Rugby Union has invested Rs.500,000 on the country's preparation
for next week's Hong Kong sevens. ''It's the first time the union
has spent such a huge sum on preparing a national team,'' said
National sevens coach Asanga Seneviratne. ''And the investment is
having a healthy impact on the squad.''
the past fortnight the players have been accommodated and fed
steaks and eggs at four-star Grand Oriental Hotel in the Fort,
from where they commute to practice and back, twice a day, in
vehicles provided by the SLRFU.
''Modern sevens rugby is all about being stronger and
faster than your opponent _ requirements you can't obtain by
asking your players to take a bus ride back home or to eat the
same the rest of the family consume,'' said Seneviratne. ''Proper
preparation is a must. If our approach is going to be half-baked
and unprofessional, we're going to be left behind.''
union's decision to loosen the purse strings for the preparation
of players is, apparently, prompted by fears of losing its
invitation to the annual Hong Kong jamboree _ an invitation
organizers have handed us since the tournament's inception in
1976. Privately, Hong Kong sources say that Sri Lanka were not on
the original list of this year's invitees and interpolated only
after appeals by the SLRFU. As the quality of competition
enhances, the Hong Kong union periodically reviews the list of
competitors to ensure the event's standards are maintained _ more
so since joining the IRB's World Series circus in 2000.
Consequently, missing from this year's list are such former
regulars as Malaysia, Arabian Gulf and Brunei.
is fair to say that the writing is on the wall for Sri Lanka:
unless they acquit themselves with some distinction this year, the
gates to the Hong Kong stadium will be closed to them.
Seneviratne is hopeful of surviving unscathed the Sword of
Damocles this week. '' We showed we are another team at the sevens
in Thailand and Dubai. We beat Kenya and Belgium _ and they
weren't weak teams. And also, performed beyond expectations
against Wales, Scotland and Portugal,'' said Seneviratne. ''We
lost to Wales only in the last seconds, 28/21.''
gave further evidence of Sri Lanka's improvement: an aggregate of
196 points from Thailand and Dubai. ''In the 10 tournaments
previously, I'll be surprised if we've managed 100 points,'' said
Seneviratne. '' That we are now scoring more tries is simply
because the players are stronger and faster. Earlier they
restricted themselves to defending _ and that by itself is
sapping. Now with greater fitness they are able to defend and
attack. The result is that the players have now the sort of
confidence they never had before.''
Lanka will compete in Group A alongside defending champions, the
All Blacks, Scotland and Portugal in the qualifying round.
Miracles of the type that helps put us among rugby's second-tier
countries in the fray for the Plate don't happen in world-class
competitions. So, no one expects a team, with just two wins in 14
years of competing, to topple any of its Group A opponents. The
battles to be won are in the Bowl event, a competition begun 18
years ago to sustain the interest of the minnows, who otherwise
would be mere punch bags for rugby's big brothers. But the Bowl
competition isn't getting any easier either. In the recent past
teams of the calibre of Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Hong Kong
have figured in this third division competition.
Lanka unfortunately has lost two experienced players, Mangala
Ruwanthilleke and Sajith Mallikaratchchi, to injuries. But even
so, the selectors have bravely left out a clutch of seasoned
players and brought in four Hong Kong debutantes. The most
exciting young prospect among the four is 18-year-old St Peters
and Havelocks flanker, Dilanka Wijeskera, playing as hooker in
sevens. ''You probably could compare Dilanka to Angelo
Wickremaratne (of the 80s). He is strong and virile; a superb
tackler and fast to the breakdowns,'' said Seneviratne.
