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(From last week)

PLAYER PAYMENTS
I understand that there are around 100 players annually contracted and paid monthly (I believe the minimum is Rs 25,000 monthly paid quarterly) by SLC. Some of these players have performed ordinarily in the previous season, and it begs the question as to how they have been given contracts in the first place!

May I suggest that this number be brought down to a more manageable 60 players, who could be divided into the National team, A team and the Emerging team? Otherwise, coaching staff is never going to be able to concentrate on those who have the talent, since the numbers to be coached are just too many! As we all know, not every cricketer has it in him to make the National side, so it is better to take the “rifle” approach and target the good ones for development rather than the “shotgun” approach.

At least 80 of our better first-class cricketers have left the country to play in the Australian Domestic Season, and then probably the English Minor Leagues thereafter.. What this means is that we have either lost them for good due to economic and other circumstances, or otherwise they will have dropped in standards by playing at a lower level of cricket, in which case, they might find it difficult to get into a Premier League team here.

Another very salient point is that the players’ fees have been reduced from Rs 4,500 per playing day in 2013/14 to Rs 2,500 per day in 2014/15. This defies general logic, when we all know that the Cost of Living has gone up astronomically year-on-year.

Most of the cricketers come from very humble backgrounds, and find it extremely difficult to sustain themselves (let alone their families!) when they are not playing matches – unless they have secured a regular job, which are difficult to come by these days. This is another factor that needs to be addressed for next season.

Whatever anyone might say, the language of International Cricket is English, and it is highly recommended that SLC organises IELTS (International English Language Testing System) training for all cricketers in the three main squads. Ideally this could be arranged either at Khettarama or SLC, space permitting. It has to be made compulsory for these cricketers to go for these classes. I always marvel at how the foreign coaches are able to communicate in English to our cricketers and still get their message across!!

SUPPORT TO CLUBS FROM SLC
The clubs fully appreciate the excellent financial support they have been receiving over the past few years from SLC. Clubs are remunerated for every match day (in addition to the players being paid), which takes a big burden off them.

I would also like to suggest that the SLC raises the additional monthly amount paid for Coaching and support staff. It is difficult to get a good Head Coach, Asst Coach and Physio at the current level of remuneration.

Unfortunately, most of the best coaches are employed by the SLC itself. It is imperative that the SLC gets down world-renowned coaches to impart their knowledge to our local ones. Sadly, the communication skills of the local coaches (other than for those who have had playing experience overseas) are nowhere near where it should be. More emphasis should be placed on “Soft Skills” like report-writing (in English), counseling, empathising, nurturing, encouraging etc. In my experience, the coaches are either too coaching-focussed or too laid-back in their approach.

The cost of equipment needs to be looked at – especially in the case of cricket balls. If Kookaburra balls are used, the same balls must be provided for practices, and these balls are upwards of Rs 20,000 each!! Several clubs will find this difficult to afford.

MARKETING
Another concern for me is that the Domestic Competition is not being MARKETED properly. Most other countries have major sponsors for the Premier tournament at least.

The matches are televised live and given Back Sports page coverage in the newspapers.
Unfortunately, none of this seems to be happening here, which is a great pity.
Schools cricket and rugby and club rugby seem to get so much more coverage and sponsorships compared to Premier League Cricket.

I’m sure SLC realises that the PL is feeder to the National Team. The players put in a lot of effort to play at the highest level, and they must be given due recognition at the Domestic level, so that selectors and fans are aware of them and which clubs they are playing for.

Presently, the Clubs have hardly any fan following. Nobody knows which clubs players play for, until they get National recognition. This is sad, because it is the clubs which identify, recruit, host, nurture, coach and promotes the players till they get into the National system.

Therefore, I’m asking that this important aspect is addressed in time for the next Season, starting with the Under23 season. I recall that a few seasons ago, SLC took the initiative and found corporate sponsors for each PL team. It would be wonderful if we could try to do this again.

I have tried to address what I see as the issues. I’m sure that there are others who will have different views. I have merely put down a road-map. It is for Sri Lanka Cricket to go into the details and arrive at a compromise.

(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)