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17th January 1999

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Hill-Climb in Matara !

The most unlikely place for a hill-climb, Matara, ironically, boasts of the best venue 

By Channaka de Silva

In all types of motor racing in Sri Lanka, hill climbing is definitely the most popular, simply for the reason that it offers all what the spectators expect - thrills, speed, the degree of difficulty, element of danger ...etc. It is the ultimate test of driving skill and it ends within a very short time thus making it so A Careasy to enjoy.

Traditionally, hill climbing has been occupying a great big part of the Nuwara Eliya holiday season for a long time. When someone mentions Hill climbs what comes to our minds naturally is the hill country. If you also think Hill climbs are a feature of the hill country, prepare for a surprise. Sri Lanka's best Hill climb circuit is in the Southern Coastal town of Matara!.

Yes. This is not only the observation of "The Sunday Times" but of the majority of those who pitted their skills against the perfect competition track of Matara's Eliyakanda Hill surrounded by one of the most beautiful scenaries of the country. The testing track with heart stopping hairpin bends, steep climbs, straight stretches allowing blinding speeds, dangerous corners with alarming slopes, perfect road surface for magnificent manouvring blended with the foliage filled background overlooking the beautiful blue sea from the mountain top is too difficult a proposition to describe in just a few words.

Suranjith Premadasa, one of the country's best experienced drivers described the track as "far superior than any other track in the country."

Having driven on surfaces at Radella, Mahagastota, Karandupone and Wase Park, he supported his claim as thus "The main factor which makes it the best is the outstandingly smooth surface. Nowhere in the country would you get a surface like this. This track is super fast thanks to the surface. The speed also makes sure that it all finishes in such a short time assuring that it kept the interest right through without diminishing. On the other hand the corners are just right. They are really blind corners where you can't see what exists beyond them. This increases the element of thrill. Well, you have to be there to see for yourself how good it is."

Premadasa who is also the president of the organisers of the hill climb Southern Motor Sports Club, further explained why it qualifies as the best Hill Climb location of the country. "The hotel situated midway there, I feel, is God given. It assures that we get just the required facilities in right proportion. For example, the toilet facilities do not exist at any other location. It would keep away the ladies and you could notice that the attendance of ladies for such events is almost zero. But here, everybody could have the required facilities. Then look at the paddock. It is just the thing we needed. It would not disturb any other thing in the area such as the traffic. This way, we did not create any difficulty for the day to day life of the people of the area." he said.

Among the top class drivers and riders who endorse Premadasa's view in tagging the Eliyakanda track as the country's best hill climb venue are, this year's champion Nishan Weerasooriya, Gamini Kavikara, Nihal Maddumarachchi, This year's Motor cycle event winner Shanka Ambrose, Dinesh Senanayake, Ajantha de Zoysa, Mahen Hurulle all whom are of the highest calibre, underlining the quality of the track.

The distinction of discovering the track goes to Preethi Palliyaguru, the secretary of the Southern Motor Sports Club and himself a renowned competition driver. Actually, it was not a discovery for him as it in fact is the neighbouring land to his house where he grew up since his childhood. "I used run about these parts when I was a kid and I knew the whole area inside out." he said.

"I first suggested to the Ruhunu Motor Sports Club, in which I was a member then, about six years ago to have a Hill climb here. They consulted a so-called expert from Colombo who said the venue was not fit to have Hill climb events. So, like the blind kicking the gem, they threw away Eliyakanda as a venue." he explained.

The birth of the highly successful Southern Motor Sports Club in fact was caused by many such attitudes of lethargy shown by the Ruhunu Motor Sports Club, the only club that was available for the racers of Matara. In February, 1997 part of the membership of Ruhunu Motor Sports Club defected and formed their own club "Southern Motor Sports Club".

Suranjith Premadasa, then the country's most renowned competition driver who hailed from Matara was invited to be the president of the club.

"I was invited, but first, I refused. All those who invited me were friends of mine from my home town. Finally they somehow persuaded me to take it up. Since then, it went from strength to strength. We are so much established today, it is even hard for many to believe that we just two years old." Premadasa described.

All three events conducted by the Club-the two hill climbs and the 800 kilometre rally, have been roaring successes, specially in the aspect of organising, because they have been receiving accolades in heaps from the participants.

