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Bandula Dissanayake determined to uplift umpiring standards

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With the re-election of the new office bearers under the leadership of Shammi Silva, they have reshuffled some of their men to various positions and Umpiring too has undergone a face change. Former tournament committee chairman Bandula Dissanayake has been entrusted to take over this all important Umpires committee chief, post having literally served in the former post for over a decade with utmost satisfaction of the cricket’s stakeholders.

Bandula completed his academic career with Royal College, Colombo later represented it as a player Lankan CC from 1986 to 2010 in all divisions while serving the club in several capacities. In his indefatigable four decades of cricket administration, he became the secretary of Colombo DCA in 1996 and from 1999, he has held several positions at Sri Lankan Cricket until he was offered his new post. Excerpts of an interview with Bandula Dissanayake:

Q: How is your new assignment as the Chairman of the Umpires committee?

A: It’s a new kind of challenge as I have not served in this committee previously but I am well aware of the responsibilities entrusted to the Umpires Committee. I have three committee members who had served in the Umpires Committee in the past and have the services of well experienced and efficient executives of the SLC Domestic Cricket Department whom I can rely on to achieve the high standards expected from our committee.

I also must state here that although we are called the Umpires Committee, our scope of responsibilities extends to all known as “Play Control Team (PCT)” which includes umpires, match referees and scorers. The recruitments, promotion/demotions, career developments and education of all in the PCTs are coming under the scope of the Umpires Committee.

Q: We know that you have been a tournament committee chairman for quite some time, but this is a different task. How do you intend to handle it?

A: Yes, it is true that I had a long stint over 10 years as the Chairman of the Tournament Committee under 3 SLC Presidents and I am happy with what I had achieved in that post. Sri Lanka became the second country in the world after England to conduct a domestic T20 Tournament and the Tournament Committee under my chairmanship was the one who planned and conducted it. Also it was the committee headed by me that conducted the first ever Provincial Cricket Tournament in our country. Then in 2017 we made a common set of Tournament Rules for all SLC conducted tournaments and compiled a Tournament Handbook which consisted of Tournament Structures, Tournament Rules, Playing Conditions, Code of Conducts. etc for the easy reference of players, officials, Clubs and Associations. I am sure the Tournament Committees I headed had set proper procedures and practices for the other Tournament Committees to follow.

Q: Umpiring is one of the important areas in the game of Cricket. Are you happy with the present status?

A: The general consensus among the local cricketing fraternity is that the standard of Sri Lankan umpiring has much room for improvement. Umpires are also human beings and tend to make mistakes. Such mistakes could adversely affect careers of some promising cricketers. Our aim is to minimize the errors committed by the umpires in the middle.

Q: What are your immediate and long standing plans to develop the standard of umpiring?

A: There is no magic formula to improve umpiring standards overnight. We are concentrating on the following areas to improve the standards. Education, more exposure, evaluating performance and rewarding achievers, fast tracking, proper criteria of selection and higher use of technology are some of them. In the past the Umpires Committee had conducted various seminars and workshops, especially at outstation locations to raise the level of knowledge of the umpires. However, since the current situation does not permit such gatherings, we have set up virtual education programs for a limited number of umpires to educate them and keep them focused on the rules and playing conditions of the game. The ICC from time to time has been making changes to the rules and playing conditions and it is important to pass them down to the umpiring and match referee fraternity to keep them up to date. My Committee will look for any deficiencies in the current system that contribute towards slowing down improvement of standards and take necessary steps to rectify those to make sure we have standards second to none other cricketing nations.

Q: Were you able to set up a committee and meet them during this pandemic time?

A: The Umpires Committee was elected at the Annual General Meeting held on 20th May 2021 and has been having virtual meetings since then due to the travel restrictions. However, after easing of the restrictions, our Committee has been having weekly meetings since the end June.

Q: We know the umpire’s association which has the biggest membership has done a yeoman service. Do you intend to join hands with them?

A: There is more than one Umpires Association in Sri Lanka and we have a good relationship with all of them. In fact, SLC is financially supporting them to cover their expenses. I believe the objectives of these Associations should be to work towards the welfare of their members and I don’t have any problems working with them as long as they understand and respect the authority given to the Umpires Committee by the Constitution of Sri Lanka Cricket.

Q: How many umpires are officiating under the Sri Lanka cricket panel and can you elaborate on it?

A: Presently there are 632 umpires functioning under Sri Lanka Cricket. They are placed in 5 categories, that is Level 5, which is the Entry Level for newcomers and then progress to Level 4 and Level 3. All these 3 levels have no limit on the number of umpires. Then we have Level 2 which has a ceiling of 20 umpires and Level 1 which is also limited to 20 umpires and includes the ICC level umpires and 6 umpires identified as Emerging Panel who are next in line for recommendations to the ICC level. There is an elaborate evaluating process which determines the promotions and demotions of umpires within these Levels.

Q: Do you have any plans to increase the membership to encourage more people to get into umpiring?

A: The Umpires Committee right now is in the process of doing a study to determine the optimum number of umpires we should have to cover all cricketing activities in the island. Based on this study we will decide when to go for the next umpire recruiting process. We will certainly encourage suitable persons especially past Premier/1st Class cricketers to take up umpiring and Match Referee positions. Actually we have a fast track scheme where past players are given priority in getting promotions.

Q: How many women umpires do we have?

A: At present we have 5 lady umpires and 2 lady Match Referees in our fold. We are looking at ways and means to increase these numbers and offer more opportunities for women to enter into these fields.

Q: How is the support from the SLC towards your progress?

A: The President, Management Committee and the Executive Committee had been very supportive for me to progress in cricket administration. They have always recognized and appreciated the contribution I have made towards the betterment of domestic cricket and regularly provided me with resources required for smooth functioning. Despite the crisis at the national level, the hierarchy of Sri Lanka Cricket had been very focused on the development of domestic cricket which had made my progress much more meaningful.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I am a member of the Executive Committee of Sri Lanka Cricket by virtue of my election as the Chairman of the Umpires Committee. I consider it is my duty to support the efforts of the President and the Exco of SLC to overcome the difficult times we are currently undergoing at the national level while fulfilling the objectives of the Umpires Committee to uplift the standards of umpiring and related fields.

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