By Madushka Balasuriya
Sri Lanka A Captain Dimuth Karunaratne and West Indies A Captain Shamarh Brooks with the trophy. Pic by Upul Abayasekera
A Future Tours Program (FTP), similar to the one in place for the national team, is being formulated for the benefit of the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team, Sri Lanka Cricket announced yesterday on the eve of the first unofficial Test between Sri Lanka ‘A’ and West Indies ‘A’.
“These tours will be significant as they will offer an opportunity for the next level of players to compete with the best in the world and also to show their potential to play and provide a pathway for the cricketers to play at the national level,” said SLC CEO Ashley De Silva at the pre-match media briefing.
The tour is part of a wider effort by Sri Lanka Cricket to increase the number of ‘A’ team fixtures, while at the same time streamlining the amount of cricket played by cricketers, especially at the youth level. This was something clearly laid out by the newly-appointed SLC High Performance Manager Simon Willis in his initial plans for the sport in the country.
“From the meetings that have gone on the relevant officials and authorities have been very receptive and understanding. Ultimately they want their best players going on and representing the country, and they can see that with all the other cricket that these young players play - with clubs and national provincial tournaments - and with their school work as well, there’s a lot of pressure on these youngsters. So they have been very understanding and very accommodating, and have already started to trim back their fixture lists going forward,” Willis told Daily FT, offering an update on his first few months on the job.
Having also previously spoken of the need for the ‘A’ team to play “tough cricket” abroad, Willis added that he was pleased to see the formulation of the FTP for the ‘A’ team.
“The FTP is a big part of what we’re about going forward, and the ‘A’ team is going to have two or three tours a year now as part of that, so that gives our players who are knocking on the door better preparation and more opportunity to become international cricketers. And that’s ultimately what it’s all about.”
Meanwhile Sri Lanka ‘A’ team coach Avishka Gunawardene spoke of his expectations for the side for the upcoming tour.
“The preparation has been good. A few seniors have joined the team after a stint in the national side and will be looking to earn back their place for the next few national tours. Also there are a few Under-19 players who played in the last world cup. I’m very excited to see how they go out and perform.”
The four-day Test will begin at 10 this morning at the R. Premadasa stadium in Colombo, with the added novelty of a pink ball being used. Sri Lanka ‘A’ team captain Dimuth Karunaratne said they had practiced with the pink ball a few days ago but that he didn’t expect it to make too much of a difference.
“There’s not a big difference between the red ball and the pink ball, but no matter how much we practice with it we’ll only know for sure how much of an impact it will have when we get out into the middle and play. But overall I don’t expect the colour of the ball to be too much of an issue,” said Karunaratne.
His West Indian counterpart Shamarh Brooks revealed that he had played with a pink ball in a domestic fixture and had faced some issues but he didn’t expect the same problems to crop up this time around.
“I played two first-class games with the pink ball but that was a Duke, this one is going to be a Kookabura. I found that after a while the visibility of the ball, it was a bit hard to see as the ball got older. But this Kookabura ball is a bit darker so I find it to be ok.”
Pink balls are a recent addition to cricket, coming to the fore with the advent of day-night Test matches as they are said to be more visible under lights than the traditional red ball. The use of a pink ball for the ‘A’ team tour follows the announcement that pink balls will also be used at the upcoming Super-Eight club tournament scheduled for the end of October.
Pix by Upul Abayasekera