A year ago we saw the birth of the much debated Premier league tournament. The gist of the structure was that a two- tier system was to be implemented, with the last team in tier A are relegated to the lower tier B and the winner of tier B gets promoted to compete with the creme de le creme of Sri Lankan club cricket.
The league which split up the 20 clubs that currently play cricket in Sri Lanka, was devised to increase the competition between the clubs. Thus ensuring that the standard of the game increased, the gap between club and the intense international game was narrowed and Sri Lanka were well on their way to world domination.
But is it really working?
Last year Tier A was won by unquestionably the dynasty of Sri Lankan club cricket, SSC. There was stiff competition from Moors and Tamil Union but SSC prevailed to win a memorable treble. All the headlines naturally focus on Tier A as most of the best cricketers in the country are playing in that particular league.
In much of the same as Div 2 in the English county game, no one, except the teams playing in the lower league, actually care about the Tier B. Performances are often scuffed upon due to allegations and perceptions of a lower grade of cricket being played.
So then is it fair that only 1 team from the Tier B gets the chance to show their wares in Tier A every year?
Current Tier B champions, Sri Lanka Army, will definitely be upsetting the comfortably numb balance in Tier A this year. They won more games than SSC , they had more points than SSC and looking a major title challenger this year. Led by spin duo, Ajantha Mendis and Seekkuge Prasanna, the Armys strong point is in their bowling. Sadly now it seems that Mendis might miss most of the season due to international engagement. One thing is for certain, the Army boys will be chomping at the bit to have a go at their more prestigious colleagues.
What of the Panadura lads, who pipped at as a healthy runner up in Tier B. Once again with more points than Tier A no2, Moors. It seems almost unfair that a team that did not loose a game the whole season, who have out gunned, at least in terms of points their counter parts in Tier A, and clearly a better side than some of the teams hanging on in Tier A at the bottom, do not get a their chance.
Teams like Bloomfield, Ragama, Nondescript won less games than Panadura yet remain safely in Tier A, and more importantly within the peripheral vision of the selectors. It would come as no surprise that NON of the centrally contracted players for Sri Lanka come from a team outside Tier A. Mendis doesn’t have a central contract as yet. Once he does he might make a move to one of the Tier A teams in case he is forgotten.
So what does it all mean ?
Simple, more teams from Tier B need to get into Tier A.
Will they survive in the deep end? Maybe not.
Do they deserve their shot ? Sure as hell they do. Without a question.
Ideally at least 2 teams should get relegated or promoted. Maybe even 3 with a play off scenario. That is to say the 3rd and 4th from bottom in Tier A enter a end of season play off. The loser gets relegated. Winner stays on.
Similarly the 3rd and 4th teams in Tier B enter a play off. I suspect you can do the math from there.
This would ensure that Tier B teams would get a prime opportunity to engage in some real cricket, that people and selectors care about. The standard of Tier A will improve. The gap we talked about earlier will reduce.