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Dr. Maiya Gunasekara confident

Dr. Maiya Gunesekara
and Asanga Seneviratne

 SLRFU AGM in early June

By Lal Gunesekera

The annual general meeting of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) will be held early June after the ratification of the constitutional amendments are taken up officially on May 6.

The SLRFU was dissolved on January 22 by the Minister of Sports and Public Recreation, Gamini Lokuge, who appointed Dr. Maiya Gunesekara as Chairman of the Interim Committee for the SLRFU, and Kiran Atapattu as Secretary cum Treasurer. The AGM was earlier scheduled for February 21.

"When everything is in order according to Sports Law I will call for the AGM," said Atapattu.

Dr. Gunasekara told The Sunday Leader that at a constitutional amendments meeting, the proposed voting system was "not challenged" but questions were raised regarding elected members to the council. We also proposed that the quorum be raised from seven to nine members, administrative committee to seven and employ a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) instead of an Executive Director.

He also said that the Attorney-General Mohan Pieris, too will be consulted on the amendments and hopefully obtain the 4/5 majority needed for it too. He said: "We will get everything sorted out and Asanga Seneviratne, who was the Deputy President when the SLRFU was dissolved in January, can take over as President."

Dr. Gunasekera also told The Sunday Leader that former Executive Director of the SLRFU, Dilroy Fernando, has been appointed in a honourary capacity as manager in charge of development and liaise with the International Rugby Board (IRB) regarding the IRB funds for development purposes that is given to the SLRFU annually. He said: "Fernando is the ideal person for this task and will have to monitor the development work carried out by the development officers, who earn about Rs. 5 million a year." We are calling it the "awareness programme" and their plan will be sent to the IRB too.

Fernando is  at present the Director of Sports at CR & FC and also heads the Sri Lanka Rugby Referees Association (SLRRA)

Dr. Gunesekara further said that IRB's Gerrad Gallagher, had met Lasitha Gunaratne (CEO of SLRFU, IC) during the Five Nations Tournament in Dubai recently, and had told Gunaratne that the IRB will release about $35,000 which according to Dr. Gunasekara will be deposited in a separate account in the bank. The SLRFU normally receives a grant of about $ 70,000 for its development work. The Development Officers will be paid when these monies come in.

Disciplinary action? 

Gunaratne, who went as manager to Dubai was to submit his report to Minister Lokuge last Friday (April 17) and according to Dr. Gunesekara, the Minister will be enlightened on the circumstances that led to 18 players "pulling out" from the Sri Lanka side.

"Minister Lokuge will then have to decide on what action he is to take against these players concerned and arrive at a decision after an impartial inquiry. It's entirely up to him" said Dr. Gunesekara.

A similar incident occurred for the tour of Chinese Taipei last November with the Minister warning the players concerned.

For the tour of Dubai for the Five  Nations Tournament, 24 players made themselves "unavailable" at first citing numerous reasons and Lasitha Gunasekara, CEO of the SLRFU IC, recommended necessary action to be taken against these players. This was on March 13. However, with the 24 players withdrawing from the national team at the last moment, six players from CR &  FC, who made themselves " unavailable" earlier, suddenly made themselves "available" and were picked for the Dubai tour!

Will this end in a legal battle at Hulftsdorp if discliplinary action is taken against the players by Minister Lokuge?

Planning an innings

The coaching programme is coming on nicely and the Aravinda de Silva Cricket Foundation together with Coca Cola International is proud of the talent that has been identified at present. Some of these lads are going to be top of the rung cricketers in the future if they stick with the game.

Let us discuss another vital aspect of batting. Most youngsters do not pay much attention to planning an innings when they go out into the middle. In fact the planning of an innings takes place prior to walking out to take guard. If you are an opening batsman you are first up against the new ball and only your past experience of a particular attack will help you with what to expect. But most school boy cricketers will come up against an unfamiliar attack when opening. So, take a good look at what each bowler dishes out. Don't be in a hurry to make a firm assessment in the first couple of overs.

The bowlers are also trying to settle down to a line and length. Do not make up your mind that the bowler would continue to pitch up, bowl short or give you width to free your arms constantly. Do score when the opportunity presents but never go chasing the ball early into the innings.

