Lanka - a decent
The match got under way with an eventful over
from Garnet Kruger. Atapattu getting off the mark easily turning
the ball behind square on the leg side and then Arnold dabbing
one wide of the slips to third man for a four. Next ball he got
one on line, played past it and trapped leg before for four and
Sri Lanka 7/1 in the first over. Kumar Sangakkar and Atapattu
put on a 77 run partnership matching each other run for run
before Sangakkara got sent back for what he thought was a run to
extra cover. A direct hit from Garnett Kruger had a scampering
Sangakkara well short and run out for 40 and Sri Lanka 84/2.
Atapattu was next to go, just after the drinks break, when
driving at Pierre Joubert he edged to Jon Kent at first slip
be caught for 36 and Sri
Lanka losing a quick wicket now 86/3.
Sanath Jayasuriya came to the crease and was soon
into his stride, taking three boundaries off a Brent Kops over. Mahela
Jayawardene in contrast was prepared to push the ball around for the
odd run. With tea looming, Kruger was returned to the attack, and he
had the two at the crease ducking to some aggressive bowling. Jon Kent
also bowling back of a length stemmed the flow of runs as tea
approached with Jayasuriya on 28, Jayawardene on 12 and Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka start their second tour match in South Africa
against a Rest of South Africa XI at the Lenasia Cricket Stadium just
west of Johannesburg. With the SuperSport final taking place in Benoni,
the match had to be moved to Lenasia.
After heavy overnight rain left the outfield wet the
scheduled start was delayed by two hours. Under cool and overcast
conditions, with more rain predicted, Sri Lankans won the toss and
decided to bat first.
Old tales won't bring
life to dead deeds
By T.M.K. Samat
BOXING was one of few sports that didn't have to go cap
in hand or dip into its own kitty to make it to the last Asian Games.
The National Olympic Committee (NOC) picked up the tabs of a team of
three boxers and two officials. The luxury of gratis was also given to
athletics. The others were not so lucky: some paid for themselves and
others, after much pleading, were funded partially.
The partiality is not of whim or fancy. Funds of the NOC
aren't an inexhaustible thing, and so naturally, it must adhere to
some sort of criteria by which to dole out the money. Obviously, the
ones most deserving have to be the disciplines thought to have a
realistic chance of medals. Like athletics. Of course, more than two
gold and as many bronze medals achieved were expected. Injuries and
the lack of specialized medical support, it is claimed, denied a
bigger taking. That is a matter for conjecture, but it has to be
conceded though, athletics justified the faith the NOC reposed in it.
Boxing did not.
Why boxing ever was thought of as a medal prospect in the
same breath as athletics is difficult to reason out. After all, there
was no boxer with an international record even remotely resembling
that of Susanthika Jayasinghe, Damayanthi Darsha or Sugath
Tillekeratne. International boxing medals are distant history. H K
Karunaratne and H M Marzook delivered the last medals of significance
from the Asian Championship of 1967, winning gold and bronze
Our boxers' 44-medal haul, including five gold medals,
from the SAF Games, 1984 to '99, however, has been weighty, but these
are of far less value than Asian Games metal. Just ask the three Sri
Lankan boxers who tried to lay hands on them in Busan last month.
Bantamweight Manjula Wanniaratchchi and light-fly Harsha Kumara didn't
survive their first fights; the former lost on a third round t.k.o and
the latter was out-pointed. Flyweight Anuruddha Ratnayake won his
opening bout over a Nepalese, but was out-pointed in the next by a
boxer from China, a country with no great tradition in the sport. It
adopted boxing only in the mid-80s after the country opened its doors
to the world after decades of self-imposed isolation.
The point to make here is that our boxing officials have,
wittingly or unwittingly, tended to make too much of its successes in
the SAF Games and so exaggerated our standing in international boxing.
The NOC bought those claims and regularly accommodated Sri Lankan
boxers to Asian and Commonwealth Games. The magnanimity might have
been extended to the Olympics as well, except that our boxers
inevitably fail in the qualifying rounds of the Asian zone.
The bitter truth is, even by Asian standards, Sri Lanka boxing
hardly packs a medal-winning punch. The notion that boxing is a medal
prospect, I think, is derived from its old reputation _ of winning
gold, silver and bronze in the Commonwealth Games, then named Empire
Games, and the Asian Games and Championships. The absence of
measurements (like time and distance in athletics) to gauge standards
helps lend currency to the old deeds.
This is not to say money spent on boxing's Busan campaign
was a waste. To be fair, the present SSP Thangavelu-led ABA is
attempting to rearrange the priorities, which for years had put
officials above boxers. Ironically, since the 70s more ABA officials
have qualified as international judges, referees and jurors than
boxers have won medals in internationals, outside of course the SAF.
That's another story. If it can be said that the NOC's recent generosity is in
appreciation of the present ABA's honesty to the cause of giving the
boxers a better deal, then, there can be no quarrels over the money
spent. But the job of selecting sports deserving of NOC funding for
Games representation isn't the same as altruistic development of
sport. There are other agencies and funds for that.
