As an individual who successfully came through the pipeline of the once globally acclaimed ‘best school cricket structure of the world’ former Sri Lanka allrounder and current Sri Lanka Under-19 Manager, Farveez Maharoof joined his former seniors at national level, calling school cricket badly needs a new ‘strategy’. Maharoof, who captained the Sri Lanka Under-19s [...]


Maharoof joins chorus to reform school cricket

Former Sri Lanka Youth skipper feels standards have declined

As an individual who successfully came through the pipeline of the once globally acclaimed ‘best school cricket structure of the world’ former Sri Lanka allrounder and current Sri Lanka Under-19 Manager, Farveez Maharoof joined his former seniors at national level, calling school cricket badly needs a new ‘strategy’.

Maharoof, who captained the Sri Lanka Under-19s in the ICC Youth World Cup in 2004, was one of the few youngsters to be fast-tracked by the national selectors straight from school to represent the country at the highest level.

Farveez Maharoof

He was just 20 years old when he made his Sri Lanka debut during the Zimbabwe tour in 2004 in Tests and One Day Internationals, and went on to become one of the most reliable allrounders the country has seen in years, until his last appearance in 2016.

Maharoof, who runs a kids nursery with his wife, strongly believes that the quality in school cricket has declined over the years, as coaches, schools and teams focus more on quantity – number of matches played during a season and the number of wins recorded.

“We need to have a new strategy to develop school cricket,” Maharoof stated, if Sri Lanka aims to produce quality cricketers to the national team.

Maharoof becomes the new voice in joining several other former greats in urging cricket administrators to formulate a new strategy to lift the standards of school cricket – the cradle of the game adored by millions across the country.

“During the time I played, the quality and the competitiveness were quite good. But during my stint as the Sri Lanka Under-19 selector, I saw lot of school matches and I felt that the standards have declined.”

Maharoof’s point in making that statement was all about the difference between the talents, approach and attitude of the individuals, who come straight from school cricket to international level. Unlike in yesteryears, when players such as Arjuna Ranatunga, Asanka Gurusinha, Roshan Mahanama, Aravinda de Silva and Mahela Jayawardena, made it straight to the national team from schools, and yet played on par with the existing team members, the current breed lacks temperament.

“When school or young cricketers nowadays come to the national team, they find it difficult to survive at the international level,” he said.

The former Wesley College cricketer led the Sri Lanka Under-19 team at the 2004 World Cup and few months later made his international debut against Zimbabwe in an era when Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Upul Tharanga joined the national team. And to assert their level of temperament, all four, including Maharoof became reliable cricketers to the national team.

“We should have quality over quantity. Right now we have the quantity but the quality of cricket being played is not competitive enough to develop a skilled cricketer. In Sri Lanka, we have lot of talented cricketers coming through the system, but the concern is how they are being nurtured. The next couple of years will be crucial as they embark on a journey to greatness.”

At the same time he was concerned about the fear of failure among the youngsters. He stressed that the coaches should encourage them to play according to their instincts, which he says is beneficial for the future of Sri Lanka cricket. Just like school cricket, Maharoof thinks the domestic cricket structure should be made more competitive, making it easier for cricketers to graduate to international cricket smoothly.

“There is a vast difference in our domestic cricket but I am pleased that SLC has decided to reduce the number of teams from this year according to their performances. I am hopeful that domestic tournaments will be competitive and at the same it will be played according to international standards. On the whole, if it happens it will help our cricketers to be successful at international level,” he explained.

While being critical on the quality of cricket played among youngsters, the former all-rounder stressed that comparisons should not be made between the present generation of players with the past. Having worked very closely with the youngsters in the recent times, he believes that the current players need to have their own identity.

“If they play to their potential then it will boost their confidence as they move forward as a team,” he said.

Maharoof’s vision is to see more young cricketers reach the national level, but with good talent and attitude, as cricket in Sri Lanka resume gradually after a hiatus of two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maharoof was confident that the coaching management led by Mickey Arthur will revive the fortunes of Sri Lanka cricket while also positively treating the talents and skills of the youngsters who are knocking on the door to enter the national side.

“It’s encouraging to see the performance of the national team since Mickey Arthur’s arrival. He seems to be a hardworking coach and he is committed to get the best out of the players. A significant change was seen in the thinking process of the players within a short period of time,” Maharoof, who believed that Sri Lanka cricket is going in the right path, added.

An advocate of result oriented coaching units, he firmly believes that the head coach position of the Sri Lanka cricket team should come under a foreigner.

“If we closely observe our cricket history, we have always performed well when there was a foreign coach in-charge. Tom Moody, Trevor Bayliss and Dave Whatmore are some of the most successful coaches that we had over the last decade,” he pointed out.

While also being critical on the newly proposed cricket stadium in Homagama, now a project stalled due to displeasure and timely disapproval by several former national cricketers, Maharoof stated that it was not the right time to even unveil such a proposal. The proposal to the project came from a cabinet minister, while the country and the whole world was battling out with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think this not the right time for a stadium. But in future a project like this will add more value to Sri Lanka, not only for international cricket, but it will also be a great investment for domestic cricket. What I have been told is that this project was initiated in 2006. Once this pandemic eases I think we can think of a new plan. They are also planning to have all the sports facilities in one centre. It would be great if that happens but this is not the correct time for it,” he said.

Maharoof, a man of his words and an experienced cricketer who navigated through the entire system, from bottom to top, insisted that youngsters must identify their strengths and must look to take their game to the next level. If all falls in line as he wished, the days would be not so far when Sri Lanka finds themselves back as the greatest cricket team in the world.

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