Rs.100 million pumped in for schoolboy cricket | Sunday Observer

Rs.100 million pumped in for schoolboy cricket

13 May, 2018
Dilshan de Silva
Dilshan de Silva

Secretary of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA), Dilshan de Silva stressed the need to make a collective effort to develop school cricket and produce quality players to feed the national team in future.

“Although we belong to the Ministry of Education, our hearts are with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). Hence, a collective effort is needed to take school cricket to a higher level,” he said.

“The SLSCA, SLC and the Ministry of Education must draw a joint development plan with a year planner. It should not merely be the volume or the quantity of cricket that we play but the quality of cricket that is dished out,” he said.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer, the veteran school cricket official said the Ministry of Education has allocated a staggering sum of Rs. 100 million to develop school cricket.

“The Education Ministry, under the directions of Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, has drawn a two-year plan which is being implemented by a special committee headed by Jayantha Seneviratne.

The committee includes former national players Muttiah Muralitharan, Roshan Mahanama, Mahela Jayawardene, Sidat Wettimuny and Kumar Sangakkara,” he said.

The massive development plan drawn by the expert committee includes uplifting three grounds at Colleges of Education for teachers. “We could develop those infrastructure facilities to provide quality grounds. The program would also see the establishment of a high performance training centre and the supply of cricket balls needed for competition,” de Silva added.

Over the years, de Silva has been a live-wire behind the SLSCA’s efforts to promote school cricket. Having played competitive cricket and also served as a reputed cricket umpire, de Silva doesn’t need any introduction.. He has served the SLSCA for the last two decades in different capacities and five years as an official of the umpires’ body.

Having served as the Secretary of the SLSCA before, de Silva returned to his previous post when he was elected at the recent annual general meeting of the SLSCA.

In fact, he has been an ardent supporter of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest for many years, serving in its selection committee, together with fellow officials of the SLSCA and the Sri Lanka Cricket Umpires’ Association.

He paid a special tribute to the Sunday Observer for inspiring schoolboy cricketers for four decades since 1979. “This is the first school cricket awards show in Sri Lanka and schoolboy cricketers eagerly look forward to this recognition,” he said.

“Almost all past winners have done well after their school careers, finding places in the national team. I have been to this event, initially as a player and also as an official of the SLSCA and umpires association,” de Silva said.

The presence of de Silva has been a blessing for the SLSCA , sharing his first hand experience as a player as well as an umpire. De Silva, who had served as a junior cricket selector for six years until 2016, is unhappy that the practice of including two SLSCA officials in the junior selection committee has now been abandoned.

He stressed the need to invest on school cricket, if the country is to strengthen its national team. “It is an investment for the future. I am not saying that the SLC is not doing anything. They are making a reasonable effort. But that is not good enough; they could play a greater role in supporting the SLSCA to implement our goals”, de Silva added.

Asked whether T20 cricket would kill natural talents of young players at school level, de Silva said such version of cricket too should be there.

“We need to find talented players for all three versions of the game. They have different openings. But the SLSCA should limit the period spent on T20 for less than a week and concentrate more on the established game,” he said. He disagreed with the general opinion that there is too much of school cricket at present. “The SLSCA has reduced the number of Under-19 league tournament matches to 13.

But most schools play five or six additional matches to honour their customary friendly games,” said de Silva who had served as the SLSCA Secretary for almost eight years – in 2007/2008 and again from 2012 to 2015.

“Although the SLC play major tournament matches in the provinces to promote the game across the country, we still don’t have a structure that would offer employment to those cricketers in those provinces itself. They are compelled to come to Colombo to seek employment. There is a need to have a better program for youngsters once they leave school, especially between the ages of 19 to 24,” Dd Silva pointed out.

He said school cricket is not staved of talent although it has failed to produce star players who could step into the national team straightaway after their school careers.

“We have not seen the emergence of star players as we had witnessed in the past. But that does not mean we lack talent. All what we need is better commitment from the players,” he said.

The SLSCA Secretary said that most present day schoolboy cricketers appear to be selfish and focus on individual glory. “We lack team efforts as some play for personal glory and milestones. Such players are unable to remain in the game,” he said.

De Silva said natural quick bowlers in school cricket do not get the ideal wickets they need to sharpen their skills. “We see more and more dry wickets with hardly any grass on them. Those wickets are good for spinners. We need quality wickets too, if we are to make the best use of talented pace bowlers in school cricket,” de Silva concluded.

Meanwhile, voting for the most popular segments of the 40th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest continues under three divisions. Voting for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contests could be made through voting coupons which continue to appear in the Daily News, Sunday Observer, Dinamina and Thinakaran.

SLT Mobitel, the national mobile service provider, provides that ‘smart connection’ to the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest.

Its Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera , under the directions of the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel P.G. Kumarasingha, has been a tower of strength behind the successful story of the Mega Show, especially during the past decade.

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year continues to enjoy the longstanding association of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) and the Sri Lanka Cricket Umpires Association under the blessings of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), headed by Thilanga Sumathipala.

All arrangements have been finalized to host the 40th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year mega awards ceremony shortly. This will be the 11th consecutive year that SLT Mobitel will be sponsoring the Mega Show.