Let's look at what is required to build an innings. I prepare in multiples of ten runs at the beginning. So, it's ten runs on the board and then I take guard again and concentrate afresh for the next ten. Do gauge the pace of the wicket carefully. The pace from one end could differ, to the other. These are called two paced wickets. Some bowlers gain more pace/or less from the wicket. There are varying reasons for this but for today lets watch out how the ball behaves off each bowler. Your stroke making must be languid and easy for you to have settled well into an innings.

If yet, you have not reached that stage, keep concentrating and play as close to the body as possible. This could well be into your thirties but do not lose heart. It's the runs on the board that matters. When at the non strikers end take another angle of the bowling to your head. You can get a good look at what the bowler is doing. Once you reach thirty it would be sacrilegious to throw your wicket. All the hard work is done and you would be placing your team at a disadvantage.

You have to now look at a half century. Once you get to that milestone it is the beginning of another innings to get to the next ten. Remember you are at an advantage to that of the next batsman in, as the settling in has already been done and perhaps even seen all the bowlers of the opposing team. Remember what I said earlier in the article? You may have seen one bowler from a particular end but once he switches onto the other he maybe like a different one due to the varying pace off the wicket or the spin from that end. Treat him as a new bowler till you are comfortable again.

Never feel that you have made enough. It's a great mental high to be thirsty for runs. Just keep telling yourself that you are never going to throw your wicket away. Talk to your batting partner and discuss partnerships. Discuss the next ten runs. Plan what would be a reasonable target be for your teams bowlers to get the opponents out. Get that score on the board. Enjoy your batting. Practice at the nets as if you would be batting at the centre. More next week.

Over the moon and back into the old hole?

HISTORIANS' recording of Sri Lanka's 2009 Asian Nations campaign, last week, won't say the full story. Their consignment to posterity will state we won over Thailand but were overcome by Chinese-Taipei, a record sheet that's only marginally better than that of last year: Then, too, defeat was conceded to Chinese-Taipei, but a draw was forced on the eventual champions Singapore.

Our aspirations of promotion to Asia's premier division, so, again went unrealised, and a future generation reading the 2009 failure is likely to skim over the story in the belief that our performance had been ordinary. That belief, though, can't be more mistaken. The achievements in Dubai were by a team hurriedly cobbled together some three-four days before the tour - after, as you know, 17 players from the original squad of 24 pulled-out in protest of the Sport Ministry's appointment of Pavithra Fernando as captain over Dilanka Wijesekera, the national selectors' choice.

Second stringers

The records won't say that it was Sri Lanka's second stringers that did duty in 2009 - a concealment that distorts the magnitude of our achievement. Consider, the replacements-filled squad flew out to battle ill-prepared to say the least. Other nations' commit themselves to months-long preparation for what is Asia's singly most important tournament, deciding as it does the Asian rankings for the year.

 With just a sketchy preparation, fears were real that we might tumble to be among the minnows in 2010. Defeated first up by Chinese Taipei, 24/36, we were halfway to joining the likes of India, Pakistan and Indonesia. At the short-break of the next game, v. Thailand, ahead by just six points, the journey to minnow-land wasn't quite averted yet.

But the second half was transformed to a thrilling trip to the moon, as all accounts speak of a marvelous burst of rugby quite out of this world - and by our second string. For the record, our B team ran out 51/17 winners, scoring six goals and three penalties along the way. It is by far our biggest win over the Thais, if not over any team in the 50-year history of the Asian tournament. But as being our finest moment in Asian rugby, well, it will be hard-pressed to outdo the glorious 9/6 win by Priyantha Ekanayake's 1990 team over Chinese-Taipei, then Asia's third-best. 

Special place

But a special place will no doubt be found in our collective memory for Fernando's team - for more reasons than one. Firstly, they made true of that battlefield fable about converting adversity to triumph, and swelled us with pride. We had all expected demotion, but Fernando's fighters secured our berth in Asia's second-tier with a daring deserving of a place in our rugby folklore. And overall, they not only gave us a head-spinning surprise but also restored faith in our rugby. Not surprisingly, a theory that's increasingly gaining currency is that, had we been at full-strength, or the team on tour been better prepared, we would've overcome Chinese-Taipei too and achieved promotion to Asia's top division.

Such surmising is justifiable, but given this over-the-moon feeling in the wake of the triumph over Thailand, it is easy to be carried away by emotions, and so over-exaggerate the achievement, which in turn tempts the painting of too rosy a picture of our rugby future. So, caution is advised when conclusions are made on the 2009 Asian Nations campaign, albeit the extraordinary performance.

