Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Updated: Monday, August 06, 2007
Cricket: Sri Lankan Model and Its Possible Adoption in Bangladesh

Sheikh Abu Ayub Azad

On a winter morning on 10th November 2000, the cricket world witnessed the birth of a new baby in Test arena. The Tigers began their cricket journey with much hope and even showed promise here and there. However, after 7 years of Test-hood, Bangladesh has failed to establish itself in this arena. Players have been tried and discarded. Coaches have come and gone as have the regimes behind that but consistency remains an elusive "সোনার হরিণ". It has become evident that we need to address the problem at the root and re-think about our cricket structure. The poor performance in the recent tour of Bangladesh in Sri Lanka clearly further strengthens the need for reconciliation and reformatting the cricketing infrastructure of Bangladesh.

Is Sri Lanka the way to go?..

Bangladesh, since their inception into Test cricket, has tried to emulate Australian model with limited success in the ODI format and without much success at all in the longer version of cricket. It is not any structural flaw within the Australian model which is to blame, rather it is an issue of "fitting the model" into a Bangladeshi context. A model can only be successfully adopted if it covers the socio-economic aspects and different indigenous conditions inherent to that particular region; in this case the sub-continent. Among the three sub-continent giants, Sri Lanka is probably in closest similarity with Bangladesh considering available resources and presence at the highest level of cricket. After reviewing the cricketing structure of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, I am even more certain that Sri Lankan model can be successfully implemented in Bangladesh in order to raise our standards.

There is a good reason behind choosing Sri Lanka as our role model. After getting their Test status in 1982, they became a good team without much delay and won their first world cup in 1996. Proper planning and its right implementation helped them establish themselves within cricket's elites. As developing countries from the sub-continent, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have a lot of similarities in social, economical, political and other local factors including conditions. So it is well worthwhile to take a look at the Sri Lankan model and to gauge the possibility of implementing it in developing Bangladesh cricket.

Cricket : Sri Lanka Model - At a glance

Domestic Structure: Cricket Sri Lanka runs the domestic show with the help of 5 provincial and 22 district cricket associations. Each regional center has adequate coaching and other cricketing facilities to support the district associations. This de-centralization greatly helped Sri Lanka in finding talents throughout the country and maintain competitivenesses within the first class structure. For example, opener Upul Tharanga is from the remote coastal region and Murali Muratharan is from hill country.

Sri Lanka has two first class tournaments. Premier League tournament involving 16 cricket clubs. The other first class tournament, Inter-Provincial First Class Tournament includes five provinces in the competition. The List A tournament and the Twenty20 competition involve all the premier cricket clubs.

An excellent 2 days under-23 domestic tournament and an attractive inter-school cricket tournament are something unique to Sri Lanka and helps them find and nurture young raw talents. Longer version game from the very beginning helps youngsters to learn proper techniques to compete at the top level.

Youth Development: Sri Lanka Cricket runs a series of youth tournaments. There is an Inter-District Tournament at three different age groups; Under-14, Under-16 and Under-19 -- in which 25 districts participate each year. The best players from this tournament are selected for provincial age group teams and eventually the creams of these provincial teams make the age group national team.

The Sony Max Cricket Academy, a fully-equipped training center with high-quality turf nets, a gymnasium, seminar rooms and a dormitory for the players, provides an ideal learning environment for promising young players. Academy cricketers, who must be between 18 to 23 years, are selected by the national selectors.

Cricketers for national pool: Sri Lanka rarely draws ("fast-track" like Bangladesh does) players from age group cricket for the national team without proper grooming through A team. Cricketers showing great potentials are selected from the academy and age group teams to represent national A team. It's the A team which serves as the bridge between domestic and international cricket.

In addition to these, Sri Lanka cricket has a separate national "Fast Bowlers Unit" and "Spin Bowlers Unit". Both units are for upcoming youngsters and each squad includes 20-24 bowlers aged from approximately 17-21 years old.

Sri Lanka has a dedicated system to educate local coaches and re-locate them to regional and district associations to maintain high standard of domestic cricket. Above all, in order to assure efficiency and transparency, Cricket Sri Lanka has in place quality assurance programs which include a 5 year plan followed by quarterly review and auditing system.

