A mountain of labour to produce a rat

Dhammika Ratnaweera reporting from China

The Sri Lanka team led by golfer Mithun Perera finished 42nd out of 45 countries at the 16th Asian Games which concluded with a glamorous closing ceremony at the Haixinsha Square in Guangzhou, China yesterday.
The Sri Lankan athletes failed to live up to expectations in both individual and team games in the 15-day mega sports event. Sri Lanka’s failure was further inflated with the final hope for a medal in the men’s 4x400 relay being also shattered when they ended the race in fifth place. Once again host China completely dominated the games with 199 gold medals.

Sri Lanka had high expectations of winning a gold medal in cricket which was a dream of many supporters at the games. But lack of consistency in all three departments of the sport destroyed the hope of at least winning a bronze as Sri Lanka went down to Pakistan by six wickets.

The 16th Asian Games is considered as Sri Lanka’s worst-ever performance for 28 years. As in the 1982 edition of the Asian Games the Sri Lankans returned home totally empty-handed. Our sports lovers had unrealistic expectations of winning medals from beach volleyball, golf, athletics and Twenty20 cricket, which were brought about by exaggerated and misleading predictions by sports officials.

In the previous Asian Games held in Qatar in 2006, Sri Lanka won one silver and two bronze medals from athletics. But this time the local athletes failed to live up to their potential. Sprinter Shehan Ambeypitiya suffered a leg injury and could not take part in the 100m, 200m and 4x100 relay events while Chaminda Wijekoon failed to enter the 1500m final after experiencing a leg injury. Prasanna Amarasekara and Chandrika Subashini entered the finals of the men’s and women’s 400m event but failed to impress due to poor form. Both athletes failed to achieve, at least, their personal best timings in China.

The 4x100m men’s and women’s relay teams were able to reach the finals but with poor coordination at baton changes. Manager of the athletics team GLS Perera relaying his views to The Nation said the relay teams repeated their poor baton changing and need to correct these mistakes.
“The relay teams did not have much training together for a long period. Due to this
the four runners’ coordination was very low. We have to make a long-term plan for these athletes,” Perera, who is also the Vice President of the Amateur Athletics Federation of Sri Lanka, said.
The beach volleyball men’s teams too were not in their best of form. They failed to make use of the event at the Guangzhou facility as a preparation for the forthcoming Asian Beach Games which will be held in Oman from December 6.

Shooter Mangala Samarakoon obtained a diploma in the 50m pistol event which could be considered as the only consolation from the Asian Games after 28 years.
Present Chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka, Hemasiri Fernando, was the previous diploma holder when he received it at the 1982 games in the same event.

Fernando pointed out that sending a huge contingent of over 120 athletes was of no use for the Asian Games. “We have to select the best talented athletes with a minimum qualifying standard for major events like the Asian Games. This Asian Games was a good eye-opener for us. Pruning down the group of participants and its officials to the best in the country is a must and we will have to act fast before our next international assignment,” Fernando commented at the closing ceremony of the 16th Asian Games.
The Sri Lankan participants of the Asian Games will return home on December 1 while the Twenty20 cricket team is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka today by Thai Airways.


England faces battle to save Ashes opener

BRISBANE, (AFP) - England were battling to avoid going one down in the Ashes series after centuries from Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin gave Australia a massive innings lead in the first Test on Saturday.
Hussey registered his highest Test score of 195 and Haddin contributed 136 in a Gabba record stand of 307 runs to propel Australia to a 221-run first innings lead on the third day.

England, who have not won a Brisbane Test since Mike Gatting’s team prevailed by seven wickets in 1986, reached the close at 19 without loss with Andrew Strauss on 11 and Alastair Cook six.
Australia kept England toiling in the field for 158.4 overs and almost 12 hours before they got their second turn batting, but Hussey said the job was not done yet.
“It’s definitely a big challenge for our team,” Hussey said. “We’ve been in some fantastic positions in the last year or so and we have to try and finish the job.

“Test cricket is not easy. We know we will have to work hard for it, but it will be very special if we can.”
The leviathan sixth-wicket partnership ended 20 minutes after tea when Haddin was snapped up by Paul Collingwood at first slip off spinner Graeme Swann for 136.
The six-and-a-half hour stand trumped the previous Gabba record partnership of 276 between Don Bradman and Lindsay Hassett for the third wicket against England in 1946-47. It also ranked as the 12th highest stand in Ashes Tests and the fifth best in Australia.

