At least now the Lankans should admit that a score of years down the line, we have missed the bus with the the right route number and we have landed somewhere next to Timbuktu with a truck load of cricketers who are now more bewildered than the bus driver himself. Now we are wondering what [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Fillip for junior cricket: SLC builds partnership with Education Ministry


At least now the Lankans should admit that a score of years down the line, we have missed the bus with the the right route number and we have landed somewhere next to Timbuktu with a truck load of cricketers who are now more bewildered than the bus driver himself. Now we are wondering what our next destination is going to be.

Yes, in the aftermath of the T-20 exercise, the Lankan cricket hierarchy put their heads together and looked at other routes to arrive at the next English challenge beginning early May in England where they go through a full tour that includes three Tests, five ODIs and a T-20.

Hopes are at a higher level that school cricket will be put back on the path that it really belong

Adding to the woes of the beleaguered Lankans, the high riding Englishmen are awaiting the arrival of the Lankans who beat them 1-0 in a three Test series for the first time in 2014, not to mention the ODI series, too.

Going back to the T-20 debacle, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera has rationalised that the change of the tide of Sri Lankan cricket occurred as a result of us losing the services of both Mahela Jayewardene and Kumar Sangakkara in one go.

I beg to differ. Like we explained in our last Musings, we have lost vital cogs from time to time, since gaining Test status in 1982, but the bus kept going full throttle unhindered. Nevertheless what happened this time around was the deterioration of the system. As a result of the prevailing ad hoc system adopted by us, Lankan cricket did not grow in tandem with the international call and thus the Lankans fell short at the post where it really mattered. Though not short of talent, Lankan cricket has not grown up to be of true international class and at every turn our inner inadequacies were exposed.

So, where should we start? Now we keep discussing about the local club system not being of a good standard and the conversion rate is woefully inadequate. But, remember there was a time that the Lankan team kept recruiting young cricketers directly from the schools. But now even the most talented cricketer in the schools arena finds it difficult to find a proper place even in a Premier Division team, leave alone Test cricket.

One might argue that this was because the standard of the Club system has developed. Then if club cricket had developed, as per the arguments of some of the pundits, our systems should be as good as the full status international cricket demands and any cricketer who is involved with the Premier Division cricket should be able to make that conversion from club cricket to international cricket with consummate ease. But, sad, everyone agrees that the status quo is not so. There is a definite disparity of the two standards and the local club system weighs less.

We feel that the Sumathipala cricket administration is making some effort to understand and fathom the gravity of the present sorry status. They feel that the changes should occur from the bottom. From the junior grades and then take the elevation step by step. Yet, at the same time, the Sri Lanka Cricket chief feels that the prevailing school cricket system is not what it used to be and it may not be the right feeder point to the next step of national cricket.

Sumathipala said he had met the Education Minister and he has agreed that all monetary allocations to school cricket given by Sri Lanka Cricket should be channelled towards the Education Ministry’s Sports Director and thereafter the monies would be given to the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association. Sumathipala was of the view that in that manner there would be supervision of the funds that is channelled towards cricket from the SLC. “I had a meeting with the Minister of Education. There the minister has asked the Director of Sports along with the Schools Cricket Association to give us a budget. Now I would like to see school cricket run independently. School cricket has been running without supervision for quite some time; now we like to see getting a budget approved by the Ministry of Education and we would like to finance it. We have seen that there are a lot of things that has been going on in this sphere of activity and there are a lot of things that have gone under the bridge.”

The SLC chief said that besides the schools system, they will also place a lot of emphasis on Provincial and District cricket. He said “School cricket will be run as it is with a little more guidelines and scrutiny. But, we will not tell them how to run their tournaments. But at the same time we have the district tournament and the provincial tournament. We are comfortable with them. We are going to have the best tournament structure and we are happy with that. We have more than two dozen provincial coaches coming under our administration. What was wrong with the schools system is that they tell the Education Ministry that they come under Sri Lanka Cricket. In turn they tell Sri Lanka Cricket that they come under the Ministry of Education, but at the end of the day they don’t come under anyone’s supervision. There are a number of sports which are handled by the Education Ministry very successfully; so I see no reason why school cricket cannot be handled by them”.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka Cricket as promised are contemplating to launch the Under-19 Provincial Cricket Tournament this month and it will be another addition to the under 19 cricket workload which got underway in the third term of the 2015/16 season which started in August-September.

However, we learn that the Schools Cricket Association protested that they cannot allow schoolboy cricketers to take part without the permission of the Ministry of Education and now the SLC is in the process of obtaining that clearance.

Now the process of streamlining the local coaching is in line. A system where talent is harnessed from the junior stage of under 15 running up to the real International challenge should augur well for cricket. We feel if the prevailing system had gone wrong for the past twenty years with Sri Lanka in a stage where we are only slightly better than countries like Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates, a prudent structural change where Provincial cricket and cluster coaching taking the pride of place is welcome.

But, at the same time the grapevine says that the provincial and district cricket structures also may be utilised for the payback for some of the stooges that worked during the voting time. Some of those in the system are in for a windfall.

If this occurs this may be the beginning of the end of the new system and cricket. The new structure should be fool proof and devoid of other personal obligations. If you are on to a good thing, please hold it for dear life, because the core of the Lankan cricketing heart is embedded there.

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