By Susil Premalal
Sri Lanka Netball team led by Chaturangi Jayasooriya will leave to Singapore onAugust 29 as they look to regain the Asian Netball Championship. The eleventh edition of region’s most prestigious netball event will take place from September 1 to 9.
Sri Lanka team’s main target is to win the Asian title after nine years having last won it in 2009 while they will also be eager to secure at least a top-two finish in order to seal a place in the World Netball Championship 2019 in Liverpool, England.
Sri Lanka emerged runners-up in the last three editions of this tournament which was started in 1985 in Malaysia. Sri Lanka have clinched the championship on four occasions: 1989, 1997, 2001 and 2009 while Singapore has won the title on three occasions: 2005, 2012 and 2014.
At the last edition of the tournament held in Thailand in 2016, Malaysia emerged champions for the second time. Malaysia secured the title in the very first edition in 1985 as well while Hong Kong has won it once in 1993.
According to current Netball World Rankings amongst Asian countries Singapore is in front as they are ranked 21st with Malaysia being second (25th) followed by Sri Lanka (26th) and Hong Kong (27th)
There are 12 Asian countries taking part in this year’s tournament; Group ‘A’ – Malaysia, Japan and Maldives. Group ‘B’ – Sri Lanka, Chinese Taipei and India. Group ‘C’ – Singapore, Brunei and Pakistan. Group ‘D’ – Hong Kong,Thailand and Philippines.
Sri Lanka’s first match will be played on September 1 against Taipei and the second game will be on September 2 against India. From September 4 to 6 the tournament’s second round games will be held. The semi-finals will be played on September 8 while the finals and play-off scheduled to be held on September 9.
Sri Lanka team is mixed with young as well as experienced player with only one player lacking international exposure. The others have taken part in Asian Championships and Asian Youth Championships.
The most experienced player in the team is Tharjini Sivalingam, who has come into the team after four years. She is one of the leading goal shooters in the international scene. She is 39 years old and her height is 206cm.
Skipper Chaturangi Jayasooriya has taken part in two Asian Championships and one Asian Youth Championship.
The team is coached by former Double International (Netball and Athletics) Thilaka Jinadasa. She coached Sri Lanka when they won the Asian title in 2009. She is the first woman athlete (110m hurdles) to represent at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
She has represented Sri Lanka netball from 1985 to 1997. In 1997, Thilaka was the vice captain of Sri Lanka team which became Asian runners-up.
“We have been training for the last seven months. We have gained local and foreign exposures. Our target is to be champions. We hope to challenge Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand during this tournament,
“There is not much of challenge in the first round and hopefully we can be group champions, easily. In the second round, against Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand we are bound to face stiff competition,
“Sri Lanka players are in fine condition and we have high hopes on Tharjini who is joining the team after four years. She has very good shooting skills which could be a significant factor,” concluded Thilaka Jinadasa.