|Sunday, 27 January 2002|
School cricket is a "big yawn" .
by Pelham Juriansz
Since the 1980s, or should I say mid 1980s, when I happened to restart watching school cricket after a lapse of 3 years, I noticed that the standard of school cricket had waned somewhat and that there were hardly any spectators at the grounds.
Being a Thomian, I started going for "College" matches as they were called, and found that even centurians in school games, who were hitherto carried shoulder high after they were dismissed, were not even given the due recognition by a handful of spectators who were at the ground.
For instance the Bulankulame brothers, Dhammika and Anura were scoring heavily for the Thomians at the time and even the former Master-in-Charge of S.Thomas, the late Lassie Abeygunawardene commented on the fact that centurians were not been given due recognition.
CCC, former Thomian and Royal coach, Nihal Kodittuwakku, said that it is good that "the boys get a long bat at the wickets and this augurs well for the game". The idea mooted by Owen Motthau, the under 19 coach is to enable players to gear themselves for big time cricket. Since the late seventies school matches did not end in outright wins and many games were drawn. First innings points, and the idea that one should occupy the crease and not score runs was at the back of the minds of most batsmen. It was a case of survival at the wicket and the Royalists and the Thomians were the first and to date the only schools to play three-day games when the Centenary Match in 1979 was played over three days.
This brought about a renaissance in the game and the first win in the "Battle of the Blues" came in 1983 when Chulaka Amerasinghe's Royalists defeated Kapila Gunawardene's team of Greenhorns.
The Thomians won in 1988 and the Royalists struck back in 1990 and 1991 with two consecutive wins.
A spate of draws occurred and in 1997(under Nilanka Pieris Jnr) and in 1999 won at last.
And so school cricket has journeyed. Big matches, like for instance the "Joe-Pete", have not produced results since 1978, and even the "Ananda-Nalanda" hasn't produced a result since 1982. In fact Nalanda haven't won since 1953.
Last week Nalanda had a good game against Royal winning by six wickets. Where the Royalists were clearly outclassed ?
The Thomians, on the other hand, were not able to get even first innings points against Ananda and St. Benedict's in their matches in the last two weeks when their fielders let them down. The Thomians allowed the Anandians to bat all of 121 overs to collect 203 for the loss of eight wickets.
The Thomians without their "star", Jeevan Mendis look a lack-lustre side even though skipper Dilshan Gunawardene, Denham Williams and A. Rajawasam tried to make up for the loss. Jeevan is currently doing yeoman service in New Zealand representing the Sri Lanka under 19 team.
Gone are the days when batsmen like Jagath Fernando of Royal, Roy Dias of St. Peter's, Duleep Mendis of S. Thomas and Bandula Warnapura of Nalanda just to name a few blazed the turf.
This year school cricket has taken a backward step when first innings points seem to be the order of the day and schools play negatively from ball one. Test cricket and the preparation for it seems to occupy the minds of the players as the scenario has become debatable.
It is indeed good on the one hand that we concentrate on building cricketers for the future and that batsmen are encouraged to play long innings and gear themselves up for what is ahead. But on the other hand what is the future of cricket going to be, especially for spectators who as it is are dwindling in there droves?
Personally, I would not want to witness a school match where 100 odd overs are bowled for a day and not even 200 runs are scored. What a bore!
Cricket is indeed a lucrative vocation and it is indeed something innovative to try a new idea. Will it mean that we will be pushing for three day school cricket? It would also mean that the schoolboys who represent their schools in cricket who, as it stands, have limited time to study would find even less time to pay attention to their school work?
With the trend towards professional cricket, considering the handsome pay packet that some of our cricketers receive (some even receiving up to Rs. 3 lakhs a month), it would seem that playing cricket for one's country is perhaps the best career that one could pursue.
It is understood that the new system was introduced. It is yet to be seen what the ultimate result will be once the season is completed.
In the long run the better for test cricket. But for the eyes? No go.
Produced by Lake House