The climb begins for Kandy SC

Tournament sponsor Caltex wanting a change in the winner throws a humongous challenge to the champion team to remain the crowd favourite

By Ravi Nagahawatte
The Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) faces an enormous challenge of turning around a negative environment that has cropped up due to a drop in spectator interest for domestic rugby matches. Rugby Union president DIG Nimal Lewke however, sees this present trend as the ideal platform for the emerging of a culture where spectators would begin to cheer the underdog and not the favourite.

Lewke, an ex-national boxer, has seen and experienced how spectators loyal to a sport can change camp in need of a change. “I remember how the crowd turned friendly towards me and cheered me when I took on HK Karunaratne, the favourite, in a boxing trial to pick Sri Lanka’s representative for the Olympics. I was nowhere close to the stature of Karunaratne but received the support of the crowd,” said Lewke hinting that the island’s boxing fans then had lost a little interest in seeing one man take the honours for a long period of time, at boxing meets. Lewke lost this much talked about bout which went to the wire.

The rugby union’s big boss, in an exclusive interview with The Nation, refused to see the present trend as negative and said he believed rugby fans would soon find an alternate side to cheer in the absence of a new champion.

This year’s season kicked off on Friday, two days after the sponsor of the inter-club league tournament, Caltex Lanka Lubricants, voiced its concern that the tournament needed a shot in the arm to boost spectator interest. Managing Director/ CEO Chevron Lubricants Lanka PLC Kishu Gomes, said at a press briefing held on Wednesday, to announce the launch of the 2008 League Tournament, that it worried the game’s main sponsor to see too many one-sided matches and Kandy Sports Club’s (Kandy SC) dominance going unchecked. Kandy SC has won the league tournament uninterrupted for seven successive seasons since beginning a winning streak in 2001.

The launch, held at the SLRFU headquarters, took the form of a healthy debate with the officials of the sport’s governing body countering the sponsor’s remarks by saying that all other teams had improved and this year’s tournament would be well contested.

Kandy SC, when compared to other top teams, might be the least affected due to this development, when matches are played in their own den because the interest for rugby in Kandy still remains very high. However, they might not see spectators come in their numbers when they travel down to Colombo for matches. “Other teams need to have a solid programme and come up,” Rugby Manager Kandy Sports Club Kapila Silva said when asked to comment on club rugby being affected by a drop in spectator interest. Silva, however, was quick to complement the improvements made by a team like Air Force. Rugby union officials have earmarked teams like Air Force and Police Sports Club to provide the shocks this season.
Rugby Secretary Air Force Sports Club, Wing Commander Sanjaya Fernando, attributed the team’s improvements to the contributions made by coach, Wazeel Hafeel. “Hafeel has shown a lot of interest to lift the team’s performance, and team members have responded to the coach’s approach with equal enthusiasm. The team’s recent performances have helped the authorities recruit schoolboys from popular rugby playing schools like Kingswood, St.Joseph’s, St.Peter’s and Vidyartha. “Our players lacked skill. There were a good number of players who hadn’t seen a rugby match at the time of joining Air Force. Wazeel’s commitment towards coaching the team made the difference,” said Fernando.

Sri Lanka has seen the spectator interest for domestic rugby fluctuate. Rugby was king of all sports till cricket in the island became the cynosure of all eyes after the national team won the Wills World Cup in 1996. Rugby again moved up the popular ratings when the national team started winning qualifying matches in the run-up to the 2007 Rugby World Cup. But given the facts that the game, at international level, is governed by traditionalists who resist change and Asian teams failing to match rugby’s heavy weights, rugby in Asia has limited options when entertaining fans in the region. Renowned rugby commentator and former rugby player Chandrishan Perera said, “The quality of rugby clubs play this season better be good because rugby fans have so many options as entertainment during weekends. After all, bringing a family for a rugby match is so costly at present”.