At first, there have been many obstacles to clear before they conducted the initial hill climb in 1997. First, they were not allowed to have it, because some people of the area had charged that racing up the hill would cause earth-slips. After that was cleared, there was talk that the Buddhist monks of the area are against the event. Some said that the monks were prepared to lie on the track if the races were held. However, all opposition mellowed, not automatically, but because the club fought hard against all odds and never gave up. Ashhar Hameem, the secretary of the club who is a Muslim, was given an assurance in writing by the head monk of the area that they were not against the race proving the opposition by other interest parties were hollow.

Just as Matara is the most unlikely place anybody would expect to see a hillock leave alone a hill climb, nobody would expect the youngest motoring club of the country to be the best organisers of a competition. "Most of the competitors congratulated us for a job well done. In fact, many of them said the established clubs of which we don't like to mention names, should come here to Matara and learn from us how to conduct an event. I feel that is the greatest tribute anybody could pay us" a proud Premadasa said.

It was surprising to see such an organised club in the outstations, but according to Ashhar Hameem the reason is simple. "We are a closely knit unit. We don't have any differences among ourselves. First we assigned all the necessary duties to various members. Suranjith, Preethi and I would look into the overall organising. We had a check list and we made sure that everything functioned smoothly." he said.

However, he was disappointed with the lack of interest of sponsors. "We wanted to give prize money to competitors, but couldn't because we did not get the targetted sponsorship." he said.

The meet caused a heavy loss to the club coffers. But they would not mind it as profit was not their sole aim.

Another unprecedented feature of the meet was the provision of free lunch and other refreshments to the competitors. "We Southerners have a tradition of hospitality. We would treat any outsider who comes to our homes to the best of our capabilities. The least we could offer to somebody who comes to Matara is to offer him a hearty lunch and a serve of curd and treacle." described Palliyaguru.

The club obtained the support of a few institutions Dushan Enterprises, Brown and Company, Associated Motorways, Ceylon Tobacco Company, Willys Trading Company, Premadasa Printers Limited, Marble Decor, M.M. Organ-isation, State Trading Corporation, Ole Springs, DKW Industries, Wijaya Stores, Step-in, Kodi-tuwakku Tyre works and LGJ Traders being prominent among them. Dushan Enterprises were the main sponsors of the meet.

The hardworking members of the Southern Motor Sports club will move in next to host their first ever road race on March 27 and 28 at Ratnapura with the alliance of Sabaragamuwa Motor Sports Club.

Their plans stretch further beyond, towards establishing a race track of their own in the Southern town of Hambantota which would be an ideal venue for holding meets according to Premadasa. The blueprint for the project is already complete and the Club is working fast on it with the support of a few ministers.

Another exciting project for which the club has put its hand into is building a club house of their own in the Matara town. The land is already secured in a good location and the work would start in a matter of a few months. The organising skills and the good word about the class of the track spread rapidly in the motor racing circles, soon after last year's Hill climb and when this year's championship was announced, entries started pouring in from all parts of the country. One perfect example for the attraction was Nishan Weer-asooriya who produced a sublime drive on his dazzling Powerhouse "Mits-ubishi Evolution" to clock the fastest time of the day and set up a fantastic record time for the track of 35.94. It was the first time that any driver or rider had broken the 36 second barrier on the course. The earlier record stood at 36. 67 to Aravinda Prem-adasa who won the event last year on his Subaru Impreza.

Weerasooriya, one of the best drivers of the country, did not take part last year but came down to Matara to help out the Southern Motors Sports Club officials who were his friends. Having been a corner Marshall last year, Weerasooriya had the opportunity to inspect the track from top to bottom in detail and was highly impressed by the surface. He had no reservation in praising the club for having the event. He was so taken up by the track, that he entered this year as a competitor with a good knowledge of what challenges lay ahead for him. 

The sight of the brand new Evolution with a high powered 2000 cc engine was good enough to put a lump in opponents' throat and he did justice to the magnificent car with a fantastic drive in the second run, which also underlined his immense skill as a driver.

Dinesh Deheragoda also competed on a similarly impressive Evolution but it was slightly modified unlike Weerasooriya's car which had not been touched. Dehe-ragoda came second after a close fight, having led in the first round while Pradip Jayawardena was third on a Subaru Impreza. 

Unfortunately, last year's champion Aravinda Premadasa failed to live up to expectations finishing last in the second round despite being a close second to Deheragoda in the first round. 

This effectively prevented him from getting a place. Experienced Shanka Ambrose proved that he is still a force to reckon with by winning both key motorcycle events the Upto 250 cc Racing event and Over 250 cc event. Udesh Wedis-inghe finished second in both events.

