For many years schools cricket was the development hothouse for the great stars of Sri Lanka. All of the current side owe their starts to a rigorous system which was far more competitive than even club cricket and at times, even more popular than international cricket.

Recent times, however have seen a slippage in standards to the cost of current youth-team performance and also a potential dearth of replacements for the current international side. “In a few years time, once the seniors in the national side retire there need to be very good players to come in,” says current Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) executive and batting legend Aravinda de Silva, “right now there aren’t any because the schools aren’t producing any. That’s where it has to start.”

De Silva should know, he was one of the coaches of the team in the U/19 World Cup this year, where Sri Lanka didn’t get past the quarter-finals. It was a result which had been anticipated and measures to remedy it are about to be taken. Somachandra (D.S.) de Silva, Sri Lanka’s premier leg-spinner of the 1970s and 1980s, as Advisor and Consultant to President Rajapakse on Schools Cricket embarked upon a study of schools cricket at the start of 2008 and has come up with proposals which have received government and SLC approval.

The aim is first to win the next U/19 World Cup in 2010 leading to the creation of top-class, seasoned performers in Tests and ODIs.

Aravinda de Silva Somachandra de Silva

D.S. de Silva has said that the biggest handicap for Sri Lanka’s cricket development has been the lack of infrastructure in schools around the country, with some of the schools in the rural areas not having even the basic requirements to play the game. That, they are to receive from now on.

One of the key points in his proposals is to ensure that every district has at least one quality cricket ground. In addition to turf wickets of three to four strips, there must be a turf practice area, pavilion and other facilities along with qualified curators to maintain them. Indoor practice facilities have also been stated as required.

De Silva has strongly recommended that the SLC consider a payment of allowances to school cricket coaches and teachers at less affluent schools to encourage their involvement in the game.

To ensure the meritocratic and informed selection of representative teams, de Silva has recommended the creation of a Junior School Cricket Selection Committee comprising of five members from the provinces and two more members representing the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association.

In addition the schools U-19 team will be included in the Inter Provincial one-day tournament and possibly also the first-class Premier Trophy tournament.

“The process is ongoing and over the next few years, I expect the standards of U-15, U-17 and U-19 cricketers to improve,” says Aravinda de Silva, adding, “there was a time that if Sri Lanka played in youth World Cups we would have every chance of winning. Those days can come back, as well as senior World Cups.”

Links: Cricinfo - The Future is Povincial: Kumar Sangakarra

Filed April 7, 2008