24th  April, 2005  Volume 11, Issue  41 

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


It's getting to be a rotten joke 

By T.M.K. Samat

ANY ACCUSATION that Sri Lanka's wretched Wellington Test defeat is the outcome of the wretched state of our cricket administration might be difficult to prove, though, suspicion that may well be the case isn't easy to resist. The actual reason, however, is in our cricketers' dismaying performance - full stop.

Defeat isn't a happy experience. But the second Test debacle, and the consequent loss of the New Zealand series, is poignantly deserved. For, a cheerier tour record might have distorted the bigger picture - and encouraged administrators' belief that whatever their crimes, the cricketers' excellence on the playing fields would conceal them. Truth be told, the Wellington shamble is emblematic of the chaos that has long plagued the administration of our cricket.

This is not to suggest Atapattu's men deliberately conspired to send out the message that our cricket can be only as good as the way it is administered. Such malicious schemes, of course, are beyond the wildest imagination of the players, who, no one suspects, would fight anyone else's battles but their own on the playing fields. So, it has been up until now, with players admirably going about the work and insulating themselves from the nasty factionalism that has long dogged administration.

I am afraid, however, the day doesn't seem far off when cricketers end up pawns in the hands of competing factions. The first step towards that direction was taken Monday. The background first: By government decree, SLC is an illegal body in so far as matters pertaining to cricket at the national level are concerned. Just in case, the national squad returning from New Zealand wasn't aware of that development, Secretary Sports Ministry, S Ranugge, had a note delivered post-haste to manager, Brendon Kuruppu, asking him to "abstain" from dealings with SLC prior to "consulting the Interim Committee".

Briefly and bluntly what Ranugge told the manager and his charges is: any direct contact with the SLC is forbidden - the message couldn't have been any clearer. The reaction of one-time skipper Arjuna Ranatunga to this might be to crassly disregard of ministerial caution and do exactly the opposite. Temperamentally, incumbent leader Atapattu is half a world away from Ranatunga. He is of milder disposition. Though thoughtfully outspoken, Atapattu is hardly the sort who would buck authority, let alone government. Yet, he did on this occasion. Together with some of his team mates he defied ministerial advice and went out and had a three-hour meeting with disgraced SLC president, Thilanga Sumathipala.

All what transpired at the meeting hasn't been officially made known. But they wouldn't have talked about the weather for all of the three hours. SLC sources make out that, since the team departed under its stewardship a meeting on their return was a logical follow up. "As a body the SLC still exists," said the source, adding that the discussions were necessary ''in the interest of the players' and the country's cricket future." 

All this might sound a tad too presumptuous for a body that is under government suspension. But it shouldn't be forgotten that, suspension notwithstanding, SLC remain the custodians of all the immovable properties. This, strictly speaking, means that, should the national players use the gymnasium and like facilities at SLC premises they would risk prosecution for trespass. To take that absurd scenario a step further: Atapattu and his men might well land in jail for preparing to do duty for country in SLC premises - a hilarious plot that Hollywood's comedians would give a limb to be a part of. But I digress.

You would have to be utterly načve to think Sumathipala's closed-door meeting with the national players was all about assuring that SLC has no intention of acting in a manner detrimental to players' future - though it is within SLC's powers to do so. Sumathipala doesn't miss an opportunity when he sees one. Here he saw a chance to show that his heart bleeds for Sri Lanka cricket. It doesn't matter that many are unlikely to buy that story, but then his ambition is blind. So, his concern for the cricketers in this crisis, as a PR exercise, is a hopeful card dealt out to a poor hand.

Just why Atapattu's men accepted SLC's invitation to a meeting, defying Sport Ministry advice, isn't clear. If rejection of the invitation meant the denial of facilities available at the headquarters, then, the players, perhaps, had no choice but to attend the meeting. With the impasse's end no where in sight, the national players, doubtless, have to be concerned about where they can train, especially the gym. After all, the West Indies series here is in June-July and preparations ought to have begun. Well and good if the three-hour discussion was about the use of SLC's immovable facilities by the national cricketers. But insiders say the issue of renewal of players' contracts, expired last February, was also brought up. Now that's opening an unwanted can of worms.

