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Dual purpose Asanga Seneviratne has strength to perform well

DUAL ROLL: Asanga Seneviratne who has to play a dual purpose roles as a Vice President at SLC and the President of Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union the two most prestigious sports bodies in the country.

He expressed his confidence of discharging his duties with confidence in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer.

The former Thomian cricketer cum rugby star who has excelled in both sports said that as he had played both games at the highest level and with meetings of the two Boards not held simultaneously, with proper time management he could serve both Sports Bodies efficiently.


Asanga Seneviratne

Seneviratne after a distinguished sports career at S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia where he played cricket and rugger from 1982 to 1984, joined the Colombo Cricket Club and played cricket in the Premier tournament from 1983 to 1995. He captained the club in 1992/1994. He donned the Sri Lanka rugby jersey in 1988 and played for two years.

At cricket, Seneviratne represented the Sri Lanka Under-23 team against a strong Pakistan Under-23 led by Salim Malik in 1985. Sri Lanka was under Arjuna Ranatunga. He has scored over 5,000 first class runs and in rugby he has scored over 100 points for CR&FC. Seneviratne has proved that he is a genuine player in both sports.

Asanga Seneviratne, referring to the controversial issue of sacking of the present national cricket coach Geoff Marsh said that it came in the wake of some negative feed backs received from the team management during his four months tenure with the national cricket team.

Excerpts of the interview with Asanga Seneviratne Vice President of SLC:

Q: Holding two responsible posts - a Vice President in the Cricket Board and the President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union and as a businessman, how do you find time to attend to the matters of these two institutions?

A: As you know I have played both sports at the highest level over a decade at first class level and coming into administration. I do not have any issue because the meetings are not held simultaneously. It is at different times and if you manage the time prudently it won't be a problem as you can give your best for both sports.

Q: There have been widespread allegations and criticism that the SLC AG was a politically motivated one?

A: Those allegations come from disgruntled parties who couldn't get themselves elected. There are minorities in my opinion. But the cricket loving public and the clubs know who are the best people to be in SLC. I think this set of administrators are a balanced lot. There is a lot of experience and there is also young entrepreneur leadership in the team. It is a team that could definitely take cricket forward in this country.

Q: What are your views on terminating the services of the highly professional Australian coach Geoff Marsh just after a stint of four months?

A: Personally, as a past player I am of the opinion of the coaches role is a very difficult one. You cannot blame the coach for one's failure as a player. The players must stand up and take the responsibility for that. Where Marsh is concerned, it was a decision taking into consideration lot of factors from the feed back we got from the team management. It has nothing to do with any personal agenda. It was done purely on the feed back that we had got. My personal opinion is of course that it is not the failure of the coach for the performance in South Africa. This was done in consideration of what was given back by the team management.

Q: What is the guarantee that the new South African coach Graham Ford could deliver the goods?

A: Ford has a very good track record in the past. And we hope it would work, because it is not good to keep on changing coaches as we have done. I really hope he will work hard for Sri Lanka. It is very important for the team to realise that we have a new captain again Mahela, and I believe that he is the right man for the job, even for the coach it will make his job that much easier with Mahela, who captained the team earlier.

Rugby Football

Q: Coming to rugby, as the President of the SLRFU what have you got in store with the Five Nation Tournament to be staged in Philippines in April 2012.

A: We have already named a pool for the tournament. We have sent out contracts to 23 players. For the first time in the country's rugby history Rugby Union players will be contracted to the Board and they will be paid a fee for that. We have already identified the strength and the fitness of the players and we are in the process of recruiting a foreign coach who will be in the Island in late February. So we will have a full two months training prior to the tournament in April. Our priority is to get into the top division.

Q: Why not try an indigenous coach instead of one from overseas?

A: Most of the top clubs are coached by foreigners. The reason for that is the local coaches upto now do not seem to have performed in a manner which is accepted at national level. We have a great challenge ahead of us and the unanimous verdict is that we need foreign expertise at this stage. But looking forward we may consider having a local as coach. But then again we must have coaches coaching the top three or four clubs at least if they to be considered for national duty.

Q: As we know rugby is a body contact game and the strength and the speed is needed to overcome the challenges more than a coach?.

A: I agree, but there are lots of tactics also. A team like ours which lays a lot of emphasis in strength in the sense that we may be not as strong as the opposition where we'll have to use a lot of tactics to counter that. The game also has changed radically, we could see 15 to 20 phases in rugby today. In the good old days when we were playing it was two or three phases maximum. So the game is faster and lot more physical commitments is necessary. But our boys are that much bigger now. They are five or ten kilos bigger than the players we had in the past. So we are also developing, but now it is to give the boys the right combination of coaching and training and the experience to excel at international level.

Q: Will fielding foreign players in domestic tournament help to improve the game?

A: Of course! I am a firm believer that it must be open. Even to the extent of allowing three, four or even five foreign players. At the moment only two players are permitted. It cannot be designated it should be open as it is a professional era. It's an era of Cable TV and sponsorship and professionalism and we can't go far with restrictions. If it has to be successful, foreigners and locals must be freely allowed to play.

Q: Any new developments?

A: In cricket, with the staging of the T20 World Cup in September, we will look at different levels of entertainment at the venues to ensure that we'll have a full house. There are lot of events planned. Also for the England tour we are planning special areas for spectators with entertainment and lot of activity which we haven't seen in the past.

In rugby we are again looking at the entertaining aspect. I believe today it is all about keeping the crowd going and ensuring that the people are treated to an evening of entertainment. We are not doing anything at rugby matches at the moment.

We are planning to have pre-match events and during half-time and also after the game.

We are hoping to play night matches under lights probably during the next season. The former Race Course is been developed to a rugby grounds. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has earmarked that ground for rugby. That will be a fully fledged one with lights which could be utilised during the season.

We are also hoping to develop CR&FC, Havelock SC and Nittawela for night games.

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