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.
When your best brains call the shots
by Rex Clementine
There’s a feeling that the national cricket team has turned things around in white ball cricket after some humiliating experiences in the last seven years where there were whitewashes in plenty and failure to earn automatic qualifications for ICC events. Sri Lanka’s come from behind win in the Asia Cup in UAE is definite indication that the team has certainly made a leap forward. A few people were quick to take credit for the team’s success. As they say, victory has thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.
There are some individuals who have enjoyed Sri Lanka’s recent success but haven’t gone onto claim credit. Former captain Aravinda de Silva and his Cricket Advisory Committee comprising Roshan Mahanama, Kumar Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan certainly deserves much credit for revamping the cricket structure and introducing some drastic change.
One of Aravinda’s committee’s main decisions was to bring in youth for white ball teams. The young team wasn’t covering themselves in glory at the initial stages and the idea was even frowned upon. However, with constant exposure and with Dasun Shanaka chosen as the new captain, the team started to compete and earlier this month in UAE hit a purple patch. To win five games in a row was quite an achievement and when you think that three of those wins were against India and Pakistan, world’s number one and two ranked teams, you realize how special this was.
There was also a new fitness regime that was introduced around that time. It became a bone of contention with several players becoming ineligible for selections after failing fitness tests. It helped that Sri Lanka had a Head Coach in Mickey Arthur who valued fitness immensely. This resulted in players taking fitness seriously and the consequences of that were less injuries and improved performances.
Restructuring of the coaching department by depending heavily on local talents was another area that was done by the Cricket Advisory Committee. It was not only the national team that was looked at but dedicated coaching staff for under-19, development squad and the ‘A’ team were timely moves.
Another decision taken by them was introducing a new payment scheme for players whereby a performance based system was introduced. Although it was challenged at the start, the stakeholders bought into the new system as it was on merit rather than seniority. The Cricket Advisory Committee’s tenure was short lived but the structures that they put in place were vital in reviving the fortunes of the national cricket team.
Not all parties agreed with the changes that were introduced but they were needed. The Asia Cup win was Sri Lanka’s first major series triumph in eight years. If Sri Lanka wishes consistency on the cricket field moving forward, we need to make most of some of the best brains that we have in the game. Credit should go to Sri Lanka Cricket as well for agreeing to take a back seat and allowing their former captains to call the shots on vital matters in a bid to make the national cricket team competitive again.
Junior Development Committee commences Youth Awakening 2026 ahead of next Youth Olympics
The Junior Development Committee (JDC) appointed by the National Olympic Committee (NOC) is launching its operations under the program “Youth Awakening 2026” to identify and support young sportsmen and women of the highest caliber with a focus to produce star class athletes and increased success for the Sri Lanka National team in the international arena.
“Youth Awakening 2026” being the first of its kind looks to provide young athletes with consistent and continuous mentoring and training through a comprehensive threefold strategy adapted by the Junior Development Committee, by way of Programs, Direct Athlete Support and Funding.
“When it comes to high performance, we take the top athletes in Sri Lanka. Although they are top in Sri Lanka they are far below against the rest of the world and the strategy put together by the JDC would be the answer that would raise the standard of sports in Sri Lanka and allow our athletes to compete with the rest of the world” says Chairman of the Junior Development Committee of the NOC Shirantha Peiris.
Through Programs created and developed to promote fundamental principles and values of Olympians in Sri Lanka, Athletes could look forward to being connected with trainers, nutritionists and sports psychologists who would play a key role in creating a healthy mindset and a positive approach towards their education, sports, and career.
Young High Potential players are offered a unique advantage with the ‘Direct Athlete Support Program’ designed to identify and provide opportunities aimed to facilitate their development and expose them to the next level of their chosen pathway through School Placement programs and holistic sports training. Two interesting developments of the program include a ‘Health cover’: where all JDC contracted athletes will be provided with a free of charge medical cover for the duration of their contract; as well as a ‘Medal incentive funding program’ that would promulgate state funded grants or corporate funded incentives to athletes who showcase true potential to win a medal in the international games.
The JDC takes pride in this unparalleled and one-of-a-kind program that is fully self-funded thereby reiterating its ethos which is to uplift athletics in Sri Lanka. Development of merchandise, marketing international competitions to attract sponsors, sustainability initiatives are a few steps taken towards direct funding.
While the JDC, through “Youth Awakening 2026” will truly awaken athletics in Sri Lanka to its true potential, Sri Lanka will see a continuity of top-notch athletes being produced making it an unceasing revolution. This movement is an ever advancing one, that would resonate throughout; in the face of Youth Olympics, Youth Paralympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games etc. which presents itself as an excellent opportunity for corporates to add to their story and join hands with this exceptional initiative by dedicating themselves towards transforming the sports scene in Sri Lanka.
Men’s Ashes 2023 to begin on June 16 at Edgbaston
Men’s Ashes 2023 will get underway on June 16, with the first Test at Edgbaston. The last of the five Tests will begin on July 27 at the Oval, with Lord’s Headingley and Old Trafford hosting the three in between. These are the same five venues that hosted Ashes 2019. ECB also confirmed that the 2023 World Test Championship final will be held at the Oval in June, while the 2025 final will be hosted by Lord’s. The Women’s Ashes meanwhile, will begin on June 22, with one five-day Test match at Trent Bridge. Australia and England will then play three ODIs and three T20Is – the last of which will be played on July 18. Edgbaston, Lord’s and the Oval will host women’s Ashes T20Is for the first time.
“The Ashes series are among the most significant sporting events in world sport and we are looking forward to these highly anticipated contests in England next year, Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley said.
“There is no bigger challenge than retaining the Ashes away from home. There is huge excitement from our teams as they look to write themselves into Ashes folklore.
Australia will also travel to England for a T20I series early next month in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup Down Under. Following the multi-team event, Australia then host England for a three-match Dettol ODI Series in Adelaide (November 17), Sydney (November 19) and Melbourne (November 22).
“While these series are on the horizon, we’re excited for the cricket immediately ahead this summer as our men’s team host England across two highly anticipated Dettol T20I and ODI Series either side of the T20 World Cup.”
Before the Ashes, the men’s side will host Ireland for a Test match at Lord’s, starting on June 1, 2023. The two sides last played a Test at that venue in 2019. England will also play Ireland in three home ODIs – at Headingley, Trent Bridge and Bristol – from September 20 to 26.
“As a player, there’s no doubt that Test cricket is the absolute pinnacle of our sport. We were fortunate to play a Test against England at Lord’s back in 2019 – which was a memorable occasion for players and fans alike – so the news that we will be returning to play at Lord’s next year is very welcome,” Ireland Test skipper Andrew Balbirnie said.
“That match against England in 2019 was the last Test we have played, so we are excited to be returning to play the red-ball game next year. It’s one of four Test matches we are scheduled to play in 2023, which is so important for such a relatively young squad. There is no better place to really learn, develop and test your game as in multi-day cricket,” he added.
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