Let's step down from our world of euphoria and study under a different light the deeds in Dubai. The overcoming of the Thais isn't exactly the slaying of Goliath by David. In fact, Thailand was the qualifier from among the minnows last year. As well, we've thrashed them so often in the past that the outcome of any meetings with them is as given as, say, champions Kandy SC's meetings with, the Navy or Air Force, long in rivalry for the wooden spoon. A routing of the Thais by our second XV, of course, is a historic feat, and deserves the praise showered on it.

There's some talk circulating that the Thais too weren't at full-strength. But our rugby community is so fractious that it might well be a mischievous attempt by rivals to undermine the deed and the present government-appointed Interim Committee (never a popular form of administration anyway) under whose stewardship it was achieved. It is a fact, though, that the backbone of Thai rugby is the country's defense service personnel. And because of the exigent nature of their duties, it is not always their soldiers, sailors and policemen are available for national rugby duty. That is by the bye; the Thais were presented as their national team, same as our second XV was masqueraded as our first team -period. 

History reminds us the theory about Chinese-Taipei too being defeated had  our best outfit been on duty in Dubai, is a tad too presumptuous. In 2008, Chinese-Taipei overcame a full-strength Sri Lankan national team by the same 12-point margin it defeated our second stringers, 35/23 and 36/24 respectively. That our full-strength team would've won this time, so, is not so much a fact-based assumption as it is a hope.

Depth of talent

Be that as it may, what last week said with certainty was the tremendous depth of talent in our rugby. It conveys a message that our talent resources are so rich that we can present a second XV that can pretty much hold its own against the second-tier nations in Asia - and by extension, have the potential to oust Kazakhstan/ or Singapore and join Asia's big three: Japan, Korea and Hong Kong.

So, the question begs why have we been loitering for two years in the middle regions of the division lower than where we ought to be residing? The answer has nothing to do with a lack of talent, as Dubai showed. Rather, in the board room.  It is not a coincidence that the touring squads to the Asian Nations of the last two years were both born from nasty controversies over captaincy. The respective administrations, rather than douse the selection controversies, only fuelled the fires.

Son as captain

Where the last SLRFU President wouldn't settle for anything less than the appointment of his son as captain, the present chief was, in must be said, helpless to resist the Sport Minister Lokuge's preferred choice, Fernando, as opposed to opposing the minister, and supporting instead the selectors' nominee, which might've been the ethical thing to do. Of course, Dr Maiya Gunasekera's critics will accuse him of pandering to the minister's whims at the expense of dispensing with long-established practices. But it has to be remembered that Dr Gunasekera is the minister's appointee, and that has a lot implications, obedience not exempted. It isn't a perfect world we live in - which is why, when we ought to be celebrating the success of our second stringers, old wounds is being reopened.

The captaincy controversy is anything but a closed chapter - apparently. For, there's now talk about intentions by the Sport Ministry to impose a ban on the 17 players who withdrew over Fernando's appointment as captain. It is premature yet to debate on the spoken threat of a ban, but should threat translate to fact, the consequences can be grave. You don't have to be Nostrodamus to foretell that rugby would be headed to the court house should the ban be imposed.

And then, while they engage in verbal dummying and side-stepping until judgement day, the playing fields will lie desolate and barren, players will fatten and soften- and the promise inspired by the Dubai deeds will have been but only a desert mirage.

Sanga pads up to take Sri Lanka into a new era

By Lal Gunasekera

Sri Lanka's newly appointed captain Kumar Sangakkara is set to take the country into a new era with his dynamic and astute leadership in all forms of the game.  

The stylish left hand wicket keeper batsman was always the front runner to succeed Mahela Jayawardena who stepped down as skipper after the recent two Test series against Pakistan.

Sangakkara who has played a total of 80 Test matches and 246 one day internationals broke into the limelight at the age of 22 and since then he has been a regular member of the Sri Lanka test and one day teams.

He has scored a total of 6764 Test runs with a best effort of 287 runs and at an average of 54.99. He has also notched up 18 centuries and 30 half centuries. In the shorter version of the game he has accumulated a total of 7408 runs at an average of 36.31 inclusive of ten hundreds and 48 fifties.

Within a short period of time Kumar Sangakkara broke into the limelight and soon became one of Sri Lanka's most influential players in addition of being a highly talented left handed batsman and a clever wicket keeper.

