Sri Lanka National record holder Yupun Abeykoon finished last in the men’s 100 metres but gained invaluable experience competing against the world’s best at the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich on Thursday.
Abeykoon who was the only South Asian to have competed in the men’s 100 metres at the Tokyo Olympics, clocked 10.25 seconds at the Diamond League final where only the top four clocked sub 10 seconds.
With the World Championships and several other international events taking place next year the experience will augur well for the Italy based sprinter as he competed against the world’s top athletes.
Fred Kerley wins 100 and 400 metres
Fresh from making history by becoming the first man to win 100m, 200m and 400m races in the Diamond League, the USA’s Fred Kerley achieved another first with no other athlete having ever won Diamond Trophies in both the 100m and 400m.
Three years after claiming the 400m crown, Kerley won the 100m in 9.87 in Zurich as he narrowly held off Canada’s Andre De Grasse, who equalled his PB with 9.89. Kerley’s US compatriots Ronnie Baker and Trayvon Bromell were just behind them, running 9.91 and 9.96 for third and fourth place respectively.
Both Kerley and De Grasse were back on the track for the 200m final just over an hour later, when it was Kenny Bednarek – racing on fresh legs – who continued his incredible consistency to take the crown.
Adding to his record single-season tally of sub-20-second 200m times, Bednarek achieved his 11th wind-legal clocking of the season, running 19.70 as Olympic champion De Grasse – who gained a medal double in Tokyo having also claimed 100m bronze – was again the runner-up, running 19.72.
Kerley was third this time in 19.83, while Canada’s Aaron Brown was fourth in 20.13.
Meanwhile Jamaican sprint star Elaine Thompson-Herah brought an incredible season to a close with yet another record-breaking performance in the corresponding women’s 100 metres.
After an Olympic record, a Diamond League record and many more storming performances in between, this time it was the 37-year-old Weltklasse Zurich 100m record which fell as the five-time Olympic gold medallist clocked a dominant 10.65 for her ninth sub-10.80 run of the year.
It is the equal 10th fastest time in history, with Thompson-Herah herself owning four of those performances, topped by the 10.54 she ran at the Eugene Diamond League meeting to move to second on the world all-time list. The Jamaican also occupies the No.2 spot on the global 200m all-time list thanks to her 21.53 to win one of her three Olympic gold medals in Tokyo.
SLC keen to help Pakistan and looking for a window
by Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka Cricket is keen to help Pakistan once again after cricket in the country came to a standstill with New Zealand and England pulling out from their bilateral tours. Pakistan cricket chief former Test captain Ramiz Raja had reached out to his counterparts at SLC requesting the possibilities of a short tour. However, SLC is cramped for room for an immediate tour but will consider travelling to the country for a white ball series, possibly this year, SLC sources told The Island.
Sri Lanka are set to leave for Oman on the 3rd of October and that ruled out a series in Pakistan before the ICC T-20 World Cup. Soon after the World Cup, Sri Lanka will host West Indies for two Tests and the board will look at the possibility of touring Pakistan after that series.
Cricket in Pakistan stopped after the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore. Pakistan were forced to play their home games in UAE, an exercise that cost the PCB an arm and a leg.
In 2017, Pakistan made a huge step forward when the last game of a bilateral series against Sri Lanka was played in Lahore. In that series, two Tests, five ODIs and two T-20s had been played in UAE and the final T-20 in Lahore.
Since, then Pakistan has hosted Bangladesh, West Indies and Zimbabwe in limited overs cricket while South Africa had played Test match cricket. Sri Lanka had toured Pakistan for both white ball and red ball games.
PCB was looking to bring all international teams back to the country but the pulling out of New Zealand in the 11th hour followed by England’s no show have been massive blows. Pakistan officials have been bitter about the cancellations and have promised to take up the matter with the ICC.
SLC was highly impressed by the security arrangements that were in place for the team and officials during all their visits and had sent senior Air Force officer Roshan Biyanwala to assess the situation before the team travelled to Pakistan. Biyanwala had given a clean slate and the tours completed successfully.
