Stats on Sri Lanka domestic cricket are as rare as hens’ teeth. However, these stats, when found, always fascinate us.
Free hit contributor – Thushan Perera
We always worry about the leading run-scorers and wicket-takers in Sri Lanka domestic cricket, and we always jump into conclusions that those leading scorers and wicket-takers should be fast-tracked into the national team.
Nevertheless, as Aaron Levenstein said, what stats are reveal is interesting, but what they hide is vital.
The importance of stats is that it gives us SMART goals, and we can self-monitor our performances against set parameters and make an action plan to reduce short comings. Today, with advancements in data science and AI, we see a development in statistical analysis.
The First-Class tournament in any country is the backbone of their cricket. England has the prestigious County Cricket Championship, which has been running for over 150 years. Australia has the Sheffield shield, New Zealand has the Plunkett shield and India has the Ranji Trophy.
Sri Lanka has a rich cricketing background with the Colombo Cricket Club established in 1832. However, Sri Lanka got first-class status to Sara Trophy only in 1988/89 season and as a result of Sri Lanka’s Premier Tournament receiving first-class status only in 1988/89, players like Bandula Warnapura, who was the first test captain of Sri Lanka, never played an official first-class match for his club.
The club system has produced quality players over the years. Many international players went to their respective clubs when they lost form and scored runs and made comebacks. Well-known examples are Hashan Tillakaratne in 1999, Thilan Samaraweera in 2006, and Russell Arnold in 2003-04.
However, it is sad to see that now coaches and selectors argue that dropping a player from the national side and sending him to play domestic cricket to regain form is a waste of effort because of the depleted quality in domestic cricket.
Earlier we did a similar analysis about the performances of the Sri Lanka T20I team.
Similarly, I thought of doing a small analysis on the batting in the Sri Lanka premier domestic tournament.
Number of teams
Currently, 26 first-class teams compete in the Sri Lanka first-class tournament, 14 teams compete in tier A while 12 teams compete in tier B.
Sri Lanka Cricket introduced this composition in the 2016/17 season and this led to an increase in the number of first-class players. The 2015/16 season had only 14 teams.
The player participation also increased by 108% because of the increase in teams. The 2015/16 season had only 260 players while the current first-class season has seen 453 first-class players playing for 26 teams.
We have seen domestic stalwarts like Waruna Waragoda (1990-2008) who had a first-class average of 48.73, miss out on making it into the national XI. Bowlers like Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Dharmasena, and Chaminda Vaas still recall battles between them and domestic batsmen like Waragoda.
Since the 2015/16 season, domestic batsmen have scored 379,962 runs at 27.85 per innings in 15,659 innings. The batsmen’s average has briefly improved in the 2018/19 season to 31.44, and 4 batsmen have crossed 1,000 runs that season.
However, the argument that increasing the number of teams has depleted the quality of the domestic tournament and allowed batsmen to score runs against lesser bowling attacks needs to be analyzed.
The benchmark year of 2015/16, when there were only 14 teams, the batsmen scored runs at 28.91. However, for 3 of the 4 following seasons, apart from the 2018/19 season, batsmen have scored below 28.91.
The overall batting average across five seasons is 27.85 in the Premier tournament, and it is only in 2015/16 and 2018/19 seasons where we see batsmen scoring better than the overall batting average. In the 2016/17 season, batsmen scored 25.77 runs per innings which attributes to the worst difference between the overall batting average and the season batting average.
The Highest Aggregate of Runs
The most prolific run-scorer in the domestic tournament has been Sachithra Serasinghe in the last five seasons. He has scored 3,570 runs at 53.28 and has passed 50 on 27 occasions. He also impressed with the distribution of his runs across five seasons. He has scored, on average, 714 runs per season.
On the other hand, a promising player and a much talked about player like Sadeera Samarawickrama has a disappointing distribution of runs across seasons. Sadeera has scored 1,970 runs at 39.40 runs per innings during the last five seasons across 52 innings. However, of those runs, he has scored 1,016 runs in 2016/17 alone. Therefore, his runs are distributed unevenly, and he has scored only 394 average runs per season because of this.
Including Sachithra Serasinghe, 39 players have scored over 2,000 first-class runs in the Sri Lanka Premier Tournament in the last five seasons. Five players have crossed the 3,000-run mark too.
Domestic stalwarts such as Angelo Perera, Tharanga Paranavithana, Mahela Udawatta, and Chamara Silva make it into the top ten run getters list.
Best Batting Averages
Amongst these 39 players, Kaushal Silva has the highest average. He averages 74.55 in the Premier Tournament since the 2015/16 season. This is comfortably 7 runs ahead of next best- Pathum Nissanka.
National Player Participation
The quality of the tournament improves when the national team players take part in it.
From the current batting order of the Sri Lanka test team, Oshada Fernando has the most number of games for his club. He has played 35 games and scored 2,550 runs at 45.54 in the last five seasons. These runs comprised of 9 centuries and 9 half-centuries. The next two performers on the list are Roshen Silva and Lahiru Thirimanne.
Amongst Sri Lankan national players, Dimuth Karunaratne (65.48) has the highest first-class average in the Premier tournament in the considered period.
The notable omission from this list is Angelo Mathews. He has not played any first-class cricket for Colts during this period in the Premier Tournament. This is surprising because his overall test batting average has declined by 7.52 (52.83 as at 31 December 2014-45.31-Current) runs since the beginning of 2015.
Mathews last represented Colts CC in a first-class match way back in the 2013/14 season when he scored 155 in 221 balls vs. Army Sports Club at Army Grounds, Panagoda.
Apart from Angelo Mathews, his Colts CC team-mate Kusal Janith Perera has played only 5 games in the last five seasons. However, both of these players are injury prone. The meager participation could be because of their tendency of getting injured.
The young players are the lifeblood of cricket. The exuberance brought by the young players is always an important factor in the development of cricket. Based on three parameters, I selected 12 players, who can be superstar players someday.
The twelve players were picked based on batting average, aggregate runs more than 2,000, and runs per season exceeding 400 runs.
The list is led by Lahiru Milantha, who has scored 3,341 runs at an average of 53.89 with 10 centuries. Pathum Nissanka holds the best average amongst these 12 players.
The special player in this list is Chathuranga de Silva, who scored 2,222 runs at 40.40 per innings across 60 innings. Chathuranga has been the most valuable all-rounder for the last 5 seasons as he has taken 135 wickets too at an average of 23.34.
Domestic cricket is so important in uplifting the game in Sri Lanka. As fans we all believe, Sri Lanka Cricket can do a much better job in the development of domestic cricket. Enhancing the competition and spreading the game of cricket to every nook and cranny is a challenge. However, when we look at the domestic competition, we can see all is not doom and gloom. There are plenty of uncut gems, and polishing those uncut gems is what is important for the future of our cricket.
*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ThePapare.com.
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