In a probable last ditch effort to salvage the team’s drooping image, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the sport’s governor in the country, has deployed two high-powered bowling machines to prepare its players for the future while paying clubs more money to nurture cricketers with a warning that there’ll be zero tolerance if the dough is not spent appropriately.
The bowling machines are akin to literally a target practice for both device and player where the velocity of the ball can pitch up to the batsman at 160 miles per hour, a lightning speed he will not face in a match situation.
“We know what type of bowling that our players will have to face when they tour countries like Australia and South Africa and we don’t have bowlers like them. The only way we can draw a parallel to match such bowling speed is by way of these machines”, Sri Lanka Cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala said.
Machines that can spin the ball into, away and straight into the batsmen enabling him to face all varieties of balls that will come his way in a match, has also being made available to clubs.
Having received a thumping number of votes to propel him into the hot seat at one of the most prestigious and influential institutions in the country, Sumathipala sees himself and his team as an entity under pressure to deliver ahead of futuristic demands the team will have to face in the years leading up to the 2019 World Cup.
Sri Lanka Cricket has already contracted 85 home players of repute and Sumathipala told clubs that he will tolerate nothing short of results as he doled out Rs. 264 million for just five months of domestic cricket scheduled to commence in December.
Under the programme each of the 24 clubs fielding teams in the new season received pay packs of Rs. 11 and nine million.
“Use this money honestly and spend it for the benefit of the players,” Sumathipala told club representatives before lavishly handing out the paycheques.
“We expect clubs to be responsible for their players. In the past the money that clubs received was spent for other purposes and not on the players.”
Sumathipala has already made his intentions clear that unless a level playing field is created for all 24 clubs in the fray Sri Lanka Cricket will not be in a position to unearth players for the national team which he said is their ultimate target.
“It was the clubs that kept cricket alive and well in this country and brought us this far and this is why we have to strengthen clubs and provide them with the right facilities,” said Sumathipala.
Cricket clubs in Sri Lanka are considered to be the most privileged while other sporting entities like rugby, football and athletics see them as role models that they cannot emulate in the absence of generous godfathers or sponsors.
But critics also argue that the millions set aside for some clubs comes with strings attached or paid as a ‘cultivation fee’ for future votes at an election of office-bearers to Sri Lanka Cricket if not for ‘services rendered’ during the last election.
Whatever way it is cut, it seems whoever gets in to govern domestic club cricket in the country has no intention to put in place a quality structure with only the best teams in the fray leaving out the weak links, a scenario that has only been confined to the drawing boards.
Sri Lanka Cricket will be quick to brush aside the rhetoric as absurd and pontificated by their detractors who have failed to realize the present set-up offers no hiding places looking ahead.
“This is the future and the way forward and we are treating all clubs alike, they are all our stakeholders. Even a top world class T20 player can be found playing in the B division club segment and that’s why we look at all 24 clubs in the same way,” said SLC vice president K Mathivanan in an interview with Weekend Nation.
A sworn club cricket promoter, Mathivanan has been entrusted with supervising the entire functioning of the domestic game which also takes in school cricket.
He said an increase in the payments this season will enable clubs to maintain a support-staff making them adopt a professional approach.
“Some people only look at the negative side. This is our positive side which they should know,” claimed Mathivanan.