A solution to Sri Lanka’s fast bowler injuries | Daily News

A solution to Sri Lanka’s fast bowler injuries

Senarath Alwis
Senarath Alwis

A solution to Sri Lanka’s constant injuries to their fast bowlers could be at hand if the authorities who control cricket at school and national levels take the views expressed by Senarath Alwis seriously.

“The real problem originates from the under 13 and under 15 age group players,” said Alwis, a former junior coach of Bangladesh, junior cricket coach of Royal College (under 13, 15 and 17) for 12 years, a Level 4 cricket coach and ex-director Physical Education, University of Colombo.

“It was while coaching Royal that I stumbled across the mystery behind why fast bowlers of the national team suffer from injuries constantly,” he said.

According to Alwis prior to 1996 an under 13 cricketer would play with a leather ball weighing 4¾ ounce and the distance between wickets was 20 yards. For the under 15 cricketer it was the same ball but he would bowl at the normal length of 22 yards. This way Alwis said there was no extra strain on the young cricketer.

But where the issue erupted was when Sri Lanka sent a team to participate at the Lombard under 15 challenge cup in England in 1996 where the boys had to bowl with the standard ball used for first-class and international matches weighing 5½ ounces.

“The change that came into place at the time placed a heavy burden on the young bowler to deliver a ball much heavier and to a greater distance. When he tries to do that the muscles and nerves gets damaged and tear,” said Alwis.

“A boy develops his body from ages 12 upto 16 and during that time when he gets an injury of this nature it will remain with him right throughout his career. When they are young such injuries don’t trouble them so much and they continue to play with it. It is when they come to the under 19 level and from there progress to club and ‘A’ team levels and the matches and training becomes hectic, the injury inside also grows and becomes a major issue,” he observed.

“In the past six years there are 21 fast bowlers who have suffered injuries. They get some treatment and return to play and after some time that injury recurs again. In the national cricket team today there isn’t a single bowler who has not suffered an injury.

A fast bowler cannot play a series of three matches without breaking down. This is not the only reason for injuries but it is one of the key factors I believe.

The problem began after the 1996 under 15 tournament where the schools and education department authorities stuck to that rule instead of reverting to the existing one.” Alwis cited examples of fast bowlers like Chaminda Vaas, Pramodya Wickremasinghe and Ravindra Pushpakumara who never suffered the types of injuries today’s bowlers undergo because they played school cricket in the pre-1996 era.

“You may question why that age rule does not affect other cricket nations. The reason is India and Pakistan always field players who are over age. Although they say they are under 15 in actual fact they are under 17, I experienced this while I was coaching in Bangladesh. As for the players from European countries like England, Australia, New Zealand etc they are brought up on good nutrition and have good physique. In Sri Lanka it cannot happen because an over age player gets reported quickly by someone who will send in a petition against him, so Sri Lanka always sends players in the proper age group,” said Alwis.

Alwis stated that when this rule was implemented the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) president was R.D.M.P. Weeratunga who was also the principal of Thurstan College.

“When I explained this rule change and the effect it had on the young cricketers he readily accepted my views but nothing was done thereafter to change it,” said Alwis. “There are about 500-1000 young cricketers affected by this age rule.”

Another vital point that Alwis brought out was the change in the age qualification rule that stands today at January 1 for all age groups.

“When you make it January 1 an under13 child born in December has to play in the under 15 tournament. So what happens when a 12-year-old boy tries to bowl with a 5½ ounce ball? He will resort to throw it instead of bowl because he does not have the strength to bowl such a heavy ball a distance of 22 yards. This is the cause of so many schoolboy bowlers resorting to throwing,” said Alwis.

“One of the reasons why we don’t have good quality spinners coming out of schools is that the junior cricketer trying to bowl with a heavy ball eventually ends up bowling at medium pace because he finds it difficult to flight the heavy ball at that age. So they bowl flat and fast.”

Alwis said that he failed to understand why Sri Lanka Cricket or the Schools Association are still sticking to that age group rule which is ruining the development of our fast bowlers.

“That age group rule was implemented only for a one-off under 15 tournament in England and it has never been played since, why we should still stick to it is certainly baffling,” said Alwis.

“I have delved into an area which no one has touched on before. I am talking through my experience.”

Alwis said if the age group qualification is restored to September 1 for under 13 and May 1 for under 15 and the ball used for under 15 is changed to 4¾ ounces as it was before it would drastically cut down on the number of injuries to fast bowlers and the effect will be felt within the next 3-5 years.He hoped the cricket authorities would take serious notice of this malady and take steps to make the necessary changes that is affecting the nation’s cricket at the moment. 

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