Sri Lankan Cricket: Domestic revamp aims to bring a return to past glory

Things have been pretty dire for the Sri Lankan national team during 2017, but a renewed domestic scene could hold the key to turning the corner.

The trajectory of Sri Lankan cricket over the past couple of years has been one of steady decline, suffering humiliating defeats and barely scraping through for automatic World Cup qualification, but a renewed focus on the domestic cricket scene forms part of a holistic overhaul of the structure and framework of the game in the country.

A new format to the provincial cricket setup in Sri Lanka would see the first class season end with a four-team ‘Super Provincial Tournament,’ which would showcase the best local talent the country can produce and provide the ideal platform for the next generation of stars to progress from the domestic scene to the national team.

While reports suggest the inter-club Premier League season in the country will remain unaffected, district teams have also been suggested as participants in the expanded and more heavily promoted approach.

A radical approach to change

The current setup includes a four-team province-based limited-overs competition while the new structure will add a four-day pink ball competition which would see each team play at least one game under lights, a 50-over one day domestic tournament and, in keeping with similar moves around the world, a domestic Twenty20 tournament, with the new structure set for launch from early December.

In keeping with the unique circumstances in Sri Lankan cricket, each of the provincial tournaments will be preceded by an inter-club competition, which will see a switch to a three-day rather than four-day format as the only substantive change at that level.

District sides will be drafted in to compete in the provincial tournaments to fill them out alongside the four provincial squads which will be based around the existing Centre of Excellence structures in Kandy, Galle, Colombo and Dambulla. Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) will also provide local first-class clubs with the equivalent of US $6,500 for friendly matches in the buildup to the commencement of the Premier League tournament, which should act as both helpful preparation for the teams and the chance to further scout and identify young talent.

SLC's current scouting and talent development pathways have come under significant criticism over recent months, with many suggesting a lack of tangible progress amongst talented young players, with many of them going unnoticed or unidentified as they ply their trade, has led to the current plight of the national team.

Significant struggles on the world stage

Sri Lanka is ranked 6th in the world in the ICC Test Match team rankings, ahead of only Pakistan, the West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and have faced stiff competition when trying to match it with the Test sides ranked above them. Sri Lanka also slipped to 8th place in the ICC One Day International rankings, narrowly securing automatic qualification for the World Cup over the West Indies, a side which has faced significant adversity in the form of their management for several years.

The current malaise amongst Sri Lanka cricketers and the heavy reliance on a few aging veterans has forced a radical rethink of the structure that is supposed to provide the fresh talent to supersede the current crop, and while it could take years for the fruit to bear, it is encouraging that the hard work is being done now.

As things stand, the format of the new structure is still subject to review by a committee appointed by Sri Lanka's Sports Ministry, but minimal changes are expected.

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