SARS a stumbling block for Asian Grand Prix
Asian Athletic Association offers 2nd leg to Sri Lanka
By M. Shamil Amit
With the SARS virus playing havoc in most Asian countries the Sri Lanka Athletics Association and the Sports Ministry are leaving no stone unturned in the preparation for the Asian Grand Prix scheduled to start from May 28 in Hyderabad. This will be the first leg of the four leg event to be held this year.

The second leg will be held in Sri Lanka (June 1), third leg in Thailand (June 5) and the last leg in the Philippines (June 9). Speaking at a press briefing held at the Lanka Oberoi Minister of Sports Johnston Fernando stressed that Sri Lanka has been given the opportunity of conducting the second at the Sugathadasa Stadium on June 1. "This has been offered to us by the Asian Athletics Association for having successfully conducted the Asian Athletics Championships in Colombo last year" ,said the Sports Minister.

The Minister further said at the moment the SARS virus is a bit of a stumbling block, but assured that all precautions will be taken to conduct this special event which will be held for the first time in Sri Lanka. "We will do our best and see that the event will take place", he assured adding that the government will do everything possible to host the event.

"We are going ahead with our plans. We have also been successful in getting some sponsors and at present Sri Lankan Airlines, Dankotuwa Porcelain, BT Option and Lanka Oberoi, who will be official hotel, have come forward. Winfield Advertising are the promoters of this event while Rupavahini will telecast the event live. The minister said that they hoped to get more sponsors and also the ministry of sports and the government will be backing the event all the way.

Sunil Jayaweera,President of the AAA said that since this is a unique event in the local athletics calendar, all athletes arriving from the respective destinations will be thoroughly scrutinised and the AAA has taken the necessary steps regarding this. "We have the clearance and the full support from the Health Ministry too.

They will deploying their officials at the BIA, Katunayake and will be working together with the NOC officials. Hemasiri Fernando chairman of the National Olympic Committee and chairman of Airport Aviation Authority said that the officials have been given the necessary training and the instructions and will leave no stone unturned to identify the virus. We will be bringing down a Thermal Imaging Scanner to screen all arriving to the airport in a few days time.

Athletes taking part in this event are the best in the Asian region and selected by the AAA on the performance of these athletes at the Asian Athletics Championships in Colombo and the Asian Games in Korea. Sri Lanka will be represented by Susanthika Jayasinghe, Damayanthi Darsha, Sugath Tillekaratne, Rohana Pradeep Kumara and Sriyani Kulawansa.

These athletes will take part in all the four legs while Manjula Kumara will be the reserve. He was not considered for selection as he is under training in USA. All host countries of the four legs will be given the option of fielding more athletes. The events to be held in this three hour programme (5.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m.) will be the (Men's) 100m, 400m, 800m,110m hurdles, high jump, long jump, discuss, javelin and 4x100m. (Women's) 100m, 300m, 800m, 100m hurdles, long jump, shott putt and 4x100m.

The relay events are being held for the first time. Over 175 athletes are expected to participate at these events and they will be leaving to the respective countries to all the events. The cost for the Sri Lanka event is estimated at Rs. 8 million. Handsome prizes are awaiting the winners with cash prizes of US$ 3000, US$ 1250 and US$ 500 being offered to the first three. The AAA will be in charge of the athletes travelling expense and prize money. The awarding of the prize money will take place at the completion of the last leg in the Philippines.

It was a big yawn
The reason for a five-day game of cricket between two nations to be called a "Test" match is because it is expected to test all the skills of the game, by those who are playing. The top order batsman, the middle order batsman, the lower order batsman, the quick bowlers, the medium pace - seam bowlers, the spinners, the fielders, the wicket keeper and captain should all display their skills within the presently allocated five hundred overs of play.

Cricket was becoming a dying sport in the nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies. The advent of one-day cricket, the Packer revolution and the advent of TV coverage world wide, gave the game a whole new lease of life.

The attacking brand of cricket that was played in the shorter version became contagious and batsmen in particular started taking a different approach to test cricket. That was not enough. The pitch had to give assistance to the bowlers, to capture close on forty wickets to produce a result.

After watching the first hour of the game a crystal ball was not required to predict a high swirling draw unless one team played very poor cricket. It was also necessary for fielders to hold onto every chance and even the half chances to lift the bowlers. It did not happen and the Sri Lankans offended much more than their opponents.

The ground staff had gone about their business to prepare a reasonably firm pitch with an adequate covering of grass for a five-day match. They were instructed by the Sri Lankan cricketing hierarchy to shave off all the grass! With the surface not being very hard and the present hot conditions drying out all the moisture it turned out to be a "nothing" pitch.

