11th  April, 2004  Volume 10, Issue 39

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Zim - a tough nut to crack

By Ranil Prematilake 

Its going to be rough sailing for the Sri Lankan cricketers in the African continent although the host nation Zimbabwe occupies the penultimate position amongst the Test playing nations. The Zimbabweans are well aware of the Lankan forte, in Muttiah Muralitharan and infact did adopt a successful defence the last occasion Murali featured there. However, Zimbabwean cricket is moving through a difficult patch in their history with the latest disaster being their only world class player cum skipper Heath Streak calling it quits, over unresolved criteria involving the administrators of the game.

Sri Lankan cricket too is certain to witness notable changes in the administrative structure following the political fortunes shuffling hands. The Thilanga Sumathipala shadow hierarchy led by Mohan De Silva must be well aware of the numbered days. Nevertheless it would be interesting to see what the alternate solution could be with the ensuing appointments too facing the threat of legal actions based on the independence of such.

The good news for the Lankan camp is the return of paceman Randi Dilahara Fernando. whose absence through injury was much felt. Also certain to make the touring party is the injury prone Nuwan Zoysa. Though the lanky paceman came out with an exceptional showing in the home series against the world champions, his level of fitness leaves much to be desired and it would not be a bad move to use Zoysa in the shorter form of the game at least for the time being. Young Nuwan Kulasekera can consider himself lucky to have been provided with another opportunity to prove his worth given the ad hoc manner in which the national selectors have dealt in the recent past in pressing their motive of grooming young blood.

The push forward for a specialist wicket keeper at Test level has been hampered by the new school of thought favouring the batsman wicket keeper concept. Unless one finds a personality of rare talent in this dual capacity. (In the likes of Adam Gilchrist) experim- enting could lead to costly results. Our own Kumar Sangakkara is a victim of such circumstances. The highly regarded Sangakkara's batting exploits have taken a severe blow in the Test arena. Time is precise to accommodate island no 1 stumper Prasanna Jayawardena.

In the absence of Hashan Tillekeratne the Lankan batting would have to revolve around T.M. Dilshan and Thilan Samaraweera especially in the middle order, instead of accommodating another batsman at the expense of a specialist bowler.

This would be the ideal setting for the Lankan cricketers, to erase the stigma imposed by the Aussies unprecedented home series whitewash, at least for the sake of the future of the game in this country.

Youth skipper Farveez Maharoof is strongly tipped to make his limited over international debut in the series which beings on 20 April. The commencement of the first of the two Test series on 6 May would draw the attention of the cricketing world when Murali aims to scale towards the top of the world's bowling record, having brushed aside a futile campaign of envy at the last hour by parties interested. Technology disproved the purported contentions.


 SAMAT ON SUNDAY

Tough job on Marvan's hands 

By T.M.K. Samat 

THE inordinate delay in handing Marvan Atapattu the Sri Lanka Test captaincy is finally over, almost a year after it had become his due. No sooner than had the Australians' inflicted on the country its first whitewash on home shores, the appointment was delivered post-haste to the heir apparent of long ago. An interesting question comes to mind: if the outcome of the series had been anything less than worst, would the new appointment have come as swiftly? The answers, of course, can be only conjectural, which, though only academic, nevertheless provides for a not-so-dull debate.

The appointment of Hashan Tillekerante over the head of Atapattu was in the first place an illogical move, proved even more convincingly now than at the time it was made _ last April when then incumbent Jayasuriya asked to be relieved of the burdens of leadership. The selectors' explanation was that it was all done in the best interest of Atapattu, that it would be far better he serves an apprenticeship through leading the one-day side before taking control of the Test side. Until such time, Tillekeratne would fill time as Test captain.

The concern for Atapattu's future was touching, except that, after a dozen years in Test cricket, nearly four as deputy skipper, the selectors' reasoning was . well, pretty much like choosing to bottle-feed one old enough to learn the intricacies of manoeuvring cutlery on china. It's the selectors who were caught with the fork in the wrong hand. Their apparent mollycoddling of Atapattu, not surprisingly, raised suspicion that the ''real" reasons were in a realm outside cricket. The most widely circulated reason spoke of a powerful selector's wish to settle a personal score with Atapattu. And hence, Tillekeratne's out-of-the-blue-appointment. So it is alleged, and as with all allegations, this one too has to be taken with a pinch of salt. True or not, it was sauce for those with axes to grind with the administration.