Clocking a fastest timing of 38.09 seconds, Ambrose underlined his class improving the record by an astonishing margin of more than 14 seconds.New records were set up in almost all events and this year's performances has seen a remarkable improvement from last year, predicting a bright future for the Matara motor sports.

Following is a brief list of the winners of the Eliyakanda Hill climb held last Sunday.

Motor Cycles upto 125 cc : 1. S.I. Nathavitharana, 2. J.L. Kamal Duminda, 3. W.A. Ajith Perera

Motor Cycles over 125 CC, upto 350 cc : 1. Himash Pathberiya

Motor Cycles over 250 cc : 1. Shanaka Ambrose, 2. Udesh Wedisinghe

Motor Cycles Upto 250 cc racing : 1. Shanaka Ambrose, 2. Udesh Wedisinghe

Group A cars more than 14 KG/HP : 1. Mahen Hurulle, 2. Nilantha Pathirana, 3. B.A. Tennyson

Group A cars more than 12 upto 14 KG/HP : 1. Nadeera Jinasena, 2. Ashhar Hameem, 3. Andrew de Silva

Group A cars more than 10 upto 12 KG/HP : 1. Shantha Suraweera, 2. Arjun S. Abeysinghe, 3. Gamini Kavikara 

Group A cars more than 8 upto 10 KG/HP : 1. Sheran Fernando, 2. Amitha Dheerasekara, 3. Nalin Hapuarachchi

Group A cars more than 6 upto 8 KG/HP : 1. Amitha Dheerasekara, 2. Nalin D. Perera

Group M&S cars upto 1040 cc : 1. Nihal Maddumarachchi, 2. Nihal Weerasinghe, 3. Prasanna Munasinghe 

Group M&S cars over 1040 cc upto 1350 cc : 1. Dushan Dinamithra, 2. Shanthi Lal Abeyratne, 3. S.A. Duminda

Group M&S cars over 1350 cc upto 1665 cc : 1. Nihal Maddumarachchi, 2. Upul Perera

Group T & Modified cars up to 1500 cc : 1. Dinesh Senanayake, 2. Shanaka Ambrose, 3. Dushan Dinamithra 

Group T & Modified cars upto and over 2000 cc : 1. Nishan Weerasooriya, 2. Dinesh Deheragoda, 3. Pradip Jayawardena

Diesel Non Turbo cars upto 2000 cc : 1. Monty Uluwita, 2. Oscar Amerasinghe, 3. S.A. Harsha

Ladies upto 2000 cc Non turbo standard : 1. Nilmini Dheerasekara 2. Nilupama Liya-narachchi 3. Niranjala Gamage


Cricket with Ranil Abeynaike

Add muscle to club cricket

Since December the cream of Sri Lanka's cricketers have been in action, initially in the one-day club competition and now in the three-day encounters.

Could the cricket that they play be compared with the best elsewhere in the world? In every respect many miles behind Australia and South Africa's domestic competitions and certainly much behind every other International cricket playing countries possibly with the exception of Zimbabwe.

Immaterial of the other tournaments played in Sri Lanka the Club tournament is the one that has to be given most encouragement and support. It is the competition that has grown over the years and has some infrastructre to build on. Many Clubs have their own prem-ises. They have ways and means of raising funds, so very important to sustain the exsis-tence of the game.

What are the essentials? Number one - Good playing conditions. This involves a centre pitch with a minimum of eight turf pitches. An outfield of sufficient standard to work on improving fielding. Practice turf pitches, where too good batting surfaces are available on two or three evenings a week. Also adequate run ups with safe foot holds for the bowlers to operate. Now this is basic and how many clubs have got this essential part in order. Perhaps less than a handful. Number two - Machinery to maintain good playing conditions. Reasonably modern rollers, mowers and other required machinery must be available, together with the expertise to manage turf culture. Few realize it but it is good playing conditions that breed good players. It is also good playing conditions that inspire and motivate players to produce their best. This is a neglected area. These days there is a lot of cricket being played and maintenance of playing surfaces are not carried out regularly. It does not help if regular maintenance is not carried out.

Number three - knowledgeable coa-ches. All Division one clubs must have a senior coach. Not a person who strolls in late in the evening and dishes out a few orders. The coach must spend adequate time dealing with all aspects of a player's needs. Today's coach at that level must have a thorough knowledge of the game, its tactics, to plan out strategies, to develop skills and fitness, to motivate players, to build psychological strength and in general be a guiding force for the individual and the team. The modern game requires more such as Indoor practice facilities and a gym. Other hands in the form of Assistant Coaches, Physiotherapist and Doctor are required. A strong governing body bent at developing the game by acquiring sponsorships, raising funds, helps steady progress.