On day one there was some bounce but it was irregular and the slowness made it difficult for both batsman and bowlers. Day three was about the best, when the ball came somewhat onto the bat. When it did spin it was slow or had to bounce on the rough. This did not pose too many problems for those who wielded the willow. Even the best, Muttiah Muralitharan, toiled and toiled and toiled for minor rewards.

The two captains ground the opposition bowlers to fatigue. Stephen Fleming found a place for himself in the New Zealand record books. Hashan Tillekaratne was also associated in a first, scoring a century on debut as captain.

His captaincy skills were not tested, as the game took its course to a destined draw. What is important is that he must look to be positive and breed an attacking confident approach amongst the team. He does not have a demonstrative and vibrant personality on the field, so it must be up with the implementation of sound practical moves at all times.

The plus point for Sri Lanka was the showing off of Kaushal Lokuarachchy. Still very young for a spin bowler to enter the international cricket world, he was not overawed by the occasion. Naturally there were signs of nerves when he bowled in the first innings, but after he batted confidently to knock-up 28 not out, he was much at ease and bowled very well the second time.

My opinion is that Upul Chandana should play in the one-day team, should a leg spinner be required. Lokuarachchy, must be nurtured over the next two years, where he can learn all the variations of leg spin bowling and then implement them with confidence. It is in the longer game that it can be done.

As the series moves on to Asgiriya it is hoped that the players can display all their skills and it will be a worthwhile "test" of international cricket.

Why not revive Indo-Lanka athletic meet?
By Bernie Wijesekera
The Indo-Sri Lanka track and field dual contest should be revived, with a view to give the much needed exposure and competition - specially to our young emerging athletes to be in contention, said K.L.F. Wijedasa, the former University of Ceylon, Public Schools athlete, who later turned administrator and coach. He was a live-wire of CT and FC. He coached Ananda and Royal and helped the youngsters to go places in track and field sports.

Wijedasa was interviewed by The Sunday Times, when he attended the Sports Medicine Seminar for fitness for executives held at the Hilton Hotel last week-end. He said, it should do well that the A.A.A. take note of this - even to hold a Jnr. Indo-Sri Lanka meet and even suggested a SAF Juniors championship be staged to give that much-needed exposure to the young athletes in the region. This will give depth to the sport and be prepared when the seniors get burnt out to take their places.

Sri Lanka athletes have made a name in the international scene in the past due to planning by the officials and total commitment by the athletes concerned even with their own resources. In the past the Public Schools meet was the nursery to harness talent.

The A.A.A. may send a few juniors for an international contest now and then - in a haphazard manner. There should be a proper calendar for the juniors to work in preparation - even on their own.

"One Swallow does not make a Summer" - Yes. There should be dual contests against neighbours India, which is not all that expensive. The Sri Lankan Airlines who are helping sports at national level could assist the A.A.A. - even with rebated tickets, two other countries who could be considered is Thailand and Malaysia. Both nations - the standard is quite high at junior level.

Today track and field sport is mostly dominated by rural athletes. But they need regular competition. Forget about other issues focus in the promotion of the sport, he said. The first Indo-Ceylon meet was held in May 1940, led by A.C.W. Obeysekera. This team included Duncan White, R.E. Kitto, Upali Gunaratne, Bertie Wijesinghe (who also played cricket for Sri Lanka). In '46, A.C. Dep captained a team which had the likes of Summa Navaratnam, Duncan White etc.

In 1972 it was held in Sri Lanka, led by Ranjit Weerasena, which team had S.L.B. Rosa, W. Wimaladasa, K.G. Badra, Sunil Gunawardena, Kosala Sahabandu, held in Colombo, Sri Lanka won by one point. In 1974, legendary W. Wimaladasa led the team held in Chandigar.

The likes of N. Ethirweerasingham, who created a new dimension by going over six-foot bar regularly, was tagged as one of the best in Asia and did proud for the country. Are you aware that there was Indo-Sri Lanka Schools meet which was a much look forward to event. The last was in 1968. But it fell on the wayside apparently due to lack of funds by the Schools Section.

Now that the SAF games to be held in Pakistan off due the holocaust in W. Asia (Iraq). This is why it is suggested that a Jnr. SAF games, be organised where all youth in the region will benefit. Via sports (especially mass sports) could bring about understanding and reconciliation, Wijedasa said.

Even late, Lailth Athulathmudali, former President A.A.A. held this view. Facts are stubborn - put aside other issues the former Minister of Sports S.B. Dissanayake, did much for the promotion of track and field sports in the country for the rural youth to enjoy a better tomorrow.

The plight of rugby football in Sri Lanka
Recently many articles/observations have been made by knowledgeable rugby enthusiasts about the state of this game in Sri Lanka and where the blame can be apportioned for it's deterioration.

