By Harsha Amarasinghe
Sri Lanka National Rugby Selectors were stunned today (24) to read an e-mail from the most experienced player of the Fifteen-A-Side Squad, Sajith Saranga stating that the 29-year-old is unable to take part in the Asian Championship in Chinese Taipei next week due to an injury.
The giant second row missed the training in the last couple of days and was surprisingly absent during the team’s official photo-shoot along with Kandy Sports Club scrum half Roshan Weeraratne on Thursday evening.
Although Saranga has stated about an injury, the sources close to the player suggests that he was very disappointed by the National Selectors’ decision to drop his close mate Sathya Ranatunga.
CH and FC prop forward Ranatunga had an outstanding club season and his omission did raise a few eyebrows as it leaves Sri Lanka front row look very inexperienced and certain sources suggest that the decision has been made based on a matter that was discussed within the dressing room.
However, Saranga’s form of protest leaves Sri Lanka Selectors absolutely helpless as they face an uphill battle to obtain visa for the replacement, Tharindu Chathuranga.
“Well, he (Saranga) has not reported for practices on Friday and Thursday, and today morning he has sent an e-mail saying he cannot take part in the tournament due to an injury. We don’t have a clue about the state of his injury and right now we find it very difficult to get visa for the replacement,” the Chairman of Selectors Rohan Abeykoon told Daily Mirror today.
Saranga is the most experienced player in the team and his absence would certainly be a huge blow to the team’s second row, but selectors have opted for a third rower in the form of Tharindu Chathuranga whose participation in the tournament looks unlikely at the moment.
“We have capable replacements in the second row. Apart from Umesh (Madushan) we have got Thilina Bandara and Prabath Kumara while Jason Melder is an option in the second row. So, we don’t think we are in a big trouble,” Abeykoon added.
The selectors had named Rahul de Silva and Sandesh Jayawickrama as the standbys.
Although they are both very good players, none of them would ever possibly play in the second row.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) Deputy President Rizly Illyas stated that the parent body has ‘zero tolerance’ to such behaviour.
“Sajith Saranga is a player who has represented Sri Lanka for nearly 10 years and he has had a lot of playing time in the recent past as well. We are sending a squad with 17 debutants and for him to show this sort of attitude is absolutely embarrassing. The senior players have to set the example for the younger players and we have zero tolerance for his kind of behaviour,” Illyas revealed today.
Saranga though has stated he is injured, could possibly face a heavy ban should he fail to prove so with appropriate documentation.
“It is hard to discuss the consequences of what he has done. We would also take advice from Asia Rugby and World Rugby before making a decision. At this very moment it’s hard to say what exactly would happen,” Illyas said.
Meanwhile, the sources claim that Saranga had a change of heart later yesterday but the coaching staff and selectors appear to have sent out a strong message for all the players by sticking to their guns
Sticking up to a friend and putting himself on the firing line goes on to show what a wonderful human being Saranga is but by doing so he has made himself a terrible professional as well.
When the going gets tough, tough gets going!