Is our Domestic Cricket taken seriously enough?

I am sure this is the question on the lips of not just cricket fans but sometimes on the cricketers too! This is due to the fact that Domestic Cricket in Sri Lanka is never seriously taken by anybody.
It is a fact that has been accepted by everybody irrespective of what position one holds! The number of times the Tournament structures and dates are changed to please the administrators in power is something very common in the Sri Lankan stage. However the question that begs a proper answer is, is that the way to conduct affairs of this very important game?

Cricket has given Sri Lanka a very high status in the world stage and has also made this country famous and spoken of in almost every corner of this globe. It brings fame, revenue and even is able to help in solving unemployment. Besides all that, it has given the average fan on the street something to look forward to and cheer about.

A provincial T-20 match in progress - Pic by Ranjith Perera

Two digress further on the subject it is pertinent to take a closer look at the current domestic structure of Sri Lanka cricket. Whilst we do know that there are tournaments such as the Div.111 covering the grass roots, the Donovan Andree covering the emerging Clubs and the Sara Trophy being played by the Div.1 clubs, the most important area to focus will be the Premier League Tournament played by 20 clubs. (But have now heard it might be 22 in the next year which confirms my point of the argument).

The latest we have heard on the increase of clubs is, due to a mistake at the Tournament Committee level, the proposed relegation tournament is to be scrapped and the top team of Tier B Saracens is to be included in the Tier A!

This is a question once again that begs an answer. Are these situations seen else where in any other country? These events are unprecedented in the rest of the world! Have we ever heard of the number of teams in a Domestic Tournament in any other major cricket playing country including Zimbabwe ever going through such drastic changes so regularly?

My sympathies are with the newly elected Interim Committee headed by D.S. de Silva, who had to inherit these unnecessary situations. What is more interesting is that (we have heard), the directive arrived at by the special committee appointed by the Gamini Lokuge the Sports Minister to play a relegation/promotion tournament to overcome the problem involving Badureliya SC, last year is to be abolished.

Now can any authority change/amend a ruling by the Ministry of Sports? Secondly once again will it not then look that the ruling was brought in to favour one club? What will prevent a club facing relegation in the next year not go to courts? And also once again a bit from the World stage! Are there any First Class Clubs been demoted so regularly? True the Sri Lankan situation involving clubs are different. But what guarantee does one have that the last of one of top Tier’s is any worse than the team been promoted from the lower division? I think it is always a prudent way to be sure of the strength of a club vying for a top place and there is no harm in a promotion/relegation match.

These are all situations that can easily be avoided if prudent thinking is applied. I am sure the current Interim Committee is not short of prudence as they have in their ranks people who have been exposed to top decision making and hence they need to avoid these mistakes. If not this would all point in one direction, which is the main Domestic Club Tournament is just waste of time!

This brings me to the next step and the most important part of Domestic Cricket, which is the Inter Provincial Tournament. True it will take time to take root. It may never replace the loyalty players have for clubs. But it is still the tournament every player wants to be part of! It is the tournament the players know will propel them to the highest level! But would a Provincial Tournament ever succeed if the feeder to it i.e. the Club Tournament is not properly managed? This is the reason why, every Sports Minister, every Chairman/President and elected Committees of SLC needs to pay much attention to the Clubs at every level!

They are the ones who are the heart of cricket in the country, which has served this country’s cricket. As such we should look after and foster the hen that lays the Golden Egg rather than kill it!
Finally another important factor that once again is constantly kicked around is a proper Tournament Calendar. It will help everybody involved if they know the proper Domestic Calendar in advance as planning venues and every other detail involved with it could be done. It will bring in so much of order that has been lacking in the Domestic Tournaments. It will also help the players who are professional to plan their respective programs too. As such we much pay attention to this aspect too! Avoid what happened in the 2008/09 season.

The Club Tournament was to be over by the 31st December and the Inter provincial to take over with a break for the players. But what actually happened was very different.

So let’s not treat the Cricketers in this manner. As they after the entire precious product we have. Let’s give them the respect which is due. Give them time to charge and recharge their batteries and give their best in whatever cricket they play. Their efforts will naturally be the key to Sri Lanka’s success. So let’s take the game we love and cherish very much more seriously! And work towards its success in every area we are involved as it deserves all what we can give it back.

Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading cricket promoter and an international cricket commentator

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