An age limit change again
The age limit of first eleven cricket is set to be changed again, from the 2008 – 09 season. From under twenty years of age it will be back to under nineteen years, as it was four seasons ago. It is a big blow for the developing cricketer.
School cricket was under twenty, from the time the schools association was formed after the country gained independence from the British. The age limit which applied since 1948 was changed in 1982. Although facilities were basic, the game was encouraged and the talented had the independence to devote time to the game without being overly pressurized by education goals.
That did not only apply to cricket. Those gifted to play Rugby, Hockey, Tennis, football and Athletics got every encouragement. There were many who represented their schools in two or more sports, excelling in them as well. Today, most youngsters play only one sport. The demands of education restricts and parents are absolutely concerned that maximum results are achieved at examinations.
In addition seasons of the different sports overlap making it difficult to concentrate on more than one sport. There are many other interests and distractions that lure youngsters away from sport. On top of that they have to go no sooner they sit for their ‘A’ Level exam once.
Cricket is the one sport where Sri Lanka has reached international recognition. The national team is amongst the best in the world. There are many millions in this country and overseas who follow and support the team.
They rejoice and celebrate at the team’s success and are equally quick to criticize failure as well. Few realize the mechanics of how a cricketer is produced and the obstacles they have to clear and the hardships they encounter to get to the top and stay there.
School cricket is known to be the cradle of the game. There are some who lament that schools don’t produce players who can walk into club teams and the national side. One reason for that is, from 1982 up to 2005, the age limit being under nineteen. A year of a young cricketer being lost is a huge disadvantage. Many give the game, some struggle for a few years but cannot survive. Only a few of the outstanding and perseverant survive.
The age period of fifteen to twenty is main growing stage of a cricketer. It is during this period that the player has to absorb the techniques of the game and play as much match cricket. The school cricket system provides for this very much. Over the years the growth in facilities has improved steadily. Only financial restraints have slowed the process.
As a schoolboy progresses through this system, the peak becomes playing in the first eleven. Almost everyone who plays more than one season improves with every year. What is most noticeable is that they become physically stronger and the co-ordination develops. Both required aspects to succeed in every department of the game. Simultaneously the mental capacity improves. The ability to concentrate for longer periods, to be tough in difficult situations, to be positive and confident against all opposition, begins to happen with time. At nineteen years they are at a peak -- particularly, as their school education responsibilities are also completed.
The reason given for this change is that Principals (some of them) are unable to maintain discipline of these students who have completed their ‘A’ level exam. Surely, take all sports and there could be no more than fifty such students! Also, how could anyone say that the behavior of nineteen year olds deteriorate so suddenly! After all if at eighteen the Principals were responsible for their discipline, why not a year later?! Lastly, there is no reason to encourage anyone whose discipline is poor. He could be dropped from the team or removed from school!!
Should this decision be finalized, then serious thought must be given to revoke it. This plea is for the sake of our favourite national pasttime in sport – CRICKET.
- Ranil Abeynaike is a former Sri Lanka cricketer and curator of SSC