From amateurs to SLRFU’s employees

By Ravi Nagahawatte
Interesting comparisons could be made between past and present players during the Asian Rugby Championships which will be worked off from November 18-25 in Colombo.
It’s essential to begin by saying that Sri Lanka’s rugby players are well-drilled and sport a good chance of winning the Plate Championships. Sri Lanka’s rugby players are now professionals and get to train in an environment where they can concentrate on rugby. This is because the rugby union insists that all those who want to be in the national squad have to be in the payroll of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU). This is quite a contrast from the amateur set-up in which the country’s national players trained when Sri Lanka last hosted the tournament in 1990.
Priyantha Ekanayake, who captained Sri Lanka in 1990, is of the opinion that the players during his time were as well- prepared as the present lot despite the sport then existing with an amateur tag. “Preparations for the 1990 tournament began as early as 1984 and this is why the team did very well against a strong team like Hong Kong. Sri Lanka lost the match 26-16,” said Ekanayake who is now President SLRFU.
Sri Lanka’s rugby players reached lofty heights during the recent World Cup qualifiers but sadly will not play in the Cup Competition of the upcoming Asian Rugby Championships. Does being grouped with teams Sri Lanka has beaten like India, Kazakhstan, Thailand, China and Singapore make the country’s rugby players feel that justice hasn’t been done to their talents? “We came very close to making it to the Cup Championships on our performances at the World Cup qualifiers. The players gained a lot of experience and exposure in playing many matches. A point to be noted is that Sri Lankans began to believe in themselves that they could become Asia’s number two team,” Ekanayake said.
Sri Lanka’s rugby players unlike in the past have had the opportunity to be involved in a very active rugby season which makes them practise from January to December. The gruelling domestic season and a hectic international calendar have kept the players engaged in training for such a long time that a present period of inactivity, due to the absence of national coach Willie Hataraka, is viewed by Ekanayake as a welcome break for the boys. Back in the early nineties Sri Lanka’s rugby players had very little foreign assignments and as a result the authorities had to organize matches for them, here and abroad, to make the team competitive. The tour of Wales is one example of a rare opportunity that came the player’s way.
Ekanayake had high praise for individuals like Malik Samarawickreme and Ajith Abeyratne for the meticulous way in which the rugby players were prepared for the 1990 Asian Championships. A striking feature in the administrative set-up then was that everyone was made to fall in line with the existing system and make their contributions to rugby. The sport, over the years, has embraced professionalism. The present set-up sees the players training in keeping with the newest methods and also receiving the backup from a professional coaching team that comprises expatriates. But sadly however, there exist a few individuals who tend to disrupt the present system in operation with activities that hardly contribute much to the game.
The Asian Championships are just days away and the SLRFU is a beehive of activity. Interestingly the man who led the Sri Lanka team when the country hosted the championships last time is now heading the sport’s governing body. How would he compare the two roles? “I wouldn’t like to make a comparison between the two roles. The role that I played as captain is precious to me. I was picked as Sri Lanka rugby captain on ability but came to be SLRFU president because I was elected,” he said.
Spectators came in their numbers to watch Sri Lanka at the 1990 tournament. Amongst them would have been less than a few hundred rugby players. At present the rugby player base in Sri Lanka exceeds 100,000. Times have changed in comparison to the past where spectators have now got used to seeing Sri Lanka emerge as the winner in international competition. There might be no excuse from fans if Sri Lanka doesn’t win the Plate Championship at the tournament.


