Sports Ministry snubs veteran cricketers


Mahindananda Aluthgamage

by Rex Clementine

Prominent cricket figures have been offended by Sports Ministry’s decision to leave out veteran cricketers from a recent felicitation ceremony. On Wednesday, 15 athletes who had brought the country honour and fame were felicitated by the Ministry of Sports parallel to the ceremonial opening of the new Ministry building. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was in attendance to felicitate the 15 sportsmen.

A statement from the Sports Ministry said that sportsmen who had excelled in 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were felicitated.

Some of the sportsmen were even flown from overseas for the felicitation, but those engaged in cricket feel that they had been cold-shouldered.

The said period when sportsmen’s contributions were recognized was before Sri Lanka had gained Test status. Some of the highlights in the pre-Test era includes, Sri Lanka winning an unofficial Test against India in India in 1965 under Michael Tissera and going onto play two ICC Cricket World Cups in 1975 and 1979 after winning the qualifying tournaments.

"I am told that sportsmen who excelled in Asian level are being felicitated, but cricketers of 1960s and 1970s brought us honour at the international stage," a recently retired star cricketer told The Island.

"It’s been over 30 years since we gained Test status, but we have never beaten India in India. But in 1965, before we had gained Test status, Michael Tissera’s side beat India in India in an unofficial Test. That’s a remarkable achievement," the cricketer who didn’t want his name to be revealed said.

"We also played in two World Cups in the 1970s under Anura Tennekoon. We had to win an ICC Qualifying Tournament to play those World Cups and then we beat a full member of the ICC in the 1979 World Cup," the cricketer further said.

"The contributions of these cricketers should have been recognized for they too brought honour and fame to the country," he added.

Spokesman to the Sports Ministry Harsha Abeykoon said that the Ministry had in mind to conduct another felicitation to coincide with the opening of a ground. He also said cricket players will be eligible for recognition in future events.

On Wednesday, those who were felicitated included sportsmen from disciplines of athletics, boxing, tennis and yachting.

The 15 sportsmen felicitated by Sports Ministry are: N. Ethirveerasingham, Nirmala Dissanayake, S.L.B. Rosa, Col. W. Wimaladasa, A. Premachandra, Kosala Sahabandu, Sunil B. Gunawardhena, S. P. Jayasuriya, H. S. Caldera, R.D. W. N. Perera, Trevor de Silva, Rupert Ferdinands, Ranjani Jayasuriya, Wendy Molligoda and Ekendra Edirisinghe.

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