Rex Clementine, in Island, 7 January 2018, with title “Domestic cricket set for complete overhaul”
Following the national cricket team’s disastrous showing in 2017 across all formats of the game, Sri Lanka Cricket has been under the pump for messing with the domestic cricket structure. SLC’s decision to increase the number of First Class teams from 14 to 24 had drawn much criticism forcing the Sports Ministry to intervene. It resulted in a high profile committee put in place to restructure domestic cricket and the committee has now forwarded its recommendations to the Ministry.
The committee headed by leading businessman and former SLC Chairman Hemaka Amarasuriya included four former captains in Anura Tennekoon, Aravinda de Silva, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Ruwan Keragala was the Secretary of the committee.
The key factor in the recommendations is an Inter-Provincial tournament comprising six teams and the performances of this particular tournament will be the sole criterion for national selections. This competition will be on top of the Inter-Club tournament.
Since SLC has already mooted an Inter-Provincial tournament, this year, we will see just four teams competing in the highest form of domestic cricket and by next season it will be increased to six teams.
In order to form the Provincial teams, clubs will be allocated provinces. With a majority of leading cricket clubs in the Western Province, in a bid to balance the teams, you will find some Colombo based teams allocated to other provinces.
One of the key recommendations is to form a team from North and East. Some clubs will be assigned to this particular Provincial team with attention being paid to encourage home grown talent and improve the infrastructure in the area.
The First Class Provincial matches will be of four days duration while there will be also one-day and T-20 cricket on a home and away basis with the top two teams playing the finals. However, due to practical reasons, once the six teams come into the equation, the format will change due to time constraints and instead of home and away basis, one team will play the other five teams once.
The Provincial Tournament will take place after the Inter-Club tournament and it has been recommended to retain the current system where 24 teams enjoy First Class status. The teams will be divided into groups and those 16 teams that fail to qualify for the quarter-finals will be relegated for the Plate Competition.
There seems to be some opposition for retaining 24 teams instead of drastic reduction, but the counter argument is that the quality will not be compromised as the Provincial tournament will supersede all else when it comes to national selection.
The Provincial First Class tournament that was introduced a decade ago comprising five teams was hailed by the players due to the competitive nature. However, the tournament was abandoned a few years later due to various factors. When it was done away with, there was a promise to limit the number of clubs in a bid to make domestic cricket more competitive, but often the teams that were relegated managed to remain in the top tier pointing out lame excuses and successive SLC administrations failed to address the issue.