The zonal first-class tournament scheduled for March and April by the previous Sri Lanka Cricket board is unlikely to go ahead this season, newly-elected SLC secretary Mohan de Silva has said. The new board affirmed its commitment to a provincial model, but were unhappy with the “composition and structure” of the proposed zonal tournament.
This means the ongoing Super Eights four-day tournament is likely to be the only first-class tournament played in Sri Lanka this season. The zonal tournament, which had been largely devised by Mahela Jayawardene, had sought to cluster clubs in five regional hubs, but that proposal is being viewed as impractical by the new SLC board.
“The elected body has always recognised the need to have a higher level of competition above club cricket,” SLC secretary Mohan de Silva said. “The only thing is we were not happy with the composition and structure of the zonal tournament.”
SLC now plans to devise a new provincial structure in consultation with the clubs, who own many of Colombo’s cricket grounds, and wield substantial power in the board elections. With the southwest monsoon likely to arrive in May, de Silva conceded it was “very, very unlikely” that a provincial first-class competition could be held this season.
“We’ve made a few changes,” de Silva said. “We’re going to have a brainstorming session over the next month or so. We’ll get all stakeholders involved and get everybody’s inputs, and come up with an appropriate and pragmatic programme, in time for the next season.”
This move to overhaul the proposed tournament has drawn criticism from the former board members who had played a role formulating it. They contend the tournament had been fully planned out, and that money had been set aside within the SLC budget, to implement it.
Criticism has also come from former players, including Michael Tissera, who has campaigned for the reintroduction of a provincial tournament.
“The [zonal tournament] was going to be played involving the clubs,” Tissera told Sunday Times. “But again the new administration says it doesn’t have the money. I think it’s a load of nonsense, because according to the [previous board], the costs were budgeted in.”
Many recent cricketers, including Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, have stressed the importance of provincial cricket, both as a means of improving the quality of Sri Lanka’s first-class cricket, and spreading the game to the provinces.