Let us look at this problem dispassionately and practically. Rugby was the most popular game in the 1960's to the 1980's. It even over shadowed cricket. A weekend of rugby became a family outing with the young girls and the not so young showing off their latest fashions. The rugby dished out was a high class spectacle and the public was clamouring to get a strategic place on the grounds to view the match.

Games between top clubs had the grounds full with spectators. In fact, for games of top billing like the CR Vs Havies and CR Vs CH attracted so many people that the host Clubs used to sell tickets in advance on a Tuesday or Wednesday of that weekend's match.

Currently for these games, we have only a handful of spectators. In fact, the number of non members of the Club will total about 100 spectators at the maximum. How has this situation been precipitated? It is simply due to the imbalance in the strength of one Club and the rest. From the time Kandy Sports Club went about head hunting in Colombo and luring the best players in other clubs into their fold, these other clubs have been struggling to produce a team to match Kandy Sports Club. In fact KSC can produce a second string which can probably defeat any of the Colombo Clubs.

This situation was brought about by the introduction of professionalism to rugby, where the players were selling themselves to the highest bidder. The love of the sport, loyalty to the Club and colleagues were all forgotten. The spectators were deprived of the spectacle that was rugby. Now the games are drab. The only team that can provide entertainment for the spectators is KSC. However, since most KSC games are one sided, other than the KSC supporters, the rest of the public do not watch these matches. R.J.Samuel

Mahroof, Dias get cricket scholarships
Two promising future young prospects, Wesley College all-rounder Fazil Mahroof and Sandun Dias from St. Joseph's College has been afforded with UK scholarships to play in England in the forthcoming season.

According to Bandula Warnapura Director Cricket Operations, its part of the CB programme to give playing opportunities for the talented youngsters to further improve their skills, whilst playing away from home.

Both players have shown up well. Mahroof the lanky all-rounder has been a consistent performer in this year's school cricket season. Sandun Dias, too is an exciting young cricketer has been performing well for the Joes. Both deserve this exposure. "Work horse" Chaminda Vaas, has been a source of inspiration to the Josephian cricket team by example and has helped them.

Mahroof will play for Stanmore CC, while Dias for Bessborugh CC. They left for England on April 29 and will return in Sept. 2003. Last year (2002) the U.K. committee headed by Dr. Daya Panithagunawardena and Asitha Jayaweera an outstanding cricketer from Royal. Asitha has performed with distinction. They provided with two scholarships to Sahan Wijeratne and Dhammika Prasad to play in England. The scholarships for Mahroof and Dias is afforded by the Cricket Board. (B.W.)

Aravinda a great cricketer
By Krishantha Prasad
Today, Cricket has been ridiculed as the game of flannelled fools. This was probably well deserved when it was the stodgy game that came into this land in the baggage of Colonial rule. What is it that 'Cricket' means to the average Sri Lankan of today?

ricket is for us not a sport but a passion. It is played in the drawing rooms of the affluent and the hovels of the poor. When the matches are announced there is a wild scramble for places before TV sets; work in Offices is reduced to snail's pace and no one is blamed for loitering around TV sets either at Home or at workplaces.

The whole country is in the grip of an obsession that pervades the entire social spectrum. There seems to be nothing to equal the allure of cricket when 'our boys' are playing in international matches.

Cricketers have reached a position of fame and public affection that no politician whatever their blandishments and wiles can ever hope to achieve. Why is Cricket so important to young and old alike? The reason is not far to seek. It is the only bright spot in an otherwise cheerless life.

The only prestige that Sri Lanka has gained in our enlightened times is in the field of Cricket. Our post Independence 'leaders' talk of the Utopia into which they will lead us. They tell us to bear up any misfortunes whether economic or political while they endure great privation on our behalf.

'The sufferings and the frills and perks of Office they cheerfully endure seems to suit them well while the country continues in its permanent state of 'transition". Cricket however, came to our rescue. When everything was bleak and all hope seemed to be lost New Hope was seen on the horizon, thanks to the efforts of the late Gamini Dissanayake. He jettisoned us into the big league and set us on the road to international recognition for something other than Tea and Terrorism.

With Sri Lanka's admission to Test Cricket status we shed our amateurism and embarked on the long journey towards professional cricket. We began somewhat timidly and watched with bated breaths as we scrambled to get a team together that would stand up to the might of the celebrated Windies or the less cavalier but more formidable Aussies and the English.

It did not take long for us to hoist our pennant at the very forefront of world class teams. The road to success was no fairy tale journey but one of sweat and determination beset by pitfalls and traps. Most of them motivated by treachery and envy after the BCCSL. came under the sway of politicians and their henchmen to whom another avenue of propaganda was thereby provided.

The game began to lose its character as a gentleman's sport and acquired a sinister and mercenary aspect. It took a few outstanding players to redeem the image of Cricket and rescue it from the gutter. Among these knights in shining armour was Aravinda de Silva.

Back to Top  Back to Sports  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.