It is said the SLC cautioned players that, should they sign long-term contracts with the Interim Committee SLC would not be obliged to honour IC's contracts should power be restored to it. This is purely hypothetical, but that won't put out players' anxieties. Given the uncertainty that has long characterized cricket administration, and finis yet unwritten to Sumathipala's influence in cricket, a return to pre-suspension times can't be ruled out.  So, the likely repercussions should SLC (read Sumathipala's men) return is something the players can't ignore. Would holding an IC contract be viewed as being anti-SLC?

Sport Ministers, Jeewan Kumaratunga, Thursday, as good as told the players: have no fears, the IC contracts come with government guarantees. Reassurance that the IC is the legitimate authority for Sri Lanka cricket would also have been made. All of which go to reinforce the belief that cricket's politicization has filtered down to the players. Atapattu himself admits that the ongoing conflict between two sets of administrators leaves them without "status as national players". To phrase it in political language: the tug-of-war is on to win loyalty of Atapattu's men.

The danger of players being sucked into cricket politics has burned red for a long, long time, precisely since 1996. It isn't exactly coincidental that the three previous interim committees were replacements for three Sumathipala-led Boards. All of those three ICs got down to work from day 1 of their appointments. It's nearly a month now, and the current IC isn't even sure of their governing powers - not even if banks would honour cheques of their signings. 

Clearly, Sumathipala is unwilling to let go of what he thinks is his - which might not have been the case had the Sport Minister dissolved the SLC than choose to suspend its registration. It is an action that doesn't equate with all the nasty exposures by the minister on Sumathipala's ICC gate crash - a disharmony between word and deed that's almost theatrical.

It is nice that laws are being readied to ban Sumathipala, and indeed anyone else with direct or indirect links to the gambling industry, from holding office in sport. But as we know laws don't see the light of day in a hurry. Meanwhile, the present crisis deepens. And as things worsen, what next?  Almost anything, including a likely compromise between the two competing parties - on the lines of 1/ an interim committee with some of Sumathipala's nominees?  Or 2/ fresh SLC elections without Sumathipala as a candidate? Both of which, of course, will mean Sumathipala remains a factor in Sri Lanka cricket - which means cricket gets back to square one. 

That's what is likely to happen when given options of suspension and dissolution, you choose the wrong one.

Arnold, van Dort, out of the cold

By  Pelham Juriansz

In the recently concluded A series between Pakistan, England and hosts Sri Lanka two players stood out in the batting department for Sri Lanka.

Russel Arnold, just 31 years of age and trying hard to make a come back to the Sri Lankan team, and of course Michael van Dort, 24 years of age, trying to establish himself as a permanent batsman in the first team.

This Josephian -Peterite combination of van Dort and Arnold have proved that they are capable, and a force to be reckoned with having performed in most of the matches that they played in. Arnold was in the original side but van Dort was not. He was drafted in after Avishka Gunawardena was taken ill and didn't he grab the opportunity with both hands!

A century and a couple of seventies by van Dort and consistent scores from Arnold should make the selectors sit up and take notice, in view of the fact that Sri Lanka's middle order did not live up to expectations in the second Test against New Zealand. In fact, some thought that Arnold should have been given the captaincy of the "A" side, considering the fact that skipper Mubarak was failing.

Arnold aggregated 316 runs at an average of 63 in 5 matches with 4 half centuries and van Dort amassed 291 runs at an astounding average of 73 in 5 matches with 1 century and two seventies. In contrast skipper Mubarak had a disastrous time with the bat averaging just 4.40 in 5 matches

But Russel Premakumaran Arnold to give him his full name, was not deterred by the fact that he was not the skipper. Out of the cold and in to the sunshine this calypso type batsman wielded his willow to good effect.

The two batsmen from neighbouring clubs, Arnold from Nondescripts Cricket Club, and van Dort from Colombo Cricket Club (CCC) have a lot in common. They are both left -handers and are of similar height, though van Dort at six feet five inches is taller. Both are tremendous strikers of the ball, van Dort being especially strong off his pads on the on side.

