Our first-class system from a fast bowler’s perspective | Daily News


Our first-class system from a fast bowler’s perspective

There has been a lot wrong with our first-class domestic cricket and despite several attempts to put it right by past administrators and by the current administration in office no concrete decisions have been arrived at to formulate a system that is most suitable to provide a high level of competition that could bridge the big gap that exists between the current standard of cricket played and Test cricket.

It is only in Sri Lanka that one finds the country’s domestic cricket keep changing to the whims and fancies of the administration that is elected or appointed to office. By doing so there has never been a proper structure in place to ensure the cricketers are provided with a base to play competitive cricket. With the exception of a handful of clubs that compete very strongly with each other, matches played have been so lopsided that there are occasions where a 3-day or 4-day game has finished inside two days. This sort of results do great damage to the first-class system in the country and makes a mockery of what first-class cricket is all about. No one benefits by such competitions and the performances only give a false impression to the public and national selectors and do not paint a true picture of the cricketer himself. That is one of the main reasons why our cricketers struggle to compete with other countries at top level when they make their entry into international cricket.

Omesh Wijesiriwardene, a former Sri Lanka A and under 19 fast bowling all-rounder with plenty of experience of playing domestic club cricket and English league cricket was of the opinion that in the last decade or so the first-class cricket played in Sri Lanka has remained the same with no improvement in the playing standards.

“There are enough of ways to do it or go about it. In our country with spin being dominant there is no chance as we play most of the matches on dusty pitches with no signs of improvement. We have to make changes if we are to move forward,” said Wijesiriwardene who is in his first season as coach of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority team playing in the Super 8 of the Premier League.

Wijesiriwardene who is always looking at the positive side of things and wanting to improve the game managed to have two overseas players representing Sri Lanka Ports Authority in the ongoing Premier league.

“Why we cannot produce good fast bowlers is that our fast bowlers have still not mastered the art of how to reverse swing with the Kookaburra ball. I have played with Mohammad Sami (the Pakistan fast bowler) and we are good friends. I brought Sami’s bowling partner in Karachi Adeel Malik and played him in our domestic tournament first round. He bowls differently according to situations and sessions. When you talk to him you learn a lot of things how he sets batsmen up to get their wicket,” said Wijesiriwardene.

“I remember Kumar Dharmasena (who played with me for Bloomfield) who umpired our first match saying that he has never seen a bowler reverse swinging the ball both ways. The way Adeel sets up batsmen was unbelievable. Sometimes he does not have a final leg at all he sets the field in a unique way and then reverse swings the ball surprising the batsman,” he said.

“In Sri Lanka we are doing the same thing every time. We are way behind time at least by four years in developing new techniques. By the time we start doing things other countries have developed new methods. This must change we cannot be bringing foreign players or coaches all the time to learn new techniques in bowling. We must know how to update ourselves.”

Another area Wijesiriwardene delved into was why our fast bowlers get injured regularly.

“Why they are getting injured is easy to understand. They hardly get to bowl in domestic matches. For instance in one of our matches a fast bowler didn’t bowl the entire day, the entire attack was based on spin. We can’t do this every day. It is obvious that fast bowlers break down when they play in a Test match because they are not fit enough to bowl for five days,” Wijesiwardene observed.

“We need to play at least 3-4 fast bowlers in every match in club cricket which is not happening at the moment. We also need to change the type of balls we use from Kookaburra to Duke balls which lasts long and are hard. With a Duke ball you cannot spin it as much as the spinners enjoy doing with the Kookaburra. They have to work hard to get a grip on it and get spin. The seam of a Duke ball is flatter than a Kookaburra. It is good for the bowlers because they will have to work hard for their wickets rather than get them cheaply with less effort.”

The presence of Nick Compton the former England Test opener in the Sri Lanka Ports Authority dressing room has done wonders for the team, according to Wijesiriwardene, a UK qualified Level 2 coach.

“We need to improve our local cricket culture. In the dressing room we just don’t discuss cricket but with Nick coming that has changed. He has got talking to the young players and started expressing and exchanging ideas with them which is good. Inside a dressing room we need to improve our cricket culture not only on the field,” Wijesiriwardene said.

“The way I see it we need to have more overseas players coming and playing for our local clubs so that our players will benefit by their experience. If we play with them only we will also learn a lot about their professional approach and how they handle themselves on the field,” he said.

Well that is a player cum coach’s perspective and food for thought for SLC if they are really keen on developing our domestic cricket structure.

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