19th March 2000

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Whatmore makes terrific impact

"Matara mauler" leads Sri Lanka to Test Glory

By Jatila Karawita

Sri Lanka's national cricketers led by the genial and unassuming southpaw the 'Matara Mauler' Sanath Jayasuriya have taken the name of the 'Pearl Island' to the pinnacle of Test cricket, with their emphatic 2-0 Test Series win over Pakistan recently.

Sri Lanka's astounding Test series victory, which was also their second series win over Pakistan in Pakistan soil, has seen them move to the third slot in the Internationally famous 'Wisden World Championship' rankings, since making their debut in the longer version of the game way back in 1982.

Sanath Jayasuriya's men who have been on song, since dumping the so-called all conquering and Unofficial Test World Champions, Steve Waugh's Australians,1-0 in a three Test home series last year, repeated the dose during a three Test tour of Zimbabwe winning by a similar margin, before prevailing over the much fancied Pakistan in the on-going series.

Thus Jayasuriya's side have registered three successive Test series wins over Australia, Zimbabwe and Pakistan, and were pretty much on the threshold of creating cricketing history heading into the third and final Test against Pakistan in Karachchi on last Sunday.

A victory for the tourists in the Karachchi Test would make Sri Lanka the first team in Test history to have inflicted a crushing 3-0 clean sweep to Pakistan in their own back yard, a feat which will be unparalleled in the annals of World cricket, considering the force that Pakistan has been in International cricket over the years.

Taking a look at Sri Lanka's performances even in the shorter version of the game, one could clearly see that they have risen phoenix like from the ashes of the World Cup 99 to become a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Their triumph in the Aiwa Cup triangular series last year, where they brought down to earth with a thud the might of the reigning World Champions Australia,was followed by a 4-1 series win in the limited overs series with Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe.

The recent 3-0 clean sweep over the Pakistanis in the three match limited overs series, which preceded the Test series could be termed as the Icing on the cake for the 'Islanders' though the only reversal they experienced during this unprecedented winning streak being in the Sharjah Cup tri-series where they lost to Pakistan in the final having ousted the West Indies in the preliminary stage last October.

Sri Lanka's cricket which plunged to such abysmal depths, following a traumatic Performance in the 99 World Cup, where they failed to defend the One Day Crown being knocked-out in the preliminary stage, have turned around their fortunes in rather remarkable and extra-ordinary style with trail-blazing success rate, which has been pretty unique in the country's cricketing history.

This has also been possible largely due to the re-calling of Sri Lankan born former Australian cricketer Dave Whatmore as coach for his second stint with the national team.

Whatmore who guided Sri Lanka to her finest moment in their cricketing history, the World Cup in 96, has virtually turned Sri Lanka cricket on its head as it were, presiding over an incredible success rate which this country has never experienced before.

Also a bouquet should be showered to the selection committee headed by chairman former Test opener Sidath Wettamuny,whose policy to blend youth with experience has paid rich dividends as the performances of the national team would suggest in both forms of the game.

It must also be noted here that Sri Lanka's epoch-making series win in Pakistan has also seen to it that they emerge as the giants of Asian cricket as the fortunes of their two sub-continent neighbours India and Pakistan have continued to plummet in the wake of recent drubbings suffered by them against Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa.

As things stand at present Sanath Jayasuriya's high riding cricketers who are currently on a crest of a wave of success, due to their superb team spirit, discipline, dedication,and determination, to succeed could be classified as a team which is second to none in World Cricket, and if this winning sequence continues for at least another six months more, it won't be long before the boys from the 'Pearl Island' emerge as the best cricketing outfit on the planet.

Fourteen new records on day one

By Leonard Ratnayake

The records went tumbling on the first day of the Ninth National Sports Festival for the Disabled penultimate Track & Field event being held at the Sports Ministry Grounds, Reid Avenue. The first day of the two -day meet saw 14 new records in just 22 final events in the programme. Most of the records came in the male category with 12 records while the females had two new records.

Finals of 37 more events are scheduled to be held from this morning at the same venue. The chief guest for tomorrow's event will be minister of sports S. B. Dissanayake.

Over 626 disabled athletes from 33 teams are competing at the meet despite their physical disablity but with a great deal of enthusiasm and motivation. The competitors were classified according to their disability and then were included in the events.

Coming into the penultimate event of the programme Sri Lanka Light Infantry was leading the points table having won most of the previous events held so far. They have accumulated 195 points having performed extremely well in Swimming, Wheelchair Tennis and Archery. Commando Regiment also of Sri Lanka Army are in second place with 143 points while Gajaba Regiment has gained third place with 76 points. Sri Lanka Singha Regiment with 63 points and Vijabahu Infantry Regiment with 59 are in close contention having booked fourth and fifth places respectively.

