15th June,  2003, Volume 9, Issue 48

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Sri Lanka aims for Davis Cup Group 3 promotion amid 50th year celebrations

Golden chance to climb back up

By T M K Samat

ALL that needs to be laid out for a golden jubilee bash has been done. The Green Path home of SLTA, which celebrates 50 years of Davis Cup participation, has been dusted up, repainted and redone at a cost of Rs.1.5million. Minister G L Pieris is to grace the celebratory dinner tomorrow at the King’s Court ballroom of Trans Asia Hotel, where some 70 past Davis Cup representatives will have 14-carat gold pins affixed to the lapel of their blazers. And just so the whole world may know of these happenings, the organizers have secured the country’s oldest newspaper publishing house to be media sponsor of this gala.

But there’s one thing that might yet spoil the party: failure on the court. The centrepiece of the celebrations, of course, is the eight-nation Group 4 Davis Cup (Asia-Oceania) tournament, Wednesday through to Sunday. And Sri Lanka has set its sights on finishing no. 1 or 2 and so graduate to Group Three next year. For a country that spent life in Group Two in 1996, its’ standing as a lowly Group 4 competitor since 2000 has been hard to live down. ‘’It is unfortunate we are celebrating this Golden Jubilee as a Group 4 country. But then it is a good starting point to climb back to the top,” SLTA president Suresh Subramaniam told a press conference Wednesday night. ‘’Obviously we will want to win (next week) and give some significance to our 50 years of Davis Cup tennis.”

 Isuru Gunasekera, the non-playing captain, is hopeful the off-court celebrations would not have been in vain. ‘’ I can’t recall of a team better prepared than this one. All of them are extremely committed to the cause of promotion and have worked exceptionally hard. I am confident we can deliver what is expected of us,” said Gunasekera, a Davis Cup representative in 1992 and ’93.

What makes this year’s preparation more complete than any previous one was the drafting of two classy players from India into the Sri Lanka squad. Vijey and Kamala Kannan, ranked third and eleventh in India, served as sparring partners for the four-member team. ‘’If you consider that India is in the World Group (of Davis Cup along with countries like the US, Australia and Russia) then their no. 3 and 11 are no mean players,” said Gunasekera, adding that his players played the Indians in simulated matches for nearly a month.

It is the first time the SLTA threw in foreign players into the preparations, an expensive exercise costing $1,600 as payment to the Kannans, no brothers. ‘’It was costly, but necessary. The improvement from of our players training among themselves is limited. What is required is for them to achieve new levels before the competition,” said SLTA president Suresh Subramaniam. ‘’In fact, Rajiv (Rajapakse) go to another plateau, eventually defeating Kamala. There’s no reason to doubt the improvement will show in competition.”

Head coach Arul Amalnathan was optimistic that the month-long experience of playing against the quality Indian duo as well as months of committed training will impact positively during the four-day competition. ‘’Playing in home conditions will be a tremendous advantage. Most of the foreign players are bred on hard courts and could be uncomfortable on our clay courts. Even without that advantage I think we still look a winning team because the preparations have been as thorough as it can be,” said Amalnathan.

The squad is a promising mix of experience and youth, unlike like last year’s youth-filled squad. ‘’Last year’s lot was young and talented but lacked the experience, especially when things ran close. Rohan (de Silva) and Rajiv (Rajapakse) lends that experience this year,” said Amalnathan.

Rohan de Silva, 31, is veteran of nine Davis Cup ties, making his debut in 1989. He was a member of the 1996 team that played against Iran in a Group Two tie, as did Rajiv Rajapakse, 25, who also was in the Davis Cup tie of 1998, in Malaysia and 2002, in Bangladesh. Schoolboys Harshana Godamanne, 17, and Franklin Emmanuel, 15, inclusions aren’t incentive baits for future’s sake. They have solid claims of their own: Godamanne won the ITF world ranking Junior under 18 title in Pakistan last year and Emmanuel, at 14 became Sri Lanka’s youngest National Men’s Singles champion last year.

It’s this quartet of players who can make or break the golden jubilee party.


Audi Quattro Cup golf tourney

The Royal Colombo Golf Club (RCGC) proudly announces the highly prestigious AUDI QUATTRO CUP competition in association with Senok Automobiles Limited on Sunday, June 15.

Senok Automobiles Private Limited is the vehicle marketing arm and a fully owned subsidiary of Senok Trade Combine Limited. Senok Automobiles was inaugurated in April 1997 to market one of Germany’s highly valued motorcars - Audi. Audi’s deep involvement in international golf is non officially designatied AUDI GOLF SPORT, with specially developed corporate design and distinctive livery.

