The Cricket Committee headed by Aravinda de Silva is planning sweeping changes to make the game’s structure more professional. Priorities include revamping the domestic set-up to give more weightage to the provincial tournament; introducing a new model for the Lanka Premier League (LPL); revamping the coaching human resource structure; and improving the standard of local [...]


Aravinda’s mantra to reform Sri Lanka’s cricket structure


The Cricket Committee headed by Aravinda de Silva is planning sweeping changes to make the game’s structure more professional.

Priorities include revamping the domestic set-up to give more weightage to the provincial tournament; introducing a new model for the Lanka Premier League (LPL); revamping the coaching human resource structure; and improving the standard of local coaches, umpires and all other match officials at all levels.

Sri Lanka’s most celebrated batsman falls in line to develop cricket - Pic by M.A. Pushpakumara

Also to be carried out are the development and application of sports mechanics; accreditation of player managers; introduction of new player contracts; introduction of a code of conduct for players and support staff; appointment of a new manager for cricket administration and head physiotherapist. A director of cricket was enlisted within four weeks of the Cricket Committee being set up.

In consultation with Director Cricket Tom Moody, the Cricket Committee which includes former greats Roshan Mahanama, Muttiah Muralidaran and Kumar Sangakkara, is reviving the domestic structure to introduce a robust and a competitive system that would better prepare local cricketers for the international stage.

The focus on the domestic cricket structure is primarily due to heavy criticism from fromer Sri Lankan cricketers who have repeatedly argued that the country’s first class system merely promotes quantity over quality, resulting in a struggle across all formats. With a population of just 21 million, Sri Lanka has 26 teams playing first-class cricket. India with over 1.2 billion people has just 30 while Australia, with 25 million inhabitants, has six.

Today, Sri Lanka ranks seventh among Test-playing nations, eighth in ODIs and ninth in T20s. Since December, they have played six Tests (including the one concluded against West Indies) without a win, losing four and drawing two. In white-ball contests, they have lost five out of six games. They are ranked so low in T20 that they have to play a qualifying round to earn a place in this year’s World Cup in India.

However, Aravinda is not in favour of scrapping the inter-club tournament which provided a leg-up to him and to nearly all others who have represented Sri Lanka. He doesn’t favour reducing teams, either. Instead, he wants the provincial tournament to be the premier first-class event which he thinks would help bridge the gap between domestic and international cricket.

This concept is not new. It was first introduced in 2004 by Aravinda when he was a Vice-President of Sri Lanka Cricket.

“Seventeen years later, we are going back to what I started then,” he said, in an interview with the Sunday Times. “It’s never too late to get this moving. This provincial system will provide a good pathway for talented cricketers to climb the ladder and join the national team.”

Though the quality of cricket being played is largely diluted due to the huge number of teams taking part in the club tournament, Aravinda believes it has given the opportunity for local players to pursue a career in cricket.

“We need to protect the club structure as it gives opportunities for cricketers to play in domestic leagues in other countries,” he explained. “But our primary focus will be the provincial structure. If you take the club tournament, we have about 520 players spread across 26 clubs. This has diluted the competitiveness of the tournament. But in the provincial structure, we are talking about 100 players. The quality and competitiveness of the tournament will be much higher.”

Under the new structure, the clubs will be clustered into five provincial teams containing players from the respective clubs assigned to each province.

“We are also planning to reduce the number of games played at the club level,” Aravinda said. “For instance, instead of playing each other in two groups, we can divide the teams into four groups and play four or five games. Then play quarter-final, semi-final and final. So for the additional matches they are missing out on, we create another layer under the provincial structure–Provincial A–which will feed players into the development squads and when national players on duty, these players can step into the side.”

Reviving the high performance centre and its existing human resources is another area Aravinda and his committee are giving attention to. It plays a key role in meeting the holistic needs of players who want to take their game into the professional realm.

“We have a structure in place already,” Aravinda said. “But we need to re-evaluate it, including the people working there, to identify their strengths and weakness. We are not looking to chase anyone out but when we know their strengths and weakness, it’s easy to work.”

“You need to understand that, even if you had played 100 Tests, when you wear the coach’s hat, you have to start all over again,” he explained. “Coaching is about commitment, passion and working with people. When you wear that hat, you need to forget about being a cricketer and become a teacher and a guardian. This is the philosophy we need to work on.”

Jerome Jayaratne currently heads the high performance centre based at Khettarama. He is now directly under the supervision of Tom Moody who is expected to review and make changes to make the centre impactful.

“Building human resources is the most important thing and we will propose to allocate a substantial budgetary allocation to develop coaches, administrators, curators, umpires, physios, data analysts, etc,” Aravinda said. By doing so, Sri Lanka could cut their over-reliance on foreign experts.

“One of the aspects of hiring Moody is to develop our support staff and to stop our dependency on foreign staff in the future,” he said. “This process has broken down every time. We have asked him to develop a team of coaches who would be able to assume some of the top positions within the national team. We won’t be able to take over some of those specialized areas which demand specialized knowledge and qualifications, but we will try and give as much responsibility to local coaches on performance.”

They will also propose a new payment structure that will allow full-time involvement even at club level.

“Our proposal is for the Board to allocate a substantial amount for the development of this domestic structure,” Aravinda added. “If you take a cricketer who is playing in England, he earns about Rs 1 to 1.5 million for a season and they will earn a similar amount by playing cricket in Australia. If we can pay a similar amount for our club cricketer, I think it’s a decent pay. But at the provincial level, we will have a higher salary bracket. This is my thinking but we will have to do some research to see what the budgets are and work on some realistic schemes.”

Aravinda is also focusing on maintaining a high level of discipline across all levels – players, administrators, coaches, selectors, etc.

“I think we need to instil discipline and get these cricketers to be only focused on cricket,” he said, when asked why Sri Lanka continues to struggle across all formats. “There cannot be compromises. We need to be very firm with what they want to do. All they need to do is go out and play.”

For this, he says, the Board needs a strong administration that respects and values the principles of good governance–transparency and accountability–traits that are not even remotely connected with those running the place in recent years. “We need to create that environment where players could perform without any interference and administrators run the Board without any issue,” he insists.

“Of course, nothing runs 100 percent smoothly,” Aravinda admitted. “There are some hard decisions to be made and we have to make those. I think once we put those things in place, and when they know there are no compromises, players will realise that there’s no other way than performing. It doesn’t matter what your seniority in the side is or whether you are the captain. We need to take tough action if they don’t fall in line. If we can do this over a period of time with fair treatment for everyone, I think things can change.”

In recent years, there have been issues of misconduct and reports of player rifts are common. Aravinda says these must be stopped and for one goal to be supported. He is advocating equal treatment for all regardless of status in the team. Clauses will be brought in to discourage individualism.

“We want to treat everyone equally,” he reiterated. “There won’t be any special payments for individual performance as we are not encouraging personal glory. However, we will give them match bonuses. For instance, if they win a game against a top-ranked team, the match bonus will be higher than when they win against teams ranked lower than them.”

The former World Cup-winning cricketer also stressed the importance of Test cricket and said more weightage will be given to this when preparing new annual contracts.

“It demands a lot from a cricketer over five-day period and we will give higher weightage for Test cricket when preparing contracts,” he explained. “For instance, so many T20 matches will be equal to one Test match. So many ODI matches will be equal to one Test match.”

Aravinda and his team are burning the midnight oil to release this blueprint as soon as possible. They have hired Tom Moody, who has worked in different cricketing set-ups, to assist them. Once the structure is in place, Aravinda hopes everything will fall in line.

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