Cricket equipment and clothing means so much for a player. It not only gives the extra edge but also prevents injury. The cost of gear is phenomenal these days. To be perfectly well equipped is beyond the means of a number of players in the game. Once again it is their club that they can turn to and then assistance must be forthcoming.

It was a very good move for the Cricket Board to present substantial sums of money to the Clubs this season. These monies must be channelled in the right directions. Good playing conditions, a high level of coaching and top quality equipment must take priority. Should the Cricket Board continue with such assistance then they are certainly on the correct track. This will also help eliminate the current lop side-dness in the strength of clubs, with a few being very strong and the others simply making up the numbers.

Much is expected of the Sri Lankan cricketers these days. Most of those playing at the highest level are blessed with an abundance of talent. It is this talent that has helped many cricketers to blossom and bloom into world class performers. It must be remembered though, that when you reach the top every one else wants to conquer you.The national side batting it out in Australia is in that situation. There is no doubt that their current opponents England and the host nation are hell bent on knocking them off their mantle as one-day world champs. From the late nineteen seventies through the eighties the might of the West Indies went almost unchallenged. Their production line kept on releasing gifted batsmen, fast and furious pacemen, simply agile and natural craftsmen of the game. Now the plants seem to have dried up. They do not have the proper breeding grounds. Talent alone cannot be relied on forever. The sign is clear - BEWARE !!

Every International cricket playing nation is looking at the game striving to achieve success. Coaching centres and academies are springing up designed to produce as many top class cricketers. It is an absolutely competitive scene. To keep pace is absolutely essential. Club cricket has survived through this century.

It has to be raised many more rungs to give every opportunity to the island's cricketers. At the present moment they are much handicapped. They need the best facilities and conditions to compete against the best in the world. It is the need of the hour - add muscle to Club Cricket.


In brief 

Tour-de-Ratnapura

The Bristol "Tour-de-Ratnapura" cycling championships for open (men) will be held on February 14 in Ratnapura.

This race covering 150 miles will start in front of the Ratnapura Town Hall and proceed along to Pelmadulla-Kahawatta, Godakawela, Palledada-Embilipitiya and return on the same route.

Entries will close on February 12 with Anthony Symons, President Ratnapura District Cycling Association.

Under-15 Development Squad

The National Development Committee of the Board of Control for cricket in Sri Lanka has made arrangements to select an Under-15 development squad, for which trials will be held on a regional basis.

Trials took place at the Asgiriya Stadium on January 11 and 12; Dambulla region - at the Aluvihara Stadium, Matale on January 14 and 15.

Badulla region trial will take place at the Maha Vidyalaya Grounds Badulla on January 18 and 19; January 21 and 22 at the Galle Stadium; January 25 and 26 Colombo Outer-Kalutara/Ratnapura at Panadura; January 27 Gampha/Puttalam at the De Mazenod College Grounds, Kandana; January 28 and 29 Colombo at the NCC Grounds at Maitland Place.

Oshadi Weerasinghe will be in change of the U-15 National Development Squad assisted by Malcolm Perera.

India, Pakistan to play hockey series

India and Pakistan will play a series of nine hockey Tests between the two countries next month, an Indian official said.

Kunwar Pal Singh Gill, President of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) said four of the Tests would be played in the Indian cities of New Delhi, Bhopal, Hyderabad and Madras.

The Pakistani cities of Karachi, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Lahore would be the sites of the rest of the series with Lahore hosting two matches, he said.

Gill said Indian authorities would provide security to Pakistani players to prevent Hindu zealots from sabotaging any of the Test matches in India.

Hindu fanatics have threatened to disrupt an upcoming tour of India by the Pakistan cricket team.

Aussie doubtful over China's swimmers

Doubts remain that Chinese swimmers are drug free despite an apparently clean campaign at the Bangkok Asian Games, according to outspoken Australian swimming coach Don Talbot.

Talbot, one of the most vocal critics of Chinese swimmers said, "only time will tell" if China was serious about cracking down on doping in sport.

"One major event is not a true indicator," said Talbot, when asked to comment on China's performance at the Asian Games. "Only time will tell," he added.

