The current interim administration under former Sri Lanka cricketer Sidath Wettimuny is making a great effort to streamline the domestic cricket structure so that it is meaningful and the competitions amongst the teams are far more competitive than at present.
The importance of restructuring the domestic first-class system has been emphasized by former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene who has stepped in to help the interim committee with a blueprint that has impressed everyone.
Jayawardene spent nearly two decades playing in Sri Lanka’s domestic first-class cricket for SSC and other provincial teams and knows exactly what is required to make the tournaments more competitive. At present the void between the domestic cricket structure and the national team is so wide that players find it difficult to bridge the gap.
While respecting the suggestions and views expressed by Jayawardene and other former cricketers, initially a thorough study of the existing system should be made whether it has failed. Nobody can say it has failed because we have produced results at international level. Of course there are shortcomings and these need to be identified and corrected.
Jayawardene’s concept talks about decentralized provincial administration but at present there is no such administration.
Up to now the provinces that come and vote at Sri Lanka Cricket elections have not done anything in their respective provinces. Apart from two or three individuals no results are shown. Initially that has to happen.
The construction of Indoor nets and swimming pools at the main stadiums like the R Premadasa Stadium, at Pallekelle and Dambulla is laudable but beyond that we need to have as far as possible, a cricket centre with a ground like in a club in Colombo with gym and pavilion, in each district. If 10 to 12 centers like that can be constructed where the provincial or district associations could go and occupy and do some work there will certainly be some kind of identity.
For Jayawardene’s proposal to be a success the facilities at provincial level has to be developed so that players need not travel all the way to Colombo for training, practice etc. It is only after that you can look at the question of running a provincial administration.
Provincial cricket has been a total failure by past administrators because of the lack of such facilities put in place. There have been instances in the past where one set of selectors have picked all five provincial sides; whereas the whole idea is that each province must have their own committee of selectors. We are still far away from that.
Sri Lanka Cricket cannot dilute the Premier club tournament at the expense of the provincial tournament. The club tournament over the years has proved to be the goose that lays the golden egg.
It is the frail club structure that force clubs to depend on money from Sri Lanka Cricket to survive, which is holding the cricket in the country beyond schools level. There is a lot of work to be done at school level as the link between schools and under-23 is insufficient.
The current interim committee may not comprise the ideal set of people to undertake this task successfully. For instance, The Nation learns that some of the members don’t know a club to a ground. The committee comprises a new treasurer, a lawyer, a chartered accountant – names that we’ve never heard of associated in any way with cricket. Such people don’t know the reality of making the changes. To have corporate people is very good but are they the right ones? They are good to supplement a committee that has people who are involved in the system and knowledgeable with the game.
In terms of governance the people who get elected may not be ideal but they have the knowledge of the systems within the club, the provincial and district cricket structures. Unfortunately they are very political. So where do we strike the balance in this thing?
Interim committees are not the solution but even if they are appointed they must be people from the system. At least there must be criteria to appoint members to an interim committee.
The present interim committee is putting a lot of discipline amongst the coaches, staff etc. which had deteriorated during the previous administration. A lot of guidelines are being put in place which can be taken forward and once they are in place anyone taking over after that will find it tough not to follow it. However it is very unlikely that the provincial program will be taken forward by an elected body.
Within a limited space of time putting things into its proper place is not an easy task as the current interim committee will realize unless their term is lengthened, which is most unlikely to happen with so many external forces at work and bringing pressure for an election.