Meet rugbyís new selection chief
Ė Chandrishan Perera

By Saíadi Thawfeeq
Chandrishan Perera is a name synonymous with Sri Lankan rugby. There is seldom a time where his name doesnít crop up either as a past Sri Lankan captain, outstanding centre wing for CH & FC and his country, or as rugby commentator. He is there in some way in the thick of things a passionate lover of the sport and wanting to give back something to the game which has made him what he is today. ĎShaní as he is popularly referred to by friends and team-mates was a fortnight back appointed the chairman of rugby selectors a thankless job for which many donít have the courage to stomach what it involves coming under the microscope of the media and being open to criticism especially on selections. But being involved with media work for some time ĎShaní knows how to grapple with such situations. He was one time media manager at Sri Lanka Cricket as well.
In a frank interview with The Nation, Perera talks of why he undertook the job of chief selector, what ails Sri Lankan rugby and solutions to overcome it, and to drug taking by players which has become a hot topic in sport circles today.

Q: What made you undertake the arduous and challenging task of accepting the post of rugbyís chairman of selectors?
CP: A little bit of inspiration of wanting to try and put something back into the game for the years I spent playing for Sri Lanka about 14 years five of them as captain. Iíve watched the game in fits and starts and itís been very difficult with a lot of issues involving the SLRFU (Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union) which I hope has been sorted out by now. It needs us to protect the game as much as we can in the time allocated. For me itís a real honour, a real privilege, itís a massive challenge which I canít hide away from. Hopefully we can join together with the SLRFU, the selectors and the Ministry of Sports to make sure the game is protected at the highest level and that we are able to produce very good strong players as cricket has done. What inspired me to come and accept this post is the likes of Michael Jayasekera, Savantha de Saram, Tikiri Marambe and Pradeep Basnayake. The previous committee that I served on as a selector Iíve seen the team effort they put in and where I was very much a shadow because I was not able to commit full time to that. But against all odds they managed to get everything sorted out. For me itís a massive honour, a chance to take on that challenge and the mantle.

Q: Do you think you have the time on your hands to fulfill the task as chief rugby selector?
CP: Itís looking at the time available; I have an active career in media, on radio and television which I do as a profession. I need to combine that and find the time. Itís a good responsibility. For me itís the old principle of protecting the game and the players. The game itself needs a passion and a commitment. I hope I would be able to bring that more than anything else. For me the rugby heart still beats quite a lot although there is pressure at home to step away now because I spent a lifetime in the game.

Q: How is your wife Rai and family taking all this up?
CP: There was thrashing of doors and banging of things but sheís been amazing. Behind every good man they say there is an equally strong, committed and passionate woman and thatís what Rai is. Sheís been involved in sport at cricket at the highest level and she understands the nature of professional sport. I am very fortunate in that I have a young family which means they will learn to deal with ĎDadaí. I got three gladiators and the pressure at home is for them not to play any sport.

Q: Your position as chairman of selectors wonít be confined only to picking sides, I suppose?
CP: I would like to spend a little bit of my time to developing the game in the region. We as selectors should be able to go and explain around the country by broad-basing the game as much as possible. Selectors only in Colombo and selecting national teams is very one dimensional. I watched Michael Jayasekera, the former chairman of selectors being stifled by the fact that he was not given everything that he wanted. We canít only stay in Colombo. As selectors we become ambassadors in a way as well. When I was a player I didnít like the selectors that much, they seemed dark people whom you never saw. The present selection committee is a great bunch Ė Pradeep Basnayake (from the previous committee), Nazir Mohamed, Bharatha Hegoda and Hisham Abdeen. There is no lack of knowledge and experience and hardness in the head about the game there it just needs good direction which I hope I will get from the SLRFU and the president and vice president. It needs a strong belief that we can take this game to the next level.

Q: Have you been given a free hand in selections?
CP: Yes, that is one good thing. I was pleasantly surprised that we had a very clear hand in selecting the junior squad. The recommendations we looked at and we spoke to the coaches and got their opinion of players. I want to be pro-active and come down to the players and make them feel that we are there to help them to get to the next level.