In addition to his batting, Arnold is an useful off spin bowler. Having made his Test debut in 1996/97 after Sri Lanka won the world cup, Arnold last played for Sri Lanka in Australia in 2004 in the Darwin Test.

In 44 tests Arnold has scored 1821 runs at an average of 28.01, not quite in keeping with his early promise. In 128 ODI matches he has done better scoring 2911 runs at an average of 35.50.

This would seem that Arnold is better in the one- day version than the longer game.

  However, if recent "A" team performances are anything to go by, Arnold has now got a new spring in his step. No doubt Russel would be glad to have his form back.

A tall, angular left-hander and a patient accumulator, Arnold began his Test career as an opener, but despite solid scores then, and on his recall for the Asian Test Championship two years later, he lost out to Marvan Atapattu as Sanath Jayasuriya's partner. Short of runs by late 2000, he dropped into the lower middle order. When a loss of form and confidence from Jayasuriya gave Arnold another chance at the top of the order in 2002, he did not disappoint, scoring 62 and 109 in a valiant rearguard at Old Trafford. Failure in the series that followed left him on the sidelines for long periods after the 2003 World Cup, but Arnold made his way back into the team for the home series against Australia. But, despite making 51 not out in his last ODI against Zimbabwe, Arnold was dropped from the ODI and Test team in July 2004. The seven-man Ashantha de Mel selection committee wanted to blood new talent and Arnold's future looked bleak for a while. But Arnold worked furiously hard on his game in the nets and started to score heavily in domestic cricket. Finally, with his replacements failing to impress, he won a recall for the New Zealand tour in December 2004. Arnold's ability to adapt his game to the situation makes him an ideal No.6 in limited overs cricket and an unselfish approach explains the high-esteem in which he is held by teammates. A cool head under pressure helps when chasing and he adds great value in field with a safe pair of hands.

Twenty four year old Michael Graydon Vandort of Colombo Cricket Club (CCC) made his Test debut against Bangladesh at the SSC in 2001 and played again against the same opposition in 2002.

He has played in only two Tests. Speaking to The SundayLeader, Max Academy coach Jerome Jayaratne said that "Michael is immensely talented but he has a weakness just outside the off stump. Anything around the pads on the leg side he will dispatch it to the boundary. He is very strong on the leg side," commented Jayaratne.

This was shown in the two Tests where van Dort scored 237 runs at an average of 65.83 with a top score of 140. He also underlined his form with a century at the P.Sara Stadium against the visiting Indians four years ago against bowlers of the likes of Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Co.

Vandort emerged as a lanky 21-year-old left hander onto the national scene in 2001 after a string of impressive performances for Colombo Cricket Club and Sri Lanka A. Vandort only played one game for St Joseph's First XI, but he quickly made an impression in first-class cricket, and when picked for a Board XI side against India, he booked himself a berth in Sri Lanka's 16-man Test squad on the back of an impressive century. He sat on the sidelines throughout the series, but was finally given a chance against Bangladesh in 2001. He is now waiting for an opportunity to break back into the team.

Is van Dort going to end up like Manager Brendon Kuruppu, where Kuruppu played just 4 Tests for Sri Lanka and retired with an average of over 50?

Old Nalandian sc's agm

The 40th AGM of the Old Nalandians Sports Club (ONSC) was held on March 19 and Daya Abeysekera was elected unanimously as the President for the 3rd consecutive year.

The following office bearers & council members were elected for year 2005/2006.

Patron: Hemantha U.Premetilleke, Principal , Nalanda College

Panel of advisors: Rupa Karunathilaka,W.Mendis, M.Siriwardena, G.Perera, Palane Amarasinha, Upali Mahanama, Major Gen. Ananda Weerasekera, Hemasiri Fernando, Sarath Silva, Chethiya Sri Nammuni.

Vice Patrons: H.Wijesiri, H.Perera, D.Weerasuriya, Sarath Gunathilaka, Hema Wijeratne, Sunil Wickramatunga, Daya Illukumbara, P.Rathnapala, Eastman Narangoda, Bandula Warnapura.

President: Daya Abeysekera.

Immediate Past President: Rear Admiral (retired) Justin Jayasuriya.

