Algama speaks his heart out

“For a person who is holding the highest position in Sri Lanka Cricket Ranatunga should have acted more maturely,”

“At the last interim committee meeting he had said that I was not doing a good job and that he needed a permanent person for that position. This view was expressed soon after an article had appeared in the media about a fraudulent tender deal involving some SLC official, which I was accused of not clarifying. I didn’t do so because I was told by a powerful person holding high office at SLC who had called for the tender that the story was true.”

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Sri Lanka Cricket’s (SLC) sacked media manager Samantha Algama said that interim committee chairman Arjuna Ranatunga could have avoided all the unnecessary bad publicity that he was bringing to SLC if only he had shown some courtesy and asked him to resign. Ranatunga’s untimely action in sacking Algama became an international issue with the International Cricket Council (ICC) also expressing their concern.

“As chairman Ranatunga had the right to terminate my services at any time because I was working as media manager in an honorary capacity. My sadness is the way it was done. He made it known to me that my services were no longer needed through a telephone call from CEO Duleep Mendis,” Algama told The Nation.

“After doing 1200 days of work for SLC without payment and uplifting the image of the Sri Lanka Cricket media around the world he didn’t have the courtesy to call me and ask me to resign. I would certainly have done so and all this unnecessary publicity could have been avoided,” Algama said.

“When he was appointed chairman at the beginning of the year he wanted me to upgrade the media. My job was to uplift the image of Sri Lanka Cricket, not to damage it. My sacking didn’t come as a surprise. I knew it was coming,” Algama continued.

“Normally after every press conference he would thank me for a job well done. But last week after the Women’s Asia Cup press conference he avoided me. It was the seventh press conference I had organized under his chairmanship. However I carried on with my work as usual. The day before I was sacked I was visiting the cricket grounds and attending to the media requirements for the upcoming series against India,” he said.

When asked what the reasons were for his sacking Algama said: “He didn’t like me being too close to the media. As media manager I had to have a good rapport with the media both print and electronic that was part of my job. With the little I knew of handling the media when I was first appointed I gradually built up a very good rapport not only with the local media but internationally as well.

“SLC’s reputation with the media is very good today not because of me but because of my predecessors Chandrishan Perera, Niresh Eliyathamby and Ray Illangakoon. It was easy for me to maintain the standard because they had done a great job especially Illangakoon.

“The calls I received from other media managers from around the world including those at the ICC when they heard about my sacking clearly proved how good my relationship with them was. They were all sorry to hear about the way it had happened.”
Algama said that the decision to remove him was a personal one taken by the chairman himself.

“Otherwise out of 10 interim committee members six wouldn’t have called me and said sorry for what had happened. I had no problem with the chairman and neither he with me. If he had a problem with me he would have sacked me long before. He trusted me and so did I. That was why he kept me for four months. He told me that he was very happy with my work and asked me to continue when he was first appointed in January,” said Algama.

“But at the last interim committee meeting he had said that I was not doing a good job and that he needed a permanent person for that position. This view was expressed soon after an article had appeared in the media about a fraudulent tender deal involving some SLC official, which I was accused of not clarifying. I didn’t do so because I was told by a powerful person holding high office at SLC who had called for the tender that the story was true.”

Algama stated that Ranatunga was sadly mistaken if he thought that he was leaking important information to the media.
“Even during former chairman Jayantha Dharmadasa’s time there were a lot of articles appearing in the media against SLC. Some of the stories that had appeared I only knew when it had appeared in print the next day. The decision to sack me immediately with the Women’s Asia Cup currently on and an important tour by India coming up is not the right one. For a person who is holding the highest position in Sri Lanka Cricket Ranatunga should have acted more maturely,” Algama said.

Algama was given the task of handling the media by former chairman Dharmadasa because of the relationship he had with international sports channels and his worldwide satellite expertise.

“When I took over in 2005 I spoke to each of the media personnel and asked them about their requirements. I had direct access to the chairman that way I was lucky because I was able to sort out any problems that arose. Out of the 1200 days I worked as media manager there were only three articles that appeared against me. This I consider an achievement. I think I did a reasonably good job and I am happy and proud of it,” said Algama.

“Though I am out my heart is still with the media because they were like a family of 120 journalists. All the sadness I had went away from the response I got from the local and foreign media and from cricket boards around the world who personally called me to tell how sorry they were to hear about my sacking. To realize that the entire media was behind you was a great feeling,” he said.

