The inter-school cricket season, which will be staged very soon, is set be played on an even keel this year around. Last season’s schools first XI cricket faced a setback, with the withdrawal of two leading cricket-playing schools — Royal College Colombo and S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia. Now the school cricket authorities of Sri [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Three-day break between games a must

No changing dates of fixtures without valid reasons

The inter-school cricket season, which will be staged very soon, is set be played on an even keel this year around.

Last season’s schools first XI cricket faced a setback, with the withdrawal of two leading cricket-playing schools — Royal College Colombo and S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia. Now the school cricket authorities of Sri Lanka have come out with a fair and reasonable structure for the Under-19 Division I competition, as claimed by SLSCA Secretary Dilshan de Silva.

De Silva, the Secretary of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) told the Sunday Times that upon recommendations from Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) it was prompted to make necessary changes. These changes according to De Silva will not damage the value of traditional fixtures, some which have been going on for over a century.

‘Battle of the Blues’ rivals Royal and S. Thomas’ colleges opted to stay out of the SLSCA Schools Under-19 tournament last season. This season, S. Thomas’ will make a comeback without Royal. - File pic

Accordingly, the SLSCA has scrapped its existing grouping method of the Under-19 Division I competition and introduced a new system where all 36 teams will have the liberty to pick 14 opponents. But teams will have to play two compulsory matches provided by the SLSCA from the same division. This move ensures that the schools play their 16 matches for the season stipulated by them.
This count will be in addition to the respective Big Matches played traditionally by school teams. “Teams will find it comfortable to arrange their traditional fixtures this way. But there are few teams that hardly get fixtures from favoured sides. To cover that up, those teams will get to play the compulsory two games against top sides, making the competition a well-balanced one. This will be the fairest way to conduct the First XI tournament according to our observations after the occurrences that took place during recent seasons,” de Silva said.

With the changes S. Thomas’ College officials have agreed to enter this year’s official First XI competition but Royal College has still not made their stance clear. It is reliably understood that Royal College will go ahead with their own friendly fixtures away from the SLSCA tournament despite requests made by school cricket officials. “At the time of making initial plans on this proposed structure, the SLSCA made it a point to give priority to the elite schools as we understood that they are important components of schools cricket of Sri Lanka. Then we categorized other schools of Division I, Standard and Emerging, so we could draft them to play against the elite teams in the two slots granted by the SLSCA. So far we have managed to draft the fixtures for all 36 teams of the top division,” de Silva added.

However teams will have to stick to other restrictions introduced by the SLSCA and SLC which became a point of dispute when they were originally initiated last season. All teams playing in Division I, II and III segments of the SLSCA tournaments will have to strictly maintain a gap of three days prior to their next game. Moreover, Division I and II teams will not be able to freely change their fixed matches without a ‘solid and valid’ reason according to de Silva but the SLSCA will be flexible on the three-day gap on valid and reasonable excuses.

“We have instructed all teams to complete at least five games during the third term which begins from this weekend. But they have the freedom to play any amount of matches within the framework, maintaining the gap of three days. Some teams have managed to fix their 14 games but some have not got that privilege due to various reasons. In this case, the SLSCA will intervene to secure such teams with a total of 16 games, so all teams will get to play good matches,” said de Silva, who went on to praise the quality of junior cricket in Sri Lanka.

“If we compare our junior cricket structure with other countries, especially the Test nations, Sri Lanka is at a very good stage. But there are other areas we need to focus on, such as coaching and facilities. The quality and quantity is available in Sri Lanka. With the case being this, how can we implement new rules that will spoil our good structure? After serious discussions with the SLC, we made these changes only to control the game and preserve its quality,” he explained.

The 2013/14 schools First XI season kicked off this weekend and the third term will continue until November 25. After a month’s break the season will resume with the first term from December 23. Teams will be given a deadline until February 28 to complete their respective 16 matches before the best 30 sides are drafted into the limited overs competition. The Division II tournament will adopt the same guidelines and deadlines while the SLSCA have given the Division III teams different instructions with separate deadlines.
“The fixtures have already been finalised with all teams gladly agreeing to co-operate to make the proposed plan a success. As far as I’m concerned this is the best way forward for school cricket in Sri Lanka”.

Royal take firm stand and stay away

Demoted to Division II in the SLSCA
inter-school cricket tournament

Royal College, the only team which has not confirmed their participation in the Under-19 Schools Division I competition, is waiting for a response to its own prompt reply to an SLSCA enquiry as to why they suddenly pulled out of the tournament last season, the school’s principal revealed.

“We sent the reply letter to the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association no sooner we got a letter from them. But so far we haven’t got any reply. We are waiting for the reply to make our decision whether to play or not. It has been over a month since we sent our reply,” Mr. Upali Gunasekara said.
Dilshan de Silva, the Secretary of the SLSCA, confirmed that Royal College was asked to show cause as to why they pulled out from the official Division I tournament last season. However the SLSCA Secretary said that they are still to receive any reciprocation from Royal College on the subject.

“Yes, we sent them a letter stating that they have been officially demoted to Division II this season, as they pulled out of the tournament without giving a valid reason. We sought their explanation instead they have replied to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC),” said de Silva.
A top SLC official confirmed that they had received a letter to its headquarters at Maitland Crescent from Royal College about a month ago but the letter was immediately redirected to the SLSCA.

“It’s a known fact that the SLSCA is located within the SLC premises. Whatever dealings the respective schools and the SLSCA have should be officially done by them. The letter was sent to the SLSCA office, no sooner the SLC got it, and what happened afterwards is known to the school cricket officials,” the source revealed.

According to insiders from the SLSCA, its Tournament Committee had held a meeting to discuss the fixtures of the upcoming competition in June where the cricket Master-in-Charge of Royal College was also present. The Tournament Committee had taken the decision to demote Royal College along with Sri Sumangala College Panadura, who played the tournament and were relegated after the competition.

During the first week of December 2012, both Royal College and S. Thomas’ College pulled out of the Division I tournament for unstated reasons. However this sudden move took place when officials of the SLSCA and Ministry of Education were set to discuss a national policy for schools cricket, after the same structural changes introduced by the SLSCA and SLC were not followed by many institutions.

SLSCA sources and S. Thomas’ officials confirmed that they conveyed the unavailability of their team for the 2012/13 season well in advance, citing concern for their players’ academic and sporting wellbeing, so that the Tournament Committee could draft fixtures without them. A senior official from Royal said that they came to this decision purely because they felt the proposed plans would do no good for school cricket.
“So we decided to stick with the traditional games which come to around 20 with the Big Match,” the top official stated.

Later neither the SLSCA nor the Ministry of Education made any official statement about the outcome of the meeting. This season the vacant slots of the demoted Royal and Sri Sumangala will be filled by Bandaranayake College Gampaha and President’s College Rajagiriya who were promoted from Division II after last season. However S. Thomas’ who also stayed out last season are playing in this season’s Division I tournament.

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