By Harsha Amarasinghe
CT Sports: The Sri Lanka netball team is expected to take part in the Asian Championship in July with a fairly inexperienced and weak side sans any senior players. Sri Lanka Netball Association (SLNA) sent a similar side to the World Cup in Australia last year who ended up losing all their matches. Since then unfortunately nothing has changed for the country. Once again they are going to have a tough tournament.
Senior netball star Tharjini Sivalingam ruled out any chance of her returning to the national side in the near future with the current netball hierarchy in the country.
“I firstly want to say that whenever we played for Sri Lanka, we played because of our love for country. We never played for money or anything of that sort because we were never paid on contract basis, but still we gave our all to the country. With these present administrators and coach, I don’t want to play for Sri Lanka. We were the champions of Asia and there was a fear factor about us. During tournaments people will look at us and talk about us because we were that good, but now the national team’s standards have gone down drastically. I would play for my country, I would fight for the coach, only if it is worth it and it is not at the moment,” the giant netballer said.
The 33-year-old Seylan Bank goal shooter also insisted that Sri Lanka is running out of time even if the required changes are made before the Asian Championship.
“Now it is surely too late for the Asia Cup because you only have two months to go. Even with a new coach with the time available, it’s going to be really hard to produce good performances,” she added.
Despite the chaos in the administration, Sivalingam says Sri Lanka do have some talented young players who could take netball to another level under correct management.
“There are some very good players like Thisala (Algama) and Gayani (Dissanayake). May be you cannot call them juniors anymore because they have been playing for the national team for some time now. But they need to be managed well,” Asia’s tallest netball player explained.
She also believes that Sri Lanka will find it difficult to compete against the likes of Malaysia and Singapore in the Asia Cup.
“We all know Singapore is a very tough side to beat and they have been dominating us for some years now. Malaysia may not have been as good but they have improved so much over the last few years. I think Sri Lanka might make it to the semis, but from there onwards it is going to be difficult,” Sivalingam said of Sri Lanka’s chances in the Asian Championship.
Having made her Sri Lanka debut in 2005, she said Thilaka Jinadasa was the best coach she worked with.
“I think being named as the best shooter in the World Cup (2011) was the best moment for me personally, but winning the Asia Cup in 2009 was also a memorable moment because we trained hard with Thilaka Jinadasa and eventually we won. She is the best coach I have worked with. As a coach she believed in me when most people doubted me. I will never forget that,” she said.