Former Sri Lanka opener Sidath Wettimuny has backed Mahela Jayawardene’s Statement on the status of school cricket in the Island, saying that it is indeed in tatters and the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) can make 40 Stadiums in Homagama Project proposed budget.
Mahela, during a crisis management meeting at Temple Trees with country’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 21, said that the SLC has not done anything in developing school cricket in last 15 years. The meeting took place after government’s announcement to build an international cricket stadium at Homagama, with an approximate budget of $40 million. Obviously, Mahela’s claim has started a new debate in Sri Lanka cricket fraternity. Many have backed Mahela’s claim, many other have opined against it.
Wettimuny, undoubtedly one of the most respected voice in Sri Lanka cricket, is among those, who sees a logic in Mahela’s claim.
“Mahela has played more than 650 International Matches! Not only he established himself as one of the modern greats as a batsman, his leadership qualities were also admired by one and all. Even after the retirement, his coaching has won two IPL trophies for Mumbai Indians! What he has achieved in World Cricket, is a thing to cherish for entire country! Having said this, I am fully agree with Mahela, what he said about the School Cricket in our country” Wettimuny exclusively told Cricket Age.
By backing Mahela, Wettimuny insist that there are plenty of shortcomings in school cricket in the country.
“We proudly claims, and it is true also, that Sri Lanka school cricket system is the best in the world! Still, the sad truth is that, we have not won a single U19 World Cup till date! We might have the best school cricket structure in the world, but the infrastructure to back it, is not there! In my opinion, that is the reason why we are trailing behind and still far away from winning that illusive trophy” the former opener added.
Wettimuny has also served as the chairman of the Interim Committee at Maitland Place and has been regarded as one of the most clean and honest administrator in Sri Lanka cricket history. In addition, he, along with Mahela, tried his best to solve the shortcomings of school cricket but couldn’t garner proper support from the concerned authorities.
“Myself, Mahela and few others were in a committee few years back to make a proposal for school cricket. Mr. Akila Viraj was the Education Minister then. We tried our best, but there were plenty of shortcomings in the school cricket infrastructure! Even at the basic level. Without correcting those shortcomings, it is impossible for anyone in the World to uplift the standard of school cricket in our country” he opined further.
Wettimuny firmly believes that the lack of grounds at junior level is the biggest drawback.
“The sad reality is that we don’t have enough grounds at junior level. Majority of schools don’t have the grounds. They don’t have the proper equipment even. Majority of school teams plays an entire match with three-four bats! And these shortcomings are hindering our cricket progress at higher level as well. Even many top ranked First Class teams in Sri Lanka don’t have their own grounds! Then, we talks about an International Cricket Stadium, that will cost us $40 million.”
At the same time, Wettimuny provides a solution as well.
“In my opinion, in this budget, the SLC can build at least 40 school grounds or basic First Class grounds! There are some amazingly talented young cricketers in the country, from North to South. All they wants is a basic ground to play cricket! So, building basic grounds will help Sri Lanka cricket more in prospering than establishing an International Cricket Stadium” Wettimuny concluded.
(Part-2 of Cricket Age series, based on Mahela’s statement about school cricket on May 21)