Q: What ails Sri Lankan rugby from what it was during your time as a player and now?
CP: Itís a combination of lack of professionalism and a system that the rugby union needed to have set when rugby went professional. We didnít go professional in Sri Lanka we went part maybe two World Cups when the game changed. I stopped playing in 1995 just after that the game turned with the Super 14 and then with the rugby World Cup and big club structures around the world. There are issues we have to deal with. One is the rugby unionís ability to commit players to the national game. We had issues in the past where senior national level of players not being available for their country. There is a matter of club and country that has popped up and we need to change that. There are discussions about central contracts like in Sri Lanka Cricket for which a huge amount of finance is required to professionalise the game in Sri Lanka. At the moment it is a case of tour by tour basis. That is why players tend to pick and choose matches. Clubs are their livelihood and itís very difficult for a player not to commit to his club because he knows thatís where he gets his bread and butter from. Playing for his country and leaving his job is becoming an issue now. We need to structure the game very quickly and issues with the IRB all of that need to stop. If we are to take this game forward we need to have the right people involved in the right position, people who have a passion, care and dedicate their time for the game. We have to also look at our rugby season. We play our toughest tournament (the Asian5 nations) before we even start our club season. There has been a lot of discussion with Priyantha Ekanayake and Rohan Abeykoon, previous chairmen of rugby selection and previous captains of Sri Lanka that we move the season maybe to September-October which makes a lot of sense given the weather and the heat.

Q: Any suggestions that you can come up with?
CP: I see a future for Sri Lankan rugby in terms of satellites. We have a satellite centre in Kandy which is a massive magnet. We need to create the same thing in Galle, Kurunegala, Jaffna and Batticoloa. For Sri Lanka our rankings in Asia and the World is something that we have to focus on, how we up that level and how we protect the players at all levels. To ensure the game at school and district levels we need to open the game up in the north and the east from Amparai to Mullaitivu to Kalpitiya to Puttalam. The wonderful news for me last week that also encouraged me was when the Sports Minister requested me to take it on was the fact that there was also mention that rugby is going to be included in the schoolsí curriculum as a national sport. Sport is the leader. Itís the universal language that will take us to all corners of the world. We already became runners-up in the Cricket World Cup and the respect is massive. We need to now take rugby to that level as well, first in Asia and then see what we can do in rugby Sevens as Kenya and Portugal have done, two small countries talking big and playing the game at the highest level which means there is nothing wrong. You get the pride in Samoa and Tonga in the World Cup where the smaller nations come up and show their class, commitment and their passion. Sri Lanka has all of that. We need to play rugby as islanders not as Sri Lankans.

Q: Do you think the SLRFU has that kind of money to offer central contracts to players?
CP: We need to market the game in Sri Lanka as much as possible. We need to get the likes of Singer (Sri Lanka) and Caltex the multi nationals involved in the game. We need that support to take the game to the next level. But they must also be comfortable to invest in what they think is a good game that is where the Union has to now start to do public relations, proper marketing and sales. The Air Chief Marshall has a task and a half on his hand so does the SLRFU.

Q: Do you think the core issue facing the SLRFU today is finance?
CP: It has been for many years. It is difficult for the SLRFU as they need to try and look at it in their given term how soon they can get this game rolling or get proper investment in, except for cricket which has the luxury of being an international sport where we are among the top three in the world. The dream of all sports in Sri Lanka is we get the cricket model right and then we follow it without the hoo-ha. Rugby needs to follow the examples of the smaller nations which have been successful like Samoa and France. We must get help we canít on our own do it. In 100 years of Sri Lankan rugby we have taken one step at a time. From my playing days we havenít gone that far in terms of where we are. I believe the President whose young sons are rugby players themselves it is a perfect time. If we cannot use all of that support and passion and commitment now we are going to be lost in the future. Itís almost as somebody had planned it to have the President of a country and the First Lady also come to watch a rugby match. There certainly has to be a little continuation with the lads also playing.

Q: There is the age old notion that Sri Lankans because of their small stature find it difficult to make an impact with bigger rugby playing nations, how do you hope to overcome that?
CP: If you look at schools rugby now there are some very big kids but the levels of fitness are not anywhere near the requirement as we found out very quickly with the new list. It is difficult to accept but the fact is that you need to have a very high performance level not just average level. There is no such thing as average anymore. To be able to perform in Asia and then again in the World you have to be almost gladiators they are not average human beings anymore. They are performance machines and they are conditioned, very fit and very strong. The big men are running more than anything else. We need to get our bigger boys playing the game a lot more. 15-a-side rugby is all about pack and forwards. We need to get some very big impact forwards who are fit, agile and mobile and the hand-eye co-ordination has to be massive. I personally think we might gain some knowledge from the likes of Australia and South Africa. We need to look at how they are structuring their kids. Some of these Samoans and Fijians are very much the same stature as us when they are 14-15 then suddenly there is something in their bone structure genetic and they get bigger. We have very proud hearts and huge amounts of passion. Those big hearts now need to translate into the stature and the body impact. Our nutrition habits also have to change we have to go away from eating all that wonderful tasty food to eating nutrition. Itís not something we like but something we need. It has to happen very quickly. Sri Lanka Cricket is doing that very efficiently.