Senior Vice President: Asoka Wijetilleke.

Vice President: Royle Senarathna, Pali Wijeratne, Dalton Wakwella, Saman Karunanayake, Priyanatha Dassanayake, L.Perera, Saram, Ranjith de Mel, Jayantha Senevirathne, Sisira Mendis.

Hon. Gen. Sec. Salinda Rodrigo. Hon. Treasurer: Palitha Narangoda. Hon. Auditor.

Sarath Hewagama. Hon.Social Sec. Saman de Silva. Asst Sec. Ananda de Silva. Asst.tresurer; Sampath Perera.

Council Members: M.Piyasiri, A.Perera, Lakshman Perera, P.Chandrapala, Daya de Costa, Asoka Kudahetti, Sarath Chandrakumara, Madawa Samarsinghe, Lal Silva, Gamini Sarath Silva, Upali Gunathilaka, Nimal Rathnayake, Gihan Weerasinghe, Nandun de Silva, Hiran Ukwatta, Gamini Karunathilake,K.Rupasena, Jayantha Gunasekera, Ranjith Boteju, Palitha Mathew and Saman Jayaweera.

Asian 14 under series in Colombo

THE Asian 14 Under Championships will be hosted by the SLTA for a second successive year on the Green Path courts next week.

The April 25-30 event, sponsored by Australian Open under the aegis of the Asian Tennis Federation, will be of historic significance as it will mark the beginning of an under 14 ranking system for Asian players.

The two-year-old Colombo event is one of many regional tournaments that make up the series - and is a contribution by organizers of the Australian Open to the development of Asian tennis. The top eight ranked at the end of the series qualify to play in the 14 under world final in Melborune, as well as get to see at close range the 2006 Australian Open next February.

Malaysia has fielded two players but organizers are optimistic that more foreigners would sign in closer to the event. Seven Sri Lankans have entered for the singles. The qualifying round will be held on April 23 and 24.

Bangladesh extends Whatmore deal

Australian Dav Whatmore has signed a new two-year deal as head coach of Bangladesh ahead of the team's tour of England, which precedes the Ashes series.The new deal will see Whatmore remain in control of the Bangladesh side until after the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

The Bangladesh Cricket Board released a statement saying that it felt the need to have continuity with an experienced coach."We want to ensure that the bright young talent he has introduced continues to have his influence through to the World Cup," the statement read.Whatmore, the former coach of Sri Lanka, had been linked with the India coaching job that was made vacant with the departure of John Wright.

Bangladesh won its first Test series since gaining full Test status in 2000, securing a victory over Zimbabwe in January.The team has recorded nine one-day victories in 136 games, including beating Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup and India in Chittagong last November.Whatmore is currently in the midst of preparing his squad for the Test series against England, with the first clash to begin at Lord's on May 26.

 The ashes series...

Down memory lane

By Pelham Juriansz 

Come the month of July and the two oldest Test playing nations, England and Australia will battle it out for the oldest trophy, "The Ashes". The Premier team in the world, Australia will be defending "The Ashes" which they have dominated ever since Mike Gatting's side outdid the Aussies in 1988.

As I have mentioned in an earlier article, I started watching and getting interested in cricket around the latter part of 1965. In those days when we did not have television in what was then Ceylon the best we could glean about the Ashes was from the newspapers and of course the short wave band on the radio. In 1965 England were in Australia and Doug Walters made his debut in that Ashes series.

Walters in his early days was hailed as another Bradman, rather too early to compare him with the great man, and Doug never really lived up to that kind of reputation. In fact except for some blistering knocks in his first two Tests and later followed up with centuries and double centuries against the "Windies" in 1968/69, he never lived up to his true potential. I suppose nobody really does. The same could be said about Michael Colin Cowdrey who was hailed as a child prodigy.

To get back to the Ashes 1965/66, it is a bit vague in my memory but the 1968 encounter in England is somewhat more vivid, with Bill Lawry leading Australia with Barry Jarman his deputy and players of the likes of Ian Chappell, Graham Mckenzie, Alan Connolly, Paul Sheahan, Doug Walters himself, Bob Cowper, John Gleeson, the mystery bowler representing Australia. Being a diehard Aussie supporter at the time, it was a thrill to see these very same players in Ceylon in 1969 when Lawry brought his Australian team over here to face Michael Tissera's Ceylonese X1.