Proposed Model for Bangladesh

De-Centralization of Cricket: Till now, our cricket has tended to be centered on Dhaka though even though some of our best players (Mashrafee, Aftab for example) hail from the other districts. We need to de-centralize cricketing activities and spread them to the every corner of the country in order to bring through enough quality players. We need to establish fully functional cricket associations for each division. Our current district cricket associations should be made stronger and tasked with and held accountable for more productive activities beyond the occasional limited overs tournament.

Youth Development: At present, our regional cricket associations do not have full time coaches. Recently BCB decided to provide full time coaches to divisional teams which is a good move. They need to move further by providing full time coaches to district associations. Every regional cricket association needs to have a separate cricket training center attached with it which will run with the help of full time coaches. Each such center should have sufficient number of natural practice turfs and a separate cricket gym. Indoor nets with bowling machines in each of these centers will be a big boost as players can continue their practice in the rainy season.

Age group championship in three groups (U-15, U-17 and U-19), involving the district teams, would give the young players enough exposure before coming to first class level. The players sorted out from this tournament can participate in an age group championship involving divisional teams.

Strengthening Domestic Competitions: Our domestic cricket competitions are too weak to produce enough quality players. The only first class cricket tournament in the country, NCL, needs to be reformatted. At present, our players have opportunity of playing at most 8-10 first class matches in a season which is really not satisfactory. The number should be increased at least to double.

Each divisional association should arrange a separate tournament involving the district teams under it. The top players from this tournament will form the divisional teams which would participate in the NCL. The quality of the wickets in the domestic level is really poor. BCB needs to provide quality curators to the regional associations in order to ensure that the players get enough experience of playing on the fast bouncy sporting wickets in regional level.

Cricket clubs always played a vital role in development of cricket in this country just like Sri Lanka and they should not be left out of the future. BCB should introduce another first class tournament involving the top 10 cricket clubs. As these clubs have enough patrons, they will be able to bring quality foreign players making the first class tournament competitive and tough.

Cricket Academy: BCB has already started a cricket academy which is playing a vital role in nurturing the young talents. This is important that the academy gets its own practice ground along with separate gym and other infrastructural supports. BCB should take a long term plan to establish separate cricket academies for each of the divisional cricket associations. Digital libraries of useful footage and software will aid the players in practice and understanding the game.

Coaching and Curator Training Academy: BCB needs to establish a coaching and curator training academy. This will be a major step towards the right direction. Our country needs a large influx of qualified coaches along with quality curators to ensure that the course is set towards the right direction.

Bowling Academy: Cricket has been able to get attention of the corporate world in our country. BCB should go for seeking investment to establish a bowling academy which would have two separate units; one for fast bowling and another for spin bowling. Top level coaches should be hired to work with raw talented bowlers.

Focus on Age Group and A teams: Our age group teams are almost as good other top cricketing nations. But at national level, most of the time, we even fail to be competitive. This is because of the reason that there is a missing link between age group and international cricket in our country in terms of maturity and temperament. Age group teams along with ‘A’ team needs to tour different countries more frequently to get acquainted with different conditions.

Proper Selection Process: Selection process for our national never has never been consistent. Most of the times, players are pushed too early in the international cricket and are thrown away as they fail to deliver quickly because of inexperience and immaturity. There should be a proper selection guideline which would make the selection process uniform and productive.

Proper Infrastructure: At present, we already have some good stadiums. These stadiums need to have fast sporting green wickets installed. Most of our stadiums lack good drainage system which needs to be improved. Every town and city needs to have a few number of cricket grounds dedicated for cricket.

Transparency and Efficiency Assurance: BCB should run as a commercial organization full of transparency. Professional people need to be hired for different positions. Long term plan with proper budget and funding is very important. A separate progress monitoring committee along with a separate audit team will make BCB efficient and transparent.

Last Words: Success is a sequence of proper planning and its careful implementation. Our success in cricket relies on the fact of following the proper process. If we can make a long term plan with good in-sight, we will surely achieve success in cricket. Otherwise, there is no way to do it except a few successes from time to time.

We have already been tardy in terms of making the right plans for our cricket and as a result our national image in cricket gets humiliated at a regular basis. BCB needs to take on this issue as one of utmost urgency and should set about making things right now!