Several club cricket administrators have voiced opposition to the changes to domestic structure proposed by Sri Lanka Cricket. The Sidath Wettimuny-led interim committee has sought to revive provincial tournaments that would serve as Sri Lanka’s top domestic competition, but some within the cricket establishment have said provincial tournaments are a drain on resources.
“To my mind, Sri Lanka is way too small to have a provincial set-up,” Tamil Union cricket chairman Suresh Murugaser said. “One has to compare countries like Ireland and states like Tasmania, which are physically of around the same size. They play club matches amongst themselves, and the best club players represent the country or state. These proponents of inter-provincial cricket are trying to compare tiny Sri Lanka with England, Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – vast land masses.
“As far as I’m concerned, we are only creating additional player fatigue, without any visible benefit. This is the opinion of many of the senior players on the circuit, and not just my own.”
Opposition has also rallied around the idea that provincial cricket associations cannot be financially sustainable, nor viable. At present, SLC has said it hopes to set up cricket centres in Galle, Hambantota, Kandy and Dambulla, in addition to the establishment in place in Colombo. The board has proposed that Premier League clubs join to form several “clusters”, with each cluster then taking ownership of one of these provincial centres.
“I have no problems with a proper provincial tournament, but having said that, you’ve got to understand that Sri Lanka’s economy is based in Colombo,” Roshan Abeysinghe, the president of Ragama Cricket Club said. “The cricket board is trying to cluster clubs to form a provincial team, but what’s the affiliation that players will have for that association? Is Sri Lanka really capable of having a provincial system or is this a very artificial cover up? This is the question you’ve got to ask.”
“The very provincial council political system is a burden to our economy. It will be the same with cricket. If they develop the economies of those regions, then I agree to a provincial system, but that is not the case now.”
Murugaser and Abeysinghe also cited the ultimate collapse of previous attempts to establish a provincial structure in the past decade. “Go back and check the provincial tournaments we’ve played in the past,” Abeysinghe said. “It’s been a disgrace, because half of the top players have not been available. Fellows who couldn’t find a place in club teams have played for the provinces. National players are out. ‘A’ team players are involved in something or another. And half of our other players go to England to play in the summer. You can’t play in Sri Lanka past April.
“I believe a provincial system is perfect at a school level. If you’re a schoolboy from Anuradhapara you live there, so you’re compelled to play cricket there. But when you leave school, you have the option of going anywhere.”
Wettimuny has said that some of the clubs have expressed support for the domestic revamp however, particularly because his board has said it would leave the existing inter-club first-class and List A tournaments untouched. Ranjit Fernando, current executive committee member and former president of Nondescripts Cricket Club, is among those who supports the board’s present proposal for a provincial tournament, which was put forward in part by Mahela Jayawardene.
“In principle, I’ve already supported the additional provincial tournament” Fernando said. “Previously a lot of people were trying to bring provincial cricket in to the detriment of club cricket. But now there is recognition that without a healthy club cricket system, there can’t be provincial cricket. I’ve spoken to Mahela and his concept doesn’t take anything away from the club tournament in any way.
“But if they want to set up the provincial tournament in the way they have suggested, the board will have to make changes to the SLC constitution, which is very difficult to do. So they will have to work that out.” (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)