• Last Update 2021-11-26 17:28:00

U-19 Cricket: 2-day tournament to be skipped for third year running

Sport

Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) will forego the Inter-School Under-19 2-Day Tournament for the second consecutive year, owing reasons that are beyond their 'control' according to informed sources. 

The much followed schools' first XI two-day tournament was last played in early 2020, completing the 2019/20 season, and due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was called off last season. 

Instead, SLSCA conducted a Limited Overs tournament, which St. Joseph's College won the Division I Tier 'A' title, while Mahinda College annexed the Tier 'B' championship. 

The Division II title was won by Sri Sumangala College, Panadura, while its Tier 'B' title went to Sri Jayewardenepura MV, Kotte. 

Yet, SLSCA failed to complete the Division III fixtures beyond the quarter-final stage, and before making further strategies, they will give priority to complete the remainder of the incomplete competition. 

"The original plan was to compete all Limited Overs tournaments, including the Division III, by mid of May. But the pandemic situation was wayward and even forced few lockdowns. With schoolchildren involved in these competitions, we were advised by the health and education authorities not to take any risks. This prompted us to call off the tournament indefinitely," a source close to SLSCA said.

SLSCA is still assessing the improvement of the pandemic situation, to go ahead with their plans, but completing the pending portion of the Limited Overs tournament tops the agenda. 

"There are many school cricketers yet to receive their certificates of participation, though some never got to play at least a single game. Yet we must follow the guidelines provided by the higher authorities before thinking of the future," added the official.

Further hampering their activities, SLSCA is yet to secure a sponsor since the end of contract of Singer Sri Lanka in 2019. 

This has forced SLSCA to turn their arms towards Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), country's highest authority of the sport. SLSCA is an affiliate of SLC and has voting rights as other affiliations. 

With limited resources SLSCA had sought SLC's assistance to conduct the Limited Overs Tournament and they are still forced to seek further help, until the school section is stable enough to make their own calls. 

On the two-day competition, SLSCA stands firmly behind the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health, who have not given them the full green light to go ahead with the tournament. 

The possibility of the two-day tournament being postponed for another or third season is high, according to the SLSCA source, who further stated that even some schools are finding it hard to maintain its facilities, leave aside the cricketers and teams. 

"There are schools that are facing financial difficulties, because of lack of sports activities and other limitations. Most grounds owned by schools are in disarray or in bad shapes due to lack of proper maintenance and budget restrictions. All are acting upon guidelines provided by the higher authorities and schools being closed for months also made a huge impact to the present situation," he added.

Though the circumstances are otherwise, most schools are in favour of playing two-day games, while SLSCA will continue its competition roll with the sole Limited Overs tournament even for the coming season. 

As this season, schools will be grouped where the first round is expected occur with white clothing and red balls. From the quarter-finals, where the top team of each group qualify to play in, matches will be played in coloured clothing and white balls on a knockout system. 

However, SLSCA will not heed serious note if schools separately decide to play traditional two-day games after mutual agreement between the two playing school teams. 

But the schools should follow the guidelines and protocols currently being followed by SLSCA. 

Even this year most top tier cricket-playing schools honoured their traditional first XI fixtures that were played for many years.

"There's no restriction if schools decide to play their traditional two-day encounters, but they should adhere to guidelines provided by the health and education authorities. Those games will not be counted as official by the SLSCA, as they are traditional or considered as friendly matches. The legitimate competition will be the one SLSCA organise and conduct, in order to select players for the Sri Lanka Under-19 squad for future international assignments, with the assistance of SLC," the official further explained. 

SLSCA may consider getting back to its two-day first XI competition after the coming season, depending on the improvement of the pandemic situation and its financial status, which hugely depend on sponsorships. 

Until such time, their only option remaining will be to depend on the Limited Overs Tournament under the assistance and supervision of SLC. 

With the G.C.E. Advance Level examination further being pushed to February of 2022, SLSCA has totally opted out the hopes of returning to the two-day format this season. 

For them to make a full return to the customary version, SLSCA will need to come out with a comprehensive plan where they could conduct the competition without any hindrance. It could possibly be the season after next, according to the SLSCA source.

As for the new dates for the remainders of the postponed quarter-finals of the Limited Overs Division III tournament, it will be planned according to the development and improvement of the pandemic situation, as SLSCA does not wish to take any risk until full clearance is given by the higher authorities to move forward with the pending and future competitions.

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