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“You can’t take a break for education”-Lalith Priyantha



A table tennis legend speaks

by A Special Sports Correspondent

Table tennis was one of worst affected sports due to the pandemic. One reason for this could be that most players are also engaged in some kind of coaching; hence there being a loss in income.

Table tennis legend and veteran’s player Lalith Priyantha was one such player. He said that he survived a difficult period.

We can’t sometimes fathom as to how Priyantha stays in shape and contests the veterans’ events. Times were hard during the past one year without coaching and Priyantha looks back and can send a sigh of relief.

He coaches two schools and Methodist College, one of those schools, was good enough to release his salary in full despite table tennis activities coming to a standstill in the country. Life for table tennis coaches looked bleak for almost a full year because health authorities banned all sports in the island.

Exactly after March last year the table tennis players got an opportunity last February to access their growing skills when they contested the All Island Ranking Table Tennis Tournament conducted by the Western Province Table Tennis Association for the year 2020. Afterwards they played in another All Island Ranking Table Tennis Tournament in Kegalle which was conducted by the Sabaragamuwa Province Table Tennis Association, also of these being events in the table tennis calendar for year 2020.

Priyantha is one person who sought media attention for the sport during the pandemic. He organised press conferences and said table tennis would be one of the safest disciplines to conduct because the players positioned themselves at a safe distance during matches. He is of the opinion that the Table Tennis Association of Sri Lanka (TTASL) must be innovative and shouldn’t wait till the government or the Ministry of Sports clears the path for them.

The sport over the years lacked the involvement of former national players as administrators. The reason for this is a rule brought by the Minister of Sports that individuals involved in coaching can’t hold office in national sports associations. That literarily ruined the chances of Priyantha serving the TTASL; which he once did in the capacity of president. But he states that he is willing to serve the TTASL in an advisory role if he along with past national players are drafted into a committee to help the sport. He states that much can be done to take the game to schools which have not had the table tennis experience.

One thing that is to his advantage is that he still plays competitive table tennis and contests all the veterans’ tournaments. “This helps me to be in touch with the players. I can also relate to them because I also coach schoolgirl table tennis players. A coach must be able to be the sparring partner of players and play his shots” said Priyantha who is still fit for a 55 year old veteran player. For the record he is the present singles champ and has won the doubles and mixed doubles events at the national veterans’ table tennis tournaments.

Priyantha is happy about the present facilities the players enjoy. Most tournaments are now played on carpet and the players play with the best rackets and shoes. But it was not so many years ago. Priyantha remembers wearing t-shirts which were not stretchable; which made playing shots all the more difficult. But the sun shone on him in 1987-1988 when Butterfly company (Japan) sponsored him offering him rubbers, rackets and t-shirts. That was a boon, but he had other advantages. He was squint-eyed so opponents struggled to read his movements. He finished off his opponents with his forehand play; hence his backhand rubber was rarely wasted.

If there is one word that describes this man it’s ‘versatile’. Of course during his playing days he was known by the press by a gamut of names: Piranha, Dark Horse, King of Ping Pong and King Kong of Ping Pong. But after retiring in 1993 after the national players’ tour to Germany he stepped on his coaching and also served the association as an administrator and Sri Lanka coach.

Describing his career in table tennis he compared it to following a map and not as a venture where he was achieving one goal after another. He enjoyed playing table tennis and one of the benefits or fringe benefits he received was winning medals. He won on most days he played, but there were also days where he lost. Winning a tournament and waiting anxiously overnight to read about it in the newspapers the next day destroyed his sleep.

He is a coach who creates bridges so that the younger generation of players can reach him. Apart from coaching the players at the two schools he is coaching Priyantha also undertakes private coaching. He would be mindful when talking with youngsters and avoid saying, at any cost, words like, “During my time things were different and we did things differently’. That would, according to Priyantha, burn the bridges that would connect the present generation with the past. “I never compare people in different eras because the present generation wouldn’t relate to that. I just appreciate and acknowledge their skills and effort” said Priyantha who during his youth was rated as the island’s number one player and also became the Sri Lankan male player with the highest world ranking.

He wants the present players to do well and bring glory to the country. According to Priyantha winning a medal outside South Asia is extremely difficult for Sri Lankans, but not unthinkable if the right contributions and exposure are provided for the players. In one rare instance of comparing eras Priyantha said that players during his time played in about 10 domestic tournaments while the present generation players are contesting as little as 3-4 domestic tournaments per year; hence lesser opportunities for the present players to grow and much easier to secure player rankings.

He is also concerned about education clashing with table tennis in a country like Sri Lanka. “Players in this country think very differently and take a break from the sport to pursue exams. This is an unhealthy practice and something of great concern. In other countries players manage both table tennis and education and this method of balancing sports and studies continues throughout their sports careers till they complete their degrees,” reminded Priyantha.

The veterans table tennis player wishes to work with the younger generation of players for many more years. He wants a player to come up from the present set of players and make Sri Lanka proud. He wishes them to be better players and at the same time be educated individuals. But he wishes them to see the thin dividing line that separates those who receive an education and end up as average performers and those who receive the same education and become extremely successful and to be in that second group he wishes his chargers to cultivate intelligence.

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Ibrahim 98 trumps Asalanka 91 as Afghanistan go 1-0 up




Powered by a run a ball 98 by Ibrahim Zadran and 55 off 80 balls by Rahmat Shah, Afghanistan registered a six wicket win with 19 balls to spare in the first of the three match ODI series against Sri Lanka played at Sooriyawewa today (02).

