Prabath and Ira champs for the third year
By M. Shamil Amit
Prabath Indrajith of National Savings Bank and Ira Ruwanpathirana of People's Bank emerged champions in the men's and women's category for the third successive year at the Nationalised Services Table Tennis Tournament conducted by the National Services Table Tennis Association held at the Rupavahini Gymnasium recently. Over 175 players participated in this years tournament.

Prabath defeated P.N. Dassanayake of Ceylon Petroleum Corporation) PC while Ira beat Ama Suraweera of SLRC. Prabath went on to clinch a double when he won the men's double partnered by Nimal Perera. And Ira went a step further when she clinched a triple winning the women's double partnered by Anuradha Bopitiya and the women's veteran title.

Men's - Singles - Prabath Indrajith (NSB) beat P.N. Dissanayake (CPC). Veteran's - H. Silva (SLRC) beat Sarath Wijesooriya (NSB). Novices - P.N. Dassanayake (CPC) beat Waruna Gunawardena (NSB). Men's Doubles - Prabath Indrajith and Nimal Perera (NSB) beat H. Silva and Saman Piyathilaka (SLRC).

Women's - Singles - Ira Ruwanpathirana (People's Bank) beat Ama Suraweera (SLRC). Veteran's - Ira Ruwanpathirana (People's Bank) beat Ama Suraweera (SLRC). Novices - Anuradha Bopitiya (People's Bank) beat Pushpa Colombathanthri (BCC). Women's Doubles - Ira Ruwanpathirana and Anuradha Bopitiya (People's Bank) beat Pushpa Colombathanthri and M.I. Tharangani (BCC). Mixed Doubles - Asitha Amarasinghe and M.I. Tharangani (BCC) beat Hemasinghe de Silva and Pushpa Colombathanthri (BCC).

Randy, Rikaaz rule the roost
Defending Go-kart champion Randy Batcho proved his might again by tearing into the winners enclosure for the third consecutive year at the country's premier Go-kart championship held at the Independence Square in Colombo last week. Randy with his tremendous track record on field as a champion speedster also moulds several budding youngsters who have begun to earn a name to themselves in the racing arena.

While Randy Batcho reached the winning post in the International Gokart event, Dinesh Jayawardena and Dejan de Soysa bagged the second and third places respectively.

Zackie Ismail clinched the top spot in the Yamaha senior event with Dinesh Jayawardena and Shehara de Silva following him. The highlight of the event was however the keenly contested Junior Yamaha class event- held for the first time in Sri Lanka - with the child sensation Rikaaz Khalid emerging victorious, beating Sanjaya Dissanayake.

Rikaaz, the dynamic skipper of the D.S. Senanayake College under 13 cricket team took the racing authorities by storm by winning the All-Island Open Prokart championship last year. The 13-year-old Rikaaz, oozing with confidence said a major part of his credit was due to his coach Randy Batcho.

Meanwhile, Randy Batcho said the event could possibly mark the end of his Gokart career as it was too costly for the champion, but assured that he derived more satisfaction moulding mini-champs like Rikaaz and other youngsters.

Learn to play on the backfoot
In the past eight weeks the Sri Lankan cricketers have been reduced to a team of mere participants in South Africa and in the opening game in Australia. Barring for less than a handful of players the rest have been reduced to mediocre performers.

Many questions are being levelled at the administration management and selectors. Blame is being heaped endlessly. The time servers are disassociating themselves with the game and the team. TV sets are knocked off when the team is playing!!

The problem has been existing since Sri Lanka toured Australia in the mid nineteen eightees. The weakness to handle short pitched deliveries existed then and still exists. Even the quick bowlers are not adjusting to bowling the required length resulting in a couple of loose or scorable deliveries being sent down each over.

Coaches around the world are getting their bowlers to pepper Sanath Jayasuriya and co with continuous short stuff. "Do not give them width, do not pitch the ball on good length, do not stray towards the leg stump, is the call to bowlers. The English did that successfully and more recently the South Africans followed suit. Above average bowlers such as Makhaya Ntini, Steve Elworth and Andrew Hall were elevated to good performers by simply landing the ball on that length that the Sri Lankan batsman find awkward to play.

Various remedies and proposals have been thrown for over a dozen years. Yet, there is still no direction, no path for a player to follow to eradicate this weakness. The established players in the national team get away by scoring every fourth or fifth innings and then making big scores when they play on surfaces familiar to them and thereby erasing their failures. It is a case of stumble, get up, hang on to your place in the side. Collectively the runs produced on the board is insufficient.

Theoratically this issue has to be addressed in two ways. Initially decide which delivery should be played and which left alone. Then deliveries to be played have to be attacked or defended. This is the decision that is often erroneous.

The defensive stroke is played for two purposes. To avoid getting out bowled or leg before wicket. To steal a quick single. All the top class batsman around the world, over the years have achieved near perfection in that dicipline. Ability to cut, pull and hook, combined with the quickness of reflex action determines the success of playing these strokes.

It could be said that sixty percent of a batsman's career is spent on the front foot and forty percent on the back foot. To succeed in Australia and South Africa that percentage of back foot must be excellent.

That can only be achieved by playing and practicing regularly, from a young age on fast bouncy surfaces and practicing regularly against a bowling machine on a a concrete base surface. Follow that path or those who currently switch their TV's off when Sri Lanka is playing, will have a long wait to switch their sets back on.

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