Since winning the World Cup way back in 1996, Sri Lanka’s cricket, undoubtedly, has been on the ascendancy. Yes, our cricketers did have the technique and the other wherewithal even before that, but what they lacked up to that was the mental toughness and the link of getting used to winning ways.
Once they mixed those ingredients in their day-to-day game plan, they turned out to be an above-average garrison that always played positive cricket and were in the reckoning for accolades in whatever form of cricket that they were engaged in.
Even in the present context, the Lankan cricketers are some of the strongest performers on the shelf. In 2007 and 2011, they ended up as the second best in the 50-overs World Cup and currently are perched at the third place in the ODI rankings. In Tests, Sri Lanka occupies the fourth position behind India, South Africa and England. Sri Lanka also were the runners-up of the 2009 version of the T-20 tournament to Pakistan in the championship that was played in England.
|The main actors in the current episode -- here sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage is seen handing over the chief selector’s position to former SLC CEO Duleep Mendis with SLC chief D.S. de Silva. . With this appointment a stand taken by the minister to call back the Lankan players by May five in readiness for the Sri Lanka tour of England shook the ground below, but seemingly sanity prevailed.
With all these accolades behind them, Sri Lanka are about to launch their decisive England tour which could largely have the final say if Sri Lanka would be a part of the 2013 World Test Championship in England. Right now the Lankans are placed at fourth place and their performances against England, Australia and Pakistan within the next six months would decide if they would be one of the final four for the Test Championship in a semi-final play off and the championship.
However, of late, in spite of the local cricket being one of the best in the world, it has been driving through some of the roughest roads that it has travelled in during its 29-year journey in the big league of the game.
It all began in the aftermath of the 2011 World Cup loss, with the resignation of skipper Kumar Sangakkara, Vice Captain Mahela Jayawardena, selectors Aravinda de Silva & Co and others.
In a hurriedly convened media chat, Sangakkara explained why he was quitting and flew off to India to take over the reins of the Deccan Charges.
A few sleepless nights later, the Sports Minister appointed retired SLC CEO Duleep Mendis as the head of the Lankan selection committee. At the same time, the minister still smarting from a rather bad World Cup final treatment by the Indians and the ICC for him and his other ministerial colleagues, dropped a bombshell. He demanded the national players to return to the island by May 5 to get ready for the forthcoming tour of England.
On the face of it and cricket wise, it is a bold statement by the minister who has defied the iron and the monetary fist of the IPL carnival. Yet, did he look at the long-term repercussions – a blade that cuts whichever way you want to flaunt it?
No sooner the May 5 spell was cast the blisters began to appear. The Indian cricket authority who has committed billions of dollars to the Indian Premier League through its franchises appeared to have been hit below the belt.
One should remember that India has been a good cricketing neighbour to Sri Lanka (in spite of their big brother attitude) and helped Sri Lanka cricket in many ways that the authorities may well know more than the mundane us. So while making intricate decisions of this nature it would have been advisable that they should have looked at the other side of the coin too.
In the present context of the IPL the Indians are sure to get hurt. Right at the moment, Mahela Jayawardena with the infant IPL runner Kochi Tuskers is leading the team by example and is engaged in a giant killing act. Then Sangakkara with the Deccan Charges is also doing his captain’s job admirably. Then for the Mumbai Indians, Lasith Malinga has turned out to be their yorker idol. (We will take the Malinga issue up later in this copy). Last Friday the BCCI formally wrote to Sri Lanka cricket and requested that they reconsider the May 5 deadline. Then SLC met again on Tuesday and reconfirmed that they would stick by their guns. Yet in the background things were happening.
There was a lobby that that backed the May 5 issue. Especially the new selection committee would have seen the episode through their own perspective. A bad show in England, they would be answerable as much as the players. Besides that, unlike any other tour this isolated one has a special significance with the added weight of the forthcoming Test championship. Then, there was another lobby. They saw the hurt that the Lankan cricket could go through in case of a show down with the cash rich Indian power house. That argument also made a lot of sense. The Lankan cricket machine which is going through a US$ 23 million deficit is in no shape to grapple with King Midas.
Nevertheless the second set of lobbyists managed to convene another meeting on the issue and managed to explain the parlous state that the Lankan Cricket would plunge to and managed to persuade the minister to change his stubborn stance and this was the result. A letter was fired.
“Sri Lanka Cricket wishes to announce that considering the representations made by BCCI and previous assurances given by the then Minister of Sports for the continuing participation of Sri Lanka players in the IPL, and the cordial relationship that exists between SLC and BCCI, it has been decided that players involved in IPL 2011, would now be permitted to arrive in England to play in the four day warm-up game against England Lions commencing on 19th May 2011”.
Thank god sanity prevailed.
Still we hold the cricket authorities responsible for this useless exercise. Maybe it was four years ago that the dates were set for the England Tour in the ICC future tours programme. So the players and the cricket authorities were well aware of the job at hand.
At the same time after the first three-year contract tenure the IPL was to begin a fresh with a new format too. It was at this point that the authorities should have pointed out to the players that this year’s IPL would be a problem for the Sri Lankan players. By the IPL dates came through the authorities also would have been discussing or already come to know about the impending Test championships. With that weight they could have taken a stance at that juncture and not after the cricketers have already become part of the IPL 2011 success story. As the head of Sri Lanka cricket D. Somachandra de Silva – a former cricketer himself should have known better about what was happening around him.
Another aspect that de Silva and co should learn is the proper player management. No player or official is bigger than the game. Maybe that Lasith Malinga is a match winner and is also going through an injury scare. It is not only Malinga, but, bowlers in the calibre of Dennis Lillee, Imran Khan and Wasim Akram too went through injuries in their careers, but still they abided by their national commitments.
In Australia a while ago Andrew Symonds was their match-maker. Yet, when he thought that he was bigger than the game, he was shown the door.
Today, the Australian cricket is still suffering from that with that missing link in the middle, but the Aussie wagon keeps moving and is getting stronger by the day. But, poor ‘Roy’ who thought that he was bigger than the game is a clown in the IPL circus and the other day held a bat in a match situation after seven long months. Even in Sri Lanka when things happened in England and Zimbabwe were side-stepped the authorities very well know the end-results of those actions. Now they are saddled with the Malinga issue. We hope the Lankan Physio knows how bad the Malinga injury is. If Malinga had an injury of that nature why did the Lankan authorities release him for the IPL?
Malinga is another player. He is not bigger than the game. Yet, we must see where we have gone wrong and make adjustments that no individual be able to act in future that they are bigger than the game.
PS: In last week’s Musing we spoke about SLC’s audit being done by the treasuries department; however it should read as the audit is being done by the auditor generals department.