Sri Lanka will host its first ever international baseball tournament in March, 2019, as the sport continues to make impressive strides on the baseball diamond.
The Baseball Federation of Asia (BFA) executive committee, which met on the sidelines of the XII BFA Under 18 Baseball Championship in Miyazawa, Japan last week, awarded Sri Lanka the right to host the West Asian Baseball Cup next year.
“This is a huge honour for us as it will be the first time in our history that we will be hosting an international tournament. It will provide is with a good opportunity to showcase the sport as well as further develop it,” said Fazil Hussain, an elated president of the Sri Lanka Amateur Baseball/Softball Association.
Seven countries will be involved - Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka – in a round robin competition at the Diyagama Baseball Stadium. The winner of the West Division, and the winner of the East Division, will join Chinese-Taipei, Japan, South Korea and China at the 2020 Asian Baseball Cup.
Baseball was introduced in the 80s to Sri Lanka and has rapidly caught root. Today the national team is ranked seventh in Asia and 40th in the world. Sri Lanka was also represented for the first time at the Asian Games in Jakarta.
Hussain has huge plans to press the fast-forward button on the development of baseball and has been given a boost by the performance of the Under 18 team in Japan.
“We finished fifth, behind champions Chinese-Taipei, runners-up South Korea, Japan and China. It proves we have strength in depth with these youngsters capable of stepping into the shoes of the seniors,” Hussain pointed out.
Sri Lanka played five matches winning three and losing two. The wins came over Hong Kong 17-1 and Indonesia 15-14 in the preliminaries before beating Hong Kong again, 11-1, in the 5th place play-offs and cement its status as one of the stronger teams outside the traditional powerbase. Sri Lanka lost by identical scores of 15-0 to Japan and Korea.
“We are extremely happy with the way in which we signed off at this tournament with a fifth-place finish,” said U-18 Sri Lanka coach Amila Bandu. “This is just the beginning of things for baseball in Sri Lanka.”
Sri Lanka also earned two individual awards with Dinith Kaveesha from Royal College being named Best Designated Hitter and Lahiru Lakshan Herath from Dharmaraja College, Kandy grabbing the award for Most Bases Stolen.
“It is good to see the youngsters giving the big guns a run, and we will no doubt come back stronger in the future as we look at improving from this tournament. The boys gave it their all and I’m very pleased with their hard work and dedication,” Bandu added.