Pakistan has been one of Sri Lanka’s strongest allies in cricket. Several Pakistan players including former great Wasim Akram played a hastily arranged exhibition match in Colombo along with leading Indian stars before the 1996 World Cup when Australia and West Indies pulled out due to security reasons.
Much before that, Pakistan was a pillar of strength when Sri Lanka applied for full member status with the ICC in 1970s. Abdul Hafeez Kardar in his capacity as Chairman of the Pakistan board aggressively pushed Sri Lanka’s case. He was responsible in training Sri Lankan coaches and curators in Pakistan to uplift the standard of the game in the island.
Sakuna deserves a second chance
by Reemus Fernando
Many are the school cricketers whose hopes of excelling in their beloved sport were dashed due to the Covid 19 pandemic during the last one and half years. Junior cricketers aspiring to play their schools’ Big Matches and do well during the cricket season had to abandon their hopes after the pandemic prevented all school sports. The Under-19 schools cricket season is the steppingstone to the junior national team. Every season new talent is identified by Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association and Sri Lanka Cricket officials and once in two years some of country’s future prospects get the opportunity to compete at the ICC Youth Cricket World Cup. When Sakuna Liyanage was picked in the 75 member Under-19 cricket pool many were optimistic that the left-hander would go on to secure a place in the final team though he was yet to play a major role for his new school Lumbini College. However, the cricketer from Moneragala was not lucky to get a place in the final squad.
Generally, Sri Lanka Cricket nurtures a pool of junior cricketers for more than two years. Some are selected from the Under-17 level. While those who are not committed get dropped, players who excel during the school seasons are selected to maintain a continuous pool until the Youth World Cup. Such a pool was not maintained during the last two years due to the Covid 19 pandemic. There had been times when cricketers who were not even in the pool have been selected for Sri Lanka Under-19 teams on merit of their performances during the schools season.
At a time (due to Covid 19) when junior cricketers hardly get a second chance to prove their potentials in a tournament, it is doubtful whether the cricketers in the caliber of Liyanage had enough opportunity to display talents. The selectors may have assessed their talents during practice matches but Liyanage has credentials from a Sri Lanka Cricket conducted tournament that deserves selection. He was one of the top performers with the bat during Sri Lanka Cricket conducted Under-23 Premier Cricket tournament 2020.
Liyanage took to cricket at Royal College, Moneragala before he was introduced to cricket on a turf wicket in Colombo. Lumbini College coach Dinesh Weerasinghe invited him to join his school and soon got him a place in the Nugegoda SC Under-23 team as well, as Weerasinghe was the coach there. Liyanage paid back with impressive performances and was among the top scorers. He had an aggregate of 243 runs at an average of 60.75 in six matches and was the fifth-highest scorer behind Kamindu Mendis (249). No Under-19 cricketer had scored that many runs in that tournament.
Hailing from a not so well to do family from Moneragala, Liyanage would not have certainly come this far hadn’t he been introduced to cricket on turf wicket. Unfortunately, there is no other tournament in the immediate future for him to prove his worth and even if schools cricket restarts this year it would be too late as the team for the Youth World Cup is selected before the year ends. If selectors stick to their original squad it will be a huge opportunity lost and his exploits would be missed at the Youth World Cup.
The Legend of Lucky Rogers
by Rex Clementine
Quietly, sit next to a coach giving a pep talk to Under-13 cricketers before a game and you will be left with anger and bewilderment as you eavesdrop. Coaches teach young kids some new tricks in the trade. ‘Appeal three times vociferously and there’s a good chance that you will get a decision in your favour that would have been otherwise given not out.’ That’s the current status of our school cricket. But then, there are also the rare coaches, the Lucky Rogers type. Here’s the Lucky Rogers story.