England -1968

The English were represented in 1968 by Colin Cowdrey, Tom Graveney, John Edrich, Geoff Boycott, John Snow, Ken Higgs, Alan Knott, Bob Barber, Pat Pocock, Dennis Amis, Ken Barrington and Basil D'Oliviera. Amiss made a miserable start to his rather illustrious career by collecting a pair and Bob Barber signed off in his last Test.   

In the 1970/71 Ashes series three outstanding players made their debut for Australia. To my mind one of the most attractive batsmen seen on the cricket field, Gregory Stephen Chappell made his memorable debut in 1970 in the Perth Test and made an astonishing century on debut. Wicket keeper Rodney Marsh took over the gloves from Barry Jarman and Brian Taber and initially did not do that well as he was called "Iron Gloves" because he did not catch all that came his way. The third was of course legendary bowler, Dennis Lillee.

Ray Illingworth was the English skipper and Bill Lawry was his Australian counterpart. But Lawry was unceremoniously axed for the last Test and Ian Chappell took over the reins.

With one eye behind his shoulder looking at the selectors, because of what happened to Lawry, Ian Chappell marshaled his forces and made the Aussie outfit into a fighting unit.

A ray of hope for England-1970.              

 This series Down Under saw the first scheduled six-Test series become the only seven-Test series in history when the third Test at Melbourne was washed out and an extra game added at the end of the series. Ray Illingworth's side was opposed to Bill Lawry's Australians for who Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh all made illustrious debuts in this series. The first two Tests were drawn and the third abandoned, England won the fourth Test in Sydney by 299 runs with some fierce bowling by John Snow who took 7 for 40 in the second innings. This test saw Ian Chappell in the unaccustomed role of opener while Ian Redpath was relegated to the role of one -drop batsman,

This series saw the introduction to Test cricket of the legendary Gregory Stephen Chappell, who in his first Test (the second of the series at Perth) scored a century on debut. He went on to play 87 Tests for Australia and scored 7110 runs at an average of over 50. Truly a great batsman indeed!

Two other greats, namely Rod Marsh (wicket keeper) and Dennis Lillee (fast bowler) made their debuts. Ironically, 14 years later, all three retired from Test cricket in the same Test in 1984 and Greg Chappell made it even more memorable when he scored a century in his swansong as well.         

 Draws in the fifth and sixth Tests ensured England retained the Ashes, and for the final match Lawry was controversially and unceremoniously sacked, axed and dropped, despite being in good form, and replaced by Ian Chappell. This made Ian Chappell comment "They (the selectors) will never get me like they got Phanto(Lawry's nickname). Chappell lost the Test by 62 runs, but later commented "There is no prize for running second".

In later years in assessing the captaincy skills of Australian captains Richie Benaud was to make the comment in his book, "On reflection", that "Ian Chappell was the best captain that Australia had ever had." But of course Benaud would not have assessed the skills of Don Bradman(who came before him ),and Alan Border and Steve Waugh (both of whom played later). Chappell's ability was in winning matches with a limited total and using the talents of Lillee and Thomson and "Tangles", big burly Max Walker. What would Lawry have done with the likes of those three!

Chappell came up against Ray Illingworth, Mike Denness and Tony Greig in the "Ashes" but did not come up against, in Richie Benaud's words the "best to captain England"-Mike Brearley. Back to the 1970 series where another England victory secured the series, but it was a bad-tempered match in which Snow and Illingworth clashed with the umpires, and Snow with a spectator. At one stage Illingworth took his team off the field, an episode, which almost resulted in England forfeiting the match.

It was a series in which Boycott and Edrich with the bat, and John Snow with the ball dominated. 

England 2 Australia 0

Bob Massie and the Chappell boys -1972.

