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Schools cricket’s age limit change from Under-19 to 20 just not numbers

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Will a change of age limit benefit cricketers aspiring to represent the country at the ICC Youth World Cup where Sri Lanka is the only Test playing nation in the South Asian region to have not tasted victory in this more than three decades old tournament.

by Reemus Fernando

Schools cricket has been in limbo for more than six months now due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Though there had been no action discussions were underway to find means of improving standards. One of the suggestions received by an eminent panel consisting of former national cricketers is to change the age limit of the premier schools cricket tournament from Under-19 to Under-20. When some school sports, including rugby and track and field have Under-20 as their highest age group then why not cricket? Will a change of age limit benefit cricketers aspiring to represent the country at the ICC Youth World Cup where Sri Lanka is the only Test playing nation in the South Asian region to have not tasted victory in this more than three decades old tournament.

“There is something wrong in our system. Former Sri Lanka Under-19 coach Naveed Nawaz could guide Bangladesh to Youth World Cup victory. It was something he could not do with a team here. You have to seriously take note of our Under-19 cricket structure. An age limit change will help our young cricketers get mature. It will also help reduce the gap between the Under-23 tournament conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket and the highest age group tournament of the schools association,” says Dinesh Kumarasinghe, the head of Sports of S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. Kumarasinghe has been involved in schools cricket as a coach for nearly three decades now.

The suggestion to change the age limit is learnt to have come from influential schools cricket coaches who are eager to make amends for dropping standards.

It is not the first time that such a change had been suggested. Four years ago the Ministry of Education changed the age limit only to withdraw the circular within months for reasons best known to them.

The last time the tournament had been played as an Under-20 tournament was nearly one and a half decade ago. It is widely believed in schools cricket circles that the change (to Under-20) was to facilitate a politico’s son to captain his alma mater. That Under-20 rule lasted only a year and the tournament reverted to Under-19.

“The suggestion to increase the age limit to Under-20 had been opposed vehemently at SLSCA meetings on many previous occasions due to the administrative difficulties and problems relating to maintaining discipline,” a former official of the SLSCA says.

Currently the Under-19 tournament is played by cricketers who are not over the age of 20 on September 1 of the concluding year of the tournament. Unlike tournaments of other sports cricket’s highest age group tournament had been played for decades from September to April.

“Though the tournament is called Under-19, we have players over the age of 19 when the tournament concludes in April. It is actually an Under-20 tournament already. Why do you need to further extend it,” a former official of the SLSCA questions.

If not for the Covid 19 pandemic the 2020/21 Under-19 tournament would have commenced by now with players born after September 1, 2001 being eligible to compete. Which means some players would be already 19 plus when the tournament starts.

Those who are pushing for the change argue that by extending the age limit (from September 1 to April 1) more players, who are still in school would be eligible to compete.

When contacted, Thilak Waththuhewa, the president of the SLSCA said that the proposal to extend the age limit will soon be discussed at the SLSCA Executive Committee meeting and the decision will be known sooner rather than later.

A former official who had served at the SLSCA when the age limit was extended to Under-20 one and half decades ago said that a number of schools found it difficult to address discipline issues that year. “We received complaints against players who had already found employment at private firms still playing for schools,” says the former official.

However, this time the decision to change the age limit has been put forward for discussion and a knowledgeable panel of former cricketers are considering the pros and cons. Enthusiasts believe that the decision would be taken with the best interest of country’s cricket in mind.

It should be noted here that the ICC’s Under-19 age limit date for the Youth World Cup is also compatible with Sri Lanka’s schools tournament age limit date of September 1.



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Afghanistan elect to bat first in third T-20 International

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Afghanistan won the toss and elected to bat first in the third T-20 International against Sri Lanka at Dambulla on Wednesday. The Afghan captain won all three tosses in the series but this is the first time he has opted to bat first.

The game is a dead rubber with Sri Lanka having already secured the series 2-0.

Sri Lanka made four changes from the side that won on Monday to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three match series.

They left-out Dhananjaya de Silva, Charith Asalanka, Binura Fernando and Maheesh Theekshanka and brought in top order batter Kusal Perera, all-rounder Kamindu Mendis, off-spinner Akila Dananjaya and seamer Nuwan Thushara.