Play will be in accordance with the official golf rules, including amateur statutes, of the National Golf Association and of RCGC, the hosting Golf Club.

The maximum handicaps are - 28.0 for individual players and a cumulative handicap of - 18 for teams. Minimum age is 18 years and the competition committee will make all final rule decisions.

Matches will take place according to the Greensome method according to Stableford, over 18 holes wherein two players play as partners, each playing from the teeing ground. After the first shot partners select the ball with which they wish to score and play that ball alternately to complete the hole. The reckoning in Stableford competitions is made by points awarded in relation to a fixed score (net par) at each hole.

Senok Automobiles Private Limited sponsors all prizes for the Audi Quattro Cup Golf tournament and the winning team of two players will each receive a return airline ticket (business class) to Johannesburg to participate in the Audi Quattro Cup World Finals. In addition, winners, who are Audi owners, will be entitled to two free services with oil change.

Entries for the local Audi Quattro Cup Golf Sport event close at 6.00 pm on Thursday, June 12, and will be confined to a maximum of 200 competitors strictly on a first come first serve basis.

The best players of the 2003 Audi Quattro Cup World Final will get together from October 26 to 30 in Sun City, South Africa. The finals will be played at the Gary Player Country Club course and all participants and country representatives will stay at the fabulous Lost Palace Resort. This year again Global Golf Consulting, Chester Fabricius will be in charge for coordinating this event. The web page http://www.audiworldfinal.com with all important information about this year’s World final will be on line by June 15.


Testing times after Barbados bash

By T M K Samat 

BARBADOS last Saturday and Sunday might be quite some distance short of the pinnacle of ‘96 in Lahore, but the successive successes at Kensington Oval have to rank as the best of the rest. The weekend deeds merit this special place not so much because of the triumphant endings as for the astonishing manner they were attained, both from virtual death zones. On both days, between innings, any thoughts of Atapattu’s men winning seemed to belong to the realms of fiction. But enthrallingly fiction was converted to fact. And cricket walked through a wonderland Saturday and Sunday.

With the series wrapped in the quickest manner possible, the Sri Lankans tour of the Caribbean, after the excitement of Australians’ visit, no longer looks a prospect as disheartening as the morning after the ball. A team restricted to 201 and yet winning handsomely by 55 runs and then on the next day, riotously advancing to 315 runs and victory in the final over, after all, has to be seen as an opposition capable of contributing its share to making some exciting competition. The pre-tour prognosis of Sri Lanka’s impending challenge had not been as respectful as that, and not without good reasons.

The West Indies had galloped past World Champion, Australia, thrice successively not many days ago _ and the final Test too was taken by the host not long before. All this, justifiably, gave rise to the belief that Lara’s team had begun a journey to take Caribbean cricket back to its golden age. It was an age that dawned in the 1950s under Frank Worrell, was sustained by Sir Garfield Sobers and Clive Lloyds’ teams and ended in the 90s under after the reign of the commanding Vivian Richards.

Chinks showing

Of late Sri Lanka apparently was heading down the same road that the West Indies seemingly had left behind. The retirement of Aravinda de Silva this year and Ranatunga two seasons ago and the fruitless search for worthy replacements seemed to point to a long spell of rebuilding _ through more reversals than triumphs, inevitably. The chinks were beginning to show at the last World Cup, albeit semifinal qualification, an achievement that most thought was an exaggeration of their true strength. That judgement was given some credence no sooner than the World Cup ended. Ousted by Zimbabwe for a place in the Sharjah final last April and the failure for the first time to win a place in the final of a home triangular last month, the team looked sapped and weakened, of mind and body. There were other dislocations too: captain Jayasuriya had abdicated and coach Whatmore was shown the door.

So, it was excusable if the West Indies assumed the three-match one-day series and the two Tests against Sri Lanka was to be no more that a comfortable reassertion of their growing supremacy in world cricket. Lara didn’t quite say it with that sort of clarity. But his mention of wanting to continue with the team’s winning trend after the successes against the Aussies pretty much said he was confident that the team would deliver what was expected of them.

But Atapatu wasn’t prepared to think his team as cannon fodder, though, with a non-delivering middle order, it team looked to be just that. If he had little to clutch on to, he clung on to faith in his men’s ability. ‘’We are in a desperate situation to get runs. This is a great batting line up (with) enough and more talent. It’s just that we have to put things together and perform,” he said, showing maturity deserving of leadership. And he viewed the tour as a mission to rediscover the winning ways and arrest the slide. He sealed the one-day series even before it was over and has given Test captain Hashan Tillekeratne a team with confidence and spirit as high as it can be.