Selector cum vice president, Aravinda de Silva, has been immersed too long in Sri Lanka cricket to make decisions on parochial lines. And it's probably pure coincident that he and his captain-appointee have, over a period of two decades, been teammates in the D S Senanayake MV, NCC and Sri Lanka teams. But when that coincident is placed in a controversial circumstance, which Tillekeratne's elevation did, then it becomes difficult to fend off accusations that a favour had been done to an old friend. Selections committees, it will be argued, aren't one-man bands. But it is sheer naivete to think other selectors disregard de Silva's views. Enough _ let the past be buried.

A brief review of Tillekeratne's yearlong captaincy, however, is necessary to weigh up the legacy Atapattu inherits. The selectors have always maintained that Tillekeratne was an interim captain, though the period was unspecified. As things turned out, he was given a year, or four series. Of ten Tests, only one was won; four were lost and five drawn. It isn't a shining record, though it could have been. Against England, the obtained 1/0 margin isn't an honest reflection of our overwhelming dominance throughout the December series _ 2/0 would've been acceptable, though, 3/0 should really have been the score. The wasted opportunities in the whitewash at the hands of Australia are too recent to be retold here. Then a lack of ambition denied a series win against New Zealand, the first under Tillekeratne. And in the next, the second Test and the series were lost to the West Indies despite gaining first innings initiatives. While it is true a captain can be only as good as his team, there was clear evidence that Tillekeratne didn't have the sort of leadership qualities that can inspire men. Too often crisis situations deteriorated to defeat and promising position weren't converted to triumphs _ failures that inspiring leadership might have prevented.

Far better thing

On reflection, it might have been a far better thing had the selectors owned up to their mistake and given Atapattu the job when, after the failed series against New Zealand and the West Indies, it became patently clear that Tillekeratne was not the man for the job. But his solitary win over a not-so-strong England team in the final Test got him an extension for the Australian series, which, as the record shows, proved a task beyond him. Whether things would've been any different under Atapattu's leadership, we'll never know. But an opportunity to pit skills with Ponting would no doubt have left Atapattu so much a wiser captain for the battles ahead, especially the South Africa series here later this year.

Atapattu's lot isn't an easy one. He picks up the reins of a team in despondency; a team that's forgotten how to win. Test victories have become a rarity: only one since early 2002. Capt. Atapattu's challenge will be to get his team back on a winning course _ and that's not going to be easy.

If things looked bad at the time Tillekeratne assumed leadership a year ago, what greets Atapattu is decidedly darker, and not solely due to the whitewash. Inconsistency of the specialist batsmen remains unsorted, and the bowling hopes continue to remain on the aching shoulders of Muralitheran and Vaas. As if these aren't enough to suggest a future of uncertainty, the little old wizard's golden arm is under ICC's microscope. The findings have yet to be made public. But with suspicion again cast on his action, his every future delivery will come under unblinking scrutiny. It's a worrying concern if Muralitheran can be the bowler he's been.

It looks as if Atapattu has not only inherited the failures of his predecessor, but also the worst problems of his first skipper, Ranatunga. The one-time skipper's finger-wagging defence of Muralitheran against umpire Emerson might not win space in the book of etiquettes, but it did the job anyway. Atapattu is not likely to react the way Ranatunga does in similar situations, which hopefully would not arise.

Atapattu's batting mirrors characteristics of a methodical perfectionist, and if he can transfer that quality to his leadership, then, it's a different type of Sri Lanka team we'll see. During Jayasuriya's tenure, the team, especially the batting, was much like him: dashingly exciting in good times and self-destruct bringing the bad days. Tillekeratne's year was spent in no man's land: caught betwixt his defensive traits and the lingering incandescence of his predecessor, the team seemed headed to nowhere. Atapattu's methodic ways might well exactly be what the team requires to clear the air of uncertainty _ a gathering of all of his men's finer attributes and channeling it in the right direction.