Squad of 24 picked for Caribbean tour

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Sri Lanka cricket selectors have picked a squad of 24 players in preparation for the Sri Lanka ‘A’ tour of West Indies starting next month.
Selection committee sources said that the final composition of 16 players would be selected during the second match of the Duleep trophy tournament in India against South Zone from November 4-7.
If Sri Lanka ‘A’ qualifies for the final of the Duleep trophy they return home on November 17 and will have only three days before taking off to the Caribbean on November 20. If they fail to qualify the team will return on November 9. The final is scheduled to be played at Kolkata from November 12-15.
Sri Lanka ‘A’s one month tour of the Caribbean will comprise two 4-day unofficial tests at Guyana and at St. Kitts and five limited-over matches, the first two being played under lights at Antigua and the last three at Trelawney, Jamaica. The dates for the matches have not been finalized yet.
This is the first time a Sri Lanka ‘A’ side is touring the Caribbean. The national team has made two tours there in 1997 and 2003.
Sri Lanka ‘A’ squad for the West Indies tour:
Michael van Dort (CCC), Avishka Gunawardene (SSC), Mahela Udawatte (Chilaw Marians), Tilan Samaraweera (SSC), Russell Arnold (NCC), Jeevan Mendis (SSC), Tilina Kandamby (Bloomfield), Jehan Mubarak (CCC), Chamara Silva (Panadura SC), Malintha Warnapura (Colts), Kaushal Silva (SSC), Charith Sylvester (Chilaw Marians), Kosala Kulasekera (NCC), Gayan Wijekoon (Chilaw Marians), Malinga Bandara (NCC), Suraj Mohamed (SSC), Kaushal Lokuarachchi (SSC), Akalanka Ganegama (NCC), Dhammika Prasad (SSC), Ishara Amerasinghe (Colts), Thilan Thushara (NCC), Tharanga Lakshitha (Bloomfield), Nuwan Zoysa (SSC), Nuwan Kulasekera (Colts).


Swimming pool for Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya

At a press briefing held recently at The Holiday Inn Hotel it was announced that the foundation-stone laying ceremony for the proposed swimming pool at Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya will be held on 27th October, 2006 under the distinguished patronage of The Minister of Education, Susil Premajayantha.
The swimming pool project, included in the school five-year development plan, was forwarded in 2005 to the Ministry of Education by the school development committee.
The Principal together with the past pupils association, the school development committee and school development society has launched many fund raising activities to make this a reality.


Hathurusingha confident

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
The Sri Lanka ‘A’ cricketers led by Tilan Samaraweera left for India on Friday with newly appointed coach Chandika Hathurusingha confident that his charges would do well in the Duleep trophy tournament.
Sri Lanka ‘A’ face West Zone in their opening match at Cuttack from October 27-30 and then take on defending champions South Zone from November 4-7 at Kolkata.
Sri Lanka ‘A’ needs to finish on top of their group to qualify for the final at Kolkata from November 12-15.
“More than looking at the victories our aim is to prepare the players towards gaining national recognition. It does not mean that we will not be aiming to win the tournament but we will also have one eye on getting players to put pressure for places in the senior team,” said Hathurusingha, a former Sri Lanka cricketer.
“What we are trying to do is to create more opportunities for the ‘A’ team players so that they will be prepared to take the next step whenever there is a call for one,” he said.
Hathurusingha said that he had got an idea of the senior team’s requirements after speaking to head coach Tom Moody.
“The senior side is more or less settled and Tom has an idea of the type of players he will need for the World Cup. Our immediate concern is to prepare the players in case of injuries occurring,” he said.
In preparation for the Duleep trophy tournament, Hathurusingha said his team played one 4-day and two 2-day practice matches.
“The players gave a good display in these games. The only grey area was spin, but I am confident they will adjust quickly to the Indian conditions,” he said.
Hathurusingha said since he took over three weeks ago, there has been a marked improvement on the fitness levels of the team.
Sri Lanka ‘A’ team for Duleep trophy: Tilan Samaraweera (captain), Jehan Mubarak (vice-captain), Michael Vandort, Mahela Udawatte, Jeevan Mendis, Malintha Warnapura, Kaushal Silva (w/k), Upul Chandana, Rangana Herath, Chamara Silva, Dhammika Prasad, Tharanga Lakshitha, Akalanka Ganegama, Ishara Amerasinghe, Kosala Kulasekera, Officials: Anura Tennekoon (manager), Chandika Hathurusingha (coach), Ranjith Nanayakkarawasam (physio).