Having served under two interim chairmen Algama said both had their plusses and minuses.
“Both were cricket enthusiasts. They knew the game and that helped me also. Jayantha when you go and tell him something is a good listener. He will listen carefully and sort out the problem. In my four months with Arjuna I found out that he was a very emotional man. Sometimes emotions can override reasoning when taking certain decisions,” Algama said.

“In 2006 some of the interim committee members wanted me to draft some ideas on how to improve Sri Lanka cricket. I am proud to say today that all the relevant points and suggestions that I made in that document have been implemented with approval from the cricket committee which was at that time headed by none other than Ranatunga,” he said.

Algama said he turned down a Rs. 50,000 salary and other perks that came with it as media manager because he didn’t want to be an employee of SLC.

“There was a time when working at SLC was a prestige but not any more. To say that you work at SLC is a minus because the public reputation is so bad,” said Algama.

“There are a lot of good and decent employees working there knowlegeable persons like Bandula Warnapura, Duleep Mendis and Nishantha Ranatunga. SLC should make full use of their talents and expertise. They are assets of Sri Lanka cricket. Nobody must have favourites if they want to genuinely improve cricket. In 2006 when the ICC appointed me as their media manager for the under 19 World Cup I didn’t know a thing about what I should do. But tournament director Warnapura guided me like a father figure and I was able to do a good job to the satisfaction of the ICC. When I went to thank him I was almost in tears,” he said.

“The media today is a vital component of the game. There is an ICC protocol for the media and most of them are my requests for the media. There is a minimum requirement set out by the ICC for journalists and non-working journalists. This protocol says a competent and understanding person should handle the media. I only hope whoever succeeds me gives the minimum ICC requirements to the media,” he concluded.


4th Women’s Asia Cup                                                                 

Dedunu’s knock in vain – Lanka lose

Sri Lanka lost six wickets for 48 runs as they succumbed to a 29-run defeat at the hands of India in their Women’s Asia Cup match played at Rangiri Dambulla Stadium yesterday.

Replying to India’s total of 227-8, Sri Lanka was well placed to cause an upset win when they reached 150-4 by the end of the 42nd over with opener Dedunu Silva having laid the foundation with her second successive half-century in the tournament. She followed her innings of 76 on Friday against Pakistan with a sturdy 74 off 87 balls (12 fours, 1 six). However the rest of the batting failed to support her efforts and Sri Lanka was bundled out for 198 in the penultimate ball of the final over. Off-spinner Pujare Seema making her one-day debut did the damage to finish with three wickets and share the bowling honours with medium-pacer Rumeli Dhar who accounted for the top order.

India’s innings was anchored by skipper Mithali Raj who scored 54 off 63 balls (9 fours) and debutant Priyanka Roy who hit a durable 44 off 67 balls (4 fours). Sri Lanka captain Shashikala Siriwardene and Suwini de Alwis shared six wickets between them.

Scores: India Women 227-8 (50) (K Jain 29, J Sharma 27, M Raj 54, P Roy 44, D Palshikar 22 n.o., S Siriwardene 3/54, S de Alwis 3/36)
Sri Lanka Women 198 (49.5) (D Silva 74, S Siriwardene 24, S de Alwis 25, C Seneviratna 28 n.o., R Dhar 3/28, N David 2/35, P Seema 3/41).
Historic win for Bangladesh
Bangladesh pulled off a historic first win in ODIs when they defeated Pakistan by four wickets at the Welagedera Stadium, Kurunegala yesterday.

Salma Khatun, the Bangladesh captain, scored 53 after offspinner Tithy Sarkar restricted Pakistan to 134. Following their crushing 182-run defeat to India on Friday, Bangladesh bounced back impressively to bowl out Pakistan with an over to spare. Sarkar took two wickets in two overs and Pakistan stumbled to 55 for 3 in 19 overs. She picked up two more wickets and ensured no partnership was forged as Pakistan plodded along at less than three an over. Bismah Maroof top scored with 29 and her opening partnership of 27 with Tasqeen Qadeer was the innings’ highest.

