To fight the unbeatable foe
In spite of a season that had a typical yo-yo effect, Sri Lanka ended up with a lifted image especially when you consider they did so in the Test rankings. So year 2007 ended well for Sri Lanka when one opines they ended up as the runners-up in the World Cup and then ended the year in the third spot in Test rankings. Mind you it was only the wretched Lankan monsoonal weather that thwarted them from moving over to the second place. However the second (South Africa) third (Sri Lanka) and fourth (India) positions have 109 points each and it is only the other logistics that have put them in their respective positions.
In spite of the Lankan egg doing well with a shiny, but fragile shell can you be satisfied with the broader framework of the game? Ironically I will say no.
Politics and factionalism have preceded the normal ethics of the game’s administration, but, depoliticisation also looks far beyond the horizon. If one could champion the cause and make the name 2008 as “Year of depoliticisation of cricket” he would be venerated by the people who indulge in the game in the future.
Politics takes such a huge part in cricket recently it was announced that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appointed former Sri Lankan leg spinning all-rounder D.S. de Silva as his cricket advisor. I for a moment wondered who would he appoint as his advisor for Volleyball which is legislated as our national sport.
In addition to the advisor, the president has a sports minister to carry on with the work in his ‘chinthanaya’. Though this work load is not confined to only cricket, but owing to the present scenario, this game being the major player in the sports money market, always attention towards the game has a leaning in it.
Besides the advisor and the minister there is also the interim committee which is handpicked by the government so that they would be sure that sympathisers of any other political ideology would not be entertained within those hallowed halls for any given minute.
Finally besides the advisor, the minister and the Interim Committee, there is also the selection committee – a place that one can not dominate without political clout. For a moment I wonder why the government needs such huge machinery in place for the sustenance of only one sport.
Then comes the question is everything hunky-dory in this game we love so much? Yes, the top division is doing well and is one of the sides in the top rung. However can you say the same with the rest of the structure? Definitely no. The school cricketing structure produces no potential candidates who can just walk into the ‘big league anymore’. The club structure is lop sided and hardly the longer duration matches go through its full course.
This has resulted in a situation where the gap between international cricket and the domestic cricketing standards are widening by the hour. At the same time even the Provincial Cricket Tournament which was introduced hopefully to bridge the gap has run into stormy weather as it is challenged by interested parties who do possess the political clout.
All this is a direct result of cricket becoming a political tool.
Ironically the catch comes at this point. The cricket administration system is so degenerated, if the game is depoliticized and a democratic framework comes into play, who would take the upper hand? It may be a huge mafia who has enough hard cash to float around and take over to ‘crown’ a person with vested interests. As a result if one seeks to venture into that path they would have to do so with the greatest of precautions so that it would be the people who genuinely have cricket at heart would occupy those seats in a more legitimate manner.
There are many issues that Sri Lanka has to take up with the ICC. For instance, matters pertaining to the appointment of umpires into the elite panel. Lop sided tour itineraries. etc. These issues will have to be dealt with Lankan cricket at heart and nothing else.
At the same time cricket is the richest sport in this country and persons who are in power must make sure that the monies that come through the exploits of our cricketers is utilized only to regenerate cricket standards so that we can continue to keep pace with the rest of the world.
A while ago we predicted that with the present status-quo we will be losing even to Bangladesh on a regular basis and that is exactly what has transpired now.
The situation is very complex. Light at the end of the tunnel seems very far away like a fading stray on a clear night sky. There should not be the situation where a cricketer could go running to politician crying his heart out when he is dropped nor a situation where a politician intervenes to reinstate a cricketer that the selectors have decided to drop.
For that ideal situation the administrators should be persons that the selectors respect. The selectors should be persons that the administrators respect. The entire forum should be void of politics and the entire system should be above board.