A while ago, we were rather exasperated about the deteriorating standards of junior cricket in the country. We really wanted to find out if there was a national coaching policy in Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Cricket’s answer was affirmative – such a policy was in place for all levels of the game.
Yet now we want to ask if there is such a policy laid down, how is it in place, how does it work and for whose benefit. At the same time we also liked to know from the time that it was placed as a policy in Sri Lanka if the Lankan cricket has benefited in any way and how.
Once again we have to travel to the very feeder point of the game – the schools. Unlike in any other Test playing nation, Sri Lanka has the benefit of possessing the most organized schools cricket system in the world. Yet ironically we feel that the wagon is racing backwards. Instead of producing promising cricketers who could take the game forward, the schools today are producing half-baked stuff that fits no shelf.
For instance, the line of top quality cricketers like Aravinda de Silva, Roshan Mahanama, Chaminda Vaas and Mahela Jayawardena being churned out of the school mill has ceased. Now once in a way there would be a sporadic thud of a cricketer in the calibre of Dinesh Chandimal falling into the main stream, but in general the main silo is empty and malfunctioning.
Yet there is inherent talent in Sri Lanka. It still has talent coming in to the international arena on a regular basis, but that talent is not generated through a system. They come through many stutters and shudders and most of them who hit the top cannot sustain. Just try to recall how many new names have come and gone after wearing the national crest – some not even the time that the good tailor took to sew their kits.
|Now once in a way there would be a sporadic thud of a cricketer in the calibre of Dinesh Chandimal falling into the main stream, but in general the main silo is empty and malfunctioning.
Yes, we have spoken on this subject before, but we feel still the clarion call has not done its job. The Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association – to my mind -- is one of the biggest minus factors on the production side of the mill. It keeps producing quantity sans any quality. In this melee we wonder where the national coaching policy has disappeared.
To get a better insight into this national predicament, the Sunday Musings sought the help of schools cricket veteran Jayantha Seneviratne to take us towards a solution.
The school cricket doyen began by saying, “I point my fingers initially at the coaches. There are many incompetent coaches in schools. They do not know how to pick a talented player. They cannot go for match plans or game plans because of their limited knowledge of the game. Another salient point is that they do not delve into the mental aspects of the child. As a whole the coaches should be able to deal with all these aspects of their job thoroughly and competently.”
When the Musings pointed out that all these so called coaches do possess certificates issued by Sri Lanka Cricket which is the accepted norm, Seneviratne said he did not believe in certificate coaches. According to him, a coach should be a person who carries the criteria that he had mentioned before. “Just because one has played cricket, he cannot become a good coach,” he said.
Another point brought forward by Seneviratne was that the coach who does find a place in a school makes job security his first priority. Describing the vicious circle, Seneviratne said most principals wants his team to win tournaments or even to remain unbeaten during a given season. As a result, the coaches adopt “win at all cost or do not lose the match” method. This is not a positive approach if one is bent on building a good team, he said.
Seneviratne said if there is a national policy in cricket it should be a national policy to all. If there is a national policy, the entire gamut of Sri Lankan cricket should follow that with one single vision of producing better cricketers to cater to the needs of the national team in their international exploits. Then he added, “Sri Lanka Cricket and its affiliated body, the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association, should get together and work towards a common goal as far this national cricket policy is concerned”.
Speaking on the technical disparity between cricketers who come out of outstation schools and those who come from leading Colombo, Galle and Kandy schools with well laid out infrastructure, the former national selector once again blamed the coaches. He said the cricketer may be talented, but if one does not provide him with basic needs like proper nutrition, physical training, cricket insights like shot selection, if he is a batsman, and bowling on the right paths, if he is a bowler, then the cricketer however talented he is may find it difficult to sustain once he hits the national level.
“A good example is national fast bowler Suranga Lakmal. He was discovered and developed by a person who is not a fully qualified coach. Because of his dedication, the coach brought Lakmal up to the national level. Yet being a fast bowler Lakmal was not physically groomed. As a result, now he has a problem of injuries. At a young age if Lakmal was groomed by a fully qualified person under good infrastructure he would be a different proposition now”.
Seneviratner is a firm believer of the proper basics. He feels that at under 13 level there should be no tournaments. He feels at that age, a young cricketer should be allowed to absorb the proper basics and the fundamentals of the game. Then from the under 15 level onwards it should be a provincial two-day tournament where the best from the schools are chosen at national level. This tournament should be run in conjunction with Sri Lanka Cricket.
He feels in this manner the best from the schools could be sifted and the best among the schools could also catch the eye of the system automatically and the grooming for the future could begin.
Yet, he reluctantly agreed that for pure sustenance of the game at school level, the under 19 limited overs tournament could remain, but said T-20 cricket should be a taboo for all types of school cricket.
He also pointed out that school cricket should only be played during the weekend and only 16 matches should be played from October to February – leaving December for the O’Level examination. According to Seneviratne, under no circumstances an inter-school cricket match should be played during the week.
Then talking about the cricket moving to the next level, the ex-national cricketer said he feels that the School Cricket should be made under 20 and then the next level of club cricket should be for under 22. In this manner a school cricketer would have a smooth transition from school cricket to his cricket of destiny.