team will be led by Kandy SC wing threequarter, Sanjeewa
Jayasinghe, easily the country's most prolific scorer in recent
times. The 12-man squad has five from Sevens champions Kandy SC,
three from Havelocks, the runners up, three soliders and a
squad: Sanjeewa Jayasinghe (Capt.), Indrajit Bandaranaike, Radhika
Hettiaratchchy, Nalaka Weerakkody and Vithanage, (from Kandy SC),
Leonard de Zilwa, Lalindra Rodrigo and Dilanka Wijesekera (Havelocks),
N H Karunaratne, Sithara Fernando, Nalin Jayasuriya (Army) and
Champika Thushara (Police). Coach: Asanga Seneviratne. Manager:
stand up for Murali
doubts about the legality of Muttiah Muralitheran's bowling arm
was answered conclusively in 1999 when an advisory panel,
specifically appointed by the ICC to scrutinize and pass judgement
on suspect bowlers, ruled that the ace Sri Lankan spinner's action
decision by the game's supreme authority should've buried the
issue once and for all _ unless, of course, the off-spinner since
had dramatically altered his action, warranting a fresh
examination. More than a few umpires from far and wide, watching
from the closest range possible, detected any change. But a
certain Mr Bishen Singh Bedi, no umpire he, from some far-off
place in the Punjab, presumably comes out from a long period of
somnambulism, rubs his eyes, and, lo and behold, sees ''a javelin
thrower'' in Muralitheran. Then, with the sort of logic
appropriate to mediaeval times, he argues that, just as the blind
aren't allowed inside a cockpit, Muralitheran and a cricket ball
should be kept unreachably apart of each other _ because of a
slight birth defect to his bowling arm. It all smacks of a man in
hallucination, and his remarks deserve to be consigned to
shockingly, Michael Holding says he is ''110 per cent'' in
agreement with Bedi. Then Bob Woolmer joins in, and though not
quite whole-heartedly in support of Bedi as the West Indian is, he
said enough to snowball the issue. Typical of the English, Woolmer
called Muralitheran a thrower without directly saying so. (''I
doubt that his disability is the sole cause of his bowling
action,'' says he). And more recently Pakistan joined the
bandwagon, though this looks to be more a livid reaction (than
conviction) to a trouncing they hadn't quite expected in the Asian
Championship final in Lahore. The Pakistanis, it has to be
remembered, have encountered Muralitheran in more matches than one
cares to count, but there wasn't ever even a whisper of suspicion
is unlikely we would've heard the last of this old controversy
- and if that had been the intention is...well, depends
on which side your persuasion belongs to.
anything it's Holding and Woolmer, not so much Bedi, who have put
life back to an issue long dead. Bedi is virtually a Mr. Nobody in
international cricket. But Holding and Woolmer are. Holding is on
the Bowling Advisory panel of the ICC and Woolmer, one of its
managers. As employees of the ICC, it's unlikely they are
unmindful that they ought not to say or do things that could
complicate things for their employer. In expressing opinions
which, in effect, are contrary to the ICC ruling of 1999 is a down
right flagrant violation of ethics. It compels the ICC to
disassociate with the views of Holding and Woolmer. To choose to
remain non-commital is inviting the wrath of its critics, of whom
there are many especially in the Asian region. None more critical
than Indian Board president, Dalmiya, who had once unashamedly
called for a united Asian front to fight against what he sees as
ICC's ''racial biases''. The resurfacing of the Muralitheran issue
is placing another stick in Dalmiya's hands; it has the promise of
assuming a far more serious dimension _ beyond the technicalities
of off-spinner's action. Of that, later.
timing of the resurrection does evoke suspicion. One has to go
back in time to understand the reasons for the suspicion. At the
time the ICC-appointed Advisory Panel ruled in 1999 that
Muralitheran's action was fair, Sri Lanka cricket didn't quite
threaten other Test nations in the way it does now. In 1999 the
Lankans had been bundled out in the preliminary round of the World
Cup. After that, though some Test series were won, including a
historic 1/0 triumph over Australia, there were losses as well.
