Under nineteen or twenty?
By Ranil Abeynaike
First Eleven School Cricket is having its customary break, before recommencing in September. School cricket has, does and will have a special place in the game, in this country.

Barring India, no other country has a structure as good as this country. In the past two decades more and more schools have joined the fray. Perhaps the growth of more venues and improvements to present venues has not happened as fast as it should have. Perhaps the tournaments conducted have not helped in the definite development of the individual. But, for the youngster who sets himself the goal of reaching the very top, there is a way through the schools system. Clear the obstacles on the way, stay focused and the rewards can be obtained.

At present there is a battle in progress to increase the age limit to under twenty years from under nineteen. Some thirty years and beyond, almost all who went to school stayed on until nineteen or twenty, to make the most of that carefree period of an individual’s life. Schools were accommodating, the Education Ministry was not stringent on the rules and the most was achieved in sports and extra curricular activities.

All that has changed. Development and competition has changed the system. Schooling is aimed at one main principle. To obtain an education, a paper qualification, has become of prime importance to parents and students in this country that will probably stay forever. It is not so in the nations known as developed countries. The opportunity to pursue other talents together with education is recognized.

Cricket is the country's national sport. It is the one sport where those representing Sri Lanka are on an equal footing and can rub shoulders with the giant nations of the world. When taking decisions such as this the end must be kept in mind and progress must be considered as uppermost.

Up until the early nineteen eighties school cricket was under twenty years of age. Then, it was lowered to under nineteen as most students finish their school days after they sit for the advanced level Exam. Also, international age group cricket is at under nineteen. That really should not come into the equation. All that has to be done is to pick those eligible, age wise and the others could go on playing.

The main advantage is that most youngsters at eighteen plus are not ready to go on and play club cricket. One more year of school cricket will certainly assist and encourage many more to stay in the game rather than be discouraged due to the lack of progress which results in quitting. On the flip side of the coin, most nineteen year olds would have completed Advanced Level Exams and would not be attending school. Can discipline be maintained when individuals are only representing the school at sport? Or else could they be housed in school simply for sports? Very important questions that need to be answered. I am made to understand that the Education Ministry is in the process of unravelling the issues.

It is also rumoured that this age group rule change has suddenly cropped-up to favour and accommodate children of some in high places! Please, please let the final decision be based on cricket and the betterment of cricket alone!


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