Duty/Tax free cricket gear for rural schools in Sri Lanka

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President Rajapaksa's gift in New Year...
Duty free cricket materials for rural schools

By S. M. Jiffrey ABDEEN - Kandy Sports Corr.

CRICKET: "We provide facilities and funds for clubs to develop cricket in their respective areas, especially the outstations, but what we find now is that the money so provided is used to bring cricketers from Colombo and play in their teams. This practice is not satisfactory and these clubs must try to include at least a few players from their own town," said the Minister of Sports Gamini Lokuge.

He made these observations at a ceremony organised by the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association, and the Kandy District Cricket Association for the distribution of cricket materials to 41 cricket playing schools in Kandy and Nuwara Eliya districts. The distribution was made by Sri Lanka Cricket on the initiatives taken by former national cricket Captain and Advisor to the President on cricket D. S. De Silva.

Each cricket playing school was presented with two bags of cricket materials, which included 10 cricket bats, 10 pairs of batting pads, 10 pairs of batting gloves, 2 wicket keeping gloves, 5 arm guards, 5 helmets, 10 thigh pads and 36 cricket balls. The total value of materials donated to each school was in the region of Rs. 10 lakhs. The presentation took place at the Bogambara Stadium in Kandy last Wednesday - February 11th.

Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge said that for the development of sports at school, the co-operation and support of the Education Ministry must be obtained. He has had talks with the Minister of Education in this connection. Schools are nurseries of sports and this nursery must not be neglected as talented and future sportsmen and sportswomen would fall by the wayside. We must mould sportsmen. What happened in the past was that when a sportsman with good talent surfaced, we took charge of him and developed his skills. These may be isolated occurrences. We did not try and produce sportsmen. We decided, we must make a start somewhere and invited the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association to join hands with the Interim Committee for Cricket to devise plans to improve the standard of cricket in schools which should also serve as a nursery.

The Minister said it was around this time that President Mahinda Rajapaksa invited D. S. de Silva to be his advisor on cricket. President Mahinda Rajapaksa also urged him to include D. S. de Silva into the Interim Committee for Sri Lanka Cricket. But, there was some problems in doing this and he next included D. S. de Silva as a Consultant to the Interim Committee. `D.S.' accepted this post and at our request went to the schools in the country and made a good study of the requirements to improve cricket in schools. His survey revealed that the schools must be provided with infrastructure, sports materials and also they must be trained. He did a good job of it and the result is that we are providing the schools with the cricket materials as a first step.

Material worth Rs. 7 lakhs each

Gamini Lokuge also said that each school is a beneficiary for cricket materials worth nearly Rs. 7 lakhs. When this was put to President Mahinda Rajapaksa who said that if it was for the development of cricket in schools, he will give instructions to import the required cricket materials duty free. When a massive project of this magnitude is implemented there could be flaws and shortcomings and all must appraise the authorities of them, so that we could rectify them. Providing cricket materials alone will not develop cricket in schools. The schools should have grounds and other facilities to practise and play. They must have a good cricket coach to train the young cricketers. The elite schools may have all these facilities, but not the poor rural schools. We must try and help these schools. We may not be able to do everything but these schools should tell us what is required by them and then we could help them.

The Sports Minister also said that some of the cricket playing clubs need assistance and we are aware of this problem and we will do our best to help them. But the clubs on the other hand should try and promote and develop the local cricketers. We provide funds to the clubs and what these clubs do is to hire cricketers from outside and play in tournaments and win matches. The club carries the name of the village or town, but the cricketers are from outside. Not a single cricketer is included from the village. This does not happen even in a place like England where only two cricketers from overseas are permitted to play in County Cricket. The name of the village is used to win matches. At least half of the team must be made up of cricketers from the village. We will help you in this regard, the Minister added.

He further said that Sri Lanka Cricket is paying for the cricketers and also are making payments to the clubs not for cricketers to come from outside and play for them and win the cup. Talented cricketers from schools in the area must be included in the side and this will attract local interest and also give an opportunity to the local cricketers to show their prowess. We hope to have a discussion on this issue with the clubs and arrive at a workable solution.

Outstation cricketers must be provided

He said that the cricketers in the outstations must be provided with proper training facilities in order to bring them upto the national and international standards. Recently our under 18 national side was to tour New Zealand and due to the bungling of the officials, the visa could not be obtained and the tour did not come off. Had these officials only contacted him, he would have obtained the visa in a day. But he is taking steps for the under 18 cricketers to go on this tour at a future date. He is also making plans for our under 19, under 18 and under 15 cricketers to make tours in the region and gain the necessary experience and exposure and prepare them for the national team now itself. This is our duty and the Interim Committee is there for this purpose. In lighter vein, he said in the past what people tried to do was get orders for the supply of food or contracts to clean toilets or even to construct grounds. He is changing this kind of set up.

In conclusion, Minister Lokuge said that we may win and also lose and we must analyse why we lost and take steps to correct our mistakes and rectify where we went wrong. This is a challenge we must take.

Former Chief Minister of the Central Province Sarath Ekanayake said that it was a great day for school cricketers in the Kandy and Nuwara Eliya districts. They have been provided with cricket materials to the tune of Rs. 8 lakhs each. We must thank President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2009/02/15/...

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