A section of Kandy Sports Club players were stunned last Thursday when they learnt through media that their chances of representing Sri Lanka in the upcoming Asia Sevens Rugby Series had been shattered following a protest from a few clubs, which left Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) and Ministry of Sports with no choice but to turn their backs on Kandy stars.
The Kandy players had earlier been told that they would be given an opportunity to be in the pool considering their fitness levels and previous performances in the backdrop of their club’s refusal to send a team to the Invitational Rugby 7’s, but a few other clubs objected to this proposal, which in effect ensured that whatever the opportunity Kandy players would have had was destroyed.
Namal Rajapaksa – Minister of Sports stated the following day “I know these players and what they have done for the country and how well they have performed, they have my absolute respect for that. But that was two years ago. How could you logically pick a squad upon what they did two years ago?”
However, many rugby fans across the country felt that Kandy players should have been at least given a chance to showcase what they are capable of as at present. Hence, the ‘Daily Mirror’ contacted some of the leading rugby players from Kandy SC who as things stand are likely to miss out.
Kandy scrum-half Srinath Sooriyabandara, probably Sri Lanka’s version of Jerry Tuwai has been one of the most feared players in the Asian circuit, but with the latest development, he will not take part in the Asian 7’s Series in Dubai.
“I know two years is a long period, but we are professional players and we maintained our fitness levels by working extremely hard. All we ask for is an opportunity. We don’t say select us to the 12-man final squad. Just give us an opportunity to test ourselves with other players in the pool. If we are not good enough then we will step aside, but if we are sidelined without an opportunity, I think it is a bit unfair,” the Sri Lanka 7’s sensation told the ‘Daily Mirror’.
Although the Ministry of Sports demanded a tournament for the men's team to be played before selection, the women’s team was picked based on their fitness levels and previous performances. Kandy utility back Danush Dayan who is technically the current Sri Lanka captain in the shorter format questioned the blatant double standards.
“I don’t want to point my fingers at anybody, but as far as I know, the women’s pool was selected based on their fitness and previous performances, and that really surprises me because we have not been given an equal opportunity,” Dayan stated in an interview with the ‘Daily Mirror’.
Kandy wing three quarter Kavindu Perera who has been a regular of Sri Lanka’s 7’s set up for nearly six years is disappointed that their hard work all these months has not even been considered.
“To be very honest we worked extremely hard even during the lockdown because for us playing for the country wearing the national jersey means everything. So, when you think that probably 20-30 hours of hard work every single week goes out of the window for a reason that you have no control over, it’s very disappointing,” the former CR & FC captain pointed out when contacted by the ‘Daily Mirror’.
Kandy fly-half/centre Tarinda Ratwatte understands the frustration of other clubs, but believes everyone deserves an opportunity.
“I understand other clubs objecting to the decision to include us in the pool, if I was one of them, I think I would feel the same way, but if our end goal is about winning, then everyone deserves an opportunity. We have not played rugby for two years, but it is the same with other clubs as well. So, I am not sure whether one tournament could determine everything,” questioned the former Trinity and Sri Lanka Junior captain when interviewed by the ‘Daily Mirror’.
Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera were not available for Sri Lanka for the Oman tour but no one questioned them walking right back into the playing XI. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardane who have missed tour matches of the national team in order to take part in the IPL, walked right back into the team because sanity did prevail. This is a different scenario, but these are some of the top 7’s players in Sri Lanka. In sports, you don’t substitute Messi or bench Ronaldo because that could lead to disastrous results. Would the sanity prevail, this time around?