Here it is a case of merit alone deciding whether a sport
deserves an all-expenses-paid participation or not. And when a poor
martial arts athlete turns up at Busan at his own expense and wins a
karate bronze, the partiality boxing enjoyed shows up like a sore
The next multi-national event will be the SAF Games,
scheduled for next March in Islamabad. Coming barely six months after
the Asian Games, the timing undoubtedly will be convenient for boxing.
Another clutch of medals will be won, raising probably the SAF medal
total to 50 (from the present 44). If the old script is to be followed
then much official brouhaha will be made of the SAF success. The Busan
failures will drift to be among the forgotten things, old glories will
be exhumed and Sri Lanka boxing will live happily, at least till the
bell is rung at the next Asian or Commonwealth Games. For whom it
tolls, Busan has the answer.
The question begs to be asked: why has boxing declined
from a medal-winning prospect, late 30s through to the late 60s, to
its impoverishment since the 70s. At the centre of the problem is, of
course, the neglect of boxers, the blood and bones of the sport. Not
surprisingly, one-time champion clubs like St Michael's and St Mary's
quit boxing, as did top schools, including St Michael's Polwatte, St
Mary's Dehiwela, St Matthews Dematagoda, Zahira and Hameedia El
Hussein, all Stubbs Shield champions. The popular notion that boxing
is dangerous only helped hasten the decline. As well, the dedicated
coaches of old are no longer around _ the likes of Danton Obeysekera,
L V Jayaweera, Edward Gray, Barney Henricus, Wolsey Fonseka. Anton
John, K. Edwin, D C Wickremasinghe, Mahasena Welivitigoda, Dr Larry
Foenander, Major Kandiah, et al. The list of woes goes on.
The changing times, with sport heading in the direction
of professionalism, problems weren't only boxing's. But where other
sports adjusted to the changes in the best way they could, boxing sat
on its haunches and hoped the problems will disappear. While other
popular sports busied themselves thinking out marketing strategies and
taking their wares to the corporate world, the ABAs of the 70s through
to the 90s rather preferred to remain in the old world of tranquility,
living from one meet to another. And in between, officials pursued
their own agendas, which were mostly about preserving their power and
Thangavelu's administration wasn't bequeathed with the
best of legacies. Unlike many of the previous administrations, the
present one at least admitted the flaws and pledged redress. It
tabooed ABA funding of officials' overseas trips and promptly secured
a Cuban coach for a year. Besides coaching the national pool, a
program has been arranged for the Cuban to train our coaches. As well,
the ABA has a generous benefactor in Slimline Company, whose
sponsorship philosophy is unique, as it is bravely ambitious. Its
enthusiastic CEO Dian Gomes, who is also ABA vice president, has
recruited more than a few national champions and believes that through
the company's investments in the boxers' future Olympic medals can be
The Thangavelu committee will argue, with some
justification, that the failure to win a medal in Busan has more to do
with the long indifference of previous regimes. ''We are just
beginning to arrest the decay _ and that's a good start to restoring
the good health boxing once enjoyed,'' said SSP Thangavelu. ''We're
obviously disappointed we couldn't win even a bronze, but our boxers
did much better than they had for decades.''
At Busan, the eventual gold medallist defeated
Wanniarachchi, while Harsha Kumara lost on points. Ratnayake won a
fight and lost narrowly the next. At the Commonwealth Games last
August, Ratnayake was one win short of a bronze medal while four other
Sri Lankan boxers lost with their feet on the ground. This hadn't been
the case in many of the previous international competitions with our
boxers being either floored in the early rounds or holding their hands
up in virtual surrender. ''The ambition was no more than merely making
the trip,'' said Gomes. ''A fresh start has to be made, beginning for
And officials' attitudes too, beginning from ridding the
habit of relating old stories again and again. Lest, the white in
boxing's history book between 1967 and 2002 is taken for endless
mourning for the once upon time glories.
Rugby's old fight over
a new bone
OF LATE Sri Lanka rugby has developed the knack of making
headlines _ for all the wrong reasons. Sample last week: Tuesday it
was news of the abdication of incumbent skipper Harris Omar;
Wednesday, national coach C P Abeygunawardena walks out on his job.
And as the week approached its close, the air was thick with rumours
of that Kiwi technical advisor George Simpkin would join the
procession to the exit door.
Omar's reason: barely two weeks of preparation is
insufficient for the Asiad and so he rather opt out of the
responsibility of leading a half-prepared team. And Abeygunawardena's,
insufficient time for training and the selectors' rejection of some
players he wants included.
Players' boycott is not new a phenomenon; Kandy SC
players as recently as August thumbed their noses on the last
Commonwealth Games. But the country's skipper and coach rejecting
national duties is without precedence, and suggests an implosion of
rugby's long simmering troubles. It is patently clear the new crisis
is another manifestation of the protracted feud between champions
Kandy SC and the parent body.