Bangladesh ran into trouble early on, losing three wickets for 26 runs but Salma joined Panna Ghosh to add 37 together. Ghosh stayed for 51 balls, for her 14, and allowed Salma to push the chase along. Bangladesh lost two more wickets before Salma wrapped up the match with 27 balls to spare. She hit six fours in her 92-ball innings.

Scores: Pakistan Women 132 (47.4) (Bismah Maroof 29, Sajjida Shah 25, Sana Mir 25, Tithy Sarkar 4/25, Sathira Jakir 2/34)
Bangladesh Women 136-6 (45.3) (Salma Khatun 53 n.o., Sajjida Shah 2/19).


                               Air Force Open Squash Championship                                

By Dhammika Ratnaweera
Randima Ranaweera created a major upset to beat top seed Nirasha Guruge in the Women’s Open final at the Fifth Open Sri Lanka Air Force Squash Championship held at Katunayake Air Force Base yesterday.
Randima, 18, from Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya, the bottom seed won (3-1) beating the favourite. Randima controlling the game well won 10-8, 4-9, 9-3, 9-2. Randima also won the Girls under 19 title.
Navin Samarasinghe won the Men’s Open final winning comfortably by 3-0 (9-0, 9-0, 9-2) over Eranga Amunugama.
Air Force Commander Air Marshall Roshan Gunatilleke and his wife were the chief guests.

Women’s Open champion Randima Ranaweera receives her award from Air Force Commander Air Marshall Roshan Gunatilleke

Men’s Open Champion Navin Samarasinghe receiving his award from the Air Force Commander (Pix by Nissanka Wijerathne)


United will crack like Keegan - Grant

LONDON, (AFP) - Avram Grant believes Manchester United could be about to crack as Chelsea look to maintain their relentless pursuit of the Premier League leaders.

With his side preparing to visit Newcastle on Monday it was fitting that Grant should evoke the English league’s most famous meltdown as he contemplated the possibility of the Blues profitting from a United collapse similar to the one that denied Kevin Keegan’s club the title in 1996.

Newcastle topped the league by 12 points at one stage then before surrendering the lead under pressure from United. It was too much for Keegan, whose “I’d love it if we beat them” rant on live television revealed the full extent of his team’s implosion.
Chelsea were eight points behind the leaders at one stage this year but have reeled off a 19-match unbeaten run to get back in the race in exactly the same way United came from behind 12 years ago.

Beating United last weekend allowed Grant’s team to move level on points at the top and left the reigning champions spluttering towards the finish line.

They had won only one of their last four league matches and Ferguson was so furious that he didn’t even speak to Chelsea’s manager after the match.

United can still win the title with victories in their last two matches and their midweek success against Barcelona may provide a perfectly-timed boost but Grant is confident there will be one last twist in the tale.
“I remember that season (1996). I hope it happens again. I don’t care who they slip up against, as long as they drop points,” he said. “We want United to drop points, of course, but we have to do our job.

“United fought all the time with Arsenal this season and, when they beat them off, they must of thought everything was ok. Now Chelsea have come up and we’re almost in the same position. It’s a pressure. It’s not easy.
“You need to be day by day with the team to know what is happening but we were behind them for a long time and now we’re level with them.

“I think I know the reason Alex picked a weaker team against us. He thought he could make a good result here anyway. He was so angry after the game I couldn’t speak with him.”

Grant has managed to keep his cool in the heat of the title race and that serenity has spread to the dressing room. The Israeli insists his players are thriving on the challenge of catching United.

“The pressure at big clubs is there all the time but it’s a good presure. We like the challenge to chase,” he said.
“It’s not easy because if you lose points, you’re out. I’ve done it in Israel. We were champions having been eight points behind once.”

Chelsea meet Newcastle 48 hours after United host West Ham, so by the time they kick off will the London club will know whether they need a positive result to go top or simply to remain in the race.
If Chelsea lose out to United for the league they have an instant chance for revenge when they face Ferguson’s side in the Champions League final on May 21.

Grant admits he is proud of his team’s achievements so far but he knows they have only fuelled a desire for more success.
“What we’ve done up until now has been incredible. It’s shown that we’ve done a good job for us,” Grant said. “It’s been a big achievement. We want to do that. We need to do what we need to do.

“This club needs to think step by step. We know the vision of the club. Everybody sees that, from the football side, we’re moving in the right way.

“The first ambition was to be in the final of the Champions League, especailly in Moscow which means so much for the owner. We did that. With more food, you have more appetite.”