Q: Your views on doping in sport?
CP: We need to stop players taking performance enhancing drugs. There is no substitute for hard work. Sri Lanka is unfortunate to be caught up in a lack of information more than anything else. Actually you need to know what you are taking. Even if you are taking medication you have to inform. We need to educate and create much awareness. The talented ones I believe should rely on hard work and take natural food. If you want extra protein eat the whites of eggs, if you want to build that up eat the pulses like moong and parippu thatís what the Fijians do. They eat the manioc and the fish. At the end of the day WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) only recognises that the player is responsible. We also need to list the player, coaches, trainers and doctors recommending these substances.

Q: Your most memorable moments in rugby?
CP: I was considered as one of the fastest players in rugby during my time 1980-95. I played for Rosen Park and Harlequins in England and then for CH & FC and Sri Lanka. I was blessed. I was an athlete a 100 metres sprinter and my best time was 10.4 secs, now thatís long gone. In my day it was very much open rugby (I hope it comes back). Sevens was my game it gave the opportunity of an open field and just take off and run. My last year of playing rugby I had the opportunity to play against Jonah Lomu (the All Blacks rugby legend) and I still feel the impact on my chest and on my head as he stepped past me. Winning in Hong Kong in front of 50,000 people was fabulous in 1984 under Hisham Abdeen. Ten years later in Fiji when I was captain to have all of Fiji stand up in the stadium and shout ďSri Lanka, Sri LankaĒ when we won the Bowl there beating Uruguay was fabulous. I want to translate all of that and give some input into the new generation and with Sri Lanka rugby. I am very hopeful.


Four year plan for athletics
By Dhammika Ratnaweera
The Gunasekara Committee Report on the poor performances of the Sri Lankan athletes at the 16th Asian Games in 2010 resulted in a comprehensive action plan for athletics being drawn up for the next four years.
The committee was headed by KS Gunasekara and included Dr. Maiya Gunasekara and Ms Nelum Gunasekara.
The four year plan to develop athletics is currently being prepared with the help of the Sri Lanka Athletics Association and the advice and suggestions of eminent athletics coaches and advisors such as Dervin Perera, Yogananda Wijesundara, Sunil Gunawardane, Sriyani Kulawansa, Sugath Thilakarathna, BJ Rodrigo, Rohan Pradeep Kumara, and Lt. Col. Dissanayake.
Attention is to be paid to areas such as setting up training pools, naming coaches, paying close attention to schoolsí athletics, monitoring the Kreeda Shakthi programme, bringing in foreign coaches to train our athletes, and concentrating heavily on developing the specific disciplines in which Sri Lanka can win medals.
Meanwhile, former director of the National Sports Institute, Yogananda Wijesundara, has been appointed director of coaching under whose close supervision the following coaches will work on their respective specialty: Sunil Gunawardena (short distance), Sajith Jayalal, (middle distance) YK Kularatna (jumping events), B.J Rodrigo (throwing events), Lt. Col. Dissanayaka (long distance) and Dervin Perera (marathon).
The Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage is also expected to keep a watchful eye on the progress and said he wanted the focus to be on better performances at the next Olympic, Commonwealth and South Asian Games and gain more medals with this new plan.


Airtel secures maiden win in mercantile cricket

A well compiled innings by opening batsman Hasitha Perera (89 runs in 77 balls with 11 fours, a six) and a brilliant spell of bowling by Umayanga Premakumara (4.1-11-6) propelled Citizens Development Bank as they got to a crushing 115 runs win over TechĖOne Global in the ongoing Stafford Motor Challenge Trophy, MCA Centenary Year 2011 ĎGí Division, 30 overs League Tournament.
Debutants Airtel secured their very first win in mercantile cricket, beating Technomedics by 33 runs, thanks to a good spell of pace bowling by Mahesh Amarasinghe (5-29-5) and a generous dose of 41 extras contributed by their opponents.
A superb second-wicket partnership of 130 runs between DP Mitipolaarachchi (75 runs in 46 balls, with 11 fours and 2 sixes) and DK Harishchandra (55 not out) gave Lankem Ceylon a heart-stopping 6 wickets win with 4 balls to spare.


