The sport of cricket will draw the cards in the remaining few months of the year with the fiercely competitive inter-school under 19 tournament commencing for the 2016/2017 season.
Sri Lankans got an overdose of rugby in the recent few months and a change to the bat and ball game is a welcome change, given that most rugby playing schools are equally skilled in the sport of cricket.
Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) Secretary Kapila Jayalath is of the opinion that cricket in Sri Lanka is akin to a religion and said, “It is now rare to find a venue in cricket where parents and old boys are not present to support the teams of their choice”.
The spirit of cricket always reigns supreme. This aspect of cricket was underscored recently when the court overturned an application by a grieved party who requested leave to proceed in a case where this party wanted the tournament rule changed to accommodate players under age 20. The present rule specifies that players have to meet the requirement of being under 19 in keeping with a cut-off date specified by the SLSCA.
According to Jayalath, the under 19 teams are pooled into three divisions (Divisions I, II and III) going by a rating each team received after its performances the previous year were taken into consideration. Wesley College Colombo and St. Marry’s Kegalle have been promoted to Division I after finishing as joint champs in the Division II tournament last season. Two schools who have reasons to be concerned are Holy Cross Kalutara and Royal Panadura. These two schools have been demoted to Division II.
Jayalath said that 36 schools in Division I and 31 schools in Division II will fight it out for honours this season. The SLSCA is yet to finalize the number of teams in the Division 111 segment. In the 2015/2016 season, as many as 105 schools played in this segment. This segment is further divided into two levels.
“Each school contesting the tournament will be assigned eight matches by the School Cricket Association. Each side must pick five other teams to complete a total number of 13 matches that must be played for the season. The performances of these matches will be taken into account before the points table is made and a winner is declared by the end of February next year,” said Jayalath. He said that certain big matches, where either the duration of the game exceeds two days or restrictions are imposed to curtail an innings to a certain number of overs, will not meet the criteria to be considered as a tournament match.
The school cricket official acknowledged the possibility of Sri Lanka under 19 tours clashing with the inter-school league tournament. “Some schools will miss their stars if selected for national duty. Their absence will not cripple the tournament. We must understand that country comes before playing in the SLSCA conducted cricket tournament” Jayalath affirmed.
The SLSCA believes that the umpires on duty together with the masters-in-charge of cricket at schools must take a huge responsibility in assuring the smooth conduct of matches. “Generally the umpires are in control of matches and there have been just a few incidents at matches in the past. The two schools featuring in a match will share the costs needed to obtain the services of umpires” Jayalath said.
According to Jayalath, school cricket will receive a generous sponsorship courtesy Singer Sri Lanka PLC. School cricket’s sponsor will bear costs in conducting a prize-giving at the end of the season and hiring grounds from the quarter final stage onwards during the knockout tournament, scheduled to be held in March next year.
Jayalath said he was happy at the way school cricket was progressing in the country. “The competitiveness between teams is growing daily, new schools are entering the fray and the spirit shown by players to be associated with the game is healthy,” he said.