Ceylonese Rugby and Football Club (CR&FC) manager Rohan Chintaka blamed lopsided rugby matches for spectators showing a lukewarm interest for a good number of the matches. “Small clubs need to look after their players. Clubs can improve and match the more popular teams if they retain good players. CR&FC is reaping the benefits of a programme that catered towards promoting club loyalty. I have been the rugby manager at CR&FC for the past six years during which the club has lost just two players,” said Chintaka. Talking about the strength of the team this season he revealed that the club had benefited tremendously due to players like Dushanth Lewke, Dhanushka Perera, Mohammed Jabbar, Lasantha Mallikarachchi (All Kandy SC), Dev Anand, Tilina Manoj and (Both Kingswood), Niroshan Karunaratne (Havelocks SC) and former Isipathana schoolboy Mubarak joining CR&FC. He also lauded the return of Pavithra Fernando to the side.

Teams like CR&FC, CH&FC, Air Force and Police SC will leave no stone unturned in their quest to topple a champion team like Kandy SC. The team from the hill country is probably fully aware that apart from CR&FC and CH&FC there are others too who are following every move Kandy SC makes in their quest to be number one. Kandy SC is aware that the hardest thing to do is stay on top. Seven long years in doing so would have possibly drained the club’s energies. 2008 throws a humongous challenge to Kandy SC, to remain on top.


 MCA ‘F ‘Division League Cricket                                                                                                    

Double trouble for Loadstar

Debutants, Loadstar ‘A’ facing a double-header got off to a losing start when they were thrashed by Smart Shirts and Singer Sri Lanka ‘B’ in the ongoing Trendex Lanka (Pvt) Limited sponsored, MCA Division ‘F’ 30-overs League tournament, continued last week-end.
Loadstar managed only 39 runs in 17.4 overs against Smart Shirts and did slightly better against Singer, scoring 54-runs in 10.4 overs.
Textured Jersey registered their second win when they scored a heart-stopping one run win over Pan Asia Bank. Ceylon Tobacco recorded their first win, beating Browns Group by 2 wickets.

  • At MCA: Smart Shirts beat Loadstar by 8 wickets.
    Loadstar 39 (17.4) (SL Gunagama 15, Dinesh Dilhan 3/6, SA Lasantha 3/9)
    Smart Shirts 42-2 (15.1) (D. Horanapathirana 25 n.o., J. Pathinayake 2/10)

  • At MCA: Union Assurance beat Kelani Cables by 31-runs.
    UAL 137-7 (30) (T. Tissera 45 n.o., JC Pushpakumara 2/25, PS Pathirana 2/15)
    Kelani Cables 106 (24.3) (MP Sanjeewa 42, N Wijesinghe 4/25, J Madushanka 2/20)

  • At MCA: Textured Jersey beat Pan Asia Bank by one run.
    Textured Jersey 134 (29.1) (K Jayasekera 21, K Weeraratne 45, D. Shirmal 3/14, K Gayath 2/19, A. Fernando 2/15)
    PABC Bank 133 (29.5) (A Fernando 40, K Gayath 26, K Jayasekera 2/30, DK Nirosh 2/9)

  • At MCA: Singer Sri Lanka ‘B’ beat Loadstar by 10 wickets.
    Loadstar 54 (10.4) (DS Pushpakumara 20, C Rathnasiri 4/10, U Ganearachchi 3/7)
    Singer ‘B’ 55-0 (6.2) (M Vethanayagam 32 no)

  • At Thurstan: Ceylon Tobacco beat Browns Group by 2 wickets
    Browns Group 126-9 (25) overs (H Mallawathanthri 45, Chanaka Silva 25, Sujith Hettiarachchi 2/14, A Pathirana 2/25, N Jayasuriya 3/20)
    CTC 127-8 (23.5) (A Rajawasam 38, S Wickramanayake 21, Sujith Hettiarachchi 40, I de Silva 2/20, H Mallawathanthri 2/25)

