Sri Lankan cricket October 28, 2006

Domestic tournaments to become more professional

Sri Lanka Cricket's interim committee is making meaningful changes to the Premier domestic competition to improve quality and to make it more professional and competitive.

However, the 2006-07 season which was due to start on Wednesday (November 1) was delayed because of bad weather and all matches scheduled for that day were postponed. The tournament will now begin on November 4 subject to confirmation from the tournament committee when it meets on Tuesday. "We have looked at the practical side and, based on various factors, decided to postpone the matches fixed for November 1," said Basil Perera, the tournament committee chairman. "There is no point continuing with the matches knowing very well that the bad weather we had in the past few days has made it virtually impossible for any team to prepare itself and for the grounds to be fit for play."

Fourteen clubs will participate in the Premier limited-overs tournament and the three-day Premier league, which is scheduled to start on November 10. The league tournament this season is vital to all the clubs because the bottom four clubs face relegation to Tier B of the competition for the next season as SLC wants to cut down the number of clubs to ten in Tier A from the 2007-08 season.

To ensure there won't be any changes to the structure of the competition, as has been the practice in the past when different office-bearers take over the cricket administration, SLC are hoping to gazette the new format where Tiers A and B of the Premier tournament will feature not more than ten teams each. "We hope to get the format gazetted within the next two or three months," said K Mathivanan, the SLC secretary, at a press briefing held at SLC headquarters.

"By next season [2006-07] we are hoping to make the Premier fully professional so that there will be cricketers who will be making a livelihood out of cricket alone," he said. Mathivanan whose company East West Marketing has nearly fifty cricketers under their employment, explained that with the unstable economy in the country's private sector, establishments were increasingly reluctant to employ cricketers who are rarely at their workplaces.

"Times have changed when private sector companies employed cricketers for their cricketing ability alone. That is why we are trying to create a path for the cricketers to sustain them throughout the year," said Mathivanan. "The majority of them will play league cricket in England from April to September and then return to Sri Lanka for the domestic season. This way they will be playing cricket throughout the year like professionals."

A total of 105 cricketers from Sri Lanka are expected to play in the English leagues next season. Further the SLC has undertaken the task of improving the status of three campus grounds, Colombo, Kelaniya and Katubedde to enable Premier clubs without a home ground to practise and play their matches at nominal cost.

Badureliya SC, Chilaw Marians CC, Ragama CC and Saracens SC are the Premier clubs without a home ground. Mathivanan stated that the Kurunegala Welagedera Stadium and Badulla esplanade were already under the auspices of SLC after they had signed a 33-year lease with the respective municipal councils. He said steps are being taken to similarly bring De Soysa Stadium in Moratuwa also under the SLC so that it could be used exclusively for cricket.

The Premier limited-over tournament groups:

Group A: Bloomfield, BRC, CCC, Tamil Union, Sebastianites, Panadura SC, Ragama CC.

Group B: NCC, SSC, Chilaw Marians CC, Colts, Moors SC, Badureliya SC, Saracens SC.