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 268 in 50 overs (Pathum Nissanka 38, Charith Asalanka 91, Dhananjaya de Silva 1, Dushan hemantha 22; Fazalhaq Faarooqi 2-58, Fareed Ahmad 2-43) lost to Afghanistan 269/4 in 46.5 overs (Ibrahim Zadran 98, Rahmat Shah 55, Hashmatullah Shahidi 38, Mohammad Nabi 27* ; Kasun Rajitha 2-49) by six wickets

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Charith Asalanka 91, Dhananjaya de Silva fifty set Afghanistan 269 in first ODI




Charith Asalanka and Dhananjaya de Silva added 99 for the fifth wicket (Cricinfo)
Afghanistan’s seamers struck with the new ball, and closed out the innings efficiently with the old one, but Charith Asalanka’s  91 and Dhananjaya de Silva’s 51 pushed Sri Lanka to a competitive total. Their 268 all out left one ball unused, as four wickets fell in the last two overs of the innings.
Fazalhaq Farooqi made the first incisions, dismissing opener Dimuth Karunaratne and No. 3 Kusal Mendis inside the first nine overs, though he would go on to bowl some expensive spells later, finishing with an economy rate of 6.44. Fareed Ahmad also took two wickets – that of Angelo Mathews in the 15th over, and of debutant Dushan Hemantha at the death.
Everyone else – Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad, Mohammad Nabi, and Azmatullah Omarzai – took one wicket apiece. While Noor went for runs, Mujeeb and Nabi kept a lid on the scoring through Sri Lanka’s middle overs. Omarzai bowled the last over, in which Sri Lanka mustered only four runs but lost three wickets – two of them to run-outs.
Having come to the crease at 61 for 3, Asalanka had a jittery start. He survived a caught-behind review off the sixth ball he faced, before getting into his work, hitting three fours off successive overs. Asalanka was proactive – though not quite aggressive – by picking up singles as he awaited Afghanistan’s errors.
When Dhananjaya joined him at the other end, he too batted at a similar tempo. The early fall of wickets – Sri Lanka had been 84 for 4 when these two came together – did not allow either batter to free his arms. They progressed without any fuss through the middle overs – Asalanka prospered through midwicket and cover, while Dhananjaya found boundaries behind square on the off side, though he also played the legside flick effectively.
Asalanka got to his fifty with consecutive fours off Mujeeb in the 36th over, reaching the milestone off the 57th ball he faced. Dhananjaya got there next over, off his 56th ball. But he was soon bowled by the canny Nabi, who slid one quickly underneath the batter’s attempted sweep shot.
The pair’s 99-run stand had delivered Sri Lanka to the doorstep of the death overs, but Asalanka had only stinting support once Dhananjaya fell at the start of the 38th over. Dasun Shanaka managed only 17, before Noor – his Gujarat Titans team-mate at the IPL – sneaked one into his off stump. Hemantha then struck the only six of the innings – that came as late as the penultimate over – high over cow corner, but was out for 22 off 20 balls.
Two overs out, Sri Lanka were 256 for 6, with a total of 280 not out of reach. But they fell meekly after that, Asalanka getting himself run-out attempting to take a bye to start the final over, after Hemantha had holed out to mid-off three balls earlier.
Brief scores (Innings break) :
Sri Lanka 268 (Asalanka 91, Dhananjaya 51, Fareed 2-43) vs Afghanistan
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Angelo and Dimuth will be crucial moving forward – Dasun 



Star batsman Angelo Mathews in conversation with consultant coach Mahela Jayawardena yesterday at Suriyawewa.

Rex Clementine
at Suriyawewa  

Sri Lanka white ball captain Dasun Shanaka has welcomed the return of seniors Angelo Mathews and Dimuth Karunaratne to the ODI team after they were sidelined with the selectors launching their youth policy two years ago. While Mathews returned to the fea in New Zealand, Karunaratne will feature in the three match ODI series against Afghanistan starting at Suriyawewa today (Friday).

“It’s good to have Angelo and Dimuth back in the squad. Their experience is vital. We already had Angelo in New Zealand and now we have Dimuth adding depth. We looked at a lot of youngsters in the last couple of years and that’s why they missed out. Their presence makes our side stronger now,” Shanaka told journalists.

“This series we are targeting mostly for qualifiers. So, we will use a few combinations to get things right. We are looking to use three quicks for the game,” Shanaka added.

Leg-spinner Dushan Hemantha and quick Matheesha Pathirana are set to make their debuts today. While Pathirana has featured in a T-20I, Hemantha is uncapped. He will come in for Wanindu Hasaranga, who is nursing a foot injury.

Afghanistan themselves have injury concerns with star leg-spinner Rashid Khan ruled out with a lower back injury. He will miss the first two ODIs.

“Rashid has a back issue. So, hoping he recovers quickly. Looks like he will miss the first two games. He is our main bowler. He is our superstar, but it’s important that we keep him fresh for the Asia Cup and World Cup,” Hashmatullah Shahidi, the Afghanistan captain said.

Afghanistan have already qualified for the World Cup and will be using this series as preparation for the game’s showpiece event. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, will try and get their combination right for the World Cup qualifiers.

“This series will be a sort of preparation for us. Conditions in India and Sri Lanka are the same, so we are looking forward for it,” Hashmatullah added.

Sri Lanka Squad:

Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Kusal Mendis (Vice-Captain) (WK), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama (WK), Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Dushan Hemantha, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha 

Afghanistan Squad:

Hashmatullah Shahidi (Captain), Rahmat Shah (Vice-Captain), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (WK), Ibrahim Zadran, Riaz Hassan, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Ikram Alikhail (WK), Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujib ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad, Abdul Rahman, Fazal Haq Farooqi, Farid Ahmad Malik.  

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