  • At Thurstan: The match between Data Entry International vs. Galadari Hotel was abandoned without a ball being bowled due to rain. – [LW]


Dinesh, MCA Snooker Champ

S.P.Dinesh Devendra of the Lubricant Oil Section of the Associated Motorways General Company won the championship at the inter-company snooker tournament held at the Sri Lanka Mercantile Cricket Association, beating Tilak Champika of Seylan Bank.
He beat Sharmal Ambawatta,of the Mackwoods, Roshan Iddamalgoda of Mabrock Teas and Tilak Champika of Seylan Bank in the final round.
Educated at Anuruddha Kumara National School, Nawalapitiya, Disnesh Devendra who joined Nawalapitiya Railway Sports Club as a Snooker player in 1993, played for the Colombo Young Men’s Christian Sports Club in 1998, Colombo Youth Services Council in 2004, and the Sri Lanka Mercantile Snooker Club in 2006.


CR plans to end Kandy’s rugby reign

By M. Naushad Amit
With six players crossing over from Kandy SC and Havelocks SC to CR & FC, the Longden Place Club has a whole new strategy for this season. CR, with a mixture of youth and experience, is hoping to end the continuous winning streak of the mighty hill capital club. This was revealed at a press conference held at the club premises to announce the partnership with Softlogic as their main sponsor for this season on Friday.

“It is high time we (CR) do something to end the one-horse race which had been maintained by Kandy SC for the past seven years. We have with us the former Kandy SC player and coach Laga as our head coach and Rohan Chinthaka will play a major role as his assistant. We have learnt our drawbacks by following and comparing with Kandy SC and basically we will use some of their tactics to overcome them” said Jehan Canegaratne, Deputy President of CR & FC.

Rugby is the professional sport next to cricket in Sri Lanka. Colombo clubs are not enjoying professional rugby as Kandy SC who is the top runner for any local tournament. According to Canegaratne CR players are semi-professionals. “We have 34 players who are on a contract basis. But at the same time these players are working elsewhere. The club has an expenditure of Rs. 13.5 million budgeted for a single season. And it is a tough task to produce and maintain professionals in the game with a lot of spending. Thanks to Softlogic who took out 50% of our burden we are in a good shape for this season” he further added.

Softlogic has sponsored CR & FC in the past two years as main sponsors. But this year both the sponsors and the club has come to an agreement to field the team as ‘CR Softlogic’ for the entire season. “This is a totally new concept. We as sponsors will enjoy the company of CR whom we have recognised as one of the best rugby clubs in Sri Lanka. With the talent that CR has got this year, all can expect a big change in the tournament this season” said Ranjan Perera, Director of Softlogic.

Shamil Mohamed will lead the Longden Place club this year. New faces that will help the club to be branded as a tough bunch are Dushantha Lewke, Dhanushka Perera, Abdul Jabbar, Dev Anand, Viraj Prasantha, Shantha de Seram, Bandula Mallikarachchi, Niroshan Wijekoon, Thilina Manoj and Riza Mubarak. CR & FC emerged as runners-up in the President’s Trophy last year and has won the knockout tournament for two consecutive years including last year.


CCC School of Cricket far superior to Malaysians

CCC School of Cricket under 16 Cricketers returned to the Island winning all seven matches after their 10 day tour of Malaysia. CCC “Colts” played five 40-over matches and two Twenty20 games during the tour and did well to remain unbeaten. All matches were played on turf at Royal Selangor Club and Bayuemas Oval in Kuala Lumpur.

Among the players who excelled were Supun Navaratne, Thanusha Jayawardena, Shehan Fernando and Harith Dias in batting, while Ramidu Lakshan, Madhuka Liyanapathirana, Sachith Dias, Hashan Sirisena and Imal Liayanage did well in bowling. Madhuka Liyanapathirana, the skipper, led the side admirably leading from the front excelling in fielding supported by the whole team, in general, and Sachith Dias, Harith Dias, Supun Navaratne, and Hemal Seneviratne who fielded brilliantly to account for 16 run outs of the 67 wickets to fall.

