Last year, in May, I happened to visit Sidath Wettimuny’s house at Queen’s Road, Colombo. During my brief 45-minute chat with the man, he came across as a grand visionary, someone who knew what exactly Sri Lankan Cricket lacked and also promised to fill the gap, if given the chance. And indeed, he did as the SLC decided to shake-up the interim committee.
Chaminda Vaas captains Basnahira-North, which to the best of my Colombo geography must cover areas like Negombo, Ja-Ela (where Dilhara Fernando hails from) and Wattala (Vaas’ hometown) while Basnahira-South, led by Tillekaratne Dilshan comprises of players from the Colombo-City/South-Colombo Districts of Panadura, Ratmalana.
Is provincial Cricket the way forward for Sri Lanka ? Kumar Sangakkara gives his verdict in his column for Cricinfo. Muttiah Muralitharan also told me in the affirmative, when I asked him during an interview, he said, “It looks like it. Provincial cricket is the only way our cricket can move on.” Ranjit Fernando, the global voice of Sri Lankan cricket, also reckoned it would do wonders for Sri Lanka if they sustained this tournament.
In a way, provincial cricket is a necessary evil for Sri Lanka. As Wettimuny reckoned, “There are about 144 votes with the clubs here. And everyone who wants power, registers their clubs just before election.” This model gives Sri Lanka only six teams vying for the honours instead of the 20+ clubs that play the first class competitions. Also, the best players from the clubs qualify for the Provinces – so there is no below-par talent playing. And most importantly, the sheer experience of rubbing shoulders with and against the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan, the Jayasuriyas and the Jayawardenes would only enrich the youngsters or the fringe players.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Sri Lanka Cricket have identified the right sort of format to take their cricket to the next era. Personally speaking, there is a lot of talent in the island-nation, but unless it is given the right sort of opportunity and the platform, things cannot take off. For a start, the administrators have struck a positive note – the problem though is, to sustain the good show.