Of course, it would be foolish to presume that all of the concerns are behind. It is well to note that the architects of the weekend triumphs are old hands, the ever-reliable Muralitheran and Upul Chandana. Which means those capable of filling the shoes of the likes Aravinda de Silva and Ranatunga have yet to appear on the horizon. Equally worrying, the returns on the investments on the likes of Jayewardene, Sangakkara and Arnold haven’t been adequately consistent to give the team the desired solidity. One-day is quite another trade and, though the weekend’s come-from-behind wins will doubtlessly lift confidence, just how we perform in the two Tests (on June 20-24 and June 27-July 1) will be a truer reflection of the future. For the time being though, there’s no harm in drinking deep from last weekend’s cup of joy, notwithstanding Wednesday’s inconsequential defeat.

Glory has been Muralitheran’s constant companion. But Chandana’s storming of the spotlight had more than one reason to be delighted about. It not only brought an improbable victory, but also requital for all the injustices this pencil-slim allrounder has endured. The last unkind blow dealt on him was to be told to pack up and return home while yet collecting the bouquets for his Sunday magnificence.

More a reward

It can be argued that Chandana isn’t as well equipped for Tests as he is for the one-dayers. But it will be recalled that Tillekeratne, on the strength of his century on the tour of South Africa last year, was included for the one-day series that followed. He was initially kept out of one-day duty because his obduracy was thought to be a hindrance in the shorter game. His inclusion was more a reward and he went on to play in the triangular in Australia, then the World Cup and then chosen Test captain. Of course, it was a different set of selectors who rewrote his destiny. But that doesn’t absolve selection committees, including this one, of the crime of treating some players more kindly than others. Chandana somehow isn’t one among the some, with the previous and present selectors.

On hindsight, Sri Lanka’s last World campaign wouldn’t have suffered one bit had the then selectors preferred Chandana to anyone of the many who ended up only bench- warmers.

So, it’s on to the Tests. What awaits Sri Lanka here? For sure, a West Indies hell bent on making amends for the one-day loss. Equally, Sri Lanka will go to battle with their confidence on a high, certainly for the first Test. The state of mind for the second, however, will be determined by the fortunes or the lack them, of the first.

Pre-match optimism and the practicalities of Test cricket are two different things. It is not an exaggeration to think that our bowlers will be subject to long, hard labour countering Lara and co. If lesser sweat is to be shed will largely depend on Vaas and Muralitheran, as was the case in the one-day series, though Lokuaratchchi, hopefully, will emerge. It is safe to say that our batting will decide much of our fate, and the worries here are far from over. All of them, however, showed signs of finally rediscovering their touch on Sunday, though, consistency has yet to come accompanied by a guarantee card, as the third one-day bore out. For some while, the team has rode on solitary efforts of Jayasuriya or Attapatu or skpper Tillkeratne. A collective effort is long over due and the lack of significant contributions from Jayewardene, Sangakkara and Arnold have been at the root of the instability. Not surprising, the selectors ran out of patience with Arnold and discarded him from this series.

If last weekend is to be more than momentary euphoria, then the batsmen better put big runs on the board _ without which Test matches cannot be won.


Have we turned the corner with new president, coach and a win?

By Mahinda Wijesinghe 

The Sri Lankans ended a barren run by beating the currently high-riding West Indians in their own patch and have good reason to celebrate, bagging the Cable and Wireless Trophy. Losing a series to Sri Lanka hard on the heels of having inflicted a hat-trick of ODI defeats to the mighty Australians must indeed be a bitter pill for Lara and his young team. Poor fielding and wilting under pressure at crucial times, the usual errors made by losing sides, certainly contributed to their predicament.

Heroics of Chandana

  On the other hand, there were professional performances by the Sri Lankans, and skipper Atapattu must indeed be a relieved man. Mahela Jayawardena too registered a half-century, though for a losing cause, after 18 games. It was also refreshing to note that Upul Chandana posted a match-winning innings of 89 runs off 71 balls, his third One-Day fifty in his career of 105 games. However, using Chandana as an occasional pinch-hitter, when the need arises, may be a wiser strategy than trying to use a player whose One-day batting average is a mere 16.6 runs as a regular in the early order.

A pen-picture of John Dyson

In the wake of Sri Lanka having an elected President in Thilanga Sumathipala, the national team has also now the services of former Australian right-hand opening batsman, John Dyson, who celebrated his 49th birthday last Wednesday. Here is a potted background of the new coach who has experience in handling the New South Wales state side and a degree in sports psychology.

