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Hambantota stadium will be ready in January for matches

D.S. de Silva

By Lal Gunesekera

The Hambantota International Cricket Stadium has at long last got underway. The leveling of the extent of land has started and every attempt will be made to bring it to playing condition by January next year (2010), for matches to be played.

The Chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) Interim Committee (IC) D.S. de Silva, told The Sunday Leader that the infrastructure development work too will go ahead, although the “budget has not yet been prepared, it’s certain to be colossal,” and that he was very positive, that he will be able to secure the funds for this gigantic project.

“I am hopeful that with the cooperation of President Mahinda Rajapakse, will be able to complete the project to stage one semifinal of the 2011 world cup at this venue. The International cricket council (ICC) will inspect all match venues, not only in Sri Lanka, but also in India and Bangladesh, six months prior to the event,” said De Silva.

A Former chairman of SLC’s IC, Jayantha Dharmadasa, the well known successful businessman of Nawaloka fame was reluctant to go ahead with the construction of the Hambantota International Cricket stadium, and this could be one of the reasons why he (Dharmadasa) was not re-appointed to the post of IC Chairman.

De Silva told The Sunday Leader that his co-coordinating Secretary, Suraj Dadeniya, has been appointed by SLC as world cup tournament director after the resignation of Hemasiri Fernando, the influential head of the National Olympic Committee (NOC). Dandeniya was the Chairman of the Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB) during the Ranil Wicremesinghe Administration.

De Silva is to leave for England soon to attend a meeting of the ICC, on June 15, which was earlier scheduled for June 3, but postponed. He has also received an invitation from the ICC to attend the opening ceremony of the second edition of the World Twenty-20 tournament in England on Friday (June 5). 

Pramodya too for England?

De Silva also told The Sunday Leader that arrangements are being made to send IC member, Pramodya Wickramesinghe, too to England in June for the Women’s World Cup, but in what capacity, is not yet certain.

The Sunday Leader learns that President Rajapakse had met three members of the IC (D.S. De Silva, Nishantha Ranatunga and Ranil Abeynaike) together with Anuruddha Polonnowita and discussed among many matters the appointment of Dandeniya to SLC and Hambantota International Cricket Stadium project. This was on May 21, and on May 23, the SLC IC met in emergency session and “Officially” decided to commence work on the Hambantoa Stadium project.

High performance centre

The IC secretary, Nishantha Ranatunga, too left for India last Wednesday (May 27).

D. S. De Silva further told The Sunday Leader that the fully equipped gymnasium of the Max Academy was opened at the Premadasa International Cricket Stadium on May 27, and in six months time it will be a “high performance centre” with six indoor wickets with the latest technology supervised by five specialized coaches, and will also include a swimming pool and hostel facilities.

The Sunday Leader learns that tins was originally a concept of former IC secretary, K. Mathivananm, who is the  President of Colombo  Colts CC.

De Silva also told The Sunday Leader that twenty talented schoolboy cricketers have been also given contracts for the first rime by SLC.

Need to do some soul searching

Last week we spoke of the 20 twenty squad and why in my opinion Chamara Kapugedara should have been an automatic choice. Well it is upto us to wish that the team does well but need to do some soul searching once the tournament is done with.

I am also excited with the new assignment handed over to me. Searching for untapped talent and coaching gives me immense pleasure now that my competitive playing days are over. It is in these areas that I could be most effective and not in holding administrative positions. This was the principle reason why I conduct talent searches in backward areas and also spend a lot of time in coaching juniors. I need to thank Coca Cola inc for all the support.

British conditions

Ok so we are into the final week before the world 20 twenty kicks off. Our lads have a couple of side games to settle down and they should do well to experiment with the players on British conditions. The last few games in South Africa showed that the senior players amongst all teams did well but under British conditions this could be different, yet experience and a cool head can still win matches.

Quick runs

I believe that innovators will do well in any form of cricket. The demand for quick runs in any form is now the requirement. Recall how the Australians started scoring nearly 300 runs in a day?

This pushed other teams to match this rate or come close to it if they were to have a reasonable chance of winning against them. Most teams adapted quickly and now score around two eighty or there-abouts in a day. In this backdrop I believe that the 20 twenty will unearth new and exciting players when the game becomes a little older and cricket in all forms will gain.

Watch out for the young Indian players who have had enough experience recently in this world cup. They are sure to make an impression. I expect tough competition from all teams and this tournament is going to evoke much interest as they would be representing their countries and not an adopted team. This going to be watched by unprecedented numbers across the globe and it’s a fine opportunity for the Sri Lankan squad to make a strong impression. Though some may feel its misplaced here I would yet be happy if young Chamara Kapugedara made the squad. Good  luck boys and go grab the cup.

After the new dawn, what awaits tennis?

The long-awaited new morning will finally dawn over our world of tennis. It is now official. The administration of Sri Lanka tennis is to be taken off the hands of the Interim Committee and placed with democratically elected officials. Nominations from candidates closed last week and all that's left to do is for members to elect the 2009 office bearers at the AGM, set for June 11 at the Green Path headquarters.