His arrival into the international scene of course was somewhat unexpected considering the fact that his domestic performances were relatively modest.

However Sangakkara immediately justified the national selectors by making a significant impact as a wicket keeper batsman in his very first tournament the Singer Series in 2000 against South Africa and Pakistan.

Sangakkara was able to make steady progress as a quality wicket keeper during the early days after taking over the duties from Romesh Kaluwitharana and more importantly showed class in his batting through some fantastic contributions.

His approach to the game is naturally aggressive and his ability to study the opposition quickly and to exploit the weaknesses is another hallmark.

Sangakkara's arrival into the scene also helped the country to solve the long term search for a solid number three batsman to fill the void that left since the retirement of Asanka Gurusinha.

Sangakkara was relieved from the exhausting dual responsibility of batting at number three and keeping wickets soon after the 2003 World Cup. This move certainly helped Sangakkara to concentrate more on his batting but was handed back the wicket keeping duties during Australia's tour in 2003-04.

Sangakkara's strength in batting has always been that he works hard at practice. Under Tom Moody and Trevor Penney, and with John Dyson and Shane Duff before them he has managed to get a good understanding of what his strengths are, and how he could get better.

He has been able to speak to several individuals on how to build an innings with the assistance of a psychologist, Sandy Gordon, and occasionally to a few insights here and there who could understand what they can get better at.

Sangakkara a charismatic personality and an astute thinker who is training to be a lawyer between tours was rewarded for his consistent performances with a place in the International Cricket Council World XI for the Super Series one day matches in October 2005.

Sangakkara put on a record 624 runs for the third wicket along with his captain Mahela Jayawardena in a test match against South Africa at the SSC grounds in Maitland Place in July 2006.

He followed up that with back to back centuries in New Zealand and unbeaten double centuries against Bangladesh and a magnificent 192 against Australia. He also played a major role in helping Sri Lanka to win the Asia Cup by scoring three centuries in Pakistan last year.

Sangakkara displayed his calmness with an outstanding innings under tremendous pressure where he scored 59 off 133 balls in the recent Tri Series final against Bangladesh that help Sri Lanka to recover from wicket for 5 runs.

Kumar Sangakkara is a complete all rounder not only because he is Sri Lanka's stylish number three batsman and a talented wicket keeper. But he is also a key strategist and a is fast becoming the public face of the national team.

Sangakkara's leadership qualities are so strong that his destiny appears very clear and is certain to carry the Sri Lankan team that could expected to be shrewd and fearless under his leadership.

Sangakkara was able to learn and mature as a good team player while performing alongside two former captains Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardena.

Now there is a great amount of responsibility on his shoulders in both one day internationals and Test matches as a captain who could steal the initiative away from opposition bowlers with his clever tactics.

Consistency has been one of his aims when he first started playing cricket at Trinity College, Kandy and has always tried to somehow make a crucial contribution with the bat. But Sangakkara's determination to be consistent has not really curbed his natural inclination to attack.

Sangakkara's strong individualism is also displayed in his approach to endorsements. Unlike many cricketers he's uncomfortable with his image being plastered upon billboards to promote a never ending list of consumer goods.

This certainly emphasises the qualities that set Sangakkara apart, as a man and a cricketer. Sri Lanka are fortunate to have discovered a true all rounder.

Cricket test for 2010 World Cup

South Africa will use the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament as a dry run to test security ahead of next year's World Cup finals.

The five-week IPL got underway in Cape Town on Saturday.

Shortly after the IPL ends on  May 24, South Africa will also host football's Confederations Cup in June.

"We are ready for both the IPL and the Confederations Cup," said Susan Shabangu, Deputy Minister of Safety and Security.

"In fact, we see the IPL and the Confederations Cup as part of our dry run in preparation for the 2010 World Cup.

"If you talk about a dry run, that's where you want to flex your muscles and see to what extent you are ready for the big event."

The IPL competition was relocated to South Africa after the terror attacks on Sri Lanka's cricketers in Pakistan in March.

The country will host the likes of Brazil, Spain and Italy in the Confederations Cup soon after the cricket tournament.

Yet Mrs. Shabangu is already confident the first African nation to host a World Cup finals will manage it without problems, despite the country's reputation for violent crime.

Fifa calls for 2010 promotion

World football's governing body FIFA has called on South Africa to do more to promote this year's Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup.

