Cat among the pigeons at school cricket | Sunday Observer

Cat among the pigeons at school cricket

Kalana Perera: Duck farm in  Mount Lavinia
Kalana Perera: Duck farm in Mount Lavinia

Experts are baffled by the sudden turn of events at school cricket where a shockingly unprecedented result took place when one of the most privileged institutions, S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia, shot out the less fancied St. Mary’s College, Kegalle for a mere six runs early this week.

The occasion could have been arguably fit for the Guinness Book of world records as only two runs came off the bat and the balance four runs by courtesy of “extra runs”.

“I am not sure whether to call this an expert piece of bowling to have ten batsmen out without making a run or a laughing stock where a group of boys were holding bats for the first time”, said one analyst.

In the match, S. Thomas’ College’s left arm fast bowler Kalana Perera, a promising Sri Lanka youth exponent, was like a cat among the pigeons as he captured eight wickets by conceding just one run in the second essay of St. Mary’s College creating another feat worthy of a place in the global record book.

Ironically, the result came at a time a Steering Committee or policy-making body for school cricket set up by the Education Ministry became dysfunctional in the aftermath of political change in the country.

Its members don’t find themselves in a position to discuss anything.

“I like to think that this is a one-off case in the process of development where a method was devised to have outstation (less privileged) schools play in the big league. Last year we had some schools playing as many as 24 matches and this year it has been reduced to15 matches”, said Carlton Bernadus who served in the Steering Committee.

Retired Sri Lanka players Sidat Wettimuny, Mahela Jayawardena, Roshan Mahanama, Muttiah Muralideran and Roger Wijesuriya were also members of the Committee.

Bernadus is credited with being one of the architects who paved the way for the rise of cricket in Bangladesh serving as the Under-19 Game Development deputy manager for 10 years from the year 2000.

School cricket in Sri Lanka like the senior national set up can also be embroiled in political affiliations that may have prevented a much sought after permanent remedy.

The status of St Mary’s College Kegalle playing against a heavyweight school like S. Thomas’ College was the result of a promotion the school gained through a performance in 2016 that have them among 36 teams playing in four groups in the top league this season.

But the school was minus several of their better players who left at the end of the 2017 season which marks a common syndrome for several teams that qualify and then perform without their best players in the following year.

It is also a common feature that most outstation schools that play on matting pitches can find themselves all at sea when playing on professional turf pitches as did the Kegalle Marians at Mount Lavinia.

Nevertheless the result is also likely to open a further debate on the right formula for school cricket which is run by the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association while most coaches claim the situation cannot get any worse.

“Generally the standard of school cricket has dropped. There are so many matches being played now that players just cannot prepare for matches as they sometimes play two games in a week”, said veteran youth coach Ranjan Paranavithana.

“In the past there was quality because teams played less matches and had enough time to practice, overcome their shortcomings and adjust ahead of a match that puts them in the right frame of mind”.