Certainly this is more serious than we thought it was. Though the prevailing silence is eerie, by now, the Lankan hierarchy should have been screaming foul and bringing the house down. Still, though unacceptable, it happens to only countries like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. But, replacing the November 2017 Sri Lanka tour of South Africa with [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

What’s cooking in the Lankan cricket pot?


Certainly this is more serious than we thought it was. Though the prevailing silence is eerie, by now, the Lankan hierarchy should have been screaming foul and bringing the house down. Still, though unacceptable, it happens to only countries like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. But, replacing the November 2017 Sri Lanka tour of South Africa with a series against India, is preposterous. To add to it, the Future Tours Programme (FTP) engagement between India and Pakistan has not been scrapped in earnest but, Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief Haroon Lorgat has boldly announced that the Lankans would have to pack their bags and billet elsewhere next winter.

Airing his views on the matter to ESPN Cricinfo, Mr. Lorgat, said, “I’ve given an indication to Sri Lanka that that tour is unlikely. We’ve got a very packed season coming up, starting with Bangladesh in the early season. We have got India touring with four Test matches, five ODIs and three T20s, and then we follow with Australia with four Test matches. It’s very unlikely, and I’ve already given the indication to Sri Lanka that they should avail themselves to someone else.”

Also, according to Cricinfo, CSA’s plans to host India also hinge on the cancellation of the India-Pakistan tour scheduled for that same period. The India-Pakistan series that had been scheduled for December 2015, failed to go ahead, due largely to political turmoil between the two nations. The schedule had Pakistan touring India for a three-Test tour at the end of this year, but that encounter is also in serious doubt, Cricinfo says.
It is learned that, Sri Lanka’s current tour of South Africa is a financial disaster, as the visitors failed to show any fight during the series and the South African Cricket fans lost interest.

This is where the bubble bursts. Zimbabwe play little cricket and it was proved they cannot play on equal terms with Sri Lanka, while the hype from the series win against Australia was also nullified, when the Lankans were exposed to the realities of competitive international cricket. The bottom line is that you could lose a series playing overseas but, the games should be competitive. If we keep playing the kind of cricket that was played against New Zealand, England and now South Africa, the proposed split in the World Cricket order may occur sooner than we expect.

Now it is time to take stock and ascertain what we need to do to rectify this parlous situation that cries for an urgent solution, so that, we can stay put alive in the top rung of Test status for sometime more. May be, once that short term goal is achieved, then we Sri Lankans could think of restructuring the game, so that, the entire hub would be safe and the future of Sri Lanka’s cricket in the international arena is preserved for the next few generations at least.

South African batsman Hashim Hamla leaves the pitch after being caught by Sri Lanka wicket keeper Dinesh Chandimal during the third Test at Wanderers Cricket Stadium in Johannesburg - AFP

Yes, we are taking very positive steps to remedy the situation. We have brought the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) head office to Colombo, but I wonder how many people are actively engaged in ACC related work. Yes, it is said the right wing of the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) building is being reconstructed at colossal expense. Then we built this Cricket Brain Centre also at huge expense, so that our cricketers will have all the data they need at their fingertips. Wow! Fantastic isn’t it?

It was just the other day that, I was discussing this situation with an insider who knows the SLC in its right perspective and knows which frog is in which pond. He started saying, “As I see it, we are trying to build the head of the cricket anatomy and trying to make it walk. Yes, building the Brain Centre is a masterstroke, if the local cricket structure is in proper order. For instance, just take an English county. There is a huge structure beneath it, which works towards the excellent performance of the county first XI. It is well thought out and well structured, and there is a certain system within it.”

Then the insider explained what the Lankan system has. “We have 14 teams in the Premier League Tier ‘A’. Of the 14 teams in the Premier Division, the Chilaw Marians, Badureliya SC, Saracens and Ragama CC have no grounds of their own.

“Then, in Tier ‘B’, where they also play top grade cricket, the SL Ports Authority and Lankan CC have no grounds of their own, while Panadura SC, Kalutara TC and Kalutara PCC play on Municipal Grounds in their areas. The SL Air Force does not use Rifle Green for serious cricket anymore. Sometimes, the Panadura Esplanade is used for various other activities and, more often than not, the ground is not in a proper state.”

This means, for most of the top division clubs, it is ‘Thus far’. “Then, who are the top coaches engaged in coaching top division clubs? I cannot see anyone of any stature besides Sajith Fernando, who handles the NCC. When the core axle is in that state, you could well imagine how the rest of the club system operates. There is no planned support system in most of the clubs and the irony is that, nobody seems to be bothered about this parlous state of affairs,” the insider said.

Explaining further, he said, “The next is provincial cricket. A few days ago, a large number of coaches within the SLC system were not transferred, but relocated at various provincial entities. I wonder how that would help the cricket axis in the country. They say this is aimed at making the provincial system the apex tournament in the island. But, right now, are we ready for a serious provincial tournament? Even in the past, we have had provincial tournaments, but all such tournaments failed to create the expected results. As it is, you can list the players under their birthplace or, according to the school where they played 1st XI cricket but, how could you balance the strength of the 4-6 sides. This means, invariably, you have to mix the names to balance the strengths of the respective teams and the teams become ‘ahindas’ teams.

“There is another undeniable truth. Right now, the provincial teams are drawn from the Premier Division Clubs and, right now, I do not think the local club system produces sufficient competitive cricket to have the same quality as State Cricket or County Cricket. Then, reciprocally, Messrs Sanath Jayasuriya, Graham Ford and even Thilanga Sumathipala and company have to be content with the quality of cricket that we have in hand. I think our system is between the devil and the deep blue sea and we are just riding our luck on a raft.”
What more can I add to it?

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