No play on day one
The pitch of MA Chidambaram stadium
being covered by polythene sheets.
By Gamini Senadhira
Continueous rain from 2 am on Friday morning, washed out the first day's play in the first Test between India and Srilanka at the Chepauk Stadium in Chennai.
Though a cyclonic storm was predicted to hit Chennai from last Wednesday, the weather was sunny and warm till Friday. The danger of the cyclonic storm within the next four days is a cause for concern but heavy rain is predicted and the chances of the Test getting off to a start is quite remote.
Taking into account the current strength of the two teams, Indians tip the scale to win the series. The indian captain, Raghul Dravid, faces a challenge in picking the correct outfit for the three Tests contest while the Lankan skipper is stumped with the absence of many a senior and experienced players who certainly would have been an asset to the side.
The inclusion of Saurau Ganguly to the Test squad had created a problem for the Indian selectors to pick the final eleven for the first Test . If they opt to play the former captain , he will have to share the new ball with Irfan Pathan as Agith Agarkar will be omitted . The chances of two spinners, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble being included in the side too is a possibility.
The hosts can boast of a batting strength down to number nine slot and with a good mixture of pace and spin, they obviously become favourites to clinch the series. The omission of Sanath Jayasuriya and Russel Arnold from the Lankan team without question has crippled the Lankan batting strength, and their top order , Atapattu, Sangakkara, Jayawardenea and Samaraweera must perform to their true potential if they are to have a
fighting chance against their opponents. The Lankans poor show in the three day side game in Bangalore, where they lost nine wickets for 179 runs in reply to the Indian Board President's teams's score of 319 for four wickets too indicates what is in store for them in the Test series . I strongly think that the inclusion of Aviska Gunavardana and Upul Tharanga in place of Sanath Jayasuriya to open the Lankan innings will add any muscle to Srilanka's
battings. Their style of play will be an advantage in a one day game but will spell disaster in a five day contest.
In the bowling department too the visitors can bank only on Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas to deliver the goods and if they fail to come out good , the Lankans will be in deep trouble, unless their batsmen register a first innings score of over 400 runs.
The Indian opener ,Virender Sehwag, has a slight strain in his left shoulder and did not attend the practice sessions, but is expected to be fit for the Test series. The little master, Sachin Tendulkar, returns to one of his favourite hunting grounds, Chepauk, where he averages 102 from six matches with four centuries. But unfortunately his chances of breaking Sunil Gavaskar's
record for most number of Test centuries (34) which he had already equalled drowned with the rain currently experienced in Chennai.
In Chepauk England had scored the hightest innings total of 652 for 7 against India in 1984/85 series and Sunil Gavaskar with an unbeaten 236 with West Indies holds the highest individual record. Narendra Hirwani of India with a match bag of 16 wickets for 136 runs also against West Indies is the record holder at Chepauk for most wickets and Anil Kumble with 42 wickets in six Tests is the record holder for most career
Sports Blitz fills a long void
By T.M.K. Samat
If Sri Lanka didn't have an English sport magazine of its own, it is not due to a lack of trying. The past is filled with the corpses of such magazines. "We did a bit of research and found that at least 30 English sport magazines were published but none survived," said Ana Punchihewa, publisher of Sports Blitz, at the magazine's launch, Monday, at the Colombo Swimming Club.
Given that uninspiring history, the up-market-intended magazine, priced Rs.150.00, is a brave venture, deserving of the highest praise. Finally, a long void has been filled. But whether it would've been undertaken at all but for Punchihewa's obsession with resuming his unfinished job in sport is doubtful.
"For one reason or the other, I couldn't accomplish all that I wanted to as sports administrator. Hopefully, through this magazine I'll try to achieve those (unattained) goals," said Punchihewa.
When Punchihewa was President of the Cricket Board, his declared mission was to make the country the world's no. 1 in one-day and Test cricket. One half of that mission was accomplished in 1996 - and then infamously he was shooed out of office by scheming, conniving, ambitious challengers.