Hussey surpassed his previous highest Test score of 182 against Bangladesh in Chittagong in 2006, more than justifying the selectors’ faith as he registered his 12th Test century. The knock ended a lean run since his last hundred (134 no) against Pakistan in Sydney last January, 14 Test innings ago.

Scores: England 260 and 19-0 (15) at close;
Australia 220-5 contd 481 (158.4) (M Hussey 195, B Haddin 136, S Finn 6/125)


President’s ‘Giants Day’

‘Giants Day’, a sports programme organised by the Past Pupils Association of President’s College Maharagama will be held at the Navinna Sports Complex from 8.00am today. The event includes cricket and other major sports. The organisers invite all past pupils to participate in this event.


Ranil’s silver anniversary in commentating

Ranil Abeynaike completed 25 years as an international television commentator during the second cricket Test between Sri Lanka and West Indies played at the R Premadasa Stadium.
Abeynaike commenced as a radio commentator and has commentated in many internationals on radio too. His first game behind the mike was the Big Match between Thurstan and Isipathana in 1984.
As a TV commentator Abeynaike worked for Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, Ten Sports, World Sports Group, Nimbus (Neo Sports), ESPN Star, Wildtrack Productions, TWI and SkyTV. Abeynaike has commented in most of the cricket playing nations and is one of the most senior English radio and TV commentator in Sri Lanka.


Thurstan wins by innings

Twins Harith and Sachith Dias along with spinners Kaveen Silva and Prabodha Arthavidu contributed with all-round performances to help Thurstan record a comfortable innings and 32 runs against Kalutara Vidyalaya in their under-19 inter-school cricket match played at Kalutara last weekend. Thurstan declared at 222-9 in reply to Kalutara Vidyalaya’s meagre first innings total of 124 as they were bundled out for a dismal 66 in their second innings.
Kalutara Vidayalaya 124 (46.4) (W James 46 n.o., Sachith Dias 4/34, Kaveen Silva 3/17, Sachintha Wijesinghe 2/38) and 66 (27.5) (Prabodha Arthavidu 4/16, Sachith Dias 2/12)
Thurstan 222-9 dec (48.3) (Harith Dias 57, Kaveen Silva 46, Ashan Wanigaratne 29, Maduka Wadisinghe 22, Supun Navaratne 21, D Weerasinghe 2/33, Lahiru Sangeeth 2/35) [MNA]


Golden hopes in cricket shattered

Dhammika Ratnaweera reporting from China

Sri Lanka’s only hope for a medal from the Twenty20 cricket team led by Jehan Mubarak was shattered with their dismal performances during the 16th Asian Games which concluded in Guangzhou in China yesterday.
They came to China on November 17 with high expectations in a bid to claim the gold medal. Sri Lankans were the favourites to win the gold but eventually could not win the bronze at least and were sent back home empty-handed. The unexpected low results from a reasonably experienced side even shocked the spectators who gathered in their numbers to witness the matches which had quite a good Sri Lankan following.

However, during the tournament Sri Lanka displayed their weaknesses in all three departments of the game. The Sri Lanka T20 team Manager Ranjith Fernando speaking to The Nation said the wickets, ground conditions or umpiring are not to be blamed for the defeats.

“Everything was fine here but probably the players took things easy as we were the favourites to win the gold medal. You must never forget the fact that even in the South Asian Games in Dhaka last February; Bangladesh beat us to take the gold medal. At the beginning we took things too easy. But after that thrilling win over the less experienced Nepal in our first game we thought of uplifting the batting line-up. We effected some changes and brought in a few new players but they disappointed. Apart from Jeevantha Kulatunga none of the others showed any potential,” said Fernando who is also a member of the selection committee.

“Anyway I don’t think there’s anything to complain about our defeats. Umpiring was
good and again the wicket was same for all teams. All teams played on this wicket for the first time. Compared to other international grounds the ground in China is quite good. It takes time for the pitches to come into good condition. However the other facilities at the venue were exceptional,” Fernando added.

Bangladesh led by Mohamed Ashraful won the gold after defeating Afghanistan and Pakistan took bronze by beating Sri Lanka. Former Sri Lanka Test captain Bandula Warnapura who is the Development Manager of Asian Cricket Council was among the technical delegate with two other Sri Lankans Rumesh Ratnayake and Tusith Perera to inaugurate cricket at the Asian Games. Former Sri Lankan national players Roy Dias who is the present coach of Nepal were among those who were involved in this tournament with Brendon Kuruppu (Maldives), Premlal Fernando (Thailand) and Lal Jayasinghe (Hong Kong) as coaches of other countries.