Of course, Kandy SC will try to disassociate itself with
the controversy, saying it has no control over any of the decisions
its members make so long as their agreement with the club has not been
breached. Just the same as they said when five of their players turned
down Commonwealth Games selections. As a stand-alone argument it does
hold water, but any club, as a constituent to the union, has
obligations to fulfil in the larger interest of the game. Making
available their players for national duty is one of them.
Whether Kandy SC did all it could, as it should, to restraint
Omar and Abeygunawardena from committing the extreme, no one is sure.
But given the history of bickering between the Kandyans and the union,
it is not difficult to believe the club didn't. It is likely that the
club sided with the coach and captain.
But one has to quickly add that the union isn't blameless
either. The spirit of Omar and Abeygunawardena's decision may be
questionable, but there is some validity in their reasons for
resigning. The Asiad has
always been singly the most important event in our rugby requiring
ungrudging investment in time and resources on preparation. More so
this time round. The humiliation Sri Lanka were subjected to at last
month's Asian Games clearly begged for a long and thorough
preparations for November 16 Asiad.
Duly, Simpkin was appointed to help Abeygunawardena early
October. And Omar's appointment covered the Asiad as well. But the
practice itself never got underway. With the squad scheduled to fly
out on November 14, they would've had only about 10 days of collective
practices _ a driblet in the ocean, really.
The union of course will say, what better mode of
preparation than competing in the ongoing Premier Champions Trophy,
which Kandy SC, however, declined to participate in.
Therein lies the heart of the present spat _ and an opportunity
for the antagonists, the union and the champion club, to pick up
cudgels again. Same old fight, over a different bone.
It is hard to imagine a climb down by the Kandy SC
captain and coach because their decisions are founded on pretty solid
reasons, though political motivation cannot be excluded. It would
surprise no one if other chosen Kandy SC players too join the march
out through the door. As the governing body, the union too can't give
the impression that it's allowing for a case of the tail wagging the
Thus, for the union there is case for sending even a weak
national side to show the world that Kandy SC, or who ever, is not
bigger than the game. But the country's prospects of beating
opponents, Thailand and Kazakstan, can't be enhanced _ not that it
would be better at full strength either.
After all, we were beaten by the Thais at the last Asiad and
suffered the same fate at the hands of Kazaks in the World Cup
qualifier earlier this year.
Given the present confused mood, the challenge from our
third opponent, newcomer India, acquires a different proposition.
Normally a win over India would be assured; this time, less so. A
happier and better-prepared team at the last Asiad finished seventh
out of eight. The chances look a lot worse this time. So, there's a
sound argument for giving this Asiad a miss, though that wouldn't give
the union the satisfaction of having taught Kandy SC a lesson.
But scoring a point over Kandy SC could well end up with the
proverbial cutting of nose to spite your face, for the union. To go or
not to? It's a tough call for Mayadunne's men.
Herath boosts HSBC's bid to oust
THE National Development Bank's bid for a hat-trick of
mercantile tennis championship titles will face a sterner challenge
with the recruitment of a former Davis cup player into the ranks of
the Hong Kong and Shangahi Banking Corporation for this year's annual
The NDB won the title last year and in 2000, when the
once popular mercantile tennis tournament was revived after a hiatus
of nearly two decades. The HSBC this year issued a warning of their
ambitions for the title by securing Dishan Herath, a Davis Cup player
in the mid-90s. They also have two other one-time Davis Cup
representatives in Arjun Fernando and Sanjay Wijemanne, Davis Cup of
player two years ago and currently non-playing captain.
''The inclusion of Herath is certain to raise the hopes
of HSBC though NDB as defending champions will be determined to make
it a hat trick. The rivalry will only enhance the overall quality of
the competition," said Irshad Othman, the tournament secretary.
Fronting the NDB challenge will be former Davis Cup
players, Asiri Iddamalgoda and Arjan Perera, supported by Kumar
Gunawardena and Nihal Welikala, the bank's CEO.
The popularity of the event is growing since its
resurrection two years ago. ''In 2000 we had 14 companies competing
and last year we had 20 teams with over 60 competitors. With the
general interest in tennis growing this year we are hopeful the number
of teams will be bigger than last year," said Othman.
The championship will have a card of 11 events. The Men's
Singles is to have three divisions, graded according to the experience
of the players. There will also be events for veterans over 35 and 45.
All events will carry points for wins with the team with the highest
tally adjudged the champion.
The event is scheduled for Nov.9-24. Entries close on
Nov.2 and the draw will be held on Nov.5.
The Sri Lanka Veteran's Football Association for the 41th
consecutive year will conduct a Seven-a-side Soccer tournament at a
grand scale on November 10 at the Reid Avenue Sport Complex commercing
at 9 a.m.
A team must comprise of 5 players of over 40 years and
two over the age of 50 years. Many a renowned soccer players at the
past are expected to be seen in action in this years event where teams
from Kegalle, Negombo, Chilaw, Gampola, Badulla, Sri Lanka Police,
C.M.C., Colombo Central, Colombo North, Colombo South wiel vie for
The Mayor of Colombo Prasanna Gunawardena will be the