  Dyson, a physical education teacher at Caringbah, New South Wales, played 30 Tests for Australia and was described as a batsman in the Boycott mould, and just as former coach Dav Whatmore did, made his Test debut – against India at Perth in 1977-78 – when the cream of the Australian players were involved in World Series Cricket. Though averaging a modest 26.6 runs in Test cricket, he posted a better figure of 32.8 runs per innings in his career of 29 One-day Internationals.

Surely, not match-fixing?

  Dyson, who made his first-class debut for New South Wales (57 matches) in 1977/78, scored two Test centuries, neither of which brought victory to his side. In fact, he may be nursing bitter-sweet memories of the occasion when he made his maiden hundred since the Test was shrouded in an ignominious loss to Australia. That was during the Third Cornhill Test at Leeds in the Ashes series of 1981 when Botham, having been relieved of the captaincy to Brearley, simply dominated. Australia (401/9 declared – Dyson 102) after having sent England for a follow-on with a lead of 227 runs, still managed to lose the Test by 18 runs, thanks mainly to Botham (149*) and Willis (8/43)! It was only the second time in the history of Test cricket when a side after having been sent for a follow-on still managed to win. Adding salt to the Australian wounds was the fact that two of their players, Lillee and Marsh, were found to have placed bets against their own side, when the bookmakers offered tempting odds of 500 to 1 for an England victory after the follow-on was effected. There was not even a hint of match-fixing of course. It was an instance of punters simply being unable to resist such tempting odds – with financial benefits but questionable conduct.

How Dyson helped Australia
win the Ashes!

  Dyson was, however, personally involved in controversy when he played his last game, against England, in the final Test during the 1982-83 series at Sydney. After losing the second and third Tests by the comprehensive margins of  7 and 8 wickets respectively, England had pulled off a nail-biting 3-run win in the fourth Test at Melbourne and kept the rubber alive at 2-1 before the all-important final Test at Sydney. Winning the toss and batting, Australia opened with Dyson and Wessels. Off the last ball of the first over in the game, bowled by England captain Willis, the bowler appeared to have run Dyson out “by a good eighteen inches” (Wisden Almanack 1984). However, umpire Mel Johnson  - this was before Third Umpires - ruled Dyson ‘not out’. This decision had a material effect on the game since Dyson (79) went on to second top-score in the innings and enabled Australia to draw the match. Australia thus clinched the series 2-1 and regained the Ashes they lost by the comprehensive margin of 3-0 to England captained by Brearley in 1977. Incidentally, the final Test of that series, staged at the Kennington Oval, spelt the end of the Test career of Tony Greig, after having played 58 successive Tests for England.


Mobitel to support Havelock’s rugby

Mobitel, one of the foremost rugby promoters in the country has come forward to co-sponsor Havelocks SC rugby team this year.

The lucrative Mobitel sponsorship will certainly pump in the much needed financial life blood into Havies, sure to boost their performance on field by leaps and bounds. The sponsorship handing over ceremony took place on Saturday, 7 June 2003 at 2 p.m.  at Havelosks Sports Club.

Mobitel CEO Lalith De Silva handed over the sponsorship cheque to the President of the Havelock’s, Michael Jayasekara, Others associated with the event were Kapila Sri Chandrasekara - Chief Marketing Officer of Mobitel, Manju Fernando - Chief Administration Officer of Mobitel, Kamal Mahendra, Secretary Havelocks Sports Club.

Mobitel, the official sponsor of the magnificent Mercantile Rugby Sevens, were most happy to support one of the senior rugby playing clubs in the country, who always displayed a robust type of rugby football. Havies have been playing top rugby since 1949 and have won the Clifford Cup 13 times and President’s Cup 4 times.


Bishop’s-Museaus joint champs

Beshop’s College and Museaus College with 96 points emerged joint champions in the John Tarbat Cup Junior athletic championship meet at Bogambara recently.

Bishop’s College also became the under 12, under 15 age group champion and overall relay champs at this meet.

Melani Karakaratne (under 12) Gayanga Boteju (Under 13), Nimashini Cumaranatunge, Nolushi Narhiniarachchi and Hashiri Perera (Under 15) played an archer role in the Bishop’s College success at this renowned junior athletic championships.


Kalutara district shuttle tournament

Applications are being accepted for the badminton tournament organized by the Northside Badminton Club of Kalutara North.

The tournament is limited for the residents for the Kalutrara district and will be worked off in three categories, Men’s doubles, Women’s singles & Veterans (over 40 years)

The tournament will get underway at Pasdunrata Education Training College in Uggalboda, Kalutara on 21 June and applications will close on 18 June 2003.

Applications should be addressed to:

Chairman

Tournament Committee, Northside Badminton Club, No. 2 Sri Sumangala Road (South)

For more information please call 0777 - 894138 (Indi) or 034 - 26666 (Renuk)

 

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