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Inter-provinicial cricket set to become Sri Lanka's premier first-class tournament

SLC technical committee chairman Aravinda de Silva shares details of future plans

Clouds roll in over the Pallekele International Stadium, Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Test, Pallekele, 1st day, July 26, 2016

Provincial cricket has been sporadically attempted in Sri Lanka previously  •  AFP

Sri Lanka is looking to revive inter-provincial cricket in the latest attempt to create a more competitive first-class structure. Although exact details of the new competition have not been announced, chairman of SLC's technical committee Aravinda de Silva has hinted that the provincial system will become the premier multi-day competition in the country. The present club system will continue to exist with only minor alterations as well.
Provincial cricket has been sporadically attempted in Sri Lanka, but such competitions have largely been short in duration, and have done little to connect with a fan base from the provinces each team is supposed to represent. De Silva suggested the existing first-class clubs (of which there are now 26), may be required to band together in clusters to administer each of these provincial teams. This is an idea that had first been floated in 2015, by Mahela Jayawardene, before a change of leadership at SLC did away with the plan for a cluster system.
"We are trying to create another tier in domestic cricket through a provincial tournament," de Silva said. "What we want to do is make that a stronger four-day competition. In that provincial competition, we will have an "A" tier as well, which will give players opportunities to qualify for development squads. But the main provincial competition will be the feeder for the national team.
"We're trying to create a pathway from the bottom to the top by clustering clubs so that we develop players leaving the school system right to the highest level."
De Silva was adamant that although the existing club system may be trimmed down to three-day matches (at present, clubs play a mixture of three and four-day encounters), and although the number of club matches may be reduced to make way for the provincial tournament, the club system would continue to be an integral part of Sri Lanka's domestic structure. The club tournament also would not lose its first-class status.
"The clubs provide the infrastructure for players who are just out of school, because they get facilities, support and opportunities, to give these players a foundation. Without that foundation - if we get rid of the clubs - it's like we're shooting ourselves in the foot. The club system has been the foundation for us to develop our cricketers thus far. If we get rid of that system, it will be very difficult for us to bridge that gap. You need somewhere for the 3000-odd cricketers leaving the school system to continue playing."
SLC has made no official announcements on the exact nature of the new domestic structure yet. De Silva's technical committee working closely with Tom Moody - Sri Lanka's new director of cricket - to finalise tournament details.
The clubs, however, may need to be won over by these new proposals. They have typically been resistant to accept additional first-class competitions that threaten the club structure's status as the top domestic competition in the country.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf