Money talks, but it could never dance or walk

Even as late as the year 1994, it was an era that the then Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka was under control. Unlike today it was not out of control. The building was no bigger then. But, in that huge hall in the centre veteran administrator Tisa Gunaratne was perched flanked by a handful of middle income employees handling the administration of the game without the slightest hint of a hiccup.

The machine ran like a well oiled clock never a minute late while the elected administrators of cricket did their part from behind the scene with a pure inner feeling of taking the game to the next level.
To reminiscent the status-quo at that juncture we chose as the then President of the BCCSL Ana Punchihewa who foresaw the impending changes in the Lankan Cricket Administration running into the next millennium. Punchihewa explained “At that time the BCCSL was very poor in comparison to today’s structure. Yes, it was Gunaratne and his clan that ran the administration, but once I took over the reins I knew cricket in Sri Lanka was a growing thing.

At that time we had a bank balance of Rs.500,000/-, and a TV rights agreement that had no expiry date. At the same time we were in the process of going in for the hosting of the World Cup for the first time, but the agreement that the BCCSL had joined did not bring much into the local coffers with the agreement that had been signed when we undertook to be a part of the World Cup organising committee. It was a very tight situation, but we were in the process of changing the basic structure of Sri Lanka cricket. First it was the signing up of the overseas coach where the Australian Cricket Board helped us a lot. Then the five year cricket development plan which was convened by us we pooled the best cricketing brains in the country on a storming session. There came the suggestion to expand the basic administration. At that point we earmarked to introduce the Chief Executive Officer, A Financial Director, Marketing Director and Coaching Director etc.

This was going to form the nucleus of our cricket for the future.” On that scenario Sri Lanka won Cricket’s World Cup beating Australia in Lahore. Since they had laid that initial foundation, the local cricketing structure began to grow immeasurably within the next one-and-a-half decades. With it also grew the marketability of Sri Lankan cricket.

When a man walks in the sun, the shadow automatically follows. With the growing of the marketability, the Lankan coffers began to grow and those who wanted a piece of the pie also grew. Automatically corruption charges against the administrators also followed. First this led to a dissolving of the last elected body of Thilanga Sumathipala on monetary misdeeds. But, alas! The same charges were then traded even against some of the government appointed members of the interim committees to follow.

Then in a sudden change of heart the Minister took control of the richest game in the country through a competent authority where they signed not one, but two lucrative TV deals with Nimbus and Ten Sports. Since then even the minister signed Nimbus deal and Ten Sports deals have run into stormy waters. They are searching for scapegoats but, the more they search the more they are falling into the bottomless pit.

Upon this new platform, the Minister of Sports, has made a new bid to clean up the cricketing stables with the formation of a monetary trust. Basically the monetary trust that will govern the local cricket as we understand will be manned by a member of the SLC, finance ministry, Tender Board, Public Administration and the Inland Revenue.

All SLC work which runs to more than Rs. 500,000/- would go under the scrutiny of this organisation prior to its implementation.

Ana Punchihewa
Once again we asked the former BCCSL President how practical this move which is mooted by the Sports Minister was. First Punchihewa pointed out that this forum would be manned by mainly high ranking government officials who also have their other official day-to-day functions. He said “The first question that comes to my mind is that how often these people would be meeting? In the present day context of cricket in this country and large scale that it is involved Rs.500,000/- counts to nothing. If the bar could be raised to about Rs 5 million that would be more practical. For instance if they are to get down a bowling machine on an urgent basis it would be an arduous task, because the Trust may not be meeting that soon. Mind you prior to that the proposal also has done its round within the SLC to get the approval of its own officials. At the same time this Trust also has been drawn up with an interim committee frame of mind I feel. In an elected body the checks and balances are done by the stake holders once a year.

If they have misappropriated money at the end of the year the stake holders who are going to vote for you will ask questions, unlike members of an interim committee who are not answerable to any stake holder. I say this because the Minister also has mentioned that as soon as the Monetary Trust is formed that he would be once again opening doors for democratic elections. Then in that environment would the scenario be different? The clubs who would be voters will be the biggest stake holders of the game. Then they also must have a voice in the destiny of the game. So, it would be very practical if the Minister could formulate a method to include a few stake holders in the proposed Monetary Trust. Basically checks and balances are good, but, it should be practical”.

Then finally we asked if there was a sudden move akin that tour like the Indians who visited Sri Lanka with about two week’s notice, but a deal that would run into millions of rupees in expenditure could become a reality in such short notice under an umbrella of this nature Punchihewa quipped “I suppose not”
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