currently ranked within the required range to be eligible to earn a berth through world rankings.

Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe and former national record holder Waruna Dayaratne are in the list to try their chances in the men’s javelin. Ranasinghe too has high hopes as he has remained among the top ranked athletes in the world.

Dilshi Kumarasinghe who created a new national record in the women’s 800 metres at the last Athletics trial will vie for honours against former champion Nimali Liyanarachchi and Gayanthika Abeyratne and schools athlete Shanika Lakshani. Only seven athletes are eligible to compete in this event.

Men’s and women’s 100 metres and men’s 400 are the only track events where semi finals and finals are likely to be held. Janaka Prasad Wimalasiri in the men’s long jump and Olympian Nadeeka Lakmali and Dilhani Lekamge in the women’s javelin are the top contenders in their respective events.

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