You might ask what's so momentous about this AGM. After all, it's going to be no different to the yearly ritual, which AGMs are - except that this one comes three months too late; the Sport Ministry-set deadline for all AGMs is March 31. This is not to suggest that the June 11 AGM is illegal , far from it. It is, in fact, the date prescribed by the Sport Ministry.

It wouldn't be surprising if some officials were a taken aback by the ministerial order to hold elections given the many false dawns experienced previously. To trace back the events that led to this unseasonal June AGM would not be inappropriate. As the new morning is awaited, inescapably, chilling memories are revived of the way the 2008 AGM was scuttled a day or two before it was to be held. Sport Minister, Gamini Lokuge, ordered the elections be kept on hold until investigations into allegations that some of the clubs with voting rights are phantoms. The charge was that some clubs aren't active, but are retained in the voting list by certain powerful officials because they are in their "vote bank''.

AGM only postponed

Lokuge was at pains to explain the 2008 AGM was only "postponed'' as opposed to cancelled and assured that it will be held no sooner the legitimacy, or otherwise, of the voting clubs were checked out, a check that wouldn't be inordinately long given that the check-list was just 36 clubs. Five months had elapsed and no word was heard on the alleged phantom clubs. Obviously, all 36 were legitimate tennis-playing clubs, else some nasty noises would've emanated from the ministry and instigators of the allegation.

So, if Lokuge was as good as his word, the 2008 AGM ought to have been held last year. But in a politician's world, word and deed don't have to complement each other. And sure enough, the minister goes and sets up an Interim Committee in August 2008. To be charitable, there was a valid reason why he might've gone back on his word: since it is mandatory for the SLTA to conduct its AGM before each March, it didn't make sense holding one in August 2008 and another in March 2009.

The popular assumption, thus, was that the IC would preside over the seven months to the 2009 AGM; Sport Ministry officials hinted as much. But that was another false dawn, and the Janaka Bogollagama-led IC hobbled along, stumbling from one controversy to another. As mentioned often in these columns, the IC was all about the minister wanting to accommodate his pal Bogollagama for a second term, in 2008/9 - something he could never have managed if it was decided by a show of hands.

Not a pretty legacy

All that is now water under the bridge. But it's not a pretty legacy the IC leaves behind: Rs.3M in the red, from the Rs.12M bank balance inherited in 2007, Bogollagama's first term, desertion of long-standing sponsors. A CEO chair rendered vacant since 2007 owing to lack of funds and disgruntled staff.

So, it's not a rose garden that the new committee walks into on June 11. But there's a rainbow: none of the posts will required to  put to a vote, which at once eliminates politicking and all its noxious affects. That there aren't rival candidates suggests the membership's determination to restore the good name  and health of the game. Honest, well-meaning men have put up their hands to help, mindful the task is never going to be an easy one. With Davis Cup Group Two promotion achieved this year, after nine years spent in Group3, the job in 2009/10 will only become doubly demanding - a challenge that will appeal to only those sincerely dedicated to the sport. The Sunday Leader can reveal the brave men who have stepped forward to do that job:

President:  Maxwell de Silva.

Vice Presidents: Lalith Withana, Gen. Ranaweera, Lt. Col. Shiran Abeysekera, Asiri Iddamlagoda and Dinesh Weerakoddy.

Secretary: Boshan Dayaratne.

Treasurer:  Kumar Gunawardena.

Asst. Secretaries: Irshad Othman, Vipul Perera, Bernard Jesuthsan and  Sqd. Ldr. Samantha Wickremaratne.

Asst. Treasurer: Asoka Abeywardena.

Ground Secretary: V T Suntharalingham.

Experienced CEO

Loaded with experienced administrators, the lineup looks promising. Boshan Dayaratne's reappearance is significant. It will be recalled, Dayaratne was the SLTA's first ever CEO, 1999-2003, and so, has more than a passing knowledge of what is required of him, from tournaments, ITF relations to sponsorships. It is not clear when a new CEO will be appointed, but until such time one is recruited, it's a comforting thought to the de Silva-administration that it can turn to an official who's done the job before.

Critics, of course, will pick holes- and the choice of de Silva as president is ready-made for brickbats: the president-elect's tennis pedigree is nil. "de Silva as head of tennis is, well, a Boeing in the hands of taxi driver,'' his critics might exclaim. Tell that to de Silva, and he says: "The committee has two former Davis Cup players (Iddamalgoda and Kumara) while Suresh Subramaniam has agreed to head up the selection committee. That vice president Iddamalgoda is presently the Davis Cup manager obviously is a huge advantage - and with the wisdom of the other two former Davis Cup players in the ex co, we won't be lacking in technical knowledge required for the smooth functioning of the SLTA. So whatever I might lack from not being a player won't be detrimental to progress.''

de Silva, though, isn't short of experience in administration. His association with the SLTA is nearly a decade, and having served as Secretary and Vice President, his elevation to the presidency is a logical consequent. He might've not figured in the forefront of matters concerning selection, coaching and other technical facets, but any breach of the accepted norms of administration, and no voice of protest would be the louder than his. A rebel with cause, he is.

