Treading the road to Damascus suggests
SLC has stumbled on a solution…
Aravinda an ideal choice as National Director of Cricket

The Chesterfield Files

Headlines do not always tell the whole story. Not even a glimpse.

They are just a teaser, Yahaluweni which either entices you read the article, or skip to something more eye-catching.

This is why, the bald headline about the success of the Sri Lanka Under-19 tour of Australia elicited more than a glance and the follow up added extra interest, which led to some delving into the subject of the tour and other factors surrounding the game at this age level and the more senior structures in the country.

The one thing about this tour that has emerged is how Aravinda de Silva presided over selection to ensure that only the best performing players were selected and the result – well, it is now history. It will come as no coincidence that Aravinda was also a major Influence during the 1996 World Cup process and that result is also now consigned to history.

It seems though, that some at Sri Lanka Cricket have had a Damascene experience, as did St. Paul, who was converted on the road to Damascus. The Sri Lanka Under-19 tour to Australia, under the stewardship of Aravinda de Silva, has produced startling results - a first series win by a Sri Lankan National touring side to Australia.

Now, if we are to take this series at face value, we could say that Sri Lanka has indeed made progress on the international scene. Digging deeper, you will find a more revealing fact: for the first time since the 1996 World Cup final, Sri Lanka selected a side (or squad if you prefer), on performance, rather than Influence.

What this shows is how finally, the ineffectual and at times errant and corrupt selection process has been exposed.

The one thing about this tour that has emerged is how Aravinda de Silva presided over selection to ensure that only the best performing players were selected and the result – well, it is now history. It will come as no coincidence that Aravinda was also a major Influence during the 1996 World Cup process and that result is also now consigned to history.

It also suggests a certain vindication of the policy of the Interim Committee chairman, Somachandra de Silva, with his decision to give Aravinda the responsibility of heading the selection policy for this tour and is reflected in the results.

Now, what about going a little further? Why can’t Aravinda be given the same portfolio regarding the National team? You can be sure that the results will again be as startling as it would be positive.

In other words, Aravinda de Silva should be made Director of Cricket at SLC, reporting directly to the IC chairman, who after all is a former Test player and understands the same language as it were and have this position without interference of any busybody office bearer or scheming politician.

In such a role, he would hand pick the coaching and management staff. That is national coach, his assistant, the senior, A team and Under-19 coaches and operations managers, coaching manager, selection panels and it should be suggested, that in his role of director of cricket at SLC, be convener of all selection committees, giving him the right to hire and fire as he see’s fit in the best interests of the game.

It is not a case of building sandcastles, but creating a solid foundation. The results could be quite startling as well as positive, in that instead of minting coins to celebrate coming second as we did at the last World Cup, the side might actually celebrate another win and display a new trophy.

Oh, yes. Here the big ‘J’ word raises its ugly, malevolent head. There are those so jealous of the man’s brilliant success, not only as a batsman, but also when he was vice-chairman of the board, that he acted in the best interests of the game and moved it forward. This was in the days when clubs were able to elect those holding office.

Of course, every week there are rumors of how plans for club elections are looming. In fact, this has much foundation as a sandcastle washed away by a tsunami. This is why Sri Lanka, if they are to move forward as a competitive cricket nation, needs someone such as Aravinda in charge to run affairs and appoint those who cannot be corrupted to positions without fear or favour.

Sri Lanka has the talent to be number one, but the ineffectual, errant and corrupt selection process has held Sri Lanka back.

Please don’t think the blame lies only with the selectors. The senior players, have over the last decade, a lot to answer for. This includes captains. The current trend to select unusual players and perceived young guns, has failed Sri Lanka.

If you reflect on recent results of when the side has been playing abroad, it is the experienced players who will always win you major tournaments, not your unusual players or young guns brought in as an experiment. Good performances here at home are so often offset by the poor results when playing elsewhere.

It is hoped that Somachandra de Silva, as chairman of the Interim Committee, will now move SLC in this new direction and the results will look after themselves.

We have heard captain after captain waxing lyrical about the new talent around and we have heard all the excuses to follow the poor showings. Why not adopt a new approach? Everyone might be surprised by the result.

This, however, is also accompanied by a warning. The biggest problem will come from the influential group of senior players, who will have to compete with the rest for a regular place. But performances will improve immensely and the results, well, we only have to look at what the Under-19s have achieved.

Despite their 3-2 success, because of the time of year and climate, it was not achieved in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth, but in Darwin, where conditions are not too unlike some you might find in the island. Also, the International Cricket Council’s Youth World Cup is not going to be played in Darwin but New Zealand, where in February, the pitches are usually a tad green and seam around.

The need here, as Aravinda has so often said, is until Sri Lanka can replicate such pitches, there will always be a problem with batsmen adapting to conditions.

The ICC moved the event from Kenya, where facilities, frankly, are not up to the level needed to stage such a tournament, to New Zealand. This suggests that the success of the Under-19 side will only be reflected when the ICC event is held.

Interestingly, South Africa have already reacted to their dismal Champions Trophy showing by dropping Herschelle Gibbs and the ever-energetic Makhaya Ntini form their ODI squad for the early part of the England tour and selecting those who deserve a chance. As Mike Procter, now convener of South African selectors said, he and his fellow selectors have run out of patience with Gibbs while Ntini is no longer seen as an effective ODI option with South Africa facing a series against Zimbabwe and later next month, England.

It is hard to imagine the Sri Lanka selectors making such explanations when reasons are given for dropping players or selecting others who continually make minor contributions. This is why Aravinda is needed to fill the role as Director of Cricket. He will give straightforward answers to questions.

Likewise, no one has responded from Wayamba about comments made about the team’s abject failure in the T20 Champions League in India, which even without one of their three sides in the top four, was not of national interest. It was seen as a Lalit Modi run exercise, gaudy, brash and trashy, as bad as you would expect from the dysfunctional rugby system in this country, run as it is by what appears to be an increasingly malfunctioning interim committee.

Anyway, it needed a non-Indian side, in this case a country, Trinidad and not, as pointed out last week provincial or state team, to rescue the tournament from disappearing without trace. The pity is that Daren Ganga’s side may have misplaced their exuberance when it mattered most in the final and lost to the clinical and highly disciplined Australians, but the Caribbean nation in the sun rescued the event from being a total flop for Modi and his cronies.

What is perhaps a phenomenon, or a new form of global warming if you wish with a weird change in seasons, is where like actors, players are doing a quick switch of costumes between scenes as the ODI road show goes on.

During the CLT20, Ricky Ponting gave his first media conference in Mumbai and commented on how Australia might perform in India in the seven match series that began yesterday. This was while the curtain was about to be rung down on the Modi-run event.

Already, there is serious debris fallout with not one of the three multi-million dollar run Indian franchises making the last four. Yet, Modi and his BCCI cronies were warned well before this particular brand of T20 was sold to the public how the three IPL sides would falter in their efforts to reach the last four. They shrugged it off as ‘wishful thinking’ is one suggested comment put out when it was made.

What it does show is how flawed the grandiose IPL system is and just how effective is the Sri Lanka provincial franchise. On the showing of Wayamba, a serious rethink is needed. The provincial system should be run to accommodate first-class, 50/50 as well as T20, not just T20.

email: lbwbambrose@gmail.com

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