Sri Lankan news March 15, 2009

De Silva outlines plans to boost SL cricket

The chairman of the new seven-member interim committee to run Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), former legspinner Somachandra De Silva, has outlined his plan for the next two years. De Silva pinpointed the ICC World Twenty20, the Under-19 World Cup in 2010, and the 2011 World Cup as targets for Sri Lanka and said that he will give the country's players full support.

"I am prepared to give the national cricketers everything they require to win these tournaments. I want them to be mentally and physically prepared for the challenge and I want them to be in a happy frame of mind," he said. "The other areas my committee and I will concentrate on are negotiating for more cricket tours for the senior, A and junior teams, improving the standards of coaching and umpiring and promoting the provincial and club tournaments."

De Silva, 66, who held the post of schools cricket development officer at SLC, was also the cricket advisor to the country's president, Mahindra Rajapakse. He said he was given the task of resurrecting Sri Lanka cricket by Rajapakse because of the faith, trust and confidence the president had in him.

"The president saw what I could do in the one year I functioned as schools development officer and as his adviser at SLC, where I have in a most professional and systematic manner helped develop virtually every cricket playing school in the country," said De Silva. De Silva also said he had visited all the provinces encompassing around 415 schools and helped them with cricket equipment and pitches and in some cases, enabled certain schools to revive cricket which they had been forced to give up due to the lack of facilities and material.

"In order to promote cricket at U-13, 15, 17 and 19 levels for the first time in the history of schools cricket I brought a rule that every school should have a qualified cricket coach," he said. "I also appointed qualified Level 1 coaches for every province and a national junior selection committee headed by Sunil Wickremanayake where each of the five selectors are from different provinces along with two school representatives."

De Silva, who played 12 Tests and 41 ODIs and coached the junior national team, said he intended to develop one cricket ground in every district which could be utilised by the schools in the district. He said that he was able to start a cricket development fund which could be utilised for this purpose and presently there was a sum of Rs 8 million (US$ 69,795) collected largely through merchandising Sri Lanka's 1996 World Cup-winning souvenirs at the annual cricket festival held in England.

"We are also looking at starting work by the end of the month on the Hambantota international cricket stadium which we hope to complete by June-July 2010 so that a 2011 World Cup semi-final could be hosted there," said De Silva.

Under his tenure of coach of the U-19 side, Sri Lanka reached the final of the 1999 World Cup. From that squad the likes of Jehan Mubarak, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Kaushalya Weeraratne and Prabath Nissanka went onto play for the senior side. De Silva also coached the 2004 side, from which players like Farveez Maharoof, Upul Tharanga and Thilina Kandamby emerged.

"The president has put me in the hot seat as interim committee chairman but with my wealth of experience and the committee that has been given to me I am confident of lifting Sri Lankan cricket to its former pristine glory," said De Silva.