This was a series that I followed with much interest. Greg Chappell, my favourite batsman of all time was in the squad and performed very well. The year was 1972, and a highly entertaining series under the captaincy of Ray Illingworth and Ian Chappell saw four of the five Tests finish in results. John Snow, Dennis Lillee and Derek Underwood all gave match-winning bowling performances, but no one had a more spectacular game than Australian swing bowler Bob Massie on his debut in the second Test at Lord's - 8 for 84 runs in the first innings, and 8 for 53 in the second. The Ashes were retained by England in the fourth Test at Headingley, where Underwood spun the home team to victory on a controversial grassless pitch inside three days. Australia won the final Test at The Oval in six days as the Chappells Ian and Greg became the first brothers to score Test centuries together, sharing a 201 partnership.

England 2 Australia 2

Richard de Zoysa spells out plans

The newly elected President of Sri Lanka Automobile Sports, Richard de Zoysa, has set forth his proposed plans for the development of motor sports in Sri Lanka.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader de Zoysa lamented "The infrastructure available for the advancement of motor sports is to say the least, inadequate. Other than the Pannala track, which is technically not an international standard track and Katukurunda which is not a purpose built track, we regretfully, lack the most important ingredient to nurture the sport," emphasised de Zoysa.

For the last five years de Zoysa has been lobbying to build a racing track in Miridjiwalla, Hambantota and has received about 30 proposals for incorporating a six star hotel as well as a golf course. "This is the only way that we could get international drivers here. There is just an iota of a chance that rally drivers may come here. For the purpose of getting these top drivers down here we need a purpose built racing track. The proposals for this were presented to the Government five years ago, to Minister S.B. Dissanayake, but then when the Government changed Minister L. Kiriella was not interested. At the moment we can only get rally drivers here. Recently I met up with some top class racing drivers like Andy Pardoe, former Director of the Jim Russell Driver training school. He is keen on coming here in June, with a qualified instructor for 6 days to train 3 batches of racing drivers. The training that racing driver Andy Pardoe is giving costs about 1,000 -1,500 Pounds. This will be held at the Pannala racing track with theory classes as well. One of the grey areas in motor sports is that many officials are unqualified. The corner marshals need a proper training course. I have also decided to be very transparent and do away with the restriction of the membership of the sport to a few restricted clubs. I hope to set up a National plan for the sport like they do in Britain," explained de Zoysa.

"In order to take the sport to the next level Sri Lanka Automobile sports needs a headquarters and an administrative office. In addition I believe that pro-karting and go-karting should go together. Further we must give priority to collect funds from sponsors and other fund raising projects. I also intend to establish closer ties with FIA (the international body). Further, we must conduct a national championship with significant prize money for the winners. The plethora of motor racing events are also a hindrance. The competitors are complaining that there are too many events. These all have to be steam-lined," ended de Zoysa. -PJ

Caltex powers club Rugby sans foreigners

By Pelham Juriansz 

Foreigners will not be featured in the present Rugby Calendar, which began last Friday. The next 9 weeks will see the Caltex sponsored Inter Club Rugby League tournament powered for the 5th successive year by Caltex Lubricants Lanka Limited. The first round will end on July 17 after which the second round consisting of another 5 weeks will begin. Apart from the league tournament Caltex will continue their association with the Caltex Interclub Knockout tournament as well.

President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU), Priyantha Ekanayake, mentioned that it was the decision of the clubs that foreigners do not play in this year's ruby tournament. Some clubs like Army and Navy etc cannot field foreigners so it was decided that foreigners do not be  part of the scene this year. However, Ekanayake went on to mention the fact that he was of the opinion that the presence of foreigners helped Sri Lankan's improve their game and keep them on their toes.  

 The SLRFU was of the opinion that the game would be very closely contested due to the absence of foreign players this year. However it is also an opportunity to see the locals play some good rugby. "We hope that the players will put in their best or 100% because of the opportunity that will be created in players being selected for the National Team that would play in the 2007 Rugby World Cup qualifying matches". The Union has also made arrangements to have the "B" Division matches played prior to the commencement of the "A" division matches. This way rugby lover's will be treated to a good season of Rugby from the beginning of the season. All efforts are also being taken to ensure there are no clashes with the good club matches against any other club game.

