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Exciting talent in Development Squad
to Bangladesh

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Sri Lanka Cricket has picked 15 players representing the Development Squad for a tour of Bangladesh from April 20-May 13 where they will first play in a one-day triangular tournament with the host country and Pakistan and then figure in two 4-day matches with Bangladesh .
The side captained by top order batsman Ian Daniel has enough talent and potential to push the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team players to perform better. The Development Squad is considered to be a team third in line towards achieving national honours. The graduation period is that the identified talent from under 19 or school age is first sent to the Development Squad from where they progress to the ‘A’ team and eventually the national side.

A good example is that of SSC’s prolific left-hander Tharanga Paranavithana. He had a successful 2006-07 season hitting two double centuries in accumulating 723 runs at an average of 60.25. There was a lot of criticism when he was overlooked for the on-going ‘A’ series between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh . The national selectors however had other thoughts and without rushing Paranavithana into the ‘A’ squad allowed him to graduate into it by including him in the Development Squad.

The team which Daniel is leading comprises several cricketers who are potential Sri Lanka players of the future. Coach Jerome Jayaratne was highly excited about players Viraj Perera of BRC and Nisal Randika of CCC.
“Perera is an exciting prospect. He is a left-hand opening bat and he hits the ball quite hard,” said Jayaratne. “Randika is a utility player like the Yuvraj Singh type, but he needs to curb himself.”
Two other top order batsmen who have impressed Jayaratne are Nadeera Nawala of Sebastianites and Harsha Vithana from Colts.

According to Jayaratne if they had stuck to figures neither of them would have been selected. “Purely on performance they wouldn’t have stood any chance of gaining selection. But we took a gamble with Vithana last year and Nawala on this occasion and convinced the selectors to include them because we knew their talent,” said Jayaratne.
“At the time of selection Nawala had gone through a rather lean season (avg. 13.69). But we knew he has a lot of potential. We faced the same situation with Vithana last year. However we included him in the development squad and this season he has fulfilled our expectations by scoring nearly 500 runs for his club. We expect Nawala also to perform similarly,” he said.

Chanaka Wijesinghe from Moors SC is another cricketer who has been constantly getting his name in the news with 30s and 40s but has never converted them into big figures. Jayaratne feels he along with the others have the playing skills, but what they lack is the mental skills. “It is an area we are working hard at and tours of this nature are where we can improve.”

Jayaratne said that Angelo Mathews, the Josephian all-rounder and former Sri Lanka under 19 captain who is just out of school, Gihan de Silva, Charith Sylvester and Kosala Kulasekera are players who have the ability to develop.
Jayaratne also noted that players in the calibre of Anil Rideegammanagedera, Indika de Saram, Tyron Gamage, Gayan Sirisoma, Dilhara Lokuhettige and Lassana Dias were overlooked for selection because they had indicated their unavailability as they had contracts to play league cricket in England.
Whereas one would associate a Development Squad to comprise of up and coming youngsters it is surprising to find an experienced cricketer like Nuwan Zoysa figuring in it.

SLC fast bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake said that Zoysa was included in the squad because the selectors are of the opinion they could still make use of him in the future. In recent times Zoysa, 28, who has played 30 Tests and 95 ODIs, has not only failed to gain a regular place in the national side but also in the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team.
On the bowling side Jayaratne said SSC’s Chaminda Vidanapathirana had a lot of potential while Madura Lakmal Perera of Sebastianites was picked for his pace after he ended up winning the Pace Ace competition conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket last year.

Although tours of this nature are welcome, it is sad to note that in the past four years the Development Squad has made only three tours to Bangladesh, UAE and Malaysia and all of them on the invitation of the host country. It seems that no attempt has been made by SLC who arrange tours for the ‘A’ team and under 19 sides to similarly have ones for the Development Squad. Even the current tour to Bangladesh is also on the invitation of the Bangladesh Cricket Board.

Jayaratne said that it was essential that the Development Squad get strong opposition so that they could judge for themselves their own standard. He was happy that the age limit that was in existence for some time has now been done away with which allows for players of all ages to get picked to the squad, a case in point is the selection of Mathews at the age of nineteen.

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Brits are still lending a helping hand

The British are accredited historically as having introduced the game of cricket to Sri Lanka 175 years ago and they still continue to do so.
Since time immemorial Sri Lanka cricket, thanks to the British has graduated to the point that today they are regarded as one of the leading lights in the game on par with several other top cricketing nations. They are one of the few countries to have won the World Cup (in 1996) - something the British have yet to achieve.
With the changing face of cricket there have been areas where Sri Lanka for all their wonderful achievements on the cricket field, still lag behind. One of them is to develop young cricketers and make them recognize the values that could be added to their lives.

In this aspect the British Council Sri Lanka in collaboration with Sri Lanka Cricket organized a program to provide training on areas such as leadership, values and ethics in relation to sports and life skills. The program was also to impart leadership and management skills to young cricketers who will take the leadership responsibilities in Sri Lanka’s cricket in the future.
The pilot training project which was carried out in three phases included – for school cricket captains and vice captains of Central and North Western provinces; for two selected school teams and, for the under 19 and under 17 cricket pools.

