Darsha calls it a day

Damayanthi Darsha... excellent track record.-Md. YOUSUF

One of the most successful athletes of her country, Sri Lanka, Darsha broke into the limelight by winning the 100m gold at the Asian junior championships in Jakarta in 1994.

Damayanthi Darsha, triple gold winner in the Asian Games, has retired from athletics. The 32-year-old Sri Lankan announced her retirement in Colombo recently.

“Every good thing should come to an end. I have enjoyed my athletics for nearly two decades and time has come for me to call it a day,” Darsha was quoted as saying.

One of the most successful athletes of her country, Darsha broke into the limelight by winning the 100m gold at the Asian junior championships in Jakarta in 1994.

The same year she won the bronze in the 200 metres behind Chinese Taipei’s Wang Huei-Chen and team-mate Susanthika Jayasinghe in the Asian Games in Hiroshima.

That was the beginning of a dominant period for Sri Lanka in women’s sprinting with Jayasinghe and Darsha seriously challenging the Chinese. Darsha’s crowning glory came in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok where she won the 200-400 double.

It was after a 24-year-gap that Sri Lanka was winning an Asian Games gold in athletics.

Injuries in the latter part of her career spoilt her medal haul, but Darsha had one more gold in the Asian Games that came in Busan in 2002. She lived up to her rating as the best quarter-miler in the continent with a 51.13 win over India’s K. M. Beenamol. She had switched over to the 400 metres in the late 90s, but kept coming back to the 200 metres once in a while.

Her last international outing was at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne where she made the semifinals of the 200 metres.

An injury kept her out of the Doha Asian Games last year, possibly ruining her chance of winning another medal. However, Darsha goes out as her country’s most successful athlete in the Asian Games.

Her only regret could be that she does not have an Olympic medal in a career spanning 17 years, unlike Jayasinghe.

Darsha still holds the records in 200m (22.48s) and 400m (51.13s) in the Asian Games, Asian championships (22.84 and 51.05) and the SAF Games (22.68 and 52.11) apart from the Sri Lankan record of 51.05s for the 400 metres.

Her pleasant personality will be missed in the Asian arena, not to speak of her fluent running style and her speed around the curve.

— K. P. Mohan * * * Morgan to head ICC

David Morgan, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board won a unanimous vote of member countries to become the next president of the International Cricket Council.

Morgan, who will begin his tenure next year, won the contest by a 13-0 vote after agreeing a power-sharing deal with Sharad Pawar that will see his Indian counterpart take over the reins after two years.

Morgan will start his tenure in July 2008 and will step down from his position at the ECB at the end of the domestic season, triggering a contest to lead English cricket.

The terms of Morgan and Pawar's agreement were hammered out at meetings in London prior to the ICC's annual conference after attempts to choose between the two men had ended in stalemate.

Morgan's two-year term will coincide with the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup in England and Pawar will then assume the role in time for the World Cup on the subcontinent in 2011.

Morgan has yet to reveal any great theme for his presidency at a time when the international game is beset by difficulties, in particular the proliferation of cricket which made the recent World Cup in the Caribbean one of the least loved in history.

Morgan, a 69-year-old former chairman of Glamorgan, is an amenable man and, in his own understated way, a shrewd politician who has softened India's most extreme anti-England sentiments, but few people have the slightest idea what he intends to do in filling the role as president.

In theory the ICC president possesses little executive power but the right person can wield substantial influence. Of the last three ICC presidents, Malcolm Gray was a daily confidant for his fellow Australian Mal Speed, the ICC chief executive; Ehsan Mani, a London-based Pakistani, was a bridge between west and east; and Percy Sonn, who died recently, promised he would not be a hands-on president, and lived up to it.

If Morgan wants a theme he will be encouraged in England to lighten an international cricket calendar that, under Indian influence, has become ever more burdensome. The World Cup was widely perceived as a classic example of how a blue-riband event could be devalued because it became an overlong tournament in hock to TV companies and commercial sponsors.

Morgan's own record in this field, however, is far from convincing. He supervised the ECB's last television rights deal, which removed live Test cricket from terrestrial channels, and expanded the English summer to seven Tests and 10 one-day internationals � a heavy programme which was criticised in the recent Schofield report.

Speed's relationship with Morgan was strained during the 2003 World Cup, when England refused to play in Zimbabwe on safety grounds, but repair work has since taken place. Speed may step down in a year's time, robbing cricket of a man who may not have encouraged much affection but whose intellect has been vital in maintaining a sense of stability.

India seems ready for Morgan's presidency; whether it is ready for him to exercise much influence is another matter.

Cricket now has the right to wonder about Morgan's manifesto.

@ Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007