Inter-Provincial tournament: some drawbacks

Amidst certain protests about selections to teams and the unavailability of national team players for the four day tournament, the Inter-Provincial tournament has given us some exciting games so far. With the cream of Sri Lankan cricketers available for the competition, what it has done is to raise the competitive nature of the tournament and the selectors have indicated to base their selection for the series that lie ahead from these competitions.

By yesterday (Saturday), all teams have played three games each with Kandurata, captained by Kumar Sangakkara, maintaining an unbeaten run while Ruhuna, Wayamba and Basnahira South have all won two games each. SLC Combined XI, that consists mostly of Under-23 cricketers and Basnahira North are yet to win a game.

SLC Combined XI in fact have been disappointing. All their games have been one-sided and when the board has spoken so much to raise the level of competition, such one-sided games are not the ideal advertisement.

The tournament has got a boost as well through the sponsorship of Bank of Ceylon.

We would here like to point out a few drawbacks of the tournament which would hopefully provide the authorities some tips when the tournament is conducted again.

Why should we have a Provincial Tournament when we have a tried and tested inter-club competition that has run for well over 50 years is a big question?

The authorities are of the view that due to vast number of clubs in the inter-club tournament, the level of competition is not so high and hence the gap between domestic cricket and the next level, international cricket, is so wide.

But, is the Provincial tournament the answer for this? Former Test cricketer and respected administrator Sidat Wettimuny once tried to introduce a system where less than ten clubs will compete in the top tier of the domestic tournament. The participants agreed for the format and thought it was great concept, but after the competition when it came to relegation time they went complaining to the Minister of Sports and got the system overruled and Wettimuny removed.

So hence the Provincial Tournament is partially a result of political intervention.

The other point that we would like to raise is that if high level of competition is what the administrators want, restrict the tournament for provinces alone taking out the SLC Combined XI. Inter-Club tournaments such as the under-23 tournament and Premier tournament are there for ‘freshers’. The presence of SLC Combined XI has in fact given the stronger teams some ‘practice matches’.

SLC, however, has been prudent to restrict the four day tournament to the provinces alone and hence the SLC Combined XI will compete only in the one-day tournament and the T-20 tournament.

Selections attracts criticism

Selections for these teams have been highly criticized at some corners. Questions have been asked as to what were the criteria for these selections? Were they based on 2009-2010 inter-club season? Were they based on age? Were they based on players who have got contracts with SLC irrespective of their indifferent form in the domestic tournament?

The selectors have supposed to have said that they have chosen players thinking that they still have a chance to represent Sri Lanka. Has someone like Ruchira Perera still got a chance to represent Sri Lanka?

These are some questions the selectors need to answer.

Another issue is, selecting the same set of players for T-20, One-Day and four day tournaments. It would have been better, had separate squads been named for the three formats of the game. For example, someone like Michael Van Dort and Thilan Samaraweera would have been better suited for four day games rather than T-20s.

In the same manner, someone like Chinthaka Jayasinghe would have been ideal for the T-20 competition rather than the four day tournament while Dilruwan Perera is more suited for one-day cricket.

In denying a player like Sajith Fernando a slot in the Provincial Squads, the selectors have indicated his age as a factor to be not selected. But, the tournament has other players who are past the age of 36. Indika de Seram, Jeevantha Kulatunga and Chaminda Vaas are some examples. Sanath Jayasuriya in fact is 41 and it’s the same set of selectors who think that he’s good enough to still play international cricket.

Along with Fernando, Saman Jayantha, Bathiya Perera and Nimesh Perera are some of the players to be ignored. These players in fact did have a good inter-club competition and if what the selectors want is a competitive tournament they should have been considered. Fernando in fact captained Tamil Union, who went onto win the domestic one-day competition.

Of course there are some players who don’t deserve selections. Sujeeva Silva for example picked up just three wickets for his club CCC last season and his selection has attracted much criticism.

The way the players were picked for each Province also became a laughing stock. Muttiah Muralitharan and Suraj Randiv are the two best off-spinners in the country at the moment. When that’s the case, the selectors in their prudence picked both players for Kandurata. Randiv in fact hails from down south and could have well fitted into the Ruhuna side.

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