Ananda College had had a terrific season in 2009 having won 12 games. They were skippered by Dinesh Chandimal. The title was going to be decided in the crunch game between Ananda and Royal at Ananda Mawatha. Royal had KJP. Ananda were set to secure the title after being set a paltry target of 80. But cricket is a funny game. Ananda were shot out for 78. Ruchira Palliyaguru, currently an international umpire had given five leg before wicket decisions!
Well, the obvious choice is to nail the umpire. The term ‘umpire hora’ is common in our backyard. Five leg before wicket decisions in a crunch game! But Ananda boys played like gentlemen. Their coach Lucky Rogers had instilled in them that discipline and set the standards.
“To be honest, I expected a bit of bad blood. But to my surprise, every Ananda player walked up to me, shook hands and said ‘good game sir.’ Palliyaguru told The Island. ‘Then followed Ananda coach Mr. Lucky Rogers. He shook my hands and said thank you. That’s all. What a gentlemen.’
You don’t get many gents like Lucky Rogers. Ajantha Mendis played little cricket at school and his talent was spotted by Lucky Rogers at an academy. The rest they say is history as Mendis gave us some memorable moments running through India’s famed batting line up comprising Sehwag-Dravid-Sachin-Ganguly-Laxman.
The legend of Lucky Rogers is not associated with just coaching. He was a legend as a player too.
“I won the outstanding schoolboy cricketer of the year award (outstations) in the year 1988 and Lucky Rogers won it after me in 1989,” said Sanath Jayasuriya speaking to The Island. Well, that sums up the story.
Here’s bit of stats to drill Lucky Rogers greatness. He hails from Moratuwa. The famed cricket pillars of Moratuwa are St. Sebastian’s’ and Prince of Wales. But there’s a third force. Quite formidable one too; Moratu Vidyalaya. Lucky Rogers captained them at under-13, 15,17 and 19 levels. In his last year, he finished off with 1493 runs, in just ten games with an highest score of 264 not out. If you know bit of school cricket, those are stunning numbers. Not even matched by The Greatest; P.A. de Silva. Nobody else reached 1000 runs that season. Lucky did it in seven games. Mind blowing stuff.
Lucky Rogers was not just a stylish top order batsman. He was also a superb wicketkeeper. Highly rated by his contemporaries, hardly committing a blunder behind the stumps. When he opened batting, he was a class act, with an array of attractive strokes.
“I captained Sri Lanka Under-19 team to Bangladesh for the Asia Cup. We lost the finals to India captained by Sourav Ganguly. Lucky Rogers was a key figure in that side as we performed consistently well. When in the mood, Lucky could put best of bowling attacks to the sword,” recalled another Sri Lanka captain; Marvan Atapattu.
When Lucky Rogers got out of school, he was quite popular in the domestic circuit piling up runs for Moratuwa Sports Club. He made quite an impact as captain too as Moratuwa were promoted to Premier League from Sara Trophy. Lucky was jack of all trade; team’s leading batsman, wicketkeeper and skipper, who had the knack to make things happen, despite having limited bowling resources.
In 1990s, the wicket keeping gloves of the national cricket team exchanged hands between a few players; Gamini Wickramasinghe, Chamara Dunushinghe, Pubudu Dassanayake, Rumesh Kaluwitharana and Lanka de Silva. But Lucky Rogers never got a look in.
“Well, there were financial constraints facing my family and I decided to play league cricket in Australia so that I could earn a living by playing the sport and look after my family. I guess I missed out because of that,” Lucky Rogers told The Island.
Lucky represented North Cofield for seven seasons and won the Victorian Championships twice. He is hailed down under in cricket circles as much as here. Lucky credits the values he brought to the game thanks to the coaches he had; Mr. Bernard Perera, Mr. Chandana Mahesh and Mr. Manjula Peiris. It reiterates a very pertinent point, the need to have quality coaches at school level.
Lucky Rogers is an example that you don’t have to play for Sri Lanka to leave an indelible mark in the game. He championed the cause of not so fancy teams as a schoolboy and in domestic cricket and later on when he took to coaching he taught the players finer points of the game, but more importantly to play the game in the right spirit. Men like him are rare and need to be celebrated.
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