Though he might appear to be of a mild nature, he's not one to back out of a crisis. His fighting leadership qualities were vividly displayed in the Caribbean last June. From seemingly hopeless situations his team triumphed in the first two ODIs, the second chasing a target in excess of 300. In the only ODI possible against England, Sri Lanka won by 10 wickets. Then, Australian skipper, after winning the first of five ODIs without even breaking into a sweat, remarked that the series would be boring unless Sri Lanka lifts its game appreciably. Atapattu's men responded with an enthralling last-ball win in the second game. The Australians were presumptious no more. And the rest of the series ran thrillingly close before Australia won 3/2.

Hard to establish, but easy to discern was Tillekeratne's inability to rally his men. There seemed an uncrossed bridge between him and his men, though this could be the illusion a losing team creates. But to be fair by Tillekeratne, the knowledge that he was only a pro-tem skipper was retarding. That the end of his tenure always looked imminently close wasn't quite the state of mind for a leader to be in. Probably that was why he took the course of least resistance: letting things happen than being inventive.

Atapattu's leadership of the one-day side, by contrast, was bolder. But marshalling forces in the five-day slog of Test cricket is going to be a different proposition. The knowledge his captaincy isn't interim not only gives him greater security, but also will earn greater respect from his men than a leader on temporary duty. Fate seems kinder to Atapattu, as his first opponent is a Zimbabwe team in disarray. The popular expectation is for a sweep of the five-match one-day and two-Test series. Anything less might well raise the questions of doubt that had haunted Tillekeratne.


  •  9th SAF Games...

Medals or discipline? 

By Hishan Welmilla 

The 9th edition of the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games concluded in grand style last Wednesday seeing India dominating the competition medals table with a rich haul of 98 gold medals, 53 silver and 30 bronze medals.

When comparing the performance of the Lankans in 15 games at the competition its good to see some youngsters who will be the future of Sri Lanka grooming themselves with the international exposure, Sri Lanka bagged 15 gold medals, 32 silver and 53 bronze to secure the third place in the tally. Pakistan finished second with 34 gold, 54 silver and 50 bronze Although Lankans fared well on the field, their behaviour on the outside was not up to expectation.

As we have witnessed in the previous international appearances the discipline of the athletes has gone to the dogs especially the senior cadre. It is a shame that these incidents reflected not only within the contingent but also came to the notice of the other parties concerned leaving Sri Lanka's image shaken.

According to the President of the National Olympic Committee, Hemasiri Fernando, this is the worst scenario recorded in the recent history of Sri Lanka athletics. The sports loving public will be eagerly waiting to see what action would be taken against the culprits. According to the reports received from Pakistan the behaviour of some of our athletes brought disgrace to our country.

Although every time a contingent taking wings to compete in an intentional event, the officials screamed to the media that discipline was a must, not a single medal could be won. Athletics- The highest gold medals for Sri Lanka were recorded in this category.

Susanthika Jayasinghe won her pet event women's 200m giving a gold to Sri Lanka with a time of 3.49 secs but unfortunately missed the double as she withdrew from the 100m stint due to a leg injury. But Jani Chathurangi Silva kept Sri Lanka's hopes alive by winning the finals with a time if 11.81 sec to clinch her first ever international medal. Sri Lanka athletic captain Pradeep Kumara completed a sprint double.

Having won the men's 200m final in 20.99 seconds as his first gold, Kumara also won his pet event, men's 400m in 45.89 seconds. His team mate Prasanna Amarasekera accounted for the silver medal with a timing of 45.93 seconds. Manjula Kumara Wijesekera improved on his Sri Lanka national mark of 2.18 m to win the men's high jump gold medal. He cleared 2.20m to finish first while his team mate Nalin Priyadharshana took the silver after finishing second with 2.11m. Priyangika Maduwanthi cleared a height of 1.69 m and clinched the bronze in women's high jump.