"I have not seen a single promotion for the Confederations Cup and also not a single one for the World Cup," FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke told a news conference in Johannesburg.

"It is impossible to bring people to the stadium if we do not promote the Confederations Cup."

The eight-team tournament, featuring the likes of Brazil, Spain and world champions Italy and which is seen as a dry run for the World Cup, takes place between  June 14 to 28.

Yet with just three months to go, Danny Jordaan, the chief executive officer of the World Cup Organising Committee, criticised what he saw as a lack of enthusiasm in the country.

"There is only one country that will host this World Cup and that is South Africa. Yet you find countries like Canada, Australia are more enthusiastic it seems than our own South African population," he said.

"The same situation applies for the Confederations Cup."

Although 646,000 tickets are available for the tournament, which will be staged in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Rustenburg, only 170,000 have been sold so far.

"The Confederations Cup is an important appetiser for the World Cup, but the rate at which South Africans are buying tickets is very slow," said Irvin Khoza, chairman of the local organising committee.

"South Africans must ensure that they fill the stadium so that they are given a test before the World Cup."

South Africa's government hopes the World Cup, the first to be held in Africa, will bring in millions of dollars and give the country a higher profile.

The readiness of the stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup has come under scrutiny but FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in December there was "no plan B".

Mental focus is key in sports excellence

By Indu Bandara

We have all heard the expressions, 'mind over matter' and 'it's all in the mind' when it comes to achieving success in any area of our lives.

But this applies more specifically to sports when one thinks that his or her physical abilities can keep them from achieving success on the basketball court, the rugby field or the cricket pitch. It is even more crucial for individual sports where a level of concentration and anticipation is needed, in such sports as golf, tennis and martial arts.

If the brain is trained to absorb more information and learn more easily, then the body will follow suit and become capable of being stronger and faster, as well as being able to pick up the details of techniques required to excel in the respective sport.

Research has shown that we normally use less than one per cent of our mind's vast abilities, and it is said that Albert Einstein used only 10 per cent of his brain capacity! However, through the use of various mental training techniques, we can tap into this enormous 'sleeping giant' residing inside all of us. Experts say that transformation must always occur on the inner level before any results will ever appear on the outer level; and this is essential to ensure that the benefits remain permanent.

This is where the revolutionary technique of Midbrain Activation comes in. While it is a new concept in most parts of the world, the training program is quickly gaining popularity in schools and educational centers around East and South East Asia.

The science behind this concept of Midbrain Activation is the technique of optimizing the function of our middle brain, which is the 'bridge' between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Having this 'bridge' activated allows for the retrieval of information between the left and the right brain, which leads to more efficiency in learning and absorbing information.

It also brings out and strengthens characteristics such as creativity, memory, application skills, self-confidence, and the ability to concentrate. These characteristics are especially important in the field of sports and other recreational activities, where concentration and anticipation are key factors in attaining positive and superior results.

Many of us have heard that we are either left-brained or right-brained and have capabilities and qualities that define how we learn and gain knowledge. Therefore, Midbrain Activation allows the brain to function as a whole, rather than only utilizing one part of the brain. The ideal candidates for this training program are children between the ages of 6 and 12 years. The technique is more successful in young children because their brains are more easily trained and can adapt to new ways of learning.

So, as young children show an interest in certain sports, they can receive the training to excel and perform at a higher level. This training will not only help in sports, but will also give the child an advantage in their academic abilities and allow them to perform better in school and attain better results in exams. By gaining this training at an early age, the child will benefit later in life, as well. Their brain will already be trained to absorb more knowledge and skills, so they can continue to learn more and perform at a higher level in their careers and professions, whether in sports, arts or academics.

Midbrain Activation training holds lifelong benefits. The child will continue to process knowledge and skills by using their entire brain, leading to more success during their present circumstances and well into their futures, as well. It will basically become a way of life; one which will aid their development and give them the edge to stay above the competition in this ever-changing and uncertain world.

Midbrain Activation is a new concept in Sri Lanka, but parents, educators, coaches, and trainers will soon have the opportunity to take advantage of training sessions which will commence in April and be conducted in Colombo by the Midbrain Activation expert, Mr. David Ting.

For more information on Midbrain Activation and its presence in Sri Lanka, please visit

What is happening to school rugby?

