By Anjana Kaluarachchi
Sri Lanka cricketing great Kumar Sangakkara has called for a total revamp of the domestic cricket structure if Sri Lanka is to achieve success in the long term at the highest level without fading away when the greats of the game retire.
The Sri Lankan team is presently going through a period of turmoil as they were whitewashed both in the Tests and ODIs in South Africa, before facing an embarrassing Test defeat from the youngest Test playing nation Bangladesh recently, who are also leading the ongoing ODI series 1-0, with Sri Lanka facing the prospect of a series defeat if Bangladesh wins today’s game.
Sangakkara speaking at the Change Forum hosted by Dialog Axiata on Thursday said that cricket isn’t a sport to be played by everyone at the highest level. It is a sport which should be played by the best of the best. “We have structural issues with our first class cricket that does not allow us to funnel the best of the best through, because, let’s face it cricket is not a game everyone can play. There are 11 and they have to be the best XI. Cricket at a national or international level is not about giving an opportunity to everyone.
It is giving an opportunity to the best and continuously to the best. If you’re not good enough I’m sorry you are not going to play.
You can be a great guy, a fantastic personality, yes wonderful all of that, but unfortunately you can’t play. You have to be competent, skilled and have that utmost skill and able to sustain that skill level over long periods of time.”
“And unfortunately through our first class structure we don’t get that. And that is one of the main reasons if we take Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, to a large extent there’s a huge churn rate of players who come and go in the age group 17-22. Players come, players go. We have so many players that come through this revolving door of selection that it’s scary, whereas if we get the more established side that have had those structural changes made, which includes India now, selection is consistent because they continuously have an underpinning structure that funnels the best of the best through,” said Sangakkara replying to a query regarding the current status of Sri Lanka Cricket at the forum.
The former skipper further said that Sri Lanka has too many players in the team, which isn’t good for the country or to players themselves.
“You can’t really have 44 players playing cricket in a year’s time in a one-day team where only 11 play at a time. So they churned out four teams, which is unfortunate. Lot of people don’t, if they are not emotionally mature and mentally skilled enough, really thrive in an environment where everything is uncertain, where there’s insecurity and you are continuously looking either over your shoulder or above your head waiting for that sword to fall.
And I think that’s something that we have to change.” Sangakkara went on to say that talent and potential is something everyone has to some degree but it’s performance that matters.
“Talent and potential is something I think everybody has. If you take a guy off the street he has talent to some degree and potential to a larger degree.
The real key is to have an environment where whether it’s a corporate or cricket administration where that talent and potential is turned into ability and actual tangible performance. Without that it’s really an abstract; you don’t know what is really his talent, what is his potential. How do you measure that? You really can’t without performance.”
“One of the main things that the current Sri Lankan team really needs is security and confidence; the ability to be different. The ability to be able to train in an excellent environment; to continuously challenge themselves in training so that they are prepared for whatever challenge is presented to them on the field. But also to have some sort of continuity,” said Sangakkara.
He further said giving time is important to the current young SL team and also winning is important to lay long-term plans, which won’t be possible without short-term success.
“We have to give these guys some time as well. So let’s see where they go.
They have what we call talent and potential, but now it’s time for everyone to deliver performance over a long period of time.
I believe they will in time, but a long-term vision is a necessity but to get there you need to win.
You need to win in the short term, you need to win the next game, because if you don’t win the next one people lose faith, changes happen and again we will be talking about the same thing a couple of years down the line.”
Earlier former Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene highlighted about the need to revamp the domestic structure several times, where he made a proposal years ago and finally presented and was about to be implemented during the time of the last interim committee headed by Sidath Wettimuny, which focused on quality of the team rather than quantity, but the change in administration resulted in neglecting that proposal, where Sri Lanka presently has 24 List A teams playing each other.