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West Indies v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Guyana


Chris Gayle and Mahela Jayawardene

'We've started winning
away from home'
- Mahela

Although Sri Lanka has not won a Test in the West Indies on their two previous tours (in 1997 and 2003), Mahela Jayawardene is confident because he believes that Sri Lanka has begun to compete away from home in recent years.

"It's a great challenge for us; we haven't toured West Indies that often. This is my second trip here (the Caribbean) on a full tour; this is a great opportunity to get that first series victory," Jayawardene said at the launch of the series.

"As a team we've been playing really good Test cricket. We've been competing really well away from home, which has been an issue for a number of years for us. We've been dominating at home but away from home we've started winning matches and we've been pretty consistent."

Since 2006, Sri Lanka has drawn Test series in England and New Zealand and in both those instances they fought back after going 0-1 down in the series.

Injuries have forced key bowlers - Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando out of the series which gives the bowling attack - barring Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan - an inexperienced look but Jayawardene felt that he had a good blend of young and experienced players.

"We have a very good side, experienced guys as well as some new youngsters coming through the set-up," Jayawardene said. "We've always enjoyed the Caribbean, the last outing (the World Cup in 2007) was brilliant. We went all the way (to the final), so I'm quite pleased with the preparations and looking forward to the series."

Sri Lanka had one warm-up game ahead of the first Test in Guyana and their batsmen gained valuable practise. Opener Malinda Warnapura and middle-order batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan scored centuries while Jayawardene made 99. Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath picked up 5 for 67 as Guyana President's XI were bowled out for 248.

"It was good preparation for us to play next to the Test wicket which helped us to get familiarised with the conditions," Jayawardene said. "We wanted to make sure we did what we wanted to do in the Test series, which could help us win the series. Overall, everything was very good, the guys spent a lot of time out there in the middle familiarising to the conditions. The bowlers had a good run as well, and the batsmen had an extended run."

The first Test against West Indies begins at the National Stadium in Guyana from March 22.


Gateway College Over-15 netball champions

Gateway College emerged the Overall Champions at the Over 15 Inter-International Schools' Netball tournament  held on March 16 at the D. S. Grounds.

    The tournament  organised by Colombo International School, Colombo saw 15 leading international schools' compete.

In the first match, Gateway played against Lyceum International School, Wattala and beat them 6 points to 5. In the second match, Gateway played with Asian International School where Gateway won with 8 points to 5. Gateway played against Colombo International School, Colombo in the third match where Gateway lost - 7 points to 8.

Gateway played Belvoir College International at the semi-finals and beat them by 12 points to 10.

In the finals, Gateway College emerged champions over Royal Institute beating them - 15 points to 6.

Chamathka Kavindra was awarded the Netball Queen for the second consecutive year. She also won the Best Centre Player award while Rushini Perera was given the Best Defending Player award.


A sad tennis showdown

THE SLTA, not so long ago, was cited as a model administration that the country's other sport bodies might do well to follow - a tribute earned not for any outstanding successes achieved on the international courts. Rather, for the quiet, efficient way its administrators got about the task of bringing professionalism to a sport that had long Rip Van Winkled in the comfortable bed of amateurism - while other countries were up and running in a world changing to the dictates of free market.

The journey to professionalism is long and hard, doubly so for a sport that doesn't figure high in the popularity polls. As far as public appeal go, tennis in Sri Lanka commands far less spectators than cricket, rugby and, perhaps, boxing. What this means is, sponsors, the financiers of modern sport, find tennis less of an attractive investment.

Despite that inherent difficulty, tennis, since 1999, has managed very well. It's island-wide mini tennis and youth development schemes have given what was once the preserve of Colombo - its broadest player-base ever. New courts were laid out in the provinces and discarded ones rebuilt. ITF Junior tournaments have been hosted annually, as well as the World Junior Championships in 2002. The Davis Cup tie was brought to Green Path three times over seven years, 2000-07 - a frequency that is pretty much a vote of confidence from the ITF on SLTA's efficacy.

There was success on court, too: (1) elevation to Group Three of the Davis Cup in 2004, after three years spent in Group Four; (2) finished third in the eight-nation Group Three 2006 Davis Cup and (3) joint-first last year, but forced to concede Group Two promotion to Oman on a count back of the won-sets in the tournament; Oman had won one more.

Admittedly, these aren't glamorous achievements in comparison to, say cricket's, but praiseworthy nonetheless given tennis' limited popularity. Admirable though SLTA's efforts were, the truth is they weren't appealing enough for sponsors to queue up at the door of the Green Path headquarters. Said simply, tennis yet remains a hard sell, and it is to the credit of the administrators that sponsors as well as ITF assistance were secured to fund the programmes of progress.

But no amount of funding was going to help achieve the desired goals unless the job is presided over by honest, dedicated officials. There is no room for self-interest and the conflicts it spawns - and there was no evidence of that in the SLTA administration of recent years, which is why it earned the approbation of being an administration worthy of emulation.

So, to hear that the two top jobs, of president and secretary, are to be put to a vote is, to say the least, disquieting. The last time office bearers were decided by contest was in the 1999 AGM. In some ways the contest of nine years ago was understandable: the younger generation challenged the long-reign of senior officials and won. The inevitable transition had happened.

The contest at the coming AGM, on March 29, hasn't that sense of inevitability. The contestants for the presidency, after all, were a part of the team of young Turks who usurped the older generation in 1999: Janaka Bogollagama, the incumbent, and Suresh Subramaniam, previously five-time president. The two candidates understandably want the Secretary of their choice: Maj. General Seevali Wanigasekera being the incumbent's nominee and Maxwell de Silva, the challenger's.

Canvassing of votes and politicking, as are to be expected, are at apace. The grapevine is spewing all sorts of unsavory tales - of promise of assistance to member-clubs as payback for their vote and all the divisive rhetoric of electioneering. Tennis is headed for a fall into the hole it tried so hard to avoid.

How did the SLTA come to this sad pass? Bogollagama seemingly has a legitimate grouse. After all, it is customary that an office bearer serves two years. So, the incumbent feels his 'forced' exclusion from the ex-co's list of nominees for 2008/09 is unfair. He points out that on Febuary 28 the general committee invited him to a second term. Then on, though, the story gets blurry with accusations and denials. One version has it that the incumbent, told of plans to host 10 ATT tournaments next year and so increasing appreciably SLTA's responsibilities, had told a group of ex-co members he wasn't going to stand for a second term, privately that is. True or not, it later surfaced that Bogollagama has no intention of giving up on his second term - whereupon vice- president Maxwell de Silva sprung up as rival candidate for presidency.

Things were getting ugly, and so members of the ex-co, at a special meeting, put their heads together to draw up a list of nominees. The meeting was on March 6, nine days before the deadline set for nominations. The upshot of the special meeting: Bogollagama to stand down, as would de Silva and Subramaniam to come in as "compromise candidate." The ex-co. approved of this formula, relieved that a contest would be averted. Fat hope, that. Bogollagama's bid for a second term could not be halted. He filed his nomination, as did Maj. Gen. Wanigasekera, hours before deadline, disregarding the ex-co decision of March 6, which he had agreed with.

That Subramaniam had been SLTA president for a record five straight years and Bogollagama, just one term might suggest that the latter has been hard done by. It is only right, some will argue, that the incumbent should do another term and that Subramaniam ought to step down. I put that to the five-time president, and this is what he says: "Look, I am not in it because I want a job that I had done for five years. I am in it because the ex-co wants me to, so as to avoid a contest (between Bogollagama and de Silva), something that hasn't happened since 1999. It's sad the ex-co's decision to avert a contest has been defied.

"Let me also say that I have served the SLTA for nearly 15 years, five of them as president. As well, I coached the Davis Cup team (that qualified for the Group Two semi- finals) in 1989 and was Captain in 2000. I've also won twice the National Doubles title. So, serving as president again gives me no great thrill. Honestly, if I could devote the time and energy in the coming year presiding over SLTA affairs to ATF and ATT matters, then I could serve better the cause of taking Sri Lanka tennis to another level internationally."

The whole question of the wisdom of Bogollagama serving a second term, in fact, was raised with the appointment of Subramaniam to the Board of Directors of the Asian Tennis Tour (ATT), a new body tasked with the responsibility of conducting professional tournaments primarily for Asians. The ATT is a company registered in Hong Kong by officials of the Asian Tennis Federation, of which Subramaniam is Secretary-General.

Given Subramaniam's high office in the ATF and ATT, the prospects of securing hosting rights to ATT professional tournaments were optimistic. The plan is to stage 10 pro events here, each with a prize purse of US$10, 000. And the ex-co, wants the right leadership, rightly so, to translate plan to action. What transpired, you have been already told.

Whatever this week's AGM holds, it was disappointing to read reports that the Sport Minister is contemplating appointing an interim committee for tennis. That is pretty much using a mallet to catch a butterfly. The SLTA hasn't been embroiled in the sort of scandal that forced out elected administrations of other sports - mostly on charges of dwindling funds and outright fraud.