By Hafiz Marikar

What is going to happen to the much awaited inter school rugby championship? St. Anthony's College has gone to courts, and the Schools Rugby Body has filed answer and the decision will be given on the 20th. So, the school season is in the balance. What a waste of time and money the schools could have spent on the sport.

If the schools tournament does not get the green light the traditional games of schools should be played. At the Isipathana College Present and Old Boys game I met Former CH & FC, Sri Lanka Police and Sri Lanka Youth Coach K.D. Iftikar at Havelock Park. Speaking to me about schools rugger he said, "Where have we gone wrong? Nobody wants to sit and discuss why is it? No doubt we all know why a sportsman is considered when there is a vacancy in any organisation, the reason being he wouldn't hesitate to make a decision,  when his superiors are not available to advice him. The track record has shown out of 10 decisions,  8 have been correct; however it's a sorry state of affairs today. It will take a  minimum of 5 to 7 years after school to achieve this."

The pattern of play, the game plan and  the most importantly the discipline, all have to be taught, which will help them not to overlook the code of conduct.

We must not forget it is the responsibility of all citizens and sponsors to make good ambassadors for our country. If we are to achieve that goal we must forget all differences and go back to the old traditional matches which will make a big change for our future generations.

What we have failed to understand is that rugby is a game in which we will not be able to go beyond Asia in the foreseeable future, and even to reach the top three of Asia the boys should start to play from the time they are able to hold a ball and for this we need the school games.

And now for the fallout

Richard McCarter

The rugby hacks have been strangely silent in the daily newspapers about the thumping win Sri Lanka scored against Thailand in their must win relegation game in the Dubai. The 51 - 17 thrashing was the largest margin of victory Sri Lanka have achieved in the international stage. Unfortunately for them, the tough match was the first one against Taipei, which they lost clearly due to a lack of match fitness.

The majority of the touring party to Dubai were from CR and Havelocks. It was strange that Navy players were not chosen to tour and have not been subject to more scrutiny. They have some good players who crossed over from other clubs, and should ideally have seen a contingent at national training.

Be that as it may, the players who made up the tour squad were gathered by Chairman of Selectors Ajith Abeyratne at a moment's notice. Most were in pre season training and had not done set piece work, contact training and match situations. It speaks volumes for the fortitude of the boys that they were able to put together such a clinical performance against Thailand and creditably match up to Taipei.

In the last edition of the Asian 5 Nations Sri Lanka lost to Taipei, and also drew with Singapore, who were eventually promoted. The Elephants were within seconds of beating Singapore, except for a last gasp try scored by the expat Singaporean no.8. This goes to show that the margin between relegation and promotion is wafer thin.

Due to China's diplomatic issues Sri Lanka stayed in the same division of the competition. Not purely on merit, as they didn't win a game. This of course was with the full complement of Kandy and CH players included in the mix at the behest of the Minister of Sports despite their then pull out as well.

All things being considered, it would seem that Pavithra Fernando's 'ahindas' gave a more creditable performance as a national side than the prima donnas who toured last time around. Interesting.


Various pot shots have been hurled by many parties concerned about nepotism in the ranks. I think rugby is guilty as charged.

Unfortunately for some though the family connections are patent, while for others, the connections are more latent. For instance, neither Pavithra Fernando nor Hemasiri can deny their father/son bond. Neither can Dushanth and Nimal Lewke. This is unfortunate especially for the latter as his appointment as captain seemed the least strange of the recent appointments.

A member of that panel of selectors said that while Dilanka Wijesekera's name was considered, Lewke won by a nose because of his track record and permanence of his slot at eight. Dilanka, it was considered by the panel, was coming off an injury and on the flank positions had stiff competition from Kasun de Silva, Sajith Saranga, Dilip Selvam and Sean Wijesinghe. This is assuming Imran Bisthamin (who was then fit) would not play on a flank. Dilanka's position was not automatic, despite his obvious merits as a player.   

What then was the uproar about captaincy in that instance? The matter of public record is that the Sanjeeva Jayasinghe led coalition would not tolerate playing under a junior player obviously appointed by his father the President of the SLRFU. This position requires the assumption that DIG Lewke had pressured the selection panel into appointing his son as skipper - an allegation that the Selectors strenuously deny.

Newspaper reports also claim that the waters of the current captaincy issue were muddied by Hemasiri Fernando (President of the NOC) 'complaining' to the Minister that his son Pavithra was not appointed.

