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Focus on provinces in SLC's domestic revamp

Sri Lanka Cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala addresses the media at a press conference Getty Images

Sri Lanka Cricket is placing a renewed focus on provincial cricket, as part of broader plans to revamp the country's ailing domestic cricket structure. A new domestic format will see the first-class season conclude with a four-team Super Provincial Tournament, in which some of the best players in Sri Lanka will compete.

District teams will also participate, though this is not expected to affect the Premier League inter-club season. While the domestic cricket calendar already has a four-team provincial limited-overs tournament, the expanded framework will see teams play a four-day, pink-ball competition - with at least one game under lights per team - a 50-over tournament, and finally a T20 tournament. Scheduled to start in the first week of December, each provincial tournament will also be preceded by an inter-club competition - three-day matches in place of four-day fixtures being the only change.

The district teams, meanwhile, will compete in provincial tournaments to supplement the four Super Provincial squads, which will be based around Centres of Excellence in Colombo, Kandy, Galle, and Dambulla.

SLC will also be subsiding its 24 first-class clubs up to Rs. 1 million (USD 6,500) each for friendly matches prior to the start of the Premier League Tournament, allowing more clubs to find promising talent.

"Before premier tournaments, clubs would usually play friendly matches on their own at their own expense," tournament committee chairman Bandula Dissanayaka said. "This year SLC has taken that into account and has given them the opportunity to play some friendly matches where SLC will be paying a substantial amount to the clubs in preparation for this tournament.

"This is something new where clubs will have an opportunity to test out their young players, who have not played tournament cricket before. And if they're suitable enough, maybe absorb them into the premier sides."

Sri Lanka Cricket has also tweaked the lower divisions, though not as radically. Division 2 and 3 fixtures will now be organised by provincial and district cricket associations respectively. Division 2 matches, meanwhile, will now be intra-provincial matches, where district clubs will compete to become provincial champions.

Some of the tournament's details however may be subject to change, with a cricket committee appointed by Sri Lanka's Sports Ministry expected to offer their input in the lead-up. SLC said they were expecting to hear from the sports minister soon.

One area they could possibly provide guidance with would be in deciding which provinces certain district clubs would fall under. At present, players are grouped into the four teams based on their place of birth, school attended and current place of work. In previous instances, this meant provincial teams struggled to field strong teams, leading to players from other provinces being brought in.

Any changes though would have to be run by relevant stakeholders - in this case the clubs - prior to implementation.