by Rex Clementine
Since reaching the finals of the ICC Youth World Cup in the year 2000 under the captaincy of Malintha Gajanayaka, Sri Lanka Under-19 have struggled to make an impact in the tournament although several players involved in the competition have gone onto have an impact with the senior side. Sri Lanka have never reached the finals since they hosted the event in 2000 where they lost to an Indian side that comprised Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif.
In recent months, however, there has been a concerted effort to uplift the standards of the Under-19 team and the young cricketers just completed a three week residential coaching camp with training taking place at SSC.
SLC had conducted an island wide talent search and had picked 75 players who went through a residential training camp in Kandy and that was further trimmed to 26 and apart from emphasizing on the technical and tactical aspects of game, the players were also educated on history of the game, an area that has been earmarked as vital.
When the 75 players camped in Kandy, they were asked a simple question, which year did Sri Lanka gain Test status and not a single player could answer. Alarmed by this lack of knowledge, the authorities have made an effort to educate players on this vital aspect of the game.
While there are some brilliant coaches in school cricket both in Colombo and in outstations who are keen in seeing the development of young players rather than winning alone, there are also coaches and school authorities who want to win at any cost and that is not helping the young players.
SLC’s second residential camp for the Under-19 players ended on Wednesday and the players have returned home for a break and will enter a bio-secure bubble again as they will play a bilateral series against Bangladesh in two weeks time. Bangladesh are the World Champions in Under-19 cricket having upset a strong Indian side in the finals in South Africa last year.
There will be more exposure for the young players as Sri Lanka will host England Under-19 in November followed by the Asia Cup and then the World Cup in the Caribbean.
As a goodwill gesture, SLC gave away Rs. 100,000 each to the 26 players who have been chosen for the Under-19 squad.
Former opening batsman Avishka Gunawardene is the Head Coach of the Under-19 side and former captain Mahela Jayawardene will work with the team as a consultant.