The SLTA's current crisis, in essence, is all about having a capable committee during what is a crucial year, one in which Sri Lanka players stand a chance of earning money and international experience from a host of ATT pro events in their own backyard - not to speak of benefits accruing to the country, in terms of image and economy, from bringing to our shore a series of international events. Tennis doesn't deserve an interim committee - it has managed its affairs very well.

If, however, an IC is installed, then it would be hard to disbelieve that the Sport Minister has acted on behalf of a few ambitious officials.


Maxwell, not Janaka, broke tradition

With reference to the article appearing in The Morning Leader of March 19, we are compelled to make certain observations that are critically important with regard to the contents of the article.

First and foremost, the heading which says: "Janaka goes back on his word........." is clearly stretching a point. The sequence of events was as follows:-

         at the final General Committee meeting of the SLTA for the 2007/2008 term, it was unanimously adopted to invite Janaka Bogollagama to continue as President for another term.

         Subsequently Maxwell de Silva indicates his intention to contest for the post of President.

         An unofficial meeting of the Executive Ccommittee (initiated by the incumbent Vice President General Seevali Wanigasekera), to which Suresh Subramaniam was invited, was summoned to try and settle the issues with regard to the impending contest.

         At this meeting , the President (JB) was criticised very strongly by two Vice Presidents (Maxwell de Silva and Angelo Patrick) and is virtually forced to state that he will not be contesting for the post of President.

         There were opinions expressed at this meeting that JB should be allowed to continue as President for a further term, but interested parties were able to suggest and carry through the candidature of Suresh Subramanium for the post of President.

In view of the foregoing it would be very clear to anyone, that contrary to the statement in your article made by a "SLTA Official" wherein it is stated: "Over the past decade or so we have followed the healthy practice of electing all our officials uncontested. It was a gentleman's agreement that helped to keep the rivalry and politics out of the administration. It is sad a fine tradition has been broken- and that could mean opening the door for factionalism to walk in." Where the allegation of the breach is laid squarely at the feet of JB, the perpetrator of the breach of this noble concept was Maxwell de Silva. This is further confirmed by what has been said by SS in several instances of the said article, such as: "A contest between Maxwell and Janaka" and "face a contest with Maxwell."

The agenda as well as the members of the faction that wanted to force JB out of the presidency, could be seen very clearly by the fact that Maxwell de Silva, the person who broke the "noble tradition," thus "opening the door for factionalism" has been ear marked to be the General Secretary by SS.

Secondly, SS is quoted as saying that: "Being based in Kurunegala, I believe , Janaka could not quite give the time that running tennis deserves." Now JB has been in the SLTA Executive Committee for over 10 years, all the time been based in Kurunegala. It was SS who invited JB to take over the presidency at the end of his fifth year as President. Therefore it should have been very clear for  SS more than anyone else, about the ability or otherwise of JB.

It is indeed interesting, to say the least, that SS sees things differently about JB, only after the General Committee unanimously endorses JB's candidature for a second year.

Finally, in your article this SLTA Official is referring to a year where "The SLTA is expected to have a lot more on its plate."

However the priorities for the SLTA would be as given below:-

         To ensure that the Davis Cup Team gains promotion to Asia Group 2, which was last achieved in 1998 (ironical isn't it that the all of SS's years were spent in Group 3 and also Group 4)

         To ensure that the results of the Junior Programme can produce better results than having to play in the Asian pre-qualifying events at Under 14 and Under 16 levels.

         Making progress in the Fed Cup Asian competition.

             - A SLTA member


Hamilton on top form in Malaysia

Lewis Hamilton beat title rivals Ferrari to set the pace in Friday practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Fresh from victory in the season-opening race in Australia on Sunday, the Englishman's McLaren beat the Ferraris into second and third places.

Hamilton was 0.151 seconds clear of Felipe Massa, with Kimi Raikkonen a further 0.222secs behind in third.

Massa had been fastest in first practice, with Raikkonen second and Hamilton down in fifth.

Scot David Coulthard was forced to sit out second practice after suffering two suspension-related incidents.

He crashed when a track-rod failed, and then suffered major front suspension damage after hitting a kerb. The team faces exclusion from the race after officials asked them to provide a detailed report to the technical delegate of governing body - the FIA.

A statement from the FIA said the team must verify that "the suspension is such that the car should not be deemed 'of dangerous construction' under article 2.3 of the technical regulations.


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