Lankans look to improve
By ALVIN SALLAY
SRI Lankan sportsmen abroad never fare well - especially when they come to Hong Kong.
This has been the wretched cry of expatriate Sri Lankans here as they have watched their countrymen getting ritually beaten at the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, year in, year out.
Admittedly, Sri Lanka won the Plate trophy at last year's Hong Kong Sixes, but that was against minnows Zimbabwe and a hotch-potch Australian selection - greater things had been expected.
A year has passed by and the ever-hopeful Sri Lankan community are getting ready. The flag has been dusted down, the curries have been made, the cheer squad are ready. The moral support will be there when skipper Arjuna Ranatunga walks out with his team.
Possessing a superb eye capable of picking up the line early, the left-handed Ranatunga has matured into one of the most dependable batsmen Sri Lanka has ever had.
If there is anyone who can overshadow Ranatunga in the Sri Lankan lineup, it is his deputy, Aravinda de Silva.
Small in stature but big in deeds, the explosive de Silva is capable of taking any bowling attack apart.
Rounding off the Sri Lankan team are explosive wicketkeeper-batsman Romesh Kaluwitharana, who made a century on his debut against Australia last year which one visiting Aussie journalist said was the best he had ever witnessed, stylish left-handers AsankaGurusinha and Sanath Jayasuriya, dependable all-rounder Ruwan Kalpage, who bowls off-spin, and up-and-coming young fast bowler Dulip Liyanage.
On paper they are a very strong side. But Sri Lankan supporters will be hoping their cricketers prove more durable first-time winners than their rugby-playing compatriots.
When the Bowl trophy was first introduced at the Rugby Sevens in 1984, Sri Lanka won it. Since then they have been in decline and in the past five years have not even won a match.
A sobering thought. Enough to douse the hopes of even the most ardent Sri Lankan supporter, especially when the country's most popular sport is at stake.