As head of Sri Lanka golf, his aim was to bring professionalism into a game that long has been regarded as "a rich man's way of ensuring a thirst-quenching evening at the bar". Two articles on Sri Lanka golf in the first issue clearly intends to take the game in the direction of Punchihewa's yearning.
There's also an authoritative piece on the state of Sri Lanka athletics, researched and written by sport journalist Champika Fernando. Swimming sensation, Conrad Francis, is profiled rather effervescently by Tracy Francis, dubbing the swimmer Black Dolphin. Rugby finds space through an interview with the new Chairman of the Australia RFU, Sri Lankan and former Trinitian, Dilip Kumar, and a visitor's recollections of a 1972
visit to the island - but nothing on the recently concluded local season or Sri Lanka's successes in the first round of IRB World Cup Asian qualifier.
Otherwise, Sports Blitz is packed heavy with cricket, and that's understandable given that the game tops the popularity poll here. Ten articles take up much of the 60 pages, and bar a piece on Muralidaran by Nirgunan Tiruchelvam, the rest are by foreign writers. The admirable Peter Roebuck writes his views on the employment of foreign coaches in this part of the world, and David Graveney looks back on England's recent Ashes
triumph. Trevor Chesterfield, the Managing Editor, weighs in with half-dozen pieces, including one on the nostalgia-provoking ambience of the Cricket Club Caf‚.
Needless to say the writings of these expert commentators from overseas make the magazine a good read. If I have one complaint, it is the absence of a few more local writings. Local writers, after all, have a different perspective. But then good Sri Lankan English writers aren't dime a dozen. If I was asked to suggest from among the good few, my unhesitating recommendations: Rohan Wijeyaratna and Berti Wijesinha.
Wijeyaratna's scholarly Saturday column in a daily is always a refreshing read, and is proof of his value. Wijesinha is of older vintage; his writings on cricket were the most admired during pre-Test times. He has a fund of stories - stories the younger generations will never know. He is the most competent to connect the past with the present. He had been in the UK for some two-plus decades, and so became a forgotten man. A quiet, unobtrusive gentleman,
he's not the one to sell himself. If he is invited to contribute, I am sure, he wouldn't be unwilling.
You can't, however, have all you wish for in the first issue. One hopes Sports Blitz endures the bumps on what will be a long and difficult journey, so that, with time, it will cater to everyone's tastes - and also help Punchihewa complete his unfinished schemes. Good luck.
IRB status: Worthy or unworthy?
Samat on Sunday
This is disturbing news: IRB recognition was long sought-after, yet, just two years after obtaining it, organizers of the Singer/SriLankan Airlines International Rugby Sevens, together with the SLRFU, want to review the world body's prescribed tournament format - an issue that could well lead to the forfeiture of IRB status.
SLRFU President, Priyantha Ekanayake, confirmed to The Morning Leader of last week that his Union officials along with organizers of the popular event will soon hold a brainstorming session over the feasibility of increasing the number of participants to 16-18 countries, from the present dozen. The contemplated change is valid for more reasons than one - the least not being that the IRB-prescribed 12 countries isn't
sufficient to serve out international matches on each of the event's three days, a serious anomaly for an event billed as an 'international'.
Before the event was accorded IRB recognition in 2004, 16 countries competed each year, bar the 1999 inaugural event, which had 10. Even with 16 countries, there weren't enough international matches to program on all three days. The first day, consequently, was wholly used up by the schools tournament. So, with the subtraction of four teams, you don't need arithmetical skills to deduce that, in real terms, roughly a day and
half, of the three days, is all the international fare that the audience gets.
One suspects the sponsors aren't exactly happy with the way the seven-year event has thinned down. Any private expressions of dissatisfaction by title sponsors, Singer and SriLankan Airlines, over the shrinkage, thus, wouldn't be out of order. After all, the sponsors commitment initially was on the promise that the event would, with time, have a few big guns of world sevens rugby, the likes of Fiji, gracing the event. If
achieving that goal even meant the expensive enlistment of the event on the IRB World Series circuit, the sponsors didn't disapprove of. That such lofty ambition should now be reduced to the skimpy outlines of an international tournament is. well, was not quite the story the sponsors were told at the outset.