The third Lankan male athlete to win a gold medal was Upendra Bandara. He clocked eight minutes and 57.04 seconds to take the men's 3,000m steeplechase gold medal. Anne Maheshi de Silva clinched the gold in its women's javelin throw while Padma Wijesundara who threw 42.94m grabbed the silver medal in the women's discus throw. But Thalou Alaileema could not bring any result for Sri Lanka in the men's discus throw.Mohamed Sifrath and Harijan Ratnayake gave Sri Lanka two silver medals in their events , men's 800m and 400m hurdles respectively. C Mangala who ran the women's 800m finished with silver.


Chivas Regal April monthly medal at Victoria 

Periceyl (Pvt) Ltd, the Sri Lankan joint venture between the Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka and Group Pernod - Ricard of France, the owners of the prestigious brand Chivas Regal, teams up with the Victoria Golf & Country Resort in Kandy for the Chivas Regal April Monthly Medal which will be held on Saturday, April 24 at Victoria.

With the successful completion of the Chivas Regal monthly medals held last year at the Royal Colombo Golf Club and the Victoria Golf and Country Resort, Chives Regal has moved on with this success. This year too Chivas Regal begins its monthly medal at the renowned Victoria golf course in the Kandyan hills for its next sponsored event.

The competition will be in two divisions, over 18 holes. It is open to all players with a valid handicap. With the holiday season in full swing, the landscapes of the Victories Golf and Country Resort would be a wonderful experience to stop over for the whole family with an entertaining round of Golf on the cards.

The division categories are:

1. Gentlemen's division

2. Ladies Division

The competition commences at 7.30 a.m. at the Victoria Golf & Country Resort on Saturday 24 April. Entries close on Wednesday 21 April at 7.00 p.m. All players who wish to enter the monthly medal may call 1712 - 743003 (Caddy Master) and register their entry. The awards ceremony will be held the same evening on the completion of the tournament and will be followed by a cocktail dance.

In addition to the group category winners, 1st runner up, 2nd runner up, longest drive, closest to the pin hole in one will qualify for prizes. Surprise gifts await all participants.


Suzuki sponsors Mahagastota Hill Climb 

The Ceylon Motor Sports Club is organising the 70~" Mahagastota Hill Climb on April 11. The event this year is sponsored by Motor Marvels Ltd. the local agent for Suzaki in Sri Lanka.

Suzuki Motor Corporation has always placed great emphasis on motor sport. They have a long history of manufacturing a series of sporting 'hot-hatch's' which have had wide success in the global motor sporting arena. Presently The Suzaki Ignis is leading the Junior World Rally Championship.

Suzuki also sponsors a formula racing series called the Formula Hiabusa. Motor Marvels Ltd. have signed a three year sponsorship agreement in recent of this event. They have already invited the official Suzaki racing team led by 'Monster' Tajima of Suzuki Sport to compete at the next Mahagastota Hill Climb. A total of 5 Suzuki's will be seen in action at Mahagastota on April 11.

The first organised motor sporting event in Sri Lanka was the Mahagastota hill climb held on September 28, 1834. From then onwards, Mahagastota has been an annual event, and thus earned the name of the cradle of motor sport in Sri Lanka.

The fame of Mahagastota in not merely national. This event is considered one of the oldest motor sporting events in South Asia. The Mahagastota Hill Climb is closely linked with the Ceylon Motor Sports Club, which interestingly was inaugurated a few days before the first Mahagastota.

Mahagastota has since become an annual event, one that occupies a high priority on the Sri Lankan racing calendar. Numerous competitors at the event agree unanimously that this event is like no other. A course of around 600 yards, comprising 2 hairpin bends, a fast right hander and a fast left hander, around 6 gear changes, all of this in around 40 seconds. "It is absolutely unforgiving" said a competitor with over 15 Mahagastota's under his belt. "This is one of few motor sporting events where driving technique is more essential than power," said another.


Sri Lanka clinches Enterprise 
World Sailing Championship 2005
 

The Yachting Association of Sri Lanka held the Pre-World Sailing Championships in Negombo on 27 March. The event was a precursor to the World Enterprise Championships which was clinched following a successful bid by Sri Lanka. The next world championships are now billed to be held in Negombo in early 2005.

