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Are Sri Lanka’s next generation of cricketers being groomed?

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Another young bowler reported with a suspect action
By Ranjan Paranavithana | February 5, 2012

Sri LankaWe Sri Lankans are so obsessed with victories that we forget about the future of the game. When the national team is doing well we cease to search for young talent. Then, when the national players fail we realise that we do not have replacements.

This is what sets us apart from countries like Australia. Even when Australia’s national players are in good form and doing well, they always look for young talent and keep strengthening their second-string. They have many ongoing initiatives for their next generation and back-up players. It is also obvious, that before they introduce a new player they help him achieve his top form. As a result, the player can easily be a match winner even in his debut match. But in our country, we introduce players when they are just finding their feet or performing averagely, without letting them develop.

We do not have a plan and for this the past cricket administrators are solely responsible.

Three years ago, Sri Lanka had the Cricket Academy from where players were selected for the Sri Lanka A side and we had a sponsor for the Academy as well. But it was shut down and Sri Lanka A tours have also been reduced. Today, players are selected for the national side directly from clubs. Sri Lanka A played only one tour last year (in England).

The England A side is currently playing a limited overs series in Sri Lanka. Four matches have already been played but have not seen a clear plan for the future. Many wondered what the selectors hand in mind, as questions have been raised as to whether they want to win matches or identify players for the future – it was brought up in the media conference before the home series against England A began.

For example, in the first two matches between Sri Lanka A and England A, we opened bowling with fast bowlers but we lost both matches. In the next two matches, we opened the bowling with spin and we went on to win. It seemed that the officials were much more interested in winning the games, rather than giving their young fast bowlers a chance. Even at school level, young cricketers are advised to begin the innings with fast bowlers not spinners to make maximum use of the new ball. We must use our young fast bowlers in the opening spells if they want to give them the needed exposure. However, in the last two matches combined the two fast bowlers bowled only 11 overs.

Incidentally, the first six batsmen of the Sri Lanka A side were left handers and if the England side had two off spinners we would have been in trouble.

The manner in which the officials have acted showed that they were more preoccupied with winning, even if it means that the lessons imparted on our next generation of cricketers is wrong. If we continue in this manner, we cannot develop the game. Sri Lanka has the talent but it is up to the authorities to use and develop it in the proper way.

Meanwhile, yet another young bowler Dhanushka Gunathilleke has been reported to the match referee with a suspect bowling action.

Ranjan Paranavithana is the coach of Baduraliya Cricket Club and the former sports editor of the Lakbima newspaper in Sri Lanka.

© Ranjan Paranavithana/Island Cricket

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