In the final match, CCC juniors were pitted against the Malaysian U-17 National Team, and the Sri Lankans did extremely well to beat the Malaysian National Team in a low scoring closely contested game.

CCC won all seven matches as follows:
(1) Vs. Victoria Institute K.L.
CCC 147 (40) (Harith Dias 42, Thamusha Jayawardena 20, Sachith Dias 18, Ramidu Lakshan 14 not out)
Victoria K.L. - 83 (25) (Watieq Ahmed 24, Noharif Ahmed 10 not out, Isuru Jayatilleke 2 for 16, Ramidu Lakshan 2 for 9)
(2) Vs. Federal Territory, Selangor
Fed Ter - 40 (23.4) (Madhuka Liyanapathirana 6 for 7, Hermal Seneviratne 2 for 7)
CCC – 43/1 (lsuru Jayathilleke 15 not out)
(3) Twenty20 Vs. Federal Territory, Selangor
Fed Ter - 75/8 (20) (Madhuka Liyanapathirana 2 for 9, Imal Liyanage 3 for 7)
CCC – 76/8 (17.5) (Shehan Fernando 35)
(4) Vs Bukit Jalill Sports College, Kuala Lumpur
Bukit JSC- 75 (26) (Indran Brarosoruan 21, Mohamed Azuad 20, Ramidu Lakshan 4 for 4, Harith Dias 2 for 8)
CCC – 70/3 (17.2) (Madhuka Liyanapathirana 25, Shehan Fernando 20, Indran 2 for 12)
(5) Twenty20 Vs. Bukit Jalill Sports College
CCC 111/1 (20) (Shehan Fernando 55 not out, Supun Navaratne 40 not out)
Bukit Jalill SC – 66/8 (20) (Husni Ahmed 16, Hashan Sirisena 2 for 10, Imal Liyanage 2 for 12, Naditha Tissera 2 for 12)
(6) Vs. Royal Selangor Cricket Club
CCC – 257/6 (40) (Thanusha Jayawardena 70, Harith Dias 47, Supun Navaratne 30, Sachith Dias 26, Ramidu Lakshan 18)
Royal Selangor - 42 (27) (Sachith Dias 3 for 3, Hashan Sirisena 2 for 2)
(7) Vs. Malaysia U-17 National Team
CCC - 132 (38.3) (Thanusha Jayawardena 46, Ramidu Lakshan 20 Thinakaran Maraiah 4 for 1)
Malaysia - 76 (31.1) (Muh Adib Abid 25, Ramidu Lakshan 4 for 13, Madhuka Liyanapathirana 4 for 13).


Zahira retains winning streak

Zahira College, Colombo, who became undisputed champions in schools’ football last year, continued its winning streak this year as well by overcoming all opposition and annexing the Colombo Zonal Championship conducted by the Dept. of Education.

Last year’s all conquering football team won a record number of six coveted trophies on their way to stamping their class as the undisputed champs. Their proud acquisitions were:-

1. The 5-a-side Futsal Challenge Trophy.
2. 7-a-side Super 16 Trophy organised by the Past Prefects’ Association [PPA] of Zahira College. Colombo
3. Hinduite Challenge Cup awarded to the Champions of the All Island Inter School Tournament organised by The Old Boys’ Association of Hindu College, Colombo 4.
4. Champions’ Trophy of the All Island Inter School Tournament organized by the Old Boys’ Association of Hameed Al Husseinie College, Colombo 12.
5. Champions’ Trophy of the All Island Inter School Football Tournament organized by the Education Dept.
6. Milo Trophy awarded to the Champions of the All Island Inter School Tournament organized by the Sri Lanka Schools’ Football Association.