The Pre-World Championship was conducted under international rules and was designed to demonstrate that Sri Lanka could conduct an international event that will draw dozens of world-class sailors to the island next year. Races were held for two classes of boats. The first, a two-race open event, had 18 boats competing, representing sailors from the Navy Sailing Club, Ceylon Motor Yacht Club and Royal Colombo Yacht Club. Competitors included several members of the National Asian Games team. The series was won by Sarith Pethiyagoda (Colombo International School) helm, crewed for by Rehan Dias (Royal College, Colombo), sailing a British-built two-man Enterprise-class boat. Both sailors have represented Sri Lanka at numerous international sailing events. Joseph Kenny, crewed for by Per Svendsen, were runners up, while L. P.K. Gunatilaka (Navy) crewed for by W. A. R. Nishantha (Navy), came in third.

A further race was held for single-handed optimist class boats, a youth class restricted to those under 16. Owing to the rough weather conditions, only the eight members of the national team were permitted to participate. The race was won by Akshan Jirasinha (St. Thomas' College, Kollupitiya), with Oshan Weerasinghe (Royal College, Colombo) as first runner up and Devin Goonewardena (Stafford International, Colombo) coming in as second runner up. All three boys have wide international sailing experience.

The international jury overseeing the race was chaired by former national sailor Ananda Wimaladharma, assisted by two overseas representatives of the International Enterprise Association, Richard Esteaugh (the current world champion) from the U.K., and Homi Motiwala, from India, who were flown, courtesy of Srilankan Airlines, the official carrier for the 2005 world championships. Ground arrangements for the event were sponsored by Jetwing Hotels Limited.


Royal Ascot at Nuwara Eliya on April 17 

The most looked forward to horse racing event, the 'Royal Ascot will be heed at Nuwara Eliya on April 17. A large gathering who will be in Nuwara Eliya during the festive season, without question will throng the race course to witness the major horse racing event in Sri Lanka.

Rajan Sellamuttu, Chairman of stewards of the Sri Lanka Turf Club at a press conference held recently at the JAIC Hilton Hotel disclosed that the International Distillers Lanka Ltd, will sponsor this grand show for the second successive year.

Sellamuttu further stated that though horse racing in Lanka came into existence over a hundred years ago, a decline in this spectacular sport was experienced in the recent past as a result of financial difficulties and various other obstacles that propped up regularly. But this sport had made remarkable progress during the last couple of years thus attracting many a horse racing fan to the track where the meets are held. The Horse Owners Association and a number of dedicated individuals must be thanked for the upliftman of this 'kings sport' said the chairman of stewards.

There had been many an improvement to the racecourse at Nuwara Eliya in order to get into top condition especially for the festive season and in addition to the Royal Ascot a number of other racing events are scheduled to take place during April.

Sellamuttu added that India too has came forward in a bigway to keep the horse racing industry in Sri Lanka to prosper and for the first time, the starting gate gifted by the Mysore Horse Racing Club and the weighing scales presented by the Hyderabad Horse Racing Club will be used at the Royal Ascot.

The CEO of the Internationl Distillers Lanka Ltd, Sriyantha Perera thanked the organizers for having given them another so of the sponsorship at this grand event. He also added that they were very much encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by the Lanka horse racing fans and will eagerly look forward to render their assistarce when even they called to do so.

The sponsors have offered handsome cash prizes for the winners with the winner receiving Rs. 75,000/- and the second and third places to pocket Rs. 35,000/- and Rs. 25,000/- respectively. The special attractions at this spectacular event will be a fashion parade with a live band in attendance. The horse racing will begin on April 10 and other races are scheduled to be worked out on April 14, 17 and 24.


Kings Rugby sevens 

The Golden Key Privilege Card Kings Rugby 7s, organised by The Golden Key Credit Card Co. Ltd. to mark the centenary celebrations of the Kingswood College OBU will be held in Kandy from April 23 to 24. A total of 16 schools from Colombo, Kandy, Matale, etc., will participate in the event.

