Touching gold is the ultimate in cricket be it the big stage performers or the establishment, and it is an ambitious five-year plan by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) to drive youth cricket at grass roots level island wide from the cradle of junior cricket to the national mainstream that has raised great expectations for Sri Lanka.
A vision of incumbent President of Sri Lanka Cricket, Thilanga Sumathipala, and directed by Hemal Mendis, the Manager in charge of District and Provincial coaching, this initiative is expected to unearth and garner the cream of youth talent from under 15, 17 in a concentrated overhaul of the existing national coaching system involving 48 district and provincial coaches. It would be a lead up to selecting what Mendis described as ‘a national pool of the best 20 that would feed the mainstream Sri Lanka team.
Mendis, who was a firecracker batsman during his hey day s a schoolboy and club cricketer, while crediting the SLC president for mooting this far reaching plan, said that the potential benefit from such a drive being worked out on all fours, was that the SLC was prioritizing every province and district. Accordingly, the once war torn Jaffna peninsula too had been earmarked with the cricket chief Sumathipala keen to tap what he saw as potential latent talent from the Northern sector.
“There were several talented cricketers in the North such as Naguleswaran the fast bowler, and Mr. Sumathipala is very keen that we tap the existing talent from there in the national interest,” Mendis told me. The long term drive which is significantly on the models of high tech modern cricket standards would envisage a 6-month grooming of players from U-15 to 17. It would necessarily have going a process of moulding players for the U-19 national team starting from U-15 to 17 and upwards, according to Mendis. It is a credit to the former batting prodigy, who was unfortunate not to be identified by the national selectors during his time for national duty, that he has been entrusted to spearhead the latent talent grooming drive. It is more the timely given the fact that the SLC’s youth drive has already begun to bear results with several potential youngsters such as Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva solidly entrenched in the Sri Lanka team as key performers.
“I’m confident that we could create the difference and raise the player standard in 5 years,” opined Hemal Mendis who observed that in the past the development of youth cricket was neglected under previous administrations. In fact, nobody looked at Jaffna as a potential latent talent unearthing sector. But only under Mr. Thilanga Sumathipala that the peninsula has been given top billing in view of harnessing the cream to the country’s national grid. The mechanism would evolve in to various segments such as fast bowling and spin bowling and batting and wicket keeping squads in all youth age groups under the district and provincial coaches. Initially, provincial and district squads will be formatted with accent on tournament matches. Video visuals would be utilized with emphasis on creating personal files for the players so as to assess their strengths and weaknesses. “The video files would be important in player development because it would be helpful to the coaches. When coaches change the video file of each player would be a guideline for the next coach to take over ensuring the smooth continuity of the 5-year plan. The drive comes under the direct supervision of M. Mathivanan who Mendis observed maintained a regular rapport with him so as to ensure its success.
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-