The series loss at the hands of England on home turf was the most
disappointing in a list that also included thrashings by Pakistan
at home and South Africa away. Clearly, the consistency which make
great teams wasn't achieved between the Muralitheran ruling in
1999 and early 2001.
then one, however, Sri Lanka has transformed into quite another
team, whipping out eight successive wins _ over India, the West
Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. All these wins may have been at
home, but not many teams have managed to reel off eight
wins-in-a-row _ in or out of their backyards. Sri Lanka's
superiority in all these triumphs was utterly obvious, as all
eight were won with much to spare. As well, Sri Lanka frequently
ran up totals in excess of 500 and littered their long triumphant
trail with many a broken record. Clearly, signs of approaching
greatness were being displayed by the Sri Lankans. Re-confirmation
of that promise came last week when Jayasuriya's young men,
playing away from their home shores, hoisted win number 9,
ruthlessly inflicting an eight-wicket win over Pakistan in Lahore,
effectively in four days. And as always, the magical arm of
Muralitheran played an influential role in all the successes.
if one is inclined to not grant any credence to Dalmiya's claims
of racial bias, it isn't easy to ignore it either. That the
off-spinner's action is questioned at this point of time may be a
coincidence. But critics are unlikely to buy that line. They'll
point out Sri Lanka's next opponents: England, South Africa and
Australia. The last two nations are in contest for the number one
status and the first, long in the dumps, is on a promising
recovery course. Now Sri Lanka, in a purple patch, has become a
serious challenger. This is not to say that an old can of worms is
being re-opened with the mischievous motive of destabilizing the
''upstarts''. But then suspicion lingers.
next World Cup is just about a year away. It is of no small
significance that prior to the 1996 and '99 World Cup tournaments
Muralitheran was called in Australia. In the wake of these two
incidents the ICC made its ruling in 1999 intending to put a
permanent end to the issue. So it was until Holding and Woolmer
opted to support the out-of-the-blue view of Bedi. Had Holding and
Woolmer not held any ICC appointments, their views could've passed
over as individual opinions, over which the ICC has no control.
But in this instance they do. Thus, by implication, their views
can be construed to be that of ICC's.
Interim Committee of the BCCSL will be justified in questioning
whether the view of Holding and Woolmer represents the ICC's? If
not, then haven't the two acted unethically by contradicting the
ICC's 1999 ruling since no umpire has reported any doubts on the
bowler's action? Is there any loss of validity to ICC's ruling of
1999 in the light of comments made by its two employees? If not,
then compel the ICC to declare thus to the world before Sri Lanka
undertakes its next round of international engagements. It is only
fair that Muralitheran and indeed the team should go out for the
major battles ahead without fears of being dealt a kidney-punch by
some ICC official.
this, I grant, looks to be heavy-fisted in a sport that resides in
a world of decorum and dignity, and where harsh words of
controversy are anathema. But then it's only a clear articulation
of a justifiable grievance that can defend our cricket and
cricketers. Any pussyfooting in the cause of maintaining decorum
is only inviting the issue to be tucked under the carpet. It's
better to resolve the issue in the privacy of the boardroom than
allow it to explode before a crowded stadium. The scenes at the
MCG in 1995 and in Adelaide in 1998 and the wrangles that followed
didn't do any good to cricket's image.
simply: the ICC has to clear the pervading air of suspicion,
thanks to the indiscretion of two in its fold. The subject of
Muralitheran's bowling action is not the main issue. Rather it is
the duo opposing an ICC ruling, accepted universally since 1999.
Now that's something more serious than a misdemeanour. This is
perhaps the most demanding test the Interim Committee of the BCCSL
has had to face_ far more important than explaining why the Taj TV
deal is more profitable than WSG Nimbus' or absolving itself of
any blame for the t.v. blackout on Sri Lanka's triumph in the
Asian Test final. This is a matter of protecting a national
conducts grading test
popular martial arts expert, grandmaster. M. Hassen Khalid,
founder of Fei Quan Do Martial Arts conducted a grading test for
Orange, Green Blue, Grey & Brown Belts recently, at the St.
