Do not kill outstation cricket - Letter to the Sports Editor
The article under the logo "Sunday Musings" by S.R.Pathiravithana in The Sunday Times of 3rd June 2007 has raised an "alarming fact" regarding the absence of outstation teams other than Badureliya C.C. in Segment one of the Premier League Tournament to be conducted this year by Sri Lanka Cricket. While I agree that it is necessary to prune down the number of teams participating in the Premier tournament to about 12 teams, shutting out almost all the outstation Clubs from this tournament spells disaster to the future of Cricket in this country. I think this decision, a very shortsighted move by SLC.
This shocking revelation means that teams from Matara, Galle, Ambalangoda, Kalutara, Panadura, Moratuwa, Kurunegala, Kandy etc. are prevented from participating in the major league. This is indeed a tragedy. It was only very recently that many of the Cricketers who participated in the recent World Cup were warmly received by well wishers from some of these outstations. I cannot believe that the vision of SLC is so shortsighted that they cannot formulate a tournament that would encompass some of the Districts that have produced outstanding Cricketers in the recent past, so that Sri Lanka Cricket would be served in the best possible manner. The fact that most of these outstation Cricketers have come up the ladder in spite of severe shortcomings in facilities etc. shows the inherent talents of these cricketers. Even now the facilities available to many outstation Cricketers are minimal.
Instead of spending money on International Stadiums Sri Lanka Cricket should concentrate on improving some of the Club and School grounds, many of which are in a deplorable condition. And also assist the talented needy players who are lost to cricket due to financial constraints. In this regard SLC could start a Scholarship scheme for talented young cricketers. Gymnasiums with just the basic facilities could be provided in the outstations as this is now a basic facility that is required by all sportsmen. Fast bowlers have to be caught young and a Gymnasium will help them to build their strength. Two classic examples of bowlers who added about 20 kmph to their bowling speed after working in the Gym are Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando. They can both go over the 150 kmph limit now. I had been involved with the Board of Control for Cricket for over 30 years and with this experience behind me, I have advised SLC to invest as much as is possible on improving the infra-structure of the outstation Clubs and Schools instead of spending hundreds of millions on new stadiums. The return on such investment in terms of the improvement of the standard of Cricket in this country will be one hundred times more than what would be obtained by constructing a Stadium. Although some assistance has been given to a few Clubs and Schools, the SLC has not even touched the fringe of the problem. My advice is that SLC should prepare a data-base of the facilities available at all Clubs and Schools playing Cricket, and prepare 5 year investment plan towards improving the infra-structure of these Clubs and Schools.
With regard to the Premier league tournament I would like to make the following suggestions:
(1). Restrict the number of teams in segment 1 to 12 teams. (2). Select 6 teams from Colombo based on last years performance. (3). Select the best 6 teams from the districts of Matara, Galle, Kalutara and Kurunegala. Kandy could be added to this group if they could prove their worth. (4) Conduct a tournament in each district next year to decide on the 12 teams that should play in the tournament next year.
I wish to remind Sri Lanka Cricket that Galle C.C, Kalutara S.C and Panadura S.C. have played in the tournaments conducted by even the Ceylon Cricket Association over 80 years ago while Moratuwa S.C and a few other outstation Clubs have played in the Cricket tournaments for over 60 years. These Clubs have not been able to give of their best due to the fact that the more influential Clubs in Colombo are able to lure their best Cricketers to play for the Colombo Clubs as then they would have a better chance of selection for representative honours. For example, Panadura S.C lost 3 Cricketers who represented Sri Lanka in recent years to Colombo Clubs and according to the present decision of SLC, Panadura S.C. is out of the major league. My final plea to Sri Lanka Cricket is that they should do some rethinking on this matter and restructure the tournament as otherwise they will surely sound the death-knell of outstation Cricket.