"If they're doing something to clean up their image it's very laudable but we will have to wait and see until the World Short-Course Swimming Championships in April... that will be a better indicator of whether they are actually doing something," Talbot said.

Talbot oversaw Australia's swimmers at the Hong Kong leg of the short-course World Cup.

Chinese swimming is desperate to shake off its drug-tainted image following a number of scandals during the 1990s.

At the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games, seven Chinese swimmers failed drug tests and at the World Championships in Perth last year, swimmer Yuan Yuan was caught with vials of human growth hormone by Australian customs officials.

The scandal continued when world governing body FINA revealed four Chinese swimmers in Perth had tested positive for banned substances.

The successive scandals have led many observers, including Talbot, to accuse China of running a systematic doping programme. China has hotly denied the allegations.

Talbot said efforts by world governing body FINA to get tough on doping were paying dividends.

"They are pretty serious about cleaning up the sport. It certainly looks as if the Asian Games was clean and it's good for the sport that no scandals came out," Talbot said. - AFP

Cricket Pool

At a meeting of the National Selection Committee a squad of thirty (30) players were selected in preparation for the ICC Cricket World Cup 1999 Competition scheduled to take place in England.

The Names of the players are as follows:

Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda de Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Roshan Mahanama, Hashan Tillekaratne, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Upul Chandana, Promodaya Wickramasinghe, Suresh Perera, Nuwan Zoysa, Avishka Gunawardena, Tilan Samaraweera, Ruchira Perera, Mahela Jayawardena, Russel Arnold, Ruwan Kalpage, Mario Villavarayan, Ravindra Pushpakumara, Eric Upashantha, Chamara Soysa, Indika de Saram, Bathiya Perera, Jeewantha Kulatunga, Sajeewa de Silva, Upeka Fernando, Prasanna Jayawardena, T.M Dilshan.

The Committee will be reducing the number of players in the squad, around the end of February after having monitored the performance of each player.

Cricket's Shame

'One of the most appalling things is that it's been covered up for so long.' Riche Benaud, former Australian Captain.

'To be honest, it hasn't affected (tomorrow's) game, it's all in the past... it's nothing to do with English Cricket'. Alec Stewart, English Captain.

'We were asked by the ACB to keep the matter confidential and we decided to do so.. It would have done nothing for the image of the international game of cricket to publicize these bad happenings.'

Sir Clyde Walcott, former International Cricket Council President 'I think it has led to significant disillusionment with two Aussie icons.' Jackie Kelly, Federal Sports Minister.


Royal Preview steals the show at Lingfield

By Ismail Khan

The All-Weather at Lingfield Saturday last was fair to middling with three first favourites obliging and two second choice romping in. The only outsider that crept in between was the 12/1 Royal Nephew who ridden by the young up and coming rider Gerry Faulkner streaked away to a five length win from Compton Akka on whom J. Quinn was a little too late.

Lingfield opened out with the useful Paradise Navy hammering the first race the Fernaugh Amateur Riders Handicap over two miles where rider Arthur Bradley claiming five pounds rode a peach of a race to beat Sweet Serenata and Royal Roulette. The winner at 3/1 was good value for money as his form was good excepting the latest run prior to this where he was fifth to Pertemps Missions at Wolverhampton. Follow this Paradise for more exotic ventures.

Java shrine as expected by most punters put his hoof right in the second race and scooted away to a six length win over Banbury and Tribal Peace. The claimer Pollard ridden and P. Eccles trained winner too was good value at 3/1 and could be followed for more victories.

Erinvale showed to good purpose in the cut-up Trackside Carvery Classified Stakes over the minimum distance of five furlongs, but he had to draw out the last ounce of energy to beat Off I Say who I thought was unlucky as he got hemmed in at draw number 3. Follow the vanquished Off I Say for a consolation win at Lingfield this week.

The Londonerry Fillies' Handicap went to 12/1 shot Royal Preview from Compton Akka, set alight a little late and Bebe Cosmonaut. Our local punters had the 12/1 winner in sizable bets in Colombo betting shops. Horse to follow Compton Akka who came out of the blue very late to challenge Royal Preview.

The Lingfield Loyalty Cards Maiden Stakes over 13 furlongs went to Pul Cole's Spirit Of The Nile at 11/2 from Such Boldness. C. Rutter who rode the winner was all smiles after the win as he was languishing in the doldrums thirsting for success. Follow the winner for more laurels. 

The final race at Lingfield was won by Fields Of Omagh at 9/2 from Sammy's Shuffle and Isabella Gonzaga. Horse to follow Sammy's Shuffle who was a little unlucky being baulked of an opening at the crucial moment.

