'Cricket in Sri Lanka heading towards disaster'

By Neil Perera | July 11, 2012

Sri Lanka Cricket is set to make sweeping changes to domestic cricket structure.The recent decision by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) to restructure the domestic tournament, notwithstanding the tournament rules, shows the utter lack of understanding of the tournament rules framed and accepted by the SLC itself in the first instance. And secondly, a lack of vision to take forward the wealth of talent that thousands of outstation cricketers can offer.

On a personal note, I wish to state that I have devoted more than 25 years managing an outstation cricket team (Panadura Sports Club) which counts more than 80 years membership in the Ceylon Cricket Association, Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka and SLC. I have played for the club for 20 years and I have had the honour of captaining the side for five years.

During this period, I was able to guide the team to become runners-up in the division-one tournament, second only to the Sinhalese Sports Club. At the BCCSL, I served as the vice-president, honorary secretary (6 years) and the executive committee for over 25 years.

Having served as the chairman of the tournament committee many moons ago, I am alarmed that the tournament committee has decided to trample its own rules and, as a consequence, deprive the member clubs of their rights enshrined in the rules. SLC cannot pass retroactive rules for a tournament that has been completed.

Let’s refer to the Segment ‘A’, Segment ‘B’ and Sara Trophy as division-one, division-two and division-three for convenience. The rules are quite clear that the last placed in the points table in division-one has to be demoted; this has been negated in the latest fiasco. The team winning division-three can be promoted to division-two and not to division-one as has been done. No team can get a double promotion.

I recall an incident that took place over 40 years ago, when Negombo CC won but was not promoted. Most of the outstation clubs came together then and forced a special general meeting to be summoned and the tournament committee's decision was thrown out.

I hope history will repeat itself and the clubs that have been adversely affected by the change of rules will take appropriate action to throw out all outrageous decisions that are contrary to the rules.

On another occasion, a very powerful Colombo club came last in their division and what did the powers that be do? They brought in a new rule that allowed all clubs who have their own grounds to play in division one despite their performances in the tournament. Of course, a few clubs playing in the lower-division were able to come in through the backdoor.

The statement made by the chairman of the selection committee that cricketers from Ambalangoda and Matara could play for Galle under the new set up sounds hilarious. But it’s tragic, as far as Sri Lanka cricket is concerned, as it shows the poor level of understanding of outstation cricket by the chief of selectors. He has made similar references to Kurunegala and Kandy, where he expects cricketers from neighbouring towns and villages to play for these two clubs. He has completely ignored Moratuwa, Panadura and Kalutara which have hundreds of talented cricketers who are unable to play a higher level of cricket.

Today, the outstation clubs are unable to retain their talented players as the Colombo clubs offer them a higher pay packet and entice them to play for their club. I can vouch for the fact that Panadura SC lost several national level cricketers to Colombo clubs including Chamara Silva, Charitha Buddhika, Dilruwan Perera during the past few years and this has resulted in Panadura SC continue to remain in Segment ‘B’ (which has now been abolished).

Apart from better infrastructure and other facilities, most of the Colombo clubs have generous sponsors. If SLC has a vision to improve cricket in this country, it must prepare a database of all clubs and schools, particularly in the outstations, find out the facilities and finances available and generously help these clubs and schools so that the talented cricketers in these areas could be retained by the clubs in their own areas.

What is happening now is, as an age old Sinhala saying goes: Colombata Kiri Apita Kekiri.

In regards to the premier tournament, I suggested a few years ago that there should be district teams from Matara, Galle, Kalutara, Kurunegala and Kandy included in the major tournament. The district associations should conduct club tournaments in the district, as was done in the past, and thereafter select a squad to represent the entire district at the major tournament. SLC must pump in adequate money to the district associations and outstation clubs and closely monitor their progress so that the real talent in the entire country will be available.

Neil Perera is a former secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lana and was the manager of the national team when Sri Lana recorded its first Test win away from home in 1995.

© Island Cricket

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