ATT star in the making

Chathuri Prathiba at 15 years has become a table tennis star in the making with her fine showing at the Western Province Table Tennis Championship held at S. Thomas’ College Gymnasium, Mount Lavinia.

Chathuri from Holy Cross College, Gampaha came within the first eight in the under 21 singles event and displayed a high standard with her fine style of play on her first outing at the open individual tournament.

Chathuri captained her school U-16 team which reached the semi-finals in the All Island Table Tennis Championship 2007.
She also emerged U-16 singles and doubles girls’ TT champion and best girls’ player at the Holy Cross College, Gampaha tournament.

She expressed her grateful thanks for the encouragement she received from her school principal Rev. Sister Mary Deepani and deputy principal Rev. Sister Hiranthi Perera.


Five-member team for Paralympics

By Dhammika Ratnaweera
A five member team was selected to participate at the Paralympics scheduled to be held from September 6 to 17 in Beijing, China. According to Lt Col. Rajeewa Wickramasinghe the immediate past president of the National Sports Federation for the Disabled, three athletes ,one wheel chair tennis player and one power lifter are selected for the games.

Except for the power lifter the other four athletes are from the Sri Lanka Army. The four disabled soldiers have international experience by participating at many international meets. Shantha Kumara the soldier is the most experienced in this team and is expected to take part in the men’s 200m, 400m and 800m. He has already won Asian gold medals in 200m and 400m events. Udaya Pushpakumara and Lal Pushpakumara are the other two athletes in this team. Udaya is expected to take part in the long jump and javelin throw events while Lal is selected to take part in the high jump event.

Upali Rajakaruna, also from the Army, is the wheel chair tennis player while the only civilian in the team, Sandun Wasana Perera of Nylender SC is the power lifter of the Sri Lanka team.

Meanwhile Minister of Sports Gamini Lokuge is expected to appoint an interim committee for the National Sports Federation for the Disabled. The Minister has already given instructions for a gazette notice to appoint this interim committee. Senior official of the Sports Ministry said the Assistant Director of the Sports Ministry, K.S. Pieris, is going to be appointed President of the Interim Committee while the other the three are Lt Col.l Rajeewa Wickramasinghe, Nalani Ranasinghe and Premadasa Dissanayaka. Both Wickramasinghe and Dissanayaka were the two former Presidents of the National Sports Federation for the disabled.

The Sports Minister has already appointed new Interim Committees for Karate, Badminton , Wrestling and Power Lifting while he added a few members to the Interim Committee for cricket recently.


SLTA to conduct ATF U-14 tourney from May 5

The Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA) will hold the ATF Under 14 tennis tournament from the May 5-18 at the SLTA hard courts. Twenty-six foreign players from countries such as India, Kuwait, Malaysia, Bahrain will fly down to participate at this significant tournament.

This tournament is held for the ninth time and the Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA) is hosting it for the fifth time.
This tournament is a ranking scoring tournament where the players will be able to compete at their best and better their ranking.
The following players will represent Sri Lanka:

Girls: Nilushi Fernando, Shankari Thayakaran, Dhanya Madugalle, Dinushki Ranasinghe, Samendri de Silva, Rishmitha Sivakanthan.

Boys: Vimuktha de Alwis, Nicholas Fairbanks, Ale Fairbanks, Thuruna Eshwarage, Taaqib Nazar, KD Chinthaka Shaveen, Aaron Assauw, Kithsan Wickremaratne.


China to play Australia in 4-nations final

DARWIN, (AFP) - China will play Olympic champions Australia in the final of the four-nations field hockey tournament after a 3-1 upset victory over South Korea here on Saturday.

The 17th-ranked Chinese denied the Asian Games champions passage into Sunday’s final to give their Beijing Olympic hopes a tonic with a championship decider against the Australians.

Australia, who beat Korea in last weekend’s final of the first of two four-nations tournament in Perth, remained unbeaten with a 1-0 win over India.

Yubo Na was China’s hero scoring all three goals, two in the first half and the other in the final minute.
Australia’s hard-fought winner came from a penalty corner from Jamie Dwyer in the 49th minute.
India, eight-time Olympic gold medallists, are the only team of the four here not to be taking part in the Beijing Olympic competition after failing to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since field hockey was introduced as a medal sport in 1928.