By Susil Premalal
The Li Ning - Lanka Shuttle Challenge 2020 (LSC 2020), the country’s first high-profile franchise-based badminton tournament, began at the Sri Lanka Badminton (SLB) and Mercantile Badminton Association (MBA) Courts in Colombo yesterday.
The tournament was declared open by Chairman of the National Sports Council, former Sri Lanka Cricket Captain, Mahela Jayawardene who graced the occasion as the Chief Guest.
Organised by SLB, the five-day event will witness six teams of 12 players each vying for honours as well as handsome prizes.
SLB has adopted a franchise model to add glamour and set the precedents for an annual event each year that will complement the Senior and Junior Nationals, which has also been postponed to early 2021.
The competing teams are, Eastern Eagles, Southern Stars, Western Warriors, Northern Knights, Central Crusaders and Island Titans.
Each team includes three Men, three Women and two Boys and Girls under the age of 17. Teams are led by senior champion players, namely the Karunaratne brothers, Niluka and Dinuka, Sachin Dias, Buwaneka Gunetileke, Kavindi Sirimanage and Dilmi Dias with the National Pool players evenly distributed to create a fine balance of talent.
The tournament has received the fullest support of the Ministry of Sports and Ministry of Health (MOH) while SLB has put together a robust protocol that will conform to MOH guidelines to make sure a successful event is conducted despite the present pandemic situation.
With the Tokyo Olympics being postponed to August 2021, Sri Lanka’s Niluka Karunaratne remains in contention to qualify and represent the country in the Japanese capital next year.
LSC 2020 will help him come back to his familiar rhythm while SLB will have the opportunity to assess the key players of the National Pool.
Rohan de Silva, the SLB President and Chairman of the McLarens Group, has offered the funds to run the event with the prize money alone worth more than Rs. 600,000. All teams will receive an appearance fee while the champions are set to receive Rs. 250,000.
Li Ning is the SLB Corporate as well as Title Sponsor of the LSC 2020.
SLB NPTC Chairman, Palitha Hettiarachchi heads the organising committee while Ajith Wijayasinghe as Event Director and Sanjeewa Wijesekera as Tournament Referee supported by a host of SLB Ex-Co veterans.
Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa will be the Chief Guest at the closing ceremony on December 20 and will present the prizes for the champions.