Josephs College Sports Complex cum auditorium. A large number of
members from several clubs, institutes, schools, international
schools participated in this event. The grading test was a test in
skills, fitness, will power, self confidence, courage and
endurance. The participants were tested in exercises, punches,
kicks, combination punches and kicks. Free fighting, techniques,
katas (Ti-Vous), endurance etc.
results are as follows.
Belt 1 - M. Nuzky Khalif (Zahira), Brown Belt 3 - A. Usama Naufel
(Zahira), Brown Belt 4 - M.R.M. Nihmatullah (Hameed. Al-H), Brown
Belt 4 - Chalitha Irandika Mudalige (St. Josephs), Brown Belt 4 -
David Carvalho (St. Josephs), Brown Belt 4 - Mrs. K. C. Sudarshnie
Gunaratne (Attorney-At-Law-Fort Magistrates Court), Brown Belt 4 -
M. Firnaz Basheer (D.S.S.)
Denooja Undupitiya (Colombo International School), Miss. Sithmi
Guneratne, M. Raza Najeeb (Zahira), Sheyhan Dunushka Jayawardhana
(D.S.S.), Miss. Dorothy Flavia Stanley (J.A.B.), M. Ilyas.A.Irshad
(Amal International School), B.H. Amjadeen, S. Bavithran (Hindu
College), P. Suntheranathan (Golden Key-Ceylinco), Shafraz Ahamed
(Hemas), B.K.H. Wijedasa (Parliament of Sri Lanka), Shifraz Ahamed
(Royal College), M. Infas Najeeb (Royal).
Ifthas Ahamed (Zahira), K.L.M. Dharmabandu (Union Assurance), M.
Fazil Fariz (Amal International School).
Pushpa (Centre for Monitoring Election Violence), M. Tharique
Thahasin (Carey), Imthikab Ilyas (Amal International), Hisham
Ilyas (Amal International), Isuru Danthila Jayasinghe, (Mahanama),
Shehan Pieterz (St. Josephs).
Belts - T. Thineskumar (Hindu College), Chanaka Muththettuwegedara
(Royal College Prefect)
Siriwardhana (Arethusa), M. Sheedh Farook (Zahira), Milhan Ahamed
(Amal International School), Danish Yoonus (Amal International
School), S. Pandithurai (M.I.C.H.), Miss. Anis Zahida
Tegal (Asian International School), Ziharn Refeek, Yitzchak (St.
Josephs), Dilip Kumar (M.I.C.H.), Miss. Amanda Dharmabandu (Holy
Family Convent), Miss. Manisha Dharmabandu (Holy Family Convent).
to grandmaster M. Hassen Khalid the National Fei Quan Do
Championship Awards ceremony and get-together will take place
Quan Do classes are held for ladies, gents and children at the
C.I.S. 15 A Rohini Road, Wellawatte, St. Josephs Sports Complex
cum Auditorium, Darley Road, Maharagama.
115 Dematagoda Road, Maradana with Grandmaster M. Hassen Khalid
coaching the students in groups and individual classes.
was lost and found in '84
Abdeen well remembers that warm spring evening in Hong Kong 18
years ago. ''I thought we had blown our chances; defeat loomed.''
But as things turned out, Sri Lanka snatched victory from Thailand
in the final seconds to take the brand new Bowl trophy, on the
prize table for the first time in the 1984 Hong Kong Sevens. It
remains the solitary occasion when Sri Lanka entered the winner's
enclosure since its participation from the tournament's inception
in 1976. ''I broke
out in goose pimples and my feet were above the ground doing the
victory lap. The entire stadium stood up and cheered, applauded
and threw all sorts of souvenirs at us. It was all so emotional,''
recalled Abdeen, a rugby icon of the 80s and now a garments
picks up the finish of that historic final: ''Thailand was stoutly
defending their 10/6 lead in the second half. They had our moves
well covered, but Rohantha Pieris managed to break free and was
over the goal line. Some of us were already jumping and doing
cartwheels in utter joy. But Rohantha, rather than touch down,
turned and headed for a spot behind the posts to make for an
easier conversion. What we saw next was a nightmare _- a Thai
ploughed into him and the ball popped out of his hands. The Bowl
too had as good as dropped off our hands, I thought. There wasn't
much time remaining,'' recalled Abdeen.
