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A proper structure could save the game of cricket - Carlton Bernadus

Former SLC’s head of cricket operations Carlton Bernadus sees Sri Lanka’s present cricket debacle is owing to the mishandling of cricket situations. 

Ominous among all is the complete mishandling of the domestic cricket structure in Sri Lanka. 

Bernadus – former NCC and Colts cricketer was one of the best fielders during his playing days. 

Later he donned the Coaches’ cap and it was under his guidance that his alma mater – St. Josephs honed the skills of former national star Chaminda Vaas in his younger days. 

At the same time he is also credited for the setting up of cricket systems in Bangladesh’s junior cricket and now they are reaping the harvest. 

Later, he was the cricket guru at the SLC in charge of cricket operations. 

The former Josephian sees Lankan cricket as a lost opportunity. 

He is of the opinion that Sri Lanka had a unique club cricket system that each unit sustained its game in a very workable manner. 

“What prompted me to go into cricket is to serve the game. So I joined the fray in the tournament committee. I remember the tournament committee had people in the calibre of late Ranjith Samarasekera, Felix Perumal, S. Skandakumar (Present Sri Lanka High Commissioner to Australia) and Michael Zoysa. At that time there were so many cricketers who worked hand in hand with the development of the game. Their experiences enriched the game in reality. That is why I always hold on to the opinion that it is people who have played the game that should get involved in matters pertaining to cricket administration. 

“I remember getting into the division one side straight from school at St. Joseph’s and joining the NCC under Tony Opatha. At that time, we had a three-tier cricketing structure--division I, II and III. In the first division there were the top cricketers, the division II had the intermediaries while the third was a one-day tournament where they had all top former stalwarts finding time to play some Sunday cricket. At the same time there were a lot of youngsters – just out of school learning the trade under the former greats. It was like a cricket university of its own. All top clubs at that time had the same system – the structure was such. I remember at that time cricketers like K.M. Nelson, Anuruddha Polonnowita, Michael Tissera and Nirmal Hettiarachchi playing division III cricket along with budding youngsters. It was a wealth of experience for the greenhorns who had just got into the scene.” 

However, Bernadus laments the system got diluted by the way. 

He said there are some clubs who does not conform to the structure of the board. 

He said “There are three categories of members -- controlling, affiliated and associate. But, due to the politics in the district and provincial levels of the game, they have ignored that a club should be a member of the board to play cricket. They have to seek membership. But, now there are certain clubs that play premier level cricket who are not proper members of the board. Because over the years, they have performed well in the district or province by way of supporting certain candidates. By that reason they have flouted the board’s constitution. In the constitution they say infrastructure should be number one, but, the board has done away with this clause. In the good old days all those clubs who played premier cricket had its own infrastructure, so, those clubs had its own pathway. Now what has happened is some clubs play only premier division cricket. They do not have a lower division – may be because of the expenses involved. I feel that they should reconsider the system for the sake of making the pathway for young cricketers. 

“At that time clubs like SSC, BRC, CCC or NCC had division III sides, they go talent scouting. They look for youngsters coming into play division III cricket. I remember Michael de Zoysa used to go around looking for talent. There he picked Arjuna Ranatunga and Dilhara Fernando, brought in and look where they ended up. They ended up at the highest level. Then they learn about their club allegiance. Today none of the young cricketers know the meaning of club allegiance. Now they move from club to the other – they are like Gypsies they keep wondering.” 

Talking about the much flaunted Provincial system, Bernadus says looking at needs of today and how modern international cricketers see it, he feels one also should get serious about provincial cricket. “They not only have a wealth of experience after playing at the highest level, but they have to see how it is done in other countries. You must put out what is best for your country”. 

He is of the views that unlike the bigger nations, even a boy in Jaffna can get to Colombo within twenty four hours. If you look at the economy – the Lankan economy is based in Colombo. 

Several past cricketers like Sidath Wettimuny who was the chairman of the last interim committee – a firm believer of the provincial system and he brought people like Michael Tissera and Mahela Jayawardena. 

He says people like Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara are still involved in the game in a big way. 

They believe that a provincial system is the way forward. 

Bernadus goes a step further. He thinks through the District and Provincial cricket system which are already set in place, Sri Lanka could get involved in community cricket development. 

He says those two systems encompasses schools cricket system. Through that system he feels that school cricket could be developed with a provincial frame work. 

He said “Even Sidath Wettimuny agrees that the provincial system should be developed through the grass root level with school cricket. From there we could build upon a system that supports itself”.

Posted on 2017-09-03 16:19:18
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