The country’s women’s cricket is on an upswing concentrated on an island-wide fine combing drive. The concept mooted by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) President, Thilanga Sumathipala focusing on rural talent based on encouraging and broad basing to the mainstream national grid launched in November 2016 would be a major facelift to women’s cricket in Sri Lanka. It covers a phased out programme from district to provincial level that would see the gamut in place with essentially three streamlined pools – the National, Emerging and Development, according to the Convener, Sri Lanka Women’s Cricket, Ms. Apsari Tillekeratne.
Identifying the lack of a streamlined pathway to tap talent, and a lack of enthusiasm by young women to play cricket with a talent gap in the age 21 to 27 range, the SLC President was quick to evolve this development drive at taking women’s cricket up the ladder on the international curve. Accordingly, the concept has already transcended a hitherto stop gap domestic set up that saw talent come only through the clubs and schools.
The whole project required the addressing of the basic need of overcoming the lack of coaching expertise. Following brain storming sessions Mr. Sumathipala held with SLC Vice President K. Mathivanan and Manager, High Performance, Simon Willis, the project got moving with the decision to rope in the available local coaching expertise at district and provincial level to drive women’s cricket too. Altogether 1,044 players, majority of whom school girls were fine combed coaching through camps prioritizing 17 of the 25 district and through awareness campaigns.
This was implemented with provincial coaches visiting 1,245 schools that centered on principals, teachers, masters and parents, according to the Convener, Sri Lanka Women’s Cricket. Talent scouting covered Badulla, Galle, Matara, Monaragala, Ratnapura, Kandy, Nuwara-Eliya, Kurunegela, Kalutara, Gampaha, Vavuniya, Puttalam, Amparai, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Colombo. It evolved in to district squads from 15 to 20 players each coming under a 3-month training programme. “It was the stepping stone to the U23 district and provincial tournaments from February to March. The provincial teams were selected on the strength of the district tournaments. I must stress that the provincial tournaments were very successful,” Ms. Apsari Tillekeratne said while observing that the whole project that would be an annual feature had wrung in the basic needs that were lacking for women’s rural cricket. Accordingly, every district was provided with equipment bags.
Clothing was provided on sponsorship by Singer Sri Lanka. The success of the whole gamut has been the setting up of a 30-member district and provincial pool each selected from the best performers. The players have also been motivated by an allowance for six months with the programme overseen by SLC district and provincial secretaries. The Convener said that this young blood infusion would see a big improvement in creating a balance in the national team. “The Emerging Team would be the equivalent of an A team and we could see a few of them make it to the national team in the near future,” she observed while stating that more international fixtures were being negotiated. India had already invited Sri Lanka for a triangular also featuring Bangladesh in November.
Another success of the new SLC initiative was that several girls schools were motivated to conduct big matches such as Musaeus vs Visakha, Mahanama Navodya College, Panadura vs Wadduwa Central and St. Anthony’s Girls School, Kandy vs Nugawela Central. Of course, the Education Ministry needed to take a cue and promote cricket in girls schools. Adding muscle to the women’s cricket development drive is SLC Coordinator, Indrani Abeyratne.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-