Development of outstation Tennis

Development of outstation was always dear to him and he gave much of his time to it. But as president, there will be more important issues to address. "Promotion to Group Two has placed more responsibilities on the administration. Obviously, no one now wants our tennis to be demoted back to Group 3 - and to stay on the new level will take some doing. The investment required for the 2010 Davis Cup campaign is going to be huge - and it's not as if we have all of the wealth of the world at our disposal,'' says de Silva, a former Thurstanite, who manages his own Shipping Institute.

He admits that to win back the trust of lost sponsors isn't going to be easy, if not impossible. "Some serious public relations work will be required to get the old sponsors back - and that task will be given high priority. Our old relationship with them had always been excellent so we know that at least they'll open their doors and listen to us,'' says de Silva.

He is, however, pinning more hope on an Rs.20M. assistance package from the government, the papers for which is already in the Sport Ministry filed. "What we are really asking is our share of the amount allotted to sport in the last budget. I am confident the basis for our Rs.20M. claim will be viewed favorably by the ministry because of the emphasis placed on outstation development,'' says de Silva. "The plan is to get support from the private sector for our Davis Cup campaign so that the ministry grant can go in  to development.''

Not quite the plans of a genius, but Sri Lanka tennis in its present dire strait requires some good old fashioned thinking to get it back on the road - until such time it can fly high, like a Boeing.

Cheer up ruggerites - the Cheerleader girls are here

Harcourts the most innovative pharmaceutical company has done it again. This time in the sports field by introducing cheer girls to support their sponsored club CH & FC. The 1st match with the attendance of 4 dancing cheer girls in the same style as IPL or international soccer matches was on  May 15, at CH & FC grounds at  maitland crescent  which CH & FC won with an emphatic 35 to 10 win over Police.

Inspite of being a weekday a large crowd had gathered to cheer the first match of CH & FC Vs Police in this "A" Division Rugby League Tournament .

The spectators were treated to a surprise element in this years tournament . Tucked away in the corner of the ground was an ornamental platform which nobody guessed for what it had been put up by the sponsor  Biona for Men.

Soon there was a deafening cheer from the crowd and you could see for the first time in a Rugby Match in Sri Lanka a group of cheerleader girls climbing on to the decorated platform with their " Pompons" ready to dance to the pulsating music from the DJ .

Official interferes in selections

A secretary of a sports controlling body has no say in selection committees appointed by the Minister of Sports. However this is just the opposite where the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) of Sri Lanka is concerned where Prema Pinnawela is the Secretary.

A senior member of the Athletic Selection Committee told The Sunday Leader that Pinnawela's status at Selection Committee meetings should only be as an observer, but he "pushes" for his favorites and lays off deserving athletes.

Pinnawela has been a member of the Grand Prix Selection Commission and had "kept out" several names of deserving athletes, who were initially picked by the Selection Committee.

This was evident at the first-leg of the Asian Grand Prix in China. There were eight lanes, but only six took part in the Women's 400 metres. Sri Lanka's Chandrika Sudarshani was placed fourth. Couldn't Sri Lanka field just another lass as tow lanes were empty?

The second-leg was also held in China and the third in Hong Kong yesterday (May 30).

Former "wood shot" law was  referred as "Bala shot"!!

By Lal Gunesekera

Remember Ramachandra Balasubramaniam? He was Sri Lanka's delegate to the AGMs of the International Badminton Federation (IBF) from 1957 to 1960, Council member of the IBF (1960 to 1965 and again from 1967 to 1969) and Vice President too from 1969 to 1978.

Bala served on the rules and laws, tournament and international championship committees of the IBF from 1960 to 1987, and took a leading role in the changing of the "wood shot" by former president of the IBF, David bloomer.

He was promoting badminton in Ghana (1965-1966) and was instrumental in the formation of the Africa Badminton Federation with the assistance of  Tanzanian BA and had the distinction of chairing the inaugurals meeting of the Africa BF in 1978.

Bala was also elected vice-President of the newly formed World Badminton Federation (WBF) in 1978 in Hong Kong and was a Signatory to the memorandum of understanding between the IBF and WBF in 1981 in Tokyo after agreeing to a compromise on the admission of china to the IBF.

He was also a member of the Technical committee for Badminton at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

Bala, who has been living abroad for over four decades, is now based in Sydney, Australia and involved in international arbitration cases and was in Colombo recently for a few days before returning to Sydney via Singapore and Hong Kong.

Bala's Brother is former DIG Sundera lingam, who was attached to Interpol in Paris and later a Consultant on narcotics. He now lives in India.







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