SLRFU has also assured that the school games will not clash with the club games and have agreed with the schools association to commence the school season in July. A laudable act responding to the media and the rugby fans in Sri Lanka.

Further more Caltex will continue with the Rugby Awards selecting The Best Ruggerite, The Best Captain, The Best Forward, The Best Three Quarter and the Best Team apart from the reader votes of Most Popular Ruggerrite and Most Popular Rugby Club.

All in all this season will see some good rugby & it is definitely a step in the right direction of bringing back the spectators to the grounds!

Seventh SAARC golf championships at Victoria

The seventh SAARC Golf Championships, 2005, with the participation of seven countries will be held from May 5-8 at the Victoria Golf and Country Resort at Rujawela, Kandy.

This will be followed by the Open National Amateur Golf Tournament beginning on May 14 in which India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Hong Kong too will vie for honours. In June the Swedish Cup will be worked off with Sri Lankan Air Lines Championship lined up for October this year.

Victoria Golf and Country Resort is now rated as the best Golf Course in the sub continent. This picturesque course measuring 6945 yards at its full championship length, its par 73 layout has four par 5 holes of which three are over 500 yards long. There are four excellent par 3 holes ranging from the very short, but the tricky 5th of 124 yards to the testing 210 yards 13th hole, a great par by any standard. "Some golf curses have a splendid undulating terrain over which the holes are routed. Some Golf courses have a scenic back drop of hills and lakes which excite the senses. But the Victoria Golf Course is blessed with both attributes," said the renowned golf architect, Donald Steel who designed the Victoria Golf Links.

One of the most exhilarating and difficult holes at Victoria is the 473 yards par 4, seventh. The drive from an elevated tee calls for distance, accuracy and nerves of steel, if the player is to have a chance of reaching the green in two. Stately trees and avenues of coconuts lend the course an immediate air of maturity. Impressive natural outcrops of rock area distinctive feature and indeed a hazard of the course.The greens built to USGA specifications are of the highest quality. Beautifully shaped bunkers add to the challenge of Victoria.

The recently opened sports Complex with a beautiful swimming pool, tennis court a range of excellent villa sites with a superb view of the Victoria Reservoir, the Knuckles range of mountains, luxury chalets adds more glamour to Victoria. The champagne cricketers of the caliber of Ian Botham, Shane Warne, Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Darren Lehman and the other members of the England and Australian teams who experienced the thrill and the excitement of playing a round of golf at Victoria described it as the best golf course that they are yet to play on.

HNB-East West in Singer MCA final today

Hatton National Bank, strengthened by the return of their National players, who did not play for most of the season due to commitments both to the A team and the National team in New Zealand, will clash with East West Marketing in the Singer MCA Premier league Knock out final today at the picturesque SSC grounds starting at

The cream of Sri Lanka's cricketers will be on show today with all eyes being focused on "pocket rocket" Lasith Malinga on whom much of HNB's bowling strengths will lie.

Malinga, fresh from his exploits in New Zealand will be keen to perform at home in front of his home crowd, since hitherto his wicket taking has mostly been on foreign soil. 

In addition to Malinga, dusky Avishka Gunawardena, T.M. Dilshan, lanky in form batsman Russel Arnold, wicket keeper Prasanna Jayawardena, up and coming All rounder Farveez Maharoof, and Shanuka Dissanayake will be on show.

HNB are the only team to have won the league as well as the knockout Tournament in 2002.

East West, coached by Manoj Abeywickrema, is unbeaten so far having won the league title for the second straight year.

There will be three special awards for the league stage, namely best batsman, best bowler and man of the series.

The teams:

East West Marketing (Pvt) Ltd (from)

M.Pushpakumara(Captain), Malinda Warnapura, N.Abeyratne, Sajith Fernando, Lanka Silva, J.Kulatunga, R.Pieris, P.Liyanage, I.Gallage, I.Amerasinghe, R.Pushpakumara.

and P.Ranaweera.

HNB (from) Saman Jayantha (Captain), A.Gunawardena, D.Hunukumbura, Russel Arnold, T.M. Dilshan, C.Jayasinghe, N.Perera, F.Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, S.Dissanayake, S.Weerakoon, P.Jayawardena.(P.J.)

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