A. C. M Lafir reveals the dark side of domestic cricket

Former All Ceylon cricketer A. C. M Lafir called on the governing body for cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) to take drastic measures to halt the country’s Premier Division 1 cricket tournament from plummeting to a imminent death.

Lafir in an exclusive interview with ‘The Island’ said the Premier Super League matches have continued to plunge from one disaster to another and with three day fixtures ending in two days and two day game’s finishing in a day. He added that the immediate outlook for the Premier tournament is not rosy.

"You see the standards have been going down rapidly.

I have been officiating in a number of Premier Division 1 matches as match referee and most of these games ended in a farcical manner with sub standard fare dished out for the spectators" he said.

" If the cricket board is not going to look into how these matches ended and take some urgent measures to halt the present trend Sri Lanka’s major domestic tournament could go into oblivion".

He said what was most alarming was the fact that even matches which involved some of the country’s top notch club’s as Bloomfield, SSC, BRC, NCC, CCC, Colts CC and Moors SC failed to last the distance diminishing the glamour of the entire tournament.

Lafir who represented Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, as an opening batsman, was of the opinion that for the amount of money incurred by the BCCSL they have not got the due rewards with the present plight faced by most clubs and the worsening situation in the Premier tournament.

"The absence of the national players has not contributed to this present crisis.

True if they had participated the tournament could have got the much needed sparks but the attitudes of certain players regarding this tournament leaves much to be desired " said Lafir.

The former Katugastota St. Anthony’s College cricket star noted that the blame for the Premier tournament failing to catch the imagination of the public here must be placed fairly and squarely on the doorstep of the cricket board.

He wondered whether there was any cricketer who had truly taken the Premier Super League by storm through sensational performances throughout the season and in that perspective the interest shown by the cricketers themselves had fallen to a large extent.

A. C. M. Lafir who was known for his record breaking batting in the domestic circuit for the now defunct club Saracens and Ceylon let alone for his exploits with the willow for his alma-mater lamented the lack of quality players produced by the country’s leading cricket championship.

"Tell me the exact number of centurions in this year’s Premier League.

Has there been any outstanding cricketers coming through?

In the days gone by the Sara Trophy tournament was lit up with impressive performances by players right throughout the season instead of the odd player or two which is the case nowadays" he noted.

He told "The Island’ the players themselves have to carry a fare share of the blame for the plight of the division 1 tournament as hardly anyone tends to indulge in physical training and other related work which are necessary for any cricketer aspiring to play international cricket.

" Today’s cricketer is one who is not willing to put in the extra hard yards as it were " he explained.

Lafir also pointed out the attempt to popularise indoor cricket instead of looking to iron out the numerous deficiencies attached to the major domestic championship was nothing but ludicrous on the part of the administrators here.

The former outstanding cricketer said money was the root cause of the present ills afflicting the local tournaments and unless the board intervenes to strike a right balance in the distribution of finances to clubs it would be all gloom and doom for Sri Lanka’s so-called Premier tournament.

Lafir pointed out that the state of the pitches in the country’s main venues were also to be blamed for the non production of exceptional players to the national side and that it was time for the curators to address this matter with the concurrence of the BCCSL if cricket is to be saved from total extinction.

Asked for his views on the composition of Sri Lanka’s World Cup squad A. C. M. Lafir observed that as long as the national selector’s continue to show a lukewarm attitude to deserving cricketers and by the same token show favouritism to certain others the performances of the national team will continue to nose-dive in the eyes of the world.

Lafir asked what measures would the national selectors and the board take once the country’s pace spearhead Chaminda Vaas were to call it a day from International cricket?

"Just look at the production line of quick bowlers in Sri Lanka.

Do we have any quality fast bowlers who could just walk into the national team and replace left armer Vaas one day?" questioned the former All Ceylon right handed opener.

"Our bowling cupboard is simply bear and we as Sri Lankans should be really ashamed to say this.

This same plight has befallen the spin department in the country.

What future does Sri Lanka have beyond Muttaih Muralitheran?

Are we to rely on him for ever?

The art of leg spin bowling has almost become a non existent lexicon to the local cricket dictionary and our inability to groom a budding leg break bowler to hit the world scene is nothing but a crying shame and egg on the face of the authorities governing the sport in this neck of the woods"

Turning his focus into the aspect of fielding Lafir found the Lankans wanting in their athleticism on the field and wondered what the coach (Dav Whatmore) had done with his charges during his four year tenure with the national team.

"Look apart from the head coach, there is the cricket advisor, the manager on tour, an official from the selection committee in this entire entourage.

But what impact have they made on the players when it comes to fielding.

Sri Lanka have really become the laughing stock in the eyes of the world thanks to their lackadaisical effort on the field not forgetting the handsome contributions made to that extent by wicket keeper Kumar Sangakkara".

He mentioned that most of the national players have taken their places in the team for granted and that they feel indispensable even if they no longer produce the goods when the occasion demands.

Turning his attention back to the domestic sphere Lafir, who was a household name in the popular Gopalan Trophy series against India a few decades ago, said another glaring trend which has hampered the division one tournament was the indiscipline among the players which the umpires have failed to arrest.

"The player indiscipline is starting to erupt once again.

Today the umpires are virtually at the mercy of the players and they have clearly failed to exercise their authority in certain matches" he said.

The players have gained the upperhand to such an extent that certain umpires fear for their jobs that when pressurised by the players to the hilt they tend to give unconvincing decisions.

This trend has to be nipped in the bud before long if a good relationship between the umpires and players are to be maintained which could augur well for the future".

There have also been instances where the umpires have been manhandled by players and even the coaches have joined in the act hotly disputing certain decisions when they go against their teams.

I can vouch for these incidents having officiated as match referee".

He called on the disciplinary committee of the BCCSL to carry out punishments by way of suspensions and bans without any disparity in each case or otherwise the issue of player indiscipline is likely to further degenerate into an all out war.

Lafir who at one time played alongside the likes of Vernon Prins, Stanley Jayasinghe, Clive Inman, Michael Tissera, Abu Fuard, Daya Sahabandu, Neil Chanmugam, P. Ian Peiris, Anuruddha Polonnovita, Tikiri Banda Kehelgamuwa and Sunny Yatawara to name a few for All Ceylon criticised the BCCSL for failing to put much emphasis on the reports compiled by the match referees and asked what benefit could the board hope to gain if they were to simply put the match reports under the files and stay dormant on it.

"The BCCSL should take an interest to read what the match referees refer to in their reports " said Lafir. (JK)