Proper structuring a must for domestic cricket
The much looked forward to domestic tournament is just kicking off after a week's postponement. The tournament is bound to lose its sheen somewhat with the national cricketers being away on tour to South Africa, and then briefly to Australia. With the void left by sixteen cricketers, the expected competition is bound to suffer, though one has to look at it as an opportunity for the next rung of players to stake a claim in the bigger stage.
The current year sees an enhanced number of First Class teams which is totaling to twenty four in two tiers. Whilst there are many views expressed with regard to the increase, the quality and the effectiveness of the tournament can be only measured once the tournament draws to a conclusion.
As for the main fourteen clubs, one has to congratulate and appreciate the efforts of SLC, where a determination is made to enhance the quality amongst the clubs itself. Providing bowling machines to clubs at a subsidized rate as a first step has to be lauded, as this was a much felt need of the clubs. In a day and age where pitches could be affected by rain, a bowling machine can be most helpful and will ensure that proper training will happen.
Besides the said bowling machine, the financial grants which will involve cricket as well as infrastructure development of clubs, is again a step in the right direction, assuming the said funds will be put to good use by the recipients.
I believe in order to enhance the quality and value of the tournament, the effort and start of SLC in the current year is naturally a step in the right direction. However, it's hoped that SLC will not stop at this point and will continue to look at the development process. At this point what one needs to accept and understand is that Sri Lanka's domestic cricket is a club based system and that will be a very tough task to change. A Provincial system was tried by many an administrator without yielding the desired results.
I believe that a tournament above the club tournament is required by SLC to ensure greater quality and competition. The said tournament could be called any name, i.e. Provincial, Invitational etc. etc.
What will be important is to ensure that eventually such a tournament is looked at and worked out for the sake of skimming the talent and ensuring that the best gets filtered.
However, what SLC should always remember and maintain is that the said feeder to the national level is from the clubs, and they should be encouraged, supported and protected at all costs. In order to do that it's my view that SLC looks at setting minimum standards for clubs playing at the Premier Level and ensure that the said clubs are supported to achieve it over a period of time.
To start with there are still clubs without proper grounds playing at the highest level, and also producing quality cricketers. The easiest method to deal with them is to take them out of the first class tournaments, though that's not the way forward. Instead, what should be done is engage the club to develop it as a first stage where the playing field gets leveled to some extent. Whilst that becomes a starting point, then SLC should look at developing the minimum infrastructure needed for a First Class club, such as an indoor net and other requirements ensuring that all clubs are properly equipped to do battle and the players representing the said clubs don't carry a handicap.
Then it will be up to the smart administrators of the said club to maximize the quality and the facilities of the club, which will eventually lead to the club being in a position to produce quality products. It will also ensure that the talent to a large extent gets distributed reasonably evenly amongst everyone at the top level, which will be naturally healthy for cricket in the country.
Having said that, one has to understand that Rome wasn't built in a day! Also, the need of finances is critical. Hence, it's obvious that SLC will need a structured plan that will be five to ten years, and the said investment should be considered truly as an investment and nothing else. It's bound to produce results, if not in the shorter span, at least in the years to come.
It's my fervent hope that such a broad plan suggested here would be looked at and fine tuned and hopefully put to practice.
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