Loyalty of players towards Provincial cricket is questionable

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2017-04-16

The Inter Provincial tournament organized by Sri Lanka Cricket has finally got under way with the second day of matches concluded just prior to the Sinhala New Year. After a very long club tournament and a district limited over tournament, the final phase and the most competitive stage of domestic cricket has just begun. Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) should be congratulated for organizing a tournament of such a magnitude as this is naturally the need of the hour.

Looking back at the history of Provincial cricket in this country, one has to concede that it has never been welcome. Of course many an administrator has insisted on it for the value it brings in terms of the quality of the level of competition, though one has to also accept that the Sri Lankan economy doesn't really lend itself to such a set up. Whatever or whenever a provincial tournament has been organized it was purely artificial, as players were grouped into Provinces, which was sometimes done with no basis or very little logic, which really drove no loyalty by the player towards the said province.

One of the reasons for School cricket in Sri Lanka to succeed has been the strong loyalty the Lankans show towards their alma mater. The game at school level is played with passion and great competitiveness and with a must win attitude. The turnout at big matches and the manner players pride themselves in representing their school in the said games confirms how importantly these games figure in a player's life.
Club cricket in the country comes nowhere close to such a passion, as most players stick to clubs for various reasons, where loyalty figures very low in the list. However, it doesn't mean that there is no affection or loyalty towards a club from a player. In fact some players have stuck to a club all their playing life and when they retire goes on to be part of the coaching or administration where the loyalty factor continues.

What is lacking in Provincial cricket in this country is just that. Though the cricket part is of very high standard the rest of it, which is needed to complete the full picture, is sadly nonexistent. I have seen many examples of particular players being made to play for different provinces in successive years, which doesn't allow a player to be identified with one team or develop an affection towards that team. Besides, unless and otherwise a player joins the SLC on retirement there is very little chance of a player having a life after cricket with a Province in this country. These are some of the short comings of the system that has caused it not to be continuous and a success.

Despite the above so called shortcomings in it, the standard of cricket played at Provincial level tournaments is of very high level.

The competition is basically among National cricketers and the one's one notch lower which is what Sri Lanka needs in its system.

From that perspective the tournament for the value and the standard of cricket it plays should be applauded.

One other important aspect of a tournament is to understand the correct number of teams that makes it healthy. In a country where there are National Cricketers, A team cricketers, Emerging Cricketers as well as highly promising young cricketers breaking into the system from U-19 level, it's imperative that most of them be accommodated in such a tournament. If the numbers are added together I am sure out of a potential two hundred and eighty first class cricketers playing in the Premier League there can be close to a hundred cricketers who would qualify to get into that category. In that case then the decision to play just four Provincial teams may have to be relooked at, as it would only involve fifteen players per game per team which makes it a sum total of only sixty. This would mean that quality cricketers are limited to just four teams and the rest missing out, which will not help as the Provincial Tournament will be used by the selectors as a criteria.

The point that I want to get across in this column is despite the Provincial tournament not having all the ingredients to succeed, which is largely due to the nature of the country, it needs a minimum of five teams playing in it. I am positive the Provincial tournament will bring in success whilst the said tournament with the correct number of teams accommodating all the best players in the country will be an even bigger success.

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