So, who is to blame for the broken promise? To finger the IRB is an instant reaction. If the IRB did indeed promise that it would ensure the participation of the big-name nations - which it has the power to do - then the world body hasn't been as good as its word. And that's not a nice reputation to have for a body responsible for rugby worldwide - not quite the light it would want to be seen by its member countries. So, it's
hardly likely Twickenham would commit a gaffe that would cause it such huge embarrassment.
If not the IRB, then, are the organizers to blame? To be fair, they have repeatedly declared publicly that their ambition is to attract a few of rugby's big-name countries, and have spoken, also publicly, of interests in enlisting with the IRB World Series circuit to achieve that goal. So, their intentions have been honest. But the wheels of their World Series scheme, however, came off with IRB's 2003 decision to limit the
series to eight tournaments, from a one-time dozen. The official reason advanced for putting a cap on the number of World Series tournaments was that the numbers were too unwieldy. Meaning, the likes of Fiji, All Blacks, England and other world giants, understandably, chose to play in, say, only five-six events. That left host countries of events the giants opted out of discontentment, naturally. The upshot: the supreme quality of competition one expects
of a world tournament could not be sustained in all of the 12 tournaments. "We realized having too many (World Series) tournaments was being counter-productive," IRB's Mark Egan told me in 2004.
What the IRB didn't say was that there were fewer countries willing to host the World Series, obviously wiser by the disenchantment of previous hosts over the no-shows by star attractions.
It's not that Sri Lanka organizers were unaware of the declining market for the World Series. And even though the IRB limited the number to eight events, local organizers' persistence to secure some sort of world recognition for the Singer/SriLankan Airlines event didn't diminish. That was how the IRB came up with the idea of having an Asian Satellite Circuit - and the Kandy event was to provide the historic first kick-off.
It looked an attractive package, initially. For one thing, it won't cost the host country a dime, whereas US$ 100,000 is the World Series hosting-fee, for each staging, mind you. Sure, the Satellite event is restricted to Asia (read: world giants tabooed) but it had an importance of its own. For instance, the inaugural event in 2004 was designated the IRB Asian qualifier for the 2005 once-in-four-years World Series Sevens
The 2005 event, however, served no tangible purpose, though it did give the IRB an opportunity to work out an Asian ranking list, which, it is said, proved useful in choosing the eight participants, fifth-placed Sri Lanka included, for next year's Asian Games in Qatar. But the official qualifier for the Asian Games it wasn't, period. Time will tell if next year's event will be anything more than one that helps in the
compilation of the Asian rankings.
So, it's fair to question the feasibility of hosting the Satellite tournament with just 12 countries. Significantly, despite IRB's declared intention to have a Satellite circuit in Asia, there hasn't been other takers, at least, not in the first two years, potentially, the most fruitful. Being one of a kind in the continent would, it seem, gives our event a special quality of importance. But there's another interpretation:
ranking points, and no other rewards, might not be incentive enough for countries to dispatch their best players. So, Asian powers like Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Chinese-Taipei could well field development teams, something they've wouldn't do if the Kandy event is path to a more prestigious IRB event, as it was in 2004.
Against that backdrop, Sri Lanka has a strong case to argue for the expansion of the event. But its suggested expansion flies in the face of IRB's designs. Organizers want to add to the Asian mix, countries from Europe, Down Under and the Pacific region. That defies IRB's geographical demarcation, restricting the event to Asia under its grander scheme of Asian development. The world body has instead suggests increase in
participants through inclusion of Asian minnows, the likes of India, Pakistan, Macao, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan or any other recent recruits, who, incidentally, outnumber the older members of the ARFU members. Of the 22 current ARFU members, 12 joined over the last six years.