More of it in my next week's on the All-Weather. Good hunting.


Janaka: The forgotten bronze medal winner

By Annesley Ferreira and H.P.P. Perera

Poverty has no shame. It goes a long way to be recognised, especially in the field of sports if one puts Sri Lanka on the map by winning a medal be it a gold, silver or bronze at a world or Asian meet.

Very much in the news these days are the Gold medal winners: Damayanthi Darsha, Sugath Tillekaratne and the bronze by Sriyani Kulawansa. They have been showered with gifts and other incentives. Pictures are being published in the newspapers almost daily, but Lalil Jeerasinghe and W.P. Janaka who brought Sri Lanka's bronze in the Yachting event, are apparently forgotten!

It has been casually mentioned that gifts will be given to them too while duty-free racing cars are to be imported to the three athletes. Surely the streets are crowded as it is and more vehicles will add to the conjestion on the roads.

Kalutara was in the limelight with 24-year-old Walandagoda Pathirage Krisan Janaka who was Jeerasinghe's mate in winning the bronze - missing the silver by 3 points and the gold by 6 points.

Janaka who had his earlier education at the Roman Catholic School in Kalutara left school and joined the Navy as a probationary officer. He was determined to do Sri Lanka proud after he lost his father just a week before the Asian Games and promised his mother, who is a cancer patient, that he will hit a winning note. 

Janaka brought his mother home from the Cancer Hospital in Maharagma for his father's funeral and attended to all the religious rites followed with his father's almsgiving and getting his mother admitted to hospital again.

The lapse on the part of the Ministry of Sports and the government was to take into consideration that he is living with his wife and three children in a partly collapsed house in a 4 1/2 perch land as could be seen in the picture. His children's clothes are hanging on a line in the partly collapsed house.

It was in 1994 that Janaka was picked by Commander Wijewickrema who trained him in sailing and got him involved in sailing competitions with Jeerasinghe, who went places with rigorous training schedules.

Janaka's first exposure was at the World Yacht championship in 1977 in Goa, India where he finished in 16th position amongst the participants from 55 countries.

In 1998, Janaka and Lali finished in 44th place but were not disgraced among the 105 participants.

All assistance was given to Janaka towards improving his skills by Commander Nandana Thuduwewatta in allowing him to train at the Bolgoda Lake, the headquarters of the Ceylon Motor Yacht Club.


Rohana to play rugby in Sydney this year

Bernie Wijesekera reporting from Sydney

Sri Lanka's tough prop-forward Shanta Rohana, who excelled for the country, in last year's Northern Territories rugby tour here, will turn out for West Harbour Pirates in the coming season. 

This was revealed to The Sunday Times by Dilip Kumar whom I met at the SCG, while witnessing the Sri Lanka-Aussie Carlton United Series Match. Dilip, who is doing much to develop rugby in his motherland, is Lanka's rugby representative Down Under. He said his former Trinity colleague Ajit Abeyratne persuaded him to give Rohana an opportunity in Sydney. Incidentally West Harbour Pirates RFC's main sponsor is his firm Princeton Holden. 

Rohana is expected here in February 1999. He further stated that he was prepared personally to help players of the calibre of Haris Omar, etc., to improve their skills whilst playing against tough opposition, who could later continue playing and doing proud for Sri Lanka rugby. Dilip Kumar, a former Trinitian, is also giving a big hand to help build his old school's rugby ground, at Pallekelle.

The Sri Lanka cricket team consists of 17 players, with the addition of Mahela Jayawardena. How much exposure do these youngsters get on this tour is the question asked by knowledgeable critics of the game. They are just languishing and look mere spectators.

Are they on a paid holiday is the question asked by discard Lankan supporters living here.

It should have been better to have got them involved in district cricket, like what the English hierarchy did for some of their players who were drafted in after the Ashes Series to keep them occupied (It's not happening now).

Mark Waugh whom I met in Sydney in the 1995-96 controversial Sri Lanka tour had this to say: ''We play hard on the field. But it's all forgotten after the match over a sip of beer. Your guys are very nice chaps, but festering too much on what happens on the field. They are wonderful players.''

Well, times have changed, the past is forgotten, it's only a memory and history we hope, will not be repeated on this tour. Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, who is leading from the front is maintaining a high standard of sportsmanship on and off the field, under the guidance of Fernando and amiable Roy Dias. The outcome is secondary.

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