ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday October 7, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 19

An object lesson of how not to do it

Would it be an overstatement if one says bungling is one of Sri Lanka’s national past times. From time immemorial we all have come across situations where we mishandle a seemingly trivial situation and let it grow into a huge national scale problem and then try to cover it up with lame excuses and mundane utterances. For example the handling of the Marvan Atapattu issue by the national selectors and other allied persons is the ideal case study for the above situation.

Well…….Marvan’s case is not the first of this nature or may not be the last. While reading the autobiography by former opener Roshan Mahanama or attending the tearful press conference given by all-rounder Upul Chandana I felt that with a little more thoughtfulness those cases could have been handled better. Undoubtedly all three cricketers mentioned above could have made a further contribution to the country’s cricketing cause from the last date that that they made their final national appearance. Even Sri Lanka’s most noteworthy number three batsman Asanka Gurusinha left the game in sheer disgust soon after he had played a prominent role in Sri Lanka’s maiden World Cup triumph in 1996. It was also a sad case of bad human resources management.

Intriguingly Marvan’s case has a bit more subtle emanation. Here was a man who was still the captain of the national team and had not been officially declared as not being the one. He was selected for the World Cup tour in the West Indies not by order, but by merit. There he was subjected to public humiliation by putting him to sit out the entire tournament.

Marvan Atapattu’s case in Sri Lanka and Suvrav Ganguly’s case in India have a lot of similarities. India’s and Sri Lanka’s pre-World Cup coaches Greg Chappell and Tom Moody had somewhat similar approaches to their new domains. Their initial approaches were to cut down on the aging gentry and infuse now blood to the teams – a method any new head of department would cherish. As a result in India Ganguly was unceremoniously dumped and in Sri Lanka the incumbent skipper Atapattu was sidelined with injury and Mahela Jayawardena installed as the interim (another word that the Sri Lankans have a different meaning) captain of the national team. However unlike Ganguly, Atapattu was not dumped when he came out of injury, but, was thrust into the middle order and then thrust on to the side bench till he was overlooked for the Abu Dhabi tour which followed the World Cup.

Subsequently Marvan was recalled for the Test matches against Bangladesh, but, his long absence from cricket and the mental trauma that he had experienced may have led to his request for leave from the series and the subsequent pull out from the contract with the cricket’s governing body. Across the Palk Strait Ganguly was eased back into the team and didn’t come back with a bang into the side serving his motherland with dignity. May be his comeback was handled by people who have better PR than those who are responsible for selections in Sri Lanka.

From the commencement of the World Cup series I was given the cold shoulder

However the latest developments in this sphere bring in another dimension to this winding episode. Musings had no other option, but to go to the grieved party. So we asked Marvan for his explanations as to what really transpired and how it all started. Marvan stated “It all began in the Caribbean when I first noticed things reversing. I am not aware of the parties responsible for my exclusion. However the reason for what transpired there was not made clear to me by then selection committee or the captain or the coach.”

Marvan further stated “From the commencement of the World Cup Series I was given the cold shoulder when it came to net practices, team discussions and events. None of the persons including neither the coach nor the selection committee personnel spoke to me regarding my situation right through the series. I was just relegated to the bench and made to sit out and completely ignored. So, I suppose I have to come to the conclusion that the management and the team leadership throughout the tournament were poor”. – This coming from the man who was the Immediate Past Captain.

Explaining his stand about giving a skip to the Bangladesh series the former skipper stated “I declined from the Bangladesh squad because at that stage I had not played any international cricket for nearly eighteen months and I was in no mental condition to gear myself after the treatment meted out to me by the selectors”. Thereafter Marvan confirmed that he was not consulted when he was included in the squad for the Australian tour and explained as to why he did not attend the meeting regarding this with the selectors stating – “I did not attend the discussion with the selectors as I consider it is a waste of time and a useless exercise”.

Atapattu confirmed that he had an offer to play and coach in South Africa but he had declined it and added that he will continue to be in the game depending on the opportunities that comes across his way.

About the future plans he said that he would go along if the system works in line with his thinking.

Now with the withdrawal of Atapattu from the most gruelling tour of Australia the selectors are forced to recall the 38-year-old veteran Sanath Jayasuriya back into the fold. According to sources close to selectors they do have a dilemma in including Jayasuriya who has scored less than 200 runs in his last ten innings and has an average of less than 20 during that period. But, with the only opener Upul Tharanga not being mature enough to take on the senior man’s responsibility during a tour like the Australian one they are forced to re-draft a person with the experience of Jayasuirya even if he had not performed well in that aspect of the game in spite of having the young siblings in the likes of Michael Van Dort and Dilruwan Perera.

It is also learned that in future the selectors are trying to take an objective stance on players who have reached their maturity while also adopting different selection policies for different aspects of the game like Tests,Limited Overs and Twenty-20.

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