The first Golden Key rugby 7s took place in 2003 and it was due to its success that the company decided to have a similar event once again. The event is being held on a larger scale this time at a e cost of Rs. 1.1 million.

"We thought of organising the event again on a larger scale due to the response and this time schools from Colombo are participating for the first time," explained Deputy Chairman / Chief Executive, The Golden Key Credit Card Co. Ltd., Khavan Perera.

"Our intention is to foster and encourage sports at school levels because we feel sports plays an important role in character building. A couple of years back we decided to sponsor and organise sporting events, especially in the rural areas since there wasn't much encouragement for sports like rugby especially at school level," he said.

"This is an island-wide project and we are hoping to have such tournaments in other places as well and they will not be confined to cricket and rugby alone but also athletics and elle," said Assistant General Manager (Credit Card Division), The Golden Key Credit Card Co. Ltd., Orville Pereira.


SLTA get two wild cards for Para Olympics 

ORGANIZERS of the Athens Paraplegic Olympics have awarded Sri Lanka two wild cards for the Wheelchair Tennis competition, SLTA's CEO Lionel Almeida announced.

The invitation to participate in the event, which follows the summer Olympics in Athens this year, is seen as a significant achievement by local wheelchair tennis. Only athletes who successfully come through a series of tough qualification rounds are eligible to participate in Paraplegic Games, an event without equal in the world of disabled sports.

Wild card entries are at a premium, and Sri Lanka earned their couple by their rapid development in the sport. The SLTA's Wheelchair Tennis Committee introduced the sport about two years ago as a rehab program for disabled soldiers. The soldiers were quick to adapt to the sport, and coupled with their enthusiasm, became worthy of national representation at international competition.

They won medals in international competitions in Bangkok and Paris in 2002/3, playing in the D division. By this year they had graduated to a B division nation and competed successfully. A four-member team won gold medals in the Australian and New Zealand Open events, but the World Cup team event in New Zealand, where they competed as wild card entries, proved too stiff and came away empty handed.

"Obviously, the world body has been following our progress with interest. They've no doubt been impressed, and awarding us two wild cards is their way of acknowledging our progress," said SLTA president, Suresh Subramaniam. "I am confident that the day we can win at the world level isn't far off." 

The SLTA has already got cracking on their preparation plans for the September/October Athens event. Selection trials have been scheduled from April 19-23 and May 7-8 on the SLTA hard courts. ''We've opened the trials to any candidate. Up until now only soldiers have represented the country, and deservedly so. But since of late the SLTA is trying to push the sport among the civilian population as well, and as an encouragement are inviting them to take part in the trials. We are not specifying past performances as a requirement," said CEO Almeida.

The CEO added that the SLTA would be looking to secure sponsors to support the country's participation in the Athens Paraplegic Games. ''With the players developing rapidly and achieving a high rate of international success, a medal or two in Athens isn't beyond them. I am confident sponsors will want to identify with our team in Athens," said Almeida.


Janashakthi sponsors centenary Battle of the North 

Janashakthi Insurance Company Ltd. (JICL), recently sponsored the centenary big match between Jaffna Central College and St. John's College, Jaffna, played over three days at the Jaffna Central College grounds.

Established in 1816 and 1823 respectively, the two schools are considered pioneer indtitutions in the country with a tradition going back over 180 years. This year's centenary big match drew a record crowd of over 10,000 spectators, with many past students from both schools flying into Sri Lanka from overseas to be part of this gala celebration.

JlCL's Director Marketing Tryphon R. Mirando said that as one of the forerunners in the development of sports in Sri Lanka and the emerging leader of insurance, the company was happy to be associated with this year's centenary big match, popularly dubbed - The Battle of the North. When play was disrupted, St. John's College were 108 for 4 and were awarded the Janashakthi Challenge Trophy, having to score only 26 runs in 1 8 overs with 6 wickets in hand. Parallel to this year's centenary celebrations was also another unique event where the Jaffna public was given the opportunity of witnessing an exhibition 6-a-side match between former Sri Lanka cricketers and the Jaffna district team


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