A year and a half has past since we last saw the Sri Lankan U19 team, or rather any youth team in the world took part in a bilateral or multi-nation tournament. This is mainly to do because of the current global pandemic as many cricket boards around the world are struggling with finances. Even in Sri Lanka, we can see the results with the new contract schemes which were introduced recently. With the next edition of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup scheduled to be held in 2022 in the West Indies, it is safe to say teams will look to begin preparations as early as possible.
If we examine Sri Lanka’s progress in the previous 3 editions of the tournament there’s not much to be satisfied about. The last time SL managed to make it to the top 4 in the tournament was in 2016, going on to lose the semi-finals to India. Names such as Lahiru Kumara, Wanindu Hasaranga & Avishka Fernando who took part in that year have gone on to become mainstays in the SL National Setup. However, after that year it’s gone completely downhill in the next 2 editions, ending up as plate champions and plate runners-up respectively. Here are some strategies we can implement in order to improve our progress in the years to come:
- Allocate more expenditure on the grassroots level : SL have hardly invested anything into outstation cricketing facilities when it comes to the grassroots level or the first-class level. There are schools who still play games on mattings, have no proper side nets to practice in and even the quality of the grounds are not up to standards of schools in Colombo.
- Re-structure the School Cricket tournaments : Instead of playing one tournament for the entire country, SL could have 4 to 5 tournaments with maximum of 3 provinces taking part in each tournament. The best performers in these tournaments can then be selected into provincial teams which will further filter the talent thus making the age group cricket more competitive.
- Having separate governing bodies to look after the junior game : The first point has a lot of resemblance to this because it is not possible for SLC to look after the schools, clubs and the national setup simultaneously. Delegating the operations & finances to separate entities whether it is at district or provincial level will take a major burden off of SLC.
- Evaluation of coaches : Many former players have mentioned time and time again that the reason they could smoothly transition from the junior level to the senior level is due to the quality of coaches back then. Investing more into the education and training aspect of coaches can do nothing but improve the quality which in turn generates better players.