Local organizers loathe the inclusion of minnows as it would dilute the quality of competition. Fair point. Instead, they insist on the inclusion of non-Asian countries, arguing that calculations for Asian rankings, the purpose of the event, would be confined to the achievements of only the Asian countries. IRB's reluctance to allow that scenario is understandable; after all, the presence of likes of Fiji and the All Blacks
in the Satellite event could undermine the prestige of its own World Series. That, too, is a fair point.
So, both sides have their side of the story, both valid. The issue, thus, can well lead to a take-it-or-leave-it situation, meaning a choice between IRB recognition or its forfeiture. The latter course, of course, is a return to the pre-2004 times, which gives organizers the freedom to invite countries of their choice from anywhere in the world - as against IRB's geographical confinement. It's a tough choice.
The virtues of IRB recognition are many; the invisible advantages being more than the ones visible. For one thing, it establishes close and continuous links with the world body; good offices with the IRB thereby will accrue. There's also the considerable advantage of possible increase of IRB funding for our rugby. As well, it creates an opportunity to bid for the country to become IRB's development centre for South Asia, as
Hong Kong RFU was for China in the early 90s. China presently is a considerable force in Asian rugby - a fact that can only encourage IRB to use the SLRFU to advance rugby in India, Pakistan, Mongolia and Laos, all members of the ARFU family.
The forfeiture of IRB status is well and good, IF organizers can secure the participation of some of world powers. But that won't be easy. Without IRB recognition, it becomes a private tournament - and big-name countries don't compete in them for reasons of goodwill. They'll want hard cash, and that too if space can be found in their already crowded international schedule, all of them IRB recognized engagements. The more
likely prospect, sans IRB recognition, would be a return to the pre-2004 state - 16 countries, including the lesser lights of Europe, club/district teams from Down Under and Kenya. Does that deserve the bartering away of IRB status?
The ideal solution would be for the Singer/SriLankan Airlines Sevens to retain its IRB recognition while expanding its participation base to other continents. The SLRFU have a good case to argue, based on the apparent concerns of sponsors brought on by the event's present limitations. The IRB can't be insensitive to sponsors interests, given the game's huge dependence on sponsorship.
President Priyantha Ekanayake and Chief Executive Officer Dilroy Fernando have admirable powers of persuasion, vivid contrasts to some of their brusque predecessors. There's no reason to think they can't persuade IRB to come round to accepting what's best for our event - if they so want to. The IRB's responsibility, after all, is to assist its member-countries, not knock them down, especially at this crucial time when it
strives to globalize rugby and gain acceptance as a medal sport in the Olympics.
Miyauchi Kenji wins JPSA Ranking Tournament 2005
By Hishan Welmilla
Miyauchi Kenji emerged winner of the annual Japan Professional Surfing Association (JPSA) tournament, which concluded on Monday at Hikkaduwa.
The four-day event organized by SriLankan Airlines for the fourth year running attracted nearly 90 professional surfers from Japan including male and female
This is the last tournament of the year in the JPSA's calendar, and it is an official ranking tournament that offers competitors a final chance to improve their standings in the JPSA rankings that will be announced following the event. Participants include several top professionals from last year's ranking and total prize money on offer was one million Japanese yen.
A female event was added for the first time and Uemara Miku became the winner.
In addition to the JPSA events there was a special event for the local surfers with a view to giving and opportunity to compete with professional surfers. Sanath Dhammika was placed first among the local competitors.
Final results of the Sri Lankan Cup (Men)
Winner - Miyauchi Kenji -
(12.85 points - Prize Rs.270,000)
1st Runner Up - Ogashira Nobuhiro˙-
(12 points - Prize Rs.130,000)
2nd Runner Up - Tsuchiya Shohei -
(11 points - Prize Rs. 60,000)
3rd Runner Up - Kinoshita David -
(10.35˙points - Prize Rs.45,000)
(5th -20th place participants also get prize money)
Final results (Ladies)
Winner - Ms.Uemara Miku (15 points)
1st Runner Up - Ms.Uchida Kazune 9.55 points)
2nd Runner Up - Ms.Inagaki Makiko (7.85 points)
(No prize money; only trophies)
1st Place - Sanath Dhammika (11.50)
2nd Place- Danuka Seneviratne (11.25)
3rd Place - Mayura Chanaka (10.75)
4th Place - Madura Prasanga (6 points)
(No prize money: only trophies)
Sri Lanka back in Hong Kong 7's
It was heartening news for Sri Lankan rugby when the organisers of the premier sevens tournament in the world, the Hong Kong 7's forwarded a formal invitation for the national sevens team to partake in next year's event.