Thurstan: Expolanka beat Glaxo Smithkline by 6 wkts.
GSK 122 (26.2) (N. Jayatillake 30, I. Sahabdeen 30, L. Fernando 32, S. Fernando 3/19)
Expolanka 123-4 (17.5) (MI Ghouse 30, A. Ameer 35 n.o., S. Dias 3/35)

Thurstan: Citizens Development Bank beat Tech-One Global by 115 runs.
CDB 204-5 (30) (Hasitha Perera 89, Y.Liyanage 36, L. Peiris 59)
Tech-One Global 89 (21.1) (D. John 30, M. de Silva 21, and Umayanga Premakumara 6/11)

Thurstan: NDB Bank beat MAC Holdings by 9 wickets.
MAC Holdings 92 (27.3) (S. Gunawardena 31, I. Ratnayake 4/20, R. Rupasinghe 2/10)
NDB 95-1 (14.0) (Z. Roshan 55)

Thurstan: Swedish Trading beat Janashakthi ĎCí by 5 wickets.
Janashakthi ĎCí 152 (27.5) (S. Sampan 52, M. Kodituwakku 2/25, S. Gunatillake 3/30)
Swedish Trading 153-5 (22.5) (P.Nishan 35, K. Vithanage 26, A. Jayasuriya 32, N. Wijesiri 28 not out, K. Fernanado 2/35)

Ananda: Interpharma beat McCallum Cargo by 7 wickets.
McCallum Cargo 161 (28.5) (D. Saranga 28, Selwin Perera 26, A. de Mel 21, D. Peiris 24, L. Suwandaratne 22 n.o., KA Kamal, 2/18, S. Fernando 3/20, M. Gunatillake 2/45)
Interpharma 162-3 (22.4) (P. Sankalpa 49, D. Sanjaya 30, S.Niroshan 45, M. Gunatillake 21 n.o.)

Ananda: Hemas Holdings beat MJF Group by 9 wickets
MJF 81 (19.5) (M. Warnakula 20 n.o., S. Lindsay 4/19, C. Balasuriya 2/15, M. Perera 3/23)
Hemas 82-1 (8.4) (N. Fernanado 42, N. Kodituwakku 25 n.o.)

Wesley: Virtusa beat Lanka Bell by one wicket.
Lanka Bell 156 (29.3) (S. de Silva 31, C. Kodikara 36, L. Liyanage 2/18, K. Surendra 2/17)
Virtusa 157-9 (29) (K. Surendren 20, N. Tharanga 25, B. Supun 30 n.o., N. Payoe 21, C. Srimal 3/40, C. Kodikara 4/25)

Wesley: HNB Assurance beat Creasey Darley by 7 wickets
Creasey Darley 105 (23.5) (ARS Mohamed 30, C. Bandara 2/13, GS Nadunge 2/15, S. Senanayake 3/20)
HNB Assurance 106-3 (17.2) (R. de Z. Gunawardena 55 n.o.)

SBC: Lankem Ceylon beat Deutsche Bank by 6 wickets
Deutsche Bank 142-6 (20) (P. Jayasinghe 21, Rally Tissera 52, T. de S. Wijeratne 20, P. Gamage 20 n.o., C. Kumara 2/18)
Lankem Ceylon 148 -4, (19.2) (DP Mitipolaarachchi 75, DK Harishchandra 55 n.o.)

SBC: Airtel beat Technomedics by 33 runs.
Airtel 151 (27.2) (P. Ousmand 25, L. Perera 28, F. Amanulla 30, S. Shadik 3/20, J. Priyantha 3/40, S. Lakruwan 2/25)
Technomedics 118 (17) (I. S. Kumara 27, S. Shadik 25, M. Amarasinghe 5/29, D. Chandana 3/35) Ė [LW]


AmCham Charity Golf Tournament

Presentation of proceeds today

The AmCham Charity Golf tournament has been an immense success throughout 11 consecutive years. Over the past 11 years the funds raised from the tournament have helped and supported different areas of need in our community; the first yearís recipient was the Young Entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka where up-coming business leaders were the beneficiaries.
The second yearís the proceeds were presented to Jaipur Limb Foundation for purchasing prosthetic limbs for the disabled. Castle Street Maternity Hospital was the third yearís recipient where the funds were used to upgrade the facilities at the hospital. Respectively, over the years the proceeds have been donated to the Cancer Hospital Maharagama, the Navodaya Special Education Residence School for boys in Kandy, the Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind, the Halpotha Childrenís Home in Hikkaduwa and for the second time, the Castle Street Maternity Hospital in 2009.
The proceeds from the tournament held in 2010 will be utilised for educational needs of the children of the Golf Club staff residing in the surrounding area. The presentation of gifts and the scholarship to an identified deserving student will take place on Sunday (June 26) at the Royal Colombo Golf Club.