100 M (Male) Class 05

1. Udaya Kumara - Sri Lanka Light Infantry - 12.2 Sec.

Long Jump (Male) Class 04

1. MM Pushpakumara - Vijayaba Infantry Regiment - 5.36 Metres

Discus Throw (Male) Class 05

1. BPS De Silva - Commando Regiment - 40.06 Metres

High Jump (Male) Class 05

1. RMS Shantha - SL Light Infantry - 1.56 Metres

400 M (Male) Class 04

1. SARD Rupasinghe SL Light Infantry - 1:03:07 Sec.

Discus Throw (Female) Class 08

1. TG Renuka Kumari - Deaf/Blind School, Anuradhapura - 8.91 M

Discus Throw (Male) Class 12

1. KD Samaratunge - Gajaba Regiment - 34.65 M

200 M (Male) Class 02

1. WM Jayatillake Banda - Ranaviru Sevana, Ragama - 51.9 Sec.

Long Jump (Male) Class 07

1. KHN Priyadarshana - Commando Regiment - 6.12 Metres

100 M (Male) Class 02

1. VG Nishantha - SL Light Infantry - 24.2 Sec.

Shot Putt (Male) Class 05

1. RMU Ratnayake - Commando Regiment -10.78 Metres

100 Metre (Female) Class 10

1. AVA Menik Chandrika - Blind School, Ratmalana 17.1 Sec.

Shot Putt (Male) Class 07

1. RM Wijeyaratne - Commando Regiment - 9.39 Metres

100 M (Male) Class 03

1. NSM Nishantha - Singha Regiment - 19.5 Sec.

More international games for ruggerites

By Leonard Ratnayake

In 1974 the Sri Lanka rugby team bagged the second place at the Rugby Asiad held in Sri Lanka with the team led by Indrajit Coomaraswamy losing to Japan in the final played at Longden Place. That was the closest Sri Lanka ever came to winning a title in rugby.

Then Hafi Abdeen's sevens team came up with a sterling performance to annexe the Bowl at the Hong Kong Sevens a few years later.

Other than these two wins, the rest of the victories fade into oblivion but yet in our hearts beats the hope that at least Sri Lanka will be able to be third in Asia amongst the current competitions and in the long run be selected as one of the teams to take part in the World Cup from the Asian region. Japan with all their rugby know-how and with Shiggy Kono to back them has never advanced further than the first round in World Cup. It is only a dream if Sri Lanka can do better than the Japanese in the world scene.

The same old faces have come to govern Sri Lankan rugby for yet another year,yet they are bristling with ideas to put Sri Lanka on the world map.

Their hopes and goals are high but ultimately everything will depend on the performances players who will ultimately don the Sri Lanka jersey.

In their bid to become third best team in Asia, the Lankans have to prove their superiority to Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Chinese Taipei, while trying to pose challenges to Japan and Korea who rank high in the region. Having already maintained a good record against Thailand and Malaysia, the team is confident of beating Singapore and Chinese Taipei.

The officials are also looking forward to stage the Junior Asiad this year in Sri Lanka in order to popularise the game among the masses and to get more youngsters into the game. The Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union plans to give the team a lot of international exposure."It's hard on finances and I want to say No. But this is the only way to improve," said Anton Benedict, President of the SLRFU and former Havelocks, Police and Sri Lanka No 8.

Benedict said the development project in the country will be helped through a Rugby Foundation which was a proposal by former president Gamini Fernando in 1997. He said he had also got a proposal from the Western Province Mercantile Rugby Association to form a Rugby Company. He said besides any proposals the players who sacrifice their time for rugby should be recognised and should give them incentives. " We have to get professionals. No more amateurs. If we have to be successful in the world scene, we have to have full-time players. I'll go one step further and say have a Rugby Academy, where skillful players will get the chance to harness their talents. Get them involved in the game. Make them full-time instructors. That of course is the next step," said Benedict.

When asked how they will set about to do this, he said: "The prevailing regulations regarding alcohol advertisements in the country has barred us from taking a 7.5 million rupees annual sponsorship this year and instead the Government Treasury has passed 4 million rupees. Meanwhile the International Rugby Board who has seen an improvement in the game here, has promised a sum of 40,000 Sterling Pounds. We look forward to collect at least six million from the new sponsors coming into the game. This will be a buffer for the developement programme".

Meanwhile contributing to the development programme of Sri Lankan rugby, Dr. Maiya Gunasekera, a former president of the SLRFU, during whose tenure the image of local rugby started to soar said he believed in improving the performances and the experience in the national team rather than trying to spread the game throughout the country.

He says that at present the country possesses a good national rugby team with a competitive second string, and it is time to push them to a winning combination and the idea of being a winning sport would be an incentive for others to get involved in the game.

"The exposure for local ruggerites in the international scene would certainly be the key point in the developement programme for the national team," Dr. Gunasekera said. He added that things have changed from the past and currently the national ruggerites are more exposed to the international scene. "I think there is a tremendous improvement. Five years ago, we had only a single Sevens tournament annually and a 15-a-side tournament once in two years " said Dr. Gunasekera.