Sri Lanka last featured at the Hong Kong 7's in 2002 and since then were booted out of the tournament due to the eligibility criteria introduced by the International Rugby Board (IRB). It is reported that this invitation had been at the initiation of the IRB itself.
The tournament is scheduled to take place form March 31 to April 2.
Sri Lanka has featured in 27 consecutive Hong Kong 7's tournament since it's inception till the exit in 2002.
- Ranil Prematilake
Badminton Nationals from December 9-12
The 53rd Badminton National Championships will be worked off from December 9 to 12 at the Royal College Sports Complex badminton courts. This tournament will serve as a trial in selecting the team for the forthcoming South Asian Games and the Thomas Cup to be held in Sri Lanka next year.
Sri Lanka's top seed Niluka Karunaratne, who is ranked 84th in the world has been the undisputed national champion for the fourth successive year.
He will be making a determined effort to keep his title for another year, while some promising players of the calibre of U. D. R. P. Kumara, Diluka Karunaratne, C. N. J. John and Thushara Edirisinghe, are expected to provide stiff opposition in the men's category
In the women's category, seven times singles title holder Chandrika de Silva who lost to Thilini Jayasinghe last year, is determined to regain her title this year and is hoping to make a comeback with a vengeance. Nadeesha Gayaththri and Sulochana Ariyadasa are also in the running.
The other events to be worked out are the Men's and women's singles, Women's and men's doubles, mixed doubles, Veterans over 40 singles and doubles. Senior veterans over 45 singles and doubles, Masters over 50 singles and doubles.
Dilan Perera to blow at SAFF Championship
By Hishan Welmilla
Experienced Dilan Perera has been named in the 15-member referees Panel for the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship to be held in Karachi.
27 year old Dilan happens to be the youngest football referee in Asia and he is a product of Kalutara Vidyalaya. He started his international refereeing career by officiating the Under 18 friendly championship in Thailand and he has officiated six international competitions so far including the AFC last year.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has appointed Jaroudi as Match Commissioner for the event to be played here at the People's Stadium from December 7 to 17.
Apart from that, Lebanon's Fouad Abdul Karim Jaroudi will be the Match Commissioner, SAFF Championship.
The Beirut-born Jaroudi, who celebrated his 55th birthday on 10 November, was one of the six participants during the two-day seminar for match commissioners at Kuala Lumpur in August this year. Iran's Hossein Asgari, who attended the first AFC Regional Member Association Football Instructors' Refereeing Course (Central and South Asia) in Islamabad this May, will perform as Referee Inspector at the SAFF Championship.
The referees during the 15-match tourney will be Abdul Hannan Miron (Bangladesh), Suresh Srinivasan (India), Raja Shrestha Gyanu (Nepal), Hettikamkanamge Dilan Perera (Sri Lanka), Khodadad Afsharian (Iran) and Mukhtar Al Yarimi (Yemen AR) while Ka Yu Fung (Hong Kong), Reza Sokhandan (Iran), Raja Haja Maidin B.A.Peer Mohammad (Singapore), Hasson Hussain Kurma (Yemen AR), Tshering Chophel (Bhutan) and Ibrahim Thauffeq
Sri Lanka will meet the host nation Pakistan in the curtain riser SAFF Gold Cup 2005 and eight countries will be seen in action for the south Asian football supremacy and they have drawn up to two groups.
Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Maldives will be in the group A while India, Nepal,, Bhutan and Bangladesh in group B. All Group matches will get underway from December 7 to 12. The semifinals will be played on December 14 and the grand finale is scheduled for December 17. All matches will be held in Karachi's Peoples Sports Complex.