having smelt victory even for a fraction of a second, the boys
were unwilling to accept defeat. Chula Dharmadasa went over for a
try (4 points then), but it went unconverted _ 10-all and time was
running out. In the final seconds we somehow managed to wrest
possession (of the ball) some 40 yards from the Thai goal line and
began a move in which at least five players handled the ball. It
was all desperate stuff, and CP (Abeygunawardena) finally went
over and promptly grounded the ball.'' said Abdeen. ''We had won
16/10, but relief was greater than joy at that moment.''
celebrations were unbridled. No one kept count of the beer
consumed. ''All I remember is that no beer was refused _ San Mig,
Carlsberg, Heineken, Fosters, the brand didn't matter, they were
all knocked back. And plenty was offered by all and sundry to the
first Bowl winners _ not cans and bottles but huge three-litre
jugs,'' said Abdeen of the team's doings at the farewell social at
the Hilton, then the players' hotel. ''One player couldn't find
his way back to his room and unnoticed, sauntered out of the
hotel. We realised his absence maybe about 30 minutes later. We
dashed out to the streets and found him walking the neon-lit
streets of Hong Kong, intoxicated out of his senses. ''
the field, Sri Lanka had won the admiration of the nearly 20,000
strong in the semifinal of the Bowl when they defeated the big,
robust Papua New Guinea team, winners of the Plate competition in
1979. ''The Papuans were extremely physical. They showed a
preference to crash through their opponents than run in open
spaces. We took the punishment but didn't lose our cool. Our
skills and speed won us the game, 10/4 _ and the admiration of the
spectators. The stadium were right behind us for the final _ and
it would've disappointed us no end had we lost,'' said Abdeen.
quarterfinal match had been easier: Sri Lanka whipped Brunei,
Bowl event was inaugurated after organisers increased the number
of participating teams to 24, from the previously 20. But the
qualifying round format was the same: the likes of the All Blacks,
Fiji, Wallabies, South Africa are put into different groups
alongside the minnows. In 1984 Sri Lanka were drawn with eventual
Cup winners Fiji and Asian champions, Japan. ''No one expected us
to win and we didn't. But we didn't concede the 60-70 points we do
now. We lost to Fiji 26/6 and Japan, 22/6,'' said Abdeen, who led
Sri Lanka four times (in 1984, '86, '87 and '93) in his seven
appearances at the Hong Kong sevens.
team of '86 and '87, in fact, won through to the Bowl finals. ''In
'86 we lost to Papua New Guinea 22/10 and in the next year, Hong
Kong beat us, 24/20, in extra time. In those years we were always
thought of as one of the favourites for the Bowl,'' said Abdeen.
Our performances since have been pale shadows of those during the
heady years in the 80s. Since 1987 Sri Lanka has won only two
matches, experiencing two long winless spells of six years (88 to
93) and five years (95-2000). The two wins in 14 tournaments came
in 1994 over Singapore and 2000, against Arabian Gulf. This dismal
record only further burnishes the achievement of Abdeen's team of
'84. Old is becoming gold.
squad of 1984: Hisham Abdeen (Capt.), Saman Jayasinghe, Chula
Dharmadasa, Nalin de Silva, C.P.Abeygunawardena, Hubert Ryan,
Rohantha Pieris, Len de Silva and Chandrishan Perera.
Manager/Coach: Jeff Ratnam.