A captain’s plea to SLC | Daily News

A captain’s plea to SLC

Following Sri Lanka’s poor showing at the 2019 Cricket World Cup two perspectives have emerged one from the captain Dimuth Karunaratne and the other from the chairman of selectors Ashantha de Mel and they both point to one thing - the deficiencies of Sri Lanka Cricket and for what it stands for.

A country’s cricket board is expected to give the players the best platform for them to perform at top level and when that has not been met or for that matter what was already been in existence has been diluted then there is no point pointing fingers at the players for not performing on the world stage.

Why India is such a potent force in world cricket is because they have strengthened their domestic structure to the extent that they have a second and third string of players pushing for places to be included in the senior team.

The same cannot be said of Sri Lanka for here the opposite has happened. Instead of improving the domestic structure which is the base for national recognition, those who administer the game in the past have simply diluted the structure that was in place to the extent that the quality of the players coming through the system is taking a long time to develop on the international stage.

A glaring example is 21-year-old Avishka Fernando who had an excellent World Cup and is seen as the guiding light for the new generation of players to take Sri Lanka forward.

Fernando was thrown into the deep end at the age of 18 years and made his ODI debut against Australia and collected a second ball duck and was never heard of until three years later when he was picked for the ODI series in South Africa where he did marginally well and then selected for the 2019 World Cup he showed his maturity on the playing surfaces of Scotland and England.

He started off with an attractive 74 against Scotland and in the World Cup had scores of 49, 30, 104 and 20 to finish with an average of over 50 and a strike rate of 106. It took Fernando three years since making his debut to reach the world stage and perform whereas in other countries the stage has been set for the player to walk into an international match and play without any pressure.

Why Sri Lanka are late developers is because they don’t have a strong domestic structure as the launch pad to international cricket. Past cricketers such as Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Muthiah Muralitharan have taken great pains to formulate a structure for our domestic cricket, only to see their efforts being confined to the dustbin by power hungry administrators whose sole aim is to buy votes by promoting clubs and thereby diluting the domestic structure, and sitting in the air-conditioned comfort of SLC and minting all the hard money earned by our cricketers.

Thus it was not surprising to hear the country’s Test and ODI captain Dimuth Karunaratne making a plea to the so-called individuals who administer cricket in this country to help more players enter overseas Twenty 20 leagues to make up for the limitations of the domestic structure.

Karunaratne said exposing Sri Lankan talent to international tournaments like the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Australia's Big Bash is the best way to broaden their limited-overs experience.

“In Sri Lanka we have one domestic season. The players have only one chance to showcase their talent in a particular domestic season and we can identify players only that season,” said Karunaratne on the eve of their World Cup fixture against India.

“We have to close that gap (between domestic and international cricket). We have to give a chance to the players to play in IPL, Big Bash or county cricket. We have to give them permission to play in overseas tournament to gain experience and come back. Those are the things I'm expecting from the cricket board after this World Cup,” he said.

Chief selector De Mel expressed the same thoughts in a different way.

“First of all SLC must know what their priorities are? There is the T20 World Cup coming then there is the one-day rankings where we are ninth. Do we need to come up, the Test matches all those have to be prioritised and a blue print drawn up and we have to work towards that plan,” said De Mel.

“We have been appointed until the World Cup so how can we plan for the next 3-4 years? This is not some something you can solve overnight it is coming from the schools, clubs, and under 19 levels and have to be sorted out. We need to have some sort of feeder system. As selectors we can say you give us who you have and we will select. That’s how it is now. But that is not the way forward. There has to be a system where everybody has to put their minds together and see how we are going to improve and have the whole system going. If you say select from the lot you have there is no issue but if the lot is bad what do you do? That’s the problem. Our cupboard isn’t that full,” De Mel emphasised.

“If the bottom is not feeding and coming up with players you have very little coming forward. Also we have to address the players’ conditioning, physical fitness etc. If you look at our side we are not the fittest compared to countries like Australia, New Zealand, England and even India who is more agile on the field. If you are running a race and running with the best 10 runners you have to be good to be on top,” De Mel said.

These are the growing problems Sri Lanka cricket faces and unless they are addressed in the proper manner we will continue to struggle to be a force in world cricket.

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