The nature of Fernando's intimation to the Minister is a matter of semantics. Nevertheless, the Selection Panel's 'recommendation' - not 'appointment' - was overruled in favour of the more senior player. Which is the justice that Jayasinghe and Co. wanted in the first place.

Dilanka Wijesekera is rightfully upset that his father has no clout to bestow him the national captaincy which he believes is his. This belief is not without substance.

However, Rohan Abeykoon the immediate ex Chairman of Selectors is a stalwart of the CH&FC, Dilanka's Club team, and assumptions can be made - just as Jayasinghe did with Lewke - that Club loyalties are pushing through. Furthermore, Abeykoon is also a top executive at a garment manufacturing group, which claims on its website to have "(a) love of Rugby football (which) involves it deeply with the Kandy rugby team. This leading premiere (sic) club in the game also strengthens our firm rooting in this great town."

Is it not possible for someone who sits feet immersed in the hot water of conspiracy to assume that Abeykoon may have harboured a soft spot for players of CH and Kandy given his affiliations? I'm not saying he did - but it is possible for someone to assume he did. After all, although DIG Lewke and Anton Benedict deny any involvement of the former in Dushanth's appointment as captain, tongues continue to wag and assumptions continue to be made.

Those that make the assumptions however have not led that classic gospel piece about logs in your own eye and rods in others' eyes. There have been cryptic pieces in some other publications about Godfathers of local rugby. They may not share space on a birth certificate, but nepotism is just as rife with Godfathers as it is with biological fathers.

Button best as Hamilton improves

England's Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton led the way with the quickest times in the first two practice sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix.

A revamp to Hamilton's McLaren helped the world champion to his best showing of the season in the first session.

But Button was quickest in the second session as Brawn looked pacey in bright and breezy conditions in Shanghai.

Button was 0.025 seconds clear of Nico Rosberg's Williams in second, ahead of the second Brawn of Rubens Barrichello.

Jenson Button's second practice time was more than half a second faster than Lewis Hamilton's pole-position time for the 2008 Chinese Grand Prix.

The 29-year-old early-championship leader trailed team-mate Rubens Barrichello for much of Friday's second session but posted his leading time of one minute, 35.679 seconds with eight minutes remaining.

The two Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel again showed their speed as they clocked the fourth and fifth fastest times respectively.

Hamilton, who was running with a new interim diffuser and front wing in Shanghai, faded in the second session and ended up 13th quickest.

Hamilton's McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen was ninth fastest in second practice after a late charge saw him move up the field.

Earlier in the day Hamilton provided a rare positive note for his beleaguered McLaren team by topping the time sheets in the first session.

The defending world champion pulled out all of the stops to set a time 0.116 seconds quicker than Button, who was second quickest.

McLaren were quick to react to Wednesday's decision by F1's governing body the FIA to uphold the legality of the controversial 'double-diffuser' design.

Renault also have a new diffuser with them in China but will not use it until Saturday, BBC Sport understands.

Ferrari's frustrations continued as Kimi Raikkonen laboured to 11th and Felipe Massa 15th, and both drivers had problems with their tyres.

The two Ferrari drivers stood on the podium in China in 2008, but they looked unlikely to repeat that feat as Massa was 12th and Raikkonen limped in 14th fastest in second practice.

Raikkonen in particular struggled with grip and ended up on the grass as he fought his way around the long left-handed turn 13 to cap off a miserable day for Ferrari.

The Ferrari drivers were among a number of competitors who struggled with 'graining' - when small pieces of rubber break away from the surface and stick to the tread reducing grip.

Both Renault and Williams drivers, Nick Heidfeld in the BMW Sauber and Toyota's Timo Glock all either spun or spent time off the track.

Fernando Alonso had a torrid time in the second session coming off twice before finishing 19th in his Renault.

Neither Ferrari used their energy storage and power boost system (Kers) in Shanghai after they encountered reliability problems with the system in Malaysia.

Robert Kubica used BMW Sauber's Kinetic Energy Recovery System (Kers) for the first time this season in China, but the Pole struggled to 18th in first practice and improved just one place in the second session.

Toyota continued their consistent start to the season with Jarno Trulli finishing sixth, and Timo Glock in eighth - in both practice sessions.

Williams' Nico Rosberg, who was quickest in five of this season's first six practice sessions, was seventh fastest in first practice and second quickest in the afternoon session.  







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