Lalith Gunaratne, an English qualified trainer attached to the British Council was quite happy the way it had worked out. “We got a lot of positive response from the program,” he said.
Gunaratne ran a similar program for the Bangladesh under 19 team three years ago and he is quite happy to note that most of the boys are now members of the Bangladesh World Cup squad today. “The Bangladesh Cricket Board and the British Council in Bangladesh have an ongoing relationship and quite recently we successfully conducted a five-day program for their under 17 cricketers,” said Gunaratne.

Following the success of that program Sanjeevani Munasinghe, the program training co-ordinator at the British Council Sri Lanka wanted a similar one held for the benefit of Sri Lanka’s young cricketers. She already had an on-going project called Dreams and Themes for children between the ages of 15 and 17 where sports was used as an avenue to develop skills. Thus a pilot project was launched making use of Gunaratne’s expertise on the field to teach theories of leadership and values and ethics to our young cricketers. He was assisted by Ranjan Karunaratne, a natural health expert.

In Gunaratne’s opinion leadership perspectives of countries need to change. “For too long the leaders have been spoon fed. It’s endemic all over. We’ve got to change the style of leadership. Individuals should be allowed to take decisions of their own,” he said.
Gunaratne intends extending his program to the schools encompassing the coaches, masters-in-charge and the principals. “They need to be told that there is a totally different perspective to what leadership is all about.” And he intends using sports as a gateway towards achieving that goal.
-(ST)

****

Vaughan relief as England grab points with win

GEORGETOWN, (AFP) - Michael Vaughan breathed a huge sigh of relief as England got their World Cup Super Eights campaign off to a winning start on Friday with a 48-run victory over Ireland.
The win also gave England their first two points which moved them provisionally into fourth place in the table.
But the England captain admitted there was plenty still to do ahead of a more testing clash against 1996 world champions Sri Lanka in Antigua next Wednesday.
“There is a concern over the top order,” said Vaughan who was out for six while fellow opener Ed Joyce, a former Ireland international, was dismissed for one.

Ian Bell, at three, made 31 before the middle order of Kevin Pietersen (48), Paul Collingwood (90) and Andrew Flintoff (43) came to the rescue as England posted a challenging total of 266-7 in their 50 overs.
“We will need to work hard now in the nets to get ready for Sri Lanka. But the most important thing was to get two points as we didn’t carry through any points from the first round,” said Vaughan.
“Also credit to the Irish bowlers who bowled very well.”

Ireland skipper Trent Johnston said the key to the match was the last 10 overs of the England innings when they conceded nine runs an over. “We fought really hard but Paul Collingwood batted well in the last 10 overs and we went for about nine an over. It was just a matter of inches, we didn’t get the balls right.
“Then Monty Panesar and Michael Vaughan came on and put the pressure on. But we kept fighting and it’s a tribute to the team that Michael brought Andrew Flintoff back at the end to clean up the tail.”
Ireland face South Africa, the world number one, in their next match here on Tuesday but Johnston is confident of picking up another win in their remaining five matches to add to their shock victory against Pakistan in the first round.
“Our death bowling at this level is not up to scratch,” added the captain.
“We are not used to playing at this level but we are enjoying the experience. Hopefully we can sneak another win.”

****

Inter-plantations rugby sevens today

Mariks from Kandy
The inter-plantations rugby sevens will kick off at 7.30 a.m. at Darawella today.
A total of 16 regional plantation companies will take part and this is going to be the highest number of entries.
The teams are: Group ‘A’: Namunukula, Kegalle, Malwatte Valley, Elpitiya, Group ‘B’: Kelani Valley, Bogawantalawa, Balangoda, Agrapathana, Group ‘C’: Hapugastenna, Mahurata, Watawala, Kotagala, Group ‘C’: Maskeliya, Pussellawa, Talawakelle.

Defending champions Namunukula is going all out to repeat their success of last year.
According to Tharique Omar, the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union headed by DIG Nimal Lewke and the Central Province Rugby Football Union headed by Iswan Omar along with the plantation companies are giving the much needed backing to make this tournament a memorable one.
The main sponsor for this competition is Dilmah Tea Company. Other sponsors are Nilkamal Eswaran Plastics (Pvt) Limited & Thermax Lalan Engineering.

Rajiv Mathagawera from Dilmah will grace the event as chief guest and Tissa Gunatilake, the Chief Executive Officer of Talawakelle Plantations will be the guest of honour.
The organizing committee comprises the committee of the DMCC headed by President Dilakshan Ratwatte, Secretary and Organizer of the tournament Tarique Omar, assisted by Ajith Ratnayaka, Dushan Ratwatte, Binesh Pannawela, Manjula Samarakoon, Sameera Kahatapitiya, D. Ramakrishnan, Rohan Hettiarachchi, Channa de Costa, Anu Ratwatte, Prabath Sirithunga, Janaka Ellawela and M. Markar.

Apart from the rugby, at which the pride and pageantry of DMCC‘s rich and colourful cultural heritage will manifest itself, the DMCC Plantations Rugby 7’s will be complemented by several concurrent events on this day with a carnival atmosphere enveloping players, spectators, guests, invitees with the entire event exploding into one gigantic rugby fiesta.

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