Naushad Amit, in The Sunday Times, 1 April 2012
After years Colts managed to topple nine contenders to clinch the Sri Lanka Cricket Inter-Club Premier championship this season. Last season they missed a golden opportunity of regaining the title but were thwarted by the disappointing weather pattern which prevailed at that time. But this season the Colts lads were adamant that they will only settle down with a title which they could not claim last year.“We can call this year’s mission a sweet revenge for the reason that we were more or less foiled from clinching the title last year.
We begin every season with the aim of winning the championship and over the years we have been there are at least closer to the title. But this year was special,” asserted Nishantha Weerasinghe, the head coach of Colts.
Colts’ sixth win of the premier championship comes as an extraordinary feat for them. Sans their main contenders Angelo Matthews, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thissara Perera who were with the national side throughout that period and with the absence of the veteran duo, Chaminda Vaas and Jeewantha Kulatunga who opted to offer their places to youngsters, Colts mainly ran with the power of young blood. The notable seniors who were in the champion team were skipper Malinda Warnapura and spinners Dilruwan Perera and Sajeewa Weerakoon. Apart from these three, young and promising Roshen Silva played a key role for Colts’s success.
“We had to customise to the absence of our key players, Mathews, Kulasekara and Thissara who were unavailable throughout the season. In addition the club management adapted a new policy, to field at least five youngsters from our Under-23 outfit. That was part of the club’s new strategy in grooming players for the future. This year we had Kusal Janith Perera, Akshu Fernando, Shihan Kamileen, Chathura Peiris, Chathuranga Kumara and Ishan Jayaratne, and Roshen Silva was among them because he is still an Under-23 player. They have the talent and with this policy these players were given the due recognition. In addition players like Harsha Vithana and Nisal Randika rejoined the team. These players are young but rich in talent, so, there was heavy competition among them in bidding for a place in the playing eleven. Each player including the seniors had the pressure of maintaining their form if they are to be in the final outfit. This was competitive yet done in a very healthy manner. The team management too came to a conclusion that we should follow the policy of dropping whoever is not fairing well and give the ones who are in the peak the opportunity. This way Colts had very little in fielding out-of-form players. That was the key to our success in winning back the Premier League title,” Weerasinghe added.
As other teams in the Tier ‘A’ segment Colts too played nine games and won four of them, against Lankan CC, Moors SC, Ragama CC and Chilaw Marians. Their remaining five encounters ended in draws. Out of these games Colts managed to gain first innings points from four games but lost first innings only to Tamil Union, which put them slightly on the back-foot at the end of the third week. Weerasinghe who took over the reigns from Romesh Kaluwitharana, three seasons ago explained what occurred and how Colts overcame this minor setback.
“We played to a certain plan from the first outing itself. We won first innings points in the first couple of games but due to a Sri Lanka ‘A’ team tour we lost the services of Malinda Warnapura, Sajeewa Weerakoon and Kusal Janith Perera soon afterwards. That caused a minor shackle in our regular combination. We struggled a bit and as a result lost first innings during that week to Tamil Union. When we lost first innings points to Tamil Union the competition in the points table was open for all teams by the fourth week.
By that time we were running with a self-set challenge of batting for a bigger total and bowling our opponents out twice if we are to keep our hopes alive in winning the league title. We concentrated heavily on that and strengthened our bowling attack while relying on the top order as we went on to win four games in a row. By the penultimate week we were 6.5 points ahead of the rest. We met SSC who went on to amass 400 plus points and our batsmen too showed their temperament in scoring over them and losing just four wickets. Last year with rain spoiling our chances of clinching the league title we were resolute in winning the championship this season. We worked according to a plan and always struck to it. We acted promptly when there were setbacks and moreover all members of the team were united and had the same objective – winning the title.”
Skipper Malinda Warnapura had a challenging task in guiding an inexperienced and a rather young side. But with a few seniors around him in the likes of Sajeewa Weerakoon, Dilruwan Perera and Roshen Silva, Warnapura had the much needed assistance while negotiating with the team and club officials at the same time.
“To be honest it was not that easy to lead a team with so many youngsters. Seniors in the likes of Dilruwan, Sajeewa and Roshen were very supportive in conveying the youngsters the messages. By the latter part of the season, even the youngsters showed improvement in their character. As a team we always play aiming for the title. Apart from me, Sajeewa and Dilruwan, others were less than 25-years of age. Winning the league title this season with such a young-laden is one of the biggest achievements of Colts. We talk about experience but the youngsters played their part in given roles. That was one of the key aspects in our success,” said Warnapura praising his set.
Warnapura who led Colts for a third season with the absence of other senior players further said that his time has come to pass the leadership role onto another senior in the side in the following season. With so much of talent in their camp Warnapura’s leadership skills were visibly evident during the season, in decision making and team selecting. Colts had full-time batsmen in the likes of the skipper himself, Harsha Vithana, Nisal Randika, Roshen Silva, Kusal Janith Perera, Anuk Silva, Akshu Fernando, Chathuranga Kumara and Chathura Peiris. But only six or five could make it to the final team. From the four fast bowlers, Kanishka Alivitigala, Chathura Peiris, Chathuranga Kumara, Ishan Jayaratne, only three or two players had the chance to play in the final team while from spinners Sajeewa Weerakoon, Dilruwan Perera and Viraj Pushpakumara were in for selection. In addition selecting six players from the Under-23 outfit to match the top team’s requirement was another challenge.
“A couple of seasons back when this policy of fielding came into being, five Under-23 players in our top team was adopted by the club management. We had different opinions at the start but if you take this season there were almost seven youngsters in the playing eleven. And they performed well too. In the end each player rose to the occasion to make their contribution to the team on the given day. It’s a positive strategy for our future. What matters in the end is the performance of a player. If a player is out of form, he is not fit enough to come into the final eleven. Everybody got a fair share, from a massive contingent of eight specialised batsmen, four full-time fast bowlers and a huge spin squad during the tournament. Competition was at its best within the squad with a choice of players available throughout the competition. This trend will certainly continue at Colts for years to come. As a team this same set of players will remain to represent Colts in the coming season. With the youngsters we have proven that nothing is impossible and as this season we will go out fully loaded to defend our title next time,” Warnapura concluded.