But recently a controversy has emerged regarding foreign tours, following the allegations that it is nothing but a waste of money and it would have been better spent for the development of the game within country.

But a look-back at the last five years of international rugby tournaments, in which Sri Lanka participated there had been a gradual improvement and the country is now almost in fourth position in Asia."s

"If that is not an improvement, I do not know what to say. I think some people are talking through their hats and of course you must realise that there are some people who do not like these boys to go abroad and they are telling the union not to waste money.

"Don't say that the boys are going out too much.They have to go abroad and I would like to see them going more often," said Dr. Gunasekera

Stressing on the need to have more international exposure he said: "You must send them abroad. During my time the team with present president Anton Benedict, we had only two international matches for six years."

Last year two local ruggerites - Nalaka Weerakkody and Sajith Mallikarachchi - were contracted to play in a French league club Toulousse, which opened up a new chapter in Sri Lankan rugby.

Tee talk with Tita Nathanielsz

They leave the golf scene

Chris and Valery Yewdall were here over the weekend and we met up with them for a meal and a happy evening at the newly furbished Cricket Club Cafe. Chris packed and left temporarily a few years ago and just recently decided to seek greener pastures in new territory permanently. Sorabaya in Indonesia has been his choice and he is located on the outer fringe of a posh golf club which provides all the opportunities he desires. "I miss the Royal Colombo and the N'Eliya Courses and quite naturally the excellent company and fellowship I enjoyed", says Yewdall coaxing a glass of Red Wine. Valery, his wife, misses her golf too but most of all "I miss my bridge sessions with the closely knitted friends whose company I always enjoyed", she says. They were both looking well and spritely.

Yewdall was a strong competitive golfer playing off 12. He raked in much over the weekends in his regular 4 ball encounters with Robert McCarter, Ray Lapsley and myself. Invariably I was his partner and I certainly benefited from his sharp skills. Yewdall stood tall and had a massive drive with a built in slice and on the greens he was a soft coaxer whose putts were positive. Chris and Valery promise to be regular visitors in the future.

The other to pack up his troubles and move away to the land of the Viennese waltz is Ewald Pretner. After almost 20 years the call came to return to base. He with his pretty wife Margaret left the scene to settle in Austria. Pretner was an excellent golfer and at handicap 9 he was always a tough customer. He won many competitions at the Ridgeways and always participated in a great spirit of friendliness at the 19th hole. Margaret and Ewald had a wide circle of friends in the golfing circle who will miss them immensely.

F H Gunasekera belonged to the 'stocklot'. An absolute regular, stalawrt at the 19th and no Sunday 4 ball was complete without the pleasant man's presence. For years he was flirting with the idea of shifting or moving out and eventually the tough decision was taken to seek pastures in U.S.A. Happily established he has picked up the threads of success and is now sending invitations to visit him and partake of his bed of roses.

And finally we say farewell in an entirely different style to Darrell Markus, a tremendous personality studded with charm and good humour. He will never return to the scene and may his soul rest in peace always.

Rover Pinpoints…

Behaving like thugs?

Nominations for the Amateur Atheltic Association's Annual General Meeting closed last week amidst confusion. It had never happened before, all are to be elected uncontested.

Rover learns this was done to those seeking to file their nominations who were threatened not to do so by powerful figures with political backing.

Rover also learns that the six vice-Presidents to be elected were their choices dropping out three from Trincomalee, Kegalle and Vavuniya. What a shame.

Not done

Journalists seeking to cover events abroad should be in the good books of the Minister of Sports and his golayas. The qualification is: Do not write anything against them.

Nowhere in the world does the Sports Ministry interfere in the selections of journalists nominated by their respective publications to cover these events.

Double standards?

A cricketer who has represented the country for 16 years and an administrator for 17 years has been treated shabbily. Others with less experience have been rewared with cash. Not done sir!

Rugby referee faints

A well known rugby referee is reported to have fainted while doing a beep test conducted by the Sri Lanka Rugby Referees Association last week.

It is interesting to see whether the referees' Association will consider him for any of their assignments this season.

It is reported that another senior referee who was nominated by the SLRRS to the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union had also failed the test.

Will the SLRRS be bold enough to stop giving assignments to these two referees?

Protest meeting

Rover learns that a protest meeting has been fixed for (today) Sunday, March 19, near the Cricket Board Headquarters at Maitland Place. This protest is to be made by the affiliates who will sign a petition addressed to the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports calling that the AGM of the Cricket Board should be held. Who could be behind this issue? Your guess is as good as mine!

Bad form?

The rugby referees' association has nominated two committee members to tour Australia.

Junior referee

How come the junior referee nominated is from the 'A' division panel. Have you got to be in the committee to be sent on Tours and is that why the three top referees are being kept out as much as possible?

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