Lankan cagers face tough task in FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier | Daily News

Lankan cagers face tough task in FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier

Some of the Basketball National team players pose for a  photograph along with the sponsors, team and Federation officlals. (Picture by Ranjith Asanka)
Some of the Basketball National team players pose for a photograph along with the sponsors, team and Federation officlals. (Picture by Ranjith Asanka)

The Sri Lanka basketball team which left for Manama, Bahrain to participate in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifier got a boost ahead of their tour with a multinational company based in Singapore and Malaysia ‘Gaja Holding’coming forward as the partners of the Sri Lanka Basketball Federation (SLBF).

“We are a multinational company based in Singapore and Malaysia. In Sri Lanka we do various turnkey projects i. But as a former Sri Lanka player and President of the Masters Basketball Association of Sri Lanka, we are into supporting various sporting activities and conduct many

tournaments. As a major project we are to build an indoor sports stadium in Colpetty mainly to play basketball, netball and few more indoor sports. We get the assistance of foreign investors who are lined up in our forum.

The sole intention of the foreign investors is to support us to develop Sri Lanka basketball and other indoor sports. This enabled us to come forward to sponsor the National Basketball team and get on board to support them for a longer period of time. We mainly focus on improving the grass root level of Sri Lanka basketball,” said Gayath Jayasinghe, a former Sri Lanka basketball player who is Group CEO of Gaja Holding.

Meantime, Sri Lanka cagers are to face an acid test in qualifying for the FIBA Asia Cup when they come up against Jordan, Palestine and Kazakhstan when the third window of qualifiers take place from February 17 to 21. With a composition of a young squad at an average age of 23 years in their ranks, the Sri Lanka team earlier suffered heavy defeats in away matches at the hands of Palestine (102-60) and Jordan (100-45) in February last year, during the first window of matches played in group F. They were to play Kazakhstan at home in November but the second window got cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Sri Lanka will play Kazakhstan twice on February 18 and 22 while taking on Jordan on February19 and Palestine February21 in Manama where the competition will be conducted in a bio-bubble environment.

With this stage of the tournament which is the third window, the top two teams from each of the six groups will qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021. The six third-placed teams will advance to play a final qualifying tournament with the top four from this tournament advancing to the FIBA Asia Cup 2021.

Susil Udukumbura the National coach who has been instrumental in guiding the Sri Lanka team to emerge unbeaten champions at the SABA Cup in 2018, pre-qualifiers for the Asia Cup 2021 was confident and had mixed feelings on the present team. “We were camped and trained under a bio-bubble environment. We had an opportunity analyzing our past performances including the strengths and weaknesses. At present we miss the services of two experienced seniors Gayan Croos and Krishan Cooray, whose participation with the team would have been handy in the starting line up. They could not commit themselves for a virtual 38-day quarantine. Nevertheless, we have a young side whose average age is 23. Only inexperience might be a problem but players have the height and skills. But with the available resources we are

fielding the best possible side.” said Susil Udukumbura

The three new faces in the squad are Asanga Mahesh, Dilshan Fernando and Rashan Perera. “We did a lot of strength and conditioning training to keep fit as we returned after a long gap. We have good height and hope to utilize our skills to put up a belligerent performance.” said the skipper Clinton Stallone, the 28 years old former Benedictine who has been playing with the National team for the past seven years.

The Sri Lanka tour Squad-Clinton Stallone (captain), Dasun Nilantha, Pawan Gamage, Grent Arnold, Nimesh Fernando, Nipun Kiriella, Dilshan Fernando, Asanka Mahesh, Saindu Gajanayake, Rashan Perera, Chanuka Fernanod, Rukshan Atapattu.

Head Coach: Susil Udukumbura, Asst Coach: Ranura Nanayakkara, Trainer: Duminda de Silva, Manager: Clifford Surendran, Team Physician Dr. Chula Senaratne,