September 5, 2012

Sri Lanka Premier League

SLPL - a piece of a jigsaw puzzle

Damith Samarakoon
Uva's Sachithra Senanayake celebrates a wicket with Seekkuge Prasanna, Wayamba v Uva, SLPL, 1st semi-final, Colombo, August 28, 2012
The SLPL should be looked at as a part of a solution to heal the widening cracks in the domestic system  © Ron Gaunt/SPORTZPICS/SLPL
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As the rain swept away any chance of an intriguing finale for the first real crowd the SLPL had attracted, it rung true with the atmosphere that surrounded the whole event - a tournament that offered promise but stumbled across a few hurdles. The SLPL has had mixed reviews and split fan opinion down the middle. There are the fanboys of Sri Lanka cricket starved of their accessibility to domestic cricketers who would argue that it was the best thing since Microwave oven came out. Then there are the ones who didn't get it at all - no crowds, no real international stars - how does the SLPL even exist? Others wouldn't even have watched it.

It's strange to think that the SLPL's future will actually depend on everything that happens between each edition. Now that the first one is out of the way, the SLC and Somerset Entertainment Ventures have immediate business to attend to. There are many allegations of corruption, sex scandals, pay disputes that must be dealt with swiftly and assuredly. The SLC have mastered the art of burying their heads in the sand and ignoring all that is around them but if they genuinely care about the SLPL and its future then that is a policy they need to abandon.

Even more importantly, perhaps, is what happens to the infrastructure at a provincial level. The SLPL cannot masquerade as a provincial tournament if nearly all the players in the series are from Colombo. The board actually seems to understand this, based on a number of grants they have provided to improve the cricketing framework in the various provinces following the SLPL. They have also put in place plans to restructure the junior schools system and to conduct district and provincial tournaments at that level.

Change cannot come from without but from within - at the grassroots level. The hope is that these initiatives will organically grow the relationship to a province in a cricketing context. The provincial format might be an alien concept but it's not impossible to nurture its growth. The cricket that is played must be spread across the island, and while there are practical problems to this, the tournament would find it difficult to sustain itself if this doesn't happen.

It has been suggested that the provincial teams should try to introduce talent from their origins. But in reality, this is difficult, as competitive cricket levels outside of Colombo are simply not of the same standard. That's not meant to be slight, but it's a reality check, as the franchises will also be looking to put out the best possible team and not pick players to fill a quota.

Of course, such a system would be the ideal, but right now Sri Lankan cricket is far from being able to support it. The quality of international players that the SLPL attracts is also a major factor in its sustainability. While it was good to see the local players come to the fore this year, the harsh reality is that big names attract television viewers. And even if every Sri Lankan watches every single SLPL game, the market would just be too small to impress TV rights holders.

The next SLPL is wedged in around July, prior to South Africa's tour of Sri Lanka. At the same time, the Ashes are being played, and there are talks of a US T20 around the same timeframe. This highlights issues of player availability and inevitably losing players to bigger markets like the US T20, which will undoubtedly be offering more than what the SLPL does. Add to this the major issue of the BCCI refusing to send any India players over and you can start to understand why many of these leagues struggle to go the distance.

There are things that the SLC must be wary of as well. It's an easy trap to think of the SLPL as a silver bullet and have their focus solely on its success. The club cricket system is in a mess. The domestic system is no longer producing Test-quality cricketers. Haroon Lorgat, in his advisory capacity, has warned that Sri Lanka might not qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

These are the issues that truly matter for the future of Sri Lankan cricket. It's also the responsibility of the SLC to maintain and voice that the priority for domestic cricketers should be to strive to be part of the Test side. They need to guard against the mentality shift of a young player wanting an SLPL contract as opposed to putting in the long term work needed to be a proper cricketer. While the SLPL is a shiny new toy to play with, it must remain clear to the people in charge that it's only a part of the bigger picture.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Dilan on (September 8, 2012, 13:18 GMT)

SLPL should be changed in next time.Teams should be owned by local companies.Because BCCI didn't gave the indian players.and indians have named teams in indian names (rudras , dundee) It will be better if the can find a title sponsor from Sri Lanka other than Mahindra.