Afghanistan also made four changes leaving out Najibullah Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq.

They brought in all-rounder Sharfuddin Ashraf, left-arm seamer Fareed Malik, right-arm quick Wafadar Momand and batter Mohammad Ishaq, who is making his debut.

The tourists are yet to win a game in the multi-format bilateral tour. They lost the one off Test match in Colombo and suffered a 3-0 whitewash in the ODI series at Pallekele before conceding a 2-0 advantage in the three match T-20 series in Dambulla.

Sri Lanka:

Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis (Wicketkeeper), Kusal Perera, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Kamindu Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga (Captain) Matheesha Pathirana, Akila Dananjaya and Nuwan Thushara.

Afghanistan:

Ibrahim Zadran (Captain), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (Wicketkeeper), Azmatullah Omarzai, Karim Janat, Mohammad Nabi, Noor Ahmad, Hazratullah Zazai, Sharfuddin Ashraf, Mohammad Ishaq, Fareed Malik and Wafadar Momand.  

Umpires:

Lyndon Hannibal (SRI) and Ravindra Wimalasiri (SRI)

Television Umpire:

 Ruchira Palliyaguruge (SRI)

Match Referee:

Chris Broad (ENG)

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Sri Lanka teams reach tennis quarter-finals

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Dinara de Silva and Ganuka Fernando

The girls and boys teams of Sri Lanka reached the quarter-finals of the Billie Jean King Cup Junior and Junior Davis Cup Asia Oceania Pre Qualifying tournaments continued at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Wednesday.

The girls team beat Maldives 2-0, as Ivanka Samarasinghe (beat Nishan Naba 6-1, 6-2) and Dinara de Silva (beat Azim Araa Aasaal 6-2, 6-2) registered straight set victories in the singles.

The boys team edged out Iraq 2-1. Ganuka Fernando beat Shammama Faisac 6-1, 6-2 in his singles match before joining Lithum Jayabandu to win the doubles against Shammama Faisac and Bakr Akam 6-2, 6-1.

In the second singles Jayabandu went down to Bakr Akam (6-3, 6-2).

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Dialog powers Royal – Thomian for 19th time

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Lasantha Thevarapperuma – Group Chief Marketing Officer, Dialog Axiata PLC handing over the sponsorship to Rev. Marc Billimoria – Warden, S. Thomas’ College and Thilak Waththuhewa - Principal, Royal College. Also pictured (L) Rehan Gunasekera – Co-Chairman, Royal Thomian Match Organizing Committee From RC, (R) Arjuna Waidyasekera – Co-Chairman, Royal Thomian Match Organizing Committee from STC.

Dialog Axiata PLC, Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, has extended corporate backing for the 19th year as official sponsor of the country’s blue ribboned cricket encounter, the ‘Battle of the Blues’ between Royal College, Colombo, and S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia on March 7, 8 and 9 at the SSC Grounds, Colombo. The limited-over ‘Mustang’s Trophy’ match will be on March 16, also at the same venue.

The 145th cricket encounter will be aired live on Dialog Television – ThePapare TV HD (Channel Number 126), live-streamed on ThePapare.com and the Dialog ViU App.

Further, Dialog initiated the ‘Play for a Cause’ charity initiative with a mission to uplift school cricket across Sri Lanka. Through a generous pledge of Rs. 1,000 for every run scored and Rs. 10,000 for every wicket taken, last year’s encounter raised a substantial donation of Rs. 1,128,000. The proceedings were distributed in consultation with the Principal of Royal College and the Warden of S. Thomas’ College. This commendable effort helped support and empower four deserving schools in the country.

In this year’s encounter, the boys from Mt. Lavinia will be led by Mahith Perera, while the lads from Reid Avenue will play under the captaincy of Sineth Jayawardena, the U-19 Sri Lanka skipper. The ‘Royal-Thomian’ series spans an impressive 144 years, making it the second longest uninterrupted cricket series in the world, behind the annual encounter between St. Peters College, Adelaide, and Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, Australia, which began just a year earlier.

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