Avishka, Sammu waiting in vain


In this file picture Sammu Ashan leaves the ground after scoring 167 runs in 103 balls for Ananda in the Under-19 final at the P. Sara Oval in April. Sammu scored 170 runs in Ananda’s victory against Thurstan in the Under-17 quarter-final at R. Premadasa Stadium on Thursday.

by Reemus Fernando

The just concluded pre-quarter-finals and quarter-finals of the Inter School Under-17 Division I cricket tournament featured at least two batsmen who have shown maturity above their age. Having already represented Sri Lanka Under-19s, what business does Ananda College all-rounder Sammu Ashan and St. Sebastian’s College batsman Avishka Fernando have to do in an Under-17 tournament? Both batsmen amassed huge scores against either their pre-quarter final or quarter-final counterparts. For the beginners Sammu scored 170 runs in Ananda’s total of 300 runs against Thurstan (who managed just 171 runs) in the quarter-final. Avishka cracked 170 runs against De Mazenod College in the pre-quarter final.

Avishka has been playing First XI cricket while he was still playing in the Under-13 team of St. Sebastian’s and Sammu has been a part of the First XI team of Ananda for sometime now. It was just a few months back that Sammu hammered 167 runs in 103 balls in the Under-19 cricket final to guide Ananda almost close to victory. Avishka proved that he was a cut above his colleagues in the Under-17 age category in the year 2014 when he maintained a Bradmanesque average until the semi-finals.

Their predicament is similar to a student who passes A/Ls with flying colours being asked to remain in grade 12 until there is a vacancy in the university. Where can they fit in if the Under-17 and Under-19 age categories are too low for their calibre.

There is an ongoing Emerging Squad and a Development Squad apart from Sri Lanka ‘A’ teams but none of these include Sri Lanka Under-19 players. When most of the Under-19 players of other countries have first-class cricket experience under their belt when they compete in Youth Internationals Sri Lanka’s Under-19 players have neither first class experience nor quality club cricket experience. Sri Lanka has failed at the ICC Youth World Cups on a numerous occasions now but their problems had been hardly addressed.

There are schools which do not permit their students to join premier clubs, even if the clubs are interested in recruiting them, until they leave school. Even officials of some school see the need, they would like to have those mature cricketers playing in their junior teams to win championship titles.

Why cannot the Sri Lanka cricket selectors find a remedy by including Under-19 players in Development Squads and Emerging Squads.

A few Sri Lanka Under-19s got the opportunity to play against Afghanistan when they toured here but none were involved in the Development or Emerging squads where they faced tough opposition.

Many a talented cricketers had spent years stagnating in lower age group competitions until their true capabilities were recognized by selectors.


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