Action at a club cricket encounter

Having been involved in the Administration of the game at a First-Class Club level for the past few years, I thought it would be a good thing to enumerate some issues and suggest solutions to them, with a view to taking Sri Lanka’s Cricket – and more importantly – the cricketers themselves, to perform at the highest level.

The first concern I have is that, with the new Interim Committee, the focus has started shifting once again to giving prominence to the Provincial Tournament as opposed to the Nursery of Sri Lanka Cricket, the Premier league Inter-Club Tournament.

To my mind, Sri Lanka is WAY too small to have this set-up. One has to compare countries like Ireland and States like Tasmania, which are physically of around the same size. They play Club matches amongst themselves, and the best Club players represent the Country/State. These proponents of Inter-Provincial Cricket are trying to compare tiny Sri Lanka with England, Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – vast land masses.

The Inter-Provincial Tournament has proved to be an abject farce over the past few years, and now has been relegated to a T-20 Tournament. Most of the players selected didn’t represent their Provinces of Origin, so what’s the point? The argument is that only the best 60 players play against each other in this tournament. The fourteen Clubs have taken on the burden of identifying, accommodating, nurturing and developing Outstation talent, so what’s the problem?

As far as I’m concerned, we are only creating additional player fatigue, without any visible benefit. This is the opinion of many of the senior players on the circuit, and not my own.
My suggestion is that we certainly develop Provincial Cricket at the grass-root level, with the intention of being a feeder system into the Premier League Club system.

I would like to suggest that the Premier League is re-named the P Sara Trophy to honour the man who had the vision to build the Colombo Oval in the hope that we will be a Test-playing nation someday. I would also like to suggest that we bring back the Donovan Andree Trophy to similarly honour a splendid promoter of the game.

These tournaments can be played concurrently (like in the past). Basically, the venues are swapped between the clubs that have Home matches and the ones that don’t. Of course, we now have a situation where some clubs don’t have grounds, but I’m sure SLC will be able to sort that out. By doing this, each club gets the opportunity to play the youngsters and gauge their skill levels. The best ones make it into the First team, so there is a Feeder system unlike now.

There are a number of very talented youngsters who are left out to dry on the Reserves bench (if they make if that far!) during the Premier League. What is going to happen is, if they don’t get a game at a club with better facilities, that they are going to join a club at which they ARE going to get a game – irrespective of the fact that club may not have its own grounds or the other facilities and Management that the bigger clubs have.

What happens to these guys? They either languish in some club where their talent gets wasted (the club gets relegated, for instance) or they are not pushed to perform at their best (no internal competition and complacency sets in) and then drop out of cricket forever. Having said that, it is heartening to note that the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Chilaw Marians and Ragama CC have won Premier League tournaments in the recent past, which speaks volumes for the dedication of these Clubs and their promoters.

The gap between the end of the Premier League season in March (plus the T20 in April) and the Under-23 season in September is very long and the young players in the First Eleven Premier League teams could go stale. I am well aware that the Advanced Level exams are held in August, which clashed with last year’s Under-23 tournament, which affected several clubs. Perhaps we could look at a window of May/June for this tournament so the players are still fresh.

With the need for top players in National squads to attend practices at Khettarama due to National commitments (which do not necessarily result in them playing at the National level!), the fact that there are a lot of players not practicing with their team-mates at the Clubs has had an adverse effect on Club team performances. For example, if a spinner is being asked to concentrate on darting the white ball at the batsman for Limited Overs at Khettarama, that’s what he’s going to do in the 4-dayers with the red ball as well. Similarly, if a batsman is taught to attack the ball all the time in preparation for Limited Overs games, he’s going to find it very difficult to adjust to the longer version of the game.

We have also noticed a laxity in the field as well, with catches being dropped etc. Could it be that there is too much emphasis being placed on running/fitness, batting, bowling and resultant exhaustion? For me, match practice is the best gauge of a player’s performance capabilities.

(The writer is a Vice President and Chairman – Cricket at the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club. The views expressed in this article are purely his own, and are not those of the Club concerned)
(To be continued next week)