Posted by Mark2011 on (September 7, 2012, 18:25 GMT)

@Mayuranaratnam Selva; it is your wish...you ppl said same thing to BPL also.You think without Indians, BPL or SLPL will be in history.. that is in your dreams only..your comments only show your jealous about success of other tournaments. better check that how many Indian hate IPL?

some points that write makes need to be seriously taken care. actually the club level criket standard should be improved. Speciallt players should be directed to concentrate on achieving a status of test playing capacity, otherwise this may affect badly to future of SLC. becos everybody start thinking play T20 is all about criket which can harm being yougsters trying to make themselves as quality test players. the point made with regard to 2019 WC should be considered seriouly, if not we may well face problems by then.

Posted by Dave Smith on (September 7, 2012, 13:07 GMT)

What do you mean Damith no real starts? its was full of some West Indian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani players and its a shame none of our English players were over due to SA tour. Even with some curruption alligations its probably still less currupted than the IPL. As far as the tournament is concerned it filled its purpose and of course next year it will be bigger and better. All narrow minded BCCI supporters are jealous and they always will be as they know there fake hype is not going to last long. If we ever promote T20 cricket in the UK and pay what IPL pays - no one will ever turn up in Bengaluru and will be running to play at Lords - the home of cricket !

Posted by CricketPissek on (September 7, 2012, 8:42 GMT)

I think the SLPL has a lot going for itself. It should not be compared to the IPL for many reasons, money being the biggest. I wish it was called something other than Premier League to be honest, just to distance itself from the IPL even more. The draft system is much more dignified than the meat market style auction of the IPL. The tournament is too small to have games spread all across the country, so hopefully the provinces will instead take turns hosting each edition. If we can make it an annual event that lasts 5 years, each of the 9 provinces would have hosted an SLPL tournament by then which would be an amazing accomplishment for a country torn by war. High quality pitches, loyal fan bases, and talented cricketers from around the country with a handful of international stars can make this an amazing league for Sri Lanka

Posted by Chut Pata on (September 6, 2012, 18:37 GMT)

A case of mismanagement. Compare SLPL with IPL, a case of corruption.

Posted by Charith on (September 6, 2012, 16:41 GMT)

You can never sell a spin-off of something that is very "indian" in the minds of Sri Lankans, to the people of Sri Lanka. There should've been better marketing overall before launching any cricket league in Sri Lanka.

Posted by Shoaib on (September 6, 2012, 9:30 GMT)

The SLPL unlike the IPL will never have an issue of young cricketers preparing themselves to get an SLPL contract as oppose to doing the hard work to make it to the SL test team because contract slabs in the SLPL are pre-determined and which cricketer falls into which slab is also pre-determined by the board and therefore young and unproven talent will never have the easy way out of earning big bucks for themselves and forever be lost to Sri Lankan cricket (Tests & ODIs). In the SLPL structure the amount of money you make or in this case in which contract slab you get slotted in as far as the local boys are concerned will depend greatly on their standing in Sri Lankan cricket. In other words if you are top player for the Country you will get the biggest contract in the SLPL. Even Sri Lanka's two top Test batsmen of all time, (one of them the current number 1 Test batsman in the world) are only paid around US$ 30,000 per season which is a top end contract. This is a non-issue.

Posted by sajeewa on (September 6, 2012, 5:54 GMT)

Very bad article since whole his idea is just to criticize it. I would say SLPL was grate as far as Sri Lankan Cricket concern. at the start there can be weaknesses but you have to move forward. the important point is people try to compare with IPL. it is unfair to compare with IPL coz its bigger market event. no point searching quantity in SLPL rather quality of SLPL

Posted by Julian Perera on (September 6, 2012, 4:26 GMT)

Perhaps its worth mentioning that SLC should no longer come under the political *cough* corrupt *cough* umbrella of the sports ministry... and may be allow provincial cricketers to compete on a level playing field with the cricketers from the favoured clubs... Only then can uncle Sam not ring the selectors at the last moment and get his favourite son into the team...

Posted by Mayuranaratnam selva on (September 5, 2012, 19:02 GMT)

Without Indian (BCCI support) players , this league will be history soon. Its like a small street side store trying to compete with Walmart.

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