Commendable job by the Mega Show: School cricket heading in right direction - SLSCA President | Sunday Observer

Commendable job by the Mega Show: School cricket heading in right direction - SLSCA President

Oshara Panditharathna
Oshara Panditharathna

President of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) , Oshara Panditharathna, who is also the Principal of Dharmapala Vidyalaya, Pannipitiya, said the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has rendered a yeoman service from the days when there had not been an official inter-school Under-19 cricket tournament.

“We have commenced our own tournaments subsequently and an awards ceremony sponsored by Singer. But the Sunday Observer had begun to recognize the achievements of schoolboy cricketers some 40 years ago during an era where there had only been traditional friendly matches for first X1 cricketers.

It has been a commendable job by the Sunday Observer”, the school cricket chief said.

“We would like to see more awards ceremonies at present to reward schoolboy cricketers. Since your early initiative, there are a few more awards ceremonies for schoolboy cricketers. That is a positive sign because it’s those budding schoolboy cricketers who ultimately benefit from these

events. That’s a great inspiration for the outstanding schoolboy cricketers, something they could eagerly look forward to,” he said.

He complemented the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest for recognizing the contributions made by school coaches and masters in charge as well.

“They render a praiseworthy contribution behind the scenes, making immense sacrifices.

Even before we thought of appreciating their efforts, you’ll have come forward to appreciate their contributions,” added the SLSCA head.

He noted that the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest had produced some of the greatest Sri Lanka cricketers such as Ranjan Madugalle, Arjuna Ranatunga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya.

“It had been a great source of inspiration for all those cricketers and I am happy that the Sunday Observer continues to reward outstanding schoolboy cricketers for the past four decades,” he emphasised.

Panditharathna said the country’s school cricket is heading towards the right direction. “I don’t agree if somebody says that school cricket is not producing talented players enough to feed the national pool.

“If you take the recent past, national cricketers such as Akila Dhananjaya, Kusal Mendis, Dananjaya Silva, Niroshan Dickwella and the present captain Dinesh Chandimal are some of the top cricketers who have emerged from schools tournaments during the past decade,” he said.

But Panditharathna cautioned that it is not fair to compare present day school cricket with players such as Ranatunga, Madugalle, Muralitharan and Jayasuriya.

“They are exceptional players. Such players do not emerge all the time. Nevertheless, we have produced enough talent though schools tournaments to feed the national pool,” he pointed out.

However, the SLSCA chief was unhappy with the outcome of most inter-school games which had been one-sided affairs.

“Unlike in the past, most recent matches had produced results. It is not a good sign, considering the fact that we are targeting the established game – five-day Test matches. “Ending a two-day game by mid day on the second day does not sound well for the established game.

We have paid enough attention on these aspects while making a few necessary alterations to the set up without making big changes in the tournament structures,” he acknowledged.

The good news is that the SLSCA has embarked on an island-wide mission to unearth hidden talent in far-flung areas with the blessings of the Ministry of Education. “We want to spot talented schoolboys whom we could develop from schools which do not play cricket. We would identify such talent and bring them under district sports centres.

They could form combined district teams to play with other schools,” he said while adding the Ministry of Sports has approved in principle to open doors of national schools to the top players who emerge through this program.

“We would identify the most outstanding players from these combined teams and would admit them to popular national schools to sharpen their cricket careers.

But only the players from non cricket-playing schools will get this opportunity.

“We could unearth hidden talent through such programs, especially to spot fast bowlers,” he said.

Explaining the circumstances where several schoolboys in junior cricket had been called for throwing (chucking) the SLSCA President said it could be due to the weight of the ball and distance of the track when switching from Under 13/15 to Under 17/19.

“We have found that junior cricketers tend to throw the ball when switching age groups due to the weight of the ball and distance. In order to overcome it technically, we have now been instructed

by the experts to use balls of similar weight as in Under 13 and the 22-yard track for Under 15 level,” Panditharathna said.

Asked about the drop in spectator interest for school cricket, unlike the good old days, he said that is a trend experienced due to busy lifestyles of people and various other factors.

“Those days we had a good number of spectators not only for school matches but even for Test matches as well. Then, most spectators opted for One-Day Internationals, skipping Tests. Now, it has come to a stage where you don’t get a packed stadium for ODIs as most cricket fans now prefer only T20s,” he pointed out.

Panditharathna, who is also an Executive Committee member of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) paid a glowing tribute to its President Thilanga Sumathipala, the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament.

“SLC had carried heavy debts when he assumed office a couple of years ago and in such a short period he had not only bridged the deficit but has also transformed it to a profit-making sports body. SLC expects a huge boost in profits from the ongoing Nidahas Trophy tournament. SLC has benefited by his vision,” said Panditharathna.

He said SLC has helped them (SLSCA) in a big way both financially and logistically. “They have responded positively to our request of accommodating at least two under-19 players per squad and to play at least one of them in the final X1 in every match during the 2018 Sri Lanka Premier League.

When all ten teams accommodate at least a player each, it would be a huge boost for schoolboy cricketers who would gain enormous experience by playing alongside some of the top players in the world,” the SLSCA President said.

He revealed that the Sri Lanka Under-19 team will compete in a four-nation tournament to be played in Malaysia later next month. “We have confirmed participation in the quadrangular tournament which begins on April 21 in Malaysia.

Besides the hosts, South Africa and Bangladesh will compete in the tournament, along with Sri Lanka,” he said.