BW and AW –the good and bad of Lankan cricket

It may be that on this New Year’s morn of January second 2011, the sun rose the same as yesterday and things are still hunky dory. But, in all earnest this is indeed an important juncture in view of Sri Lanka being a co-host of the Cricket World Cup for the second time in history and its attempt to win it at the same time like it did so before.

Cricket by far is the only sport that has put Sri Lanka on the world map and has kept it in the same sheen for the period of time. Yes, there were Lafirs, Whites and Susanthikas who brought individual world fame and accolades to the country, but they have been sporadic. Yet, cricket has kept growing since the day the games custodians invited Sri Lanka to take the field on par with the rest of the giants beyond the boundary back in 1982.

Cricket in this country is unique because it was built in a social structure rather than an elaborately planned one. The populace of this island nation has been in love with this sport maybe a century prior to it was entertained as a full member of the ICC.

This love was portrayed beautifully in 1996 when a country torn with an internal strife -- while foreign engagements being few and far between -- took the cricketing world by storm by winning the World Cup played in the Indian subcontinent within just fourteen years of their entry to the big league.

Since the then Sports Minister Jeewan Kumaranatunga changed the system in cricket administration in March 2005 the following – Jayantha Dharmadasa, Arjuna Ranatunga, S. Liyanagama and D. Somachandra de Silva have held the reins of cricket, but the backslide of the lovely sport in the island is hastening as a result of bad handling.

In reality the game in the island was never the same again. Like in the Christ’s calendar of BC and AD, the Lankan cricket calendar also could be termed as “Before Win” and “After Win” – BW and AW.
During the BW era, the game was vibrant. The people indulged in it – may be in an administrative capacity or just playing the game in a laid back semi-professional atmosphere -- did so with a love for the game and as a result the game survived.

In the AW era, that very game that was brought up with a lot of love and care and grown up to become a strong and independent money spinner fell into the hands of a new set of individuals, some of whom have allegedly taken it as their means of survival and thus digging deep into its roots and devouring them with very scant respect for the game’s well being.

The question is how long can the game take this onslaught? This is the point where the new minister, who has announced that he wishes to play his inning with a straight bat, could get in and work pragmatically.

We are all quite aware that minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has made it known that he does not wish to dabble with any administrative affairs of Sri Lanka Cricket till the Cricket World Cup is over. By now the final deadline given by the ICC is over but the grounds are not ready. If they have not been delivered, the minister has a job at hand. He should probe as to who was responsible for this faux-pas and bring him to book.

At the same time we hear of various other allegations of misuse and corruption. We all know, as a responsible politician you do not appoint corrupt officials to occupy seats, especially to administer the game of cricket where any wrong doing would become international news rather than a hidden story in a local newspaper. We feel that it is your responsibility to probe into all those allegations impartially and try to clear the names of those persons whose names are maligned and at the same time if the allegations are proved, you should take action against the culprits so that the rest of the Cricketing World will look at you through eyes of admiration.

The second task at hand for the minister is to ascertain if he is going to continue with the incumbent ploy of unproven interim systems of governance or revert to the customary and democratic way of elected bodies.

We are aware that the elected system came to a lot scrutiny in the AW era with certain individuals introducing the cult system of governance where the day-to-day running of cricket was done by puppets while the real godfather pulled the strings behind the curtain. However that canker was removed through more of political vengeance rather than a correct cricketing decision and with that cricket has gone on a backwards trip rather than a forward march.

Elected office bearers running the affairs of cricket are bound by a constitution and required to work with responsibility towards your membership during the term appointed. In short if an administrator’s action was irresponsible the members had the opportunity to take appropriate action against him. Besides, the democratically-elected body was bound by the sports law with the Minister of Sports keeping an eagle eye on the affairs. So the democratic system was bound in two ways.

When the then Sports Minister, Jeewan Kumaranatunga, removed the democratically-elected Thilanga Sumathipala-led administration in March 2005, cricket administration was never the same in this country again. Now five years hence the Sports Law of this country had proved the “Queens Language” wrong by running an Interim Committee which has worn different faces from time to time.

Cricket lovers see these interim bodies in a different light: “The People running the interim administrations are appointed on their connection with a VIP politician rather than their knowledge on cricket or administrative skills, they have little or no responsibility towards a membership so they are not answerable to the member clubs; whatever decision taken by the interim administrations has to be accepted by the cricket membership – even at their own peril. In an atmosphere of this nature the cricketing structure keeps disintegrating at its very base gradually. When the foundation completely collapses it may be beyond redemption.

We feel, the minister, as a player with a straight bat, would play the drive on the front foot rather than a back foot defence.

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