While driving through the streets of Colombo and its suburbs, what attracts one’s attention most are the posters of various characters littering the streets and most of them screaming out to the people of the area to elect them as their mayor or the head of the local council.
To the people of Sri Lanka now an election is as stale as a crow’s melody that they hear at every nook and cranny in repeated monotony.
Yet in a more subtle note there is another election that is lurching around the corner that the cricket loving people of the island have been waiting for many a moon. However, it has come upon the cricketing populace not by demand or a constitutional need but with a crucial decision taken by the game’s custodians – the ICC -- to make governing bodies a more democratic entity so that the administration of the game would be more lucid.
Cricket wise Sri Lanka Cricket has produced a plethora of unorthodox champions so much so at times even the custodians of the game have changed their very laws to move forward with the Sri Lankan products.
Once Sri Lanka came up with the pinch-hitting method in international limited overs cricket so that they can get the maximum of the initial fifteen overs of power play. They took the world by storm and won the world cup in 1996 and subsequently the power play methods were changed to what it is today.
At the same time Sri Lanka came up with the unorthodox bowling of Muttiah Muralitharan and some law enforcers of the game tried to call his action illegal, but, it ended up with the degree of the permitted bent arm being increased from 5% to 15%.
Sri Lanka being Sri Lanka, they came up with another bend this time not in the game itself, but in its administration. So much so this system nearly changed the accepted norms of Queen’s English.
In what is clear political interference, in most cases the ministers in charge of sports in this country began to appoint Interim Committees to the cricket’s administration from time to time. Yet in the latter stages these interim committees became (permanent) interim committees that went on for years on end – only changing heads and faces every two years or so.
The appointees to these bodies were cronies of the minister with the exception of a few respected cricket administrators, but more note-worthily, the quality also kept degrading with each changing administration.
However, at the last ICC annual conference its members unanimously supported a proposal to amend the ICC Articles of Association to provide for the important principle of free elections and the independence of member boards.
The ICC membership agreed that all national boards must implement the provisions before annual conference in June next year and a further 12 months (to June 2013) would be allowed before any sanctions would be considered.
With this new directive the most affected would be the administrations in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Unlike the former two, Sri Lanka had a democratic setup that slipped from it to give way to an unaccountable system dominated by political appointees.
Now the present interim committee has come in for a period of six months and if the actions go by the sayings of the minister of sports we should have an elected body in cricket by the beginning of next year.
At the same time we also see the parasites that ate into the soul of the cricket administrations during the post-1996 era where cricket became more maligned -- with politics coming back into the scene in a big way.
We hear of a southern wheeler-dealer who walks around boasting of seventeen votes in his kitty ruling the roost during the present Australian tour. Down the grapevine, we have even heard that this wheeler-dealer has even got a huge sum of money released after it was blocked by the previous interim committees pending investigations.
Yet one may query as to how an individual could walk the streets of Sri Lanka with as much as seventeen votes.
The reason is another unique dubious record that Sri Lanka holds. The game is hardly played in the Northern and the Eastern parts of this tiny island, yet there are 147 votes in the fray at the cricket board elections. This is the highest number of votes that is balloted in the whole cricket playing world.
For instance, twenty-two kilometres across the Palk Straights, in India – the biggest cricket playing nation in the planet with 1.3 billion people -- 30 votes are shared between about 19 stake holders.
In England the twenty counties have a vote each, while in Australia the nine states appoint their sectional heads and in return the heads of the respective states appoint a chairman and a deputy with an understanding that the deputy would takeover once the chairman’s term has expired.
Why Sri Lanka has bred a section of people who hang on to the game like parasites is a direct result of the game having too many stakeholders. When there are too many stakeholders, a person who comes forward as a candidate has too many obligations to look into during his 365 days in office. So instead of going about with his work he has to nurse the ego of his hangers on if not a few months later they would be in a camp of some other candidate.
As we see this is the bane of the cricket politics in Sri Lanka. We at this end are not holding any candle to the ‘interim’ system. But, if the democratic system is to work and work efficiently we will have to rethink about our voting system and a way of limiting it to manageable levels, thus cutting off the third parties who thrive in this situation.
Then they will also have to realise that if a candidate is to have a programme and deliver good results, definitely one year is not sufficient. Then we will have to work in that line too. If not, the Lankan cricket will never get on to the highway of real development.
We recommend that the authorities hold a referendum among the stakeholders to change the board constitution and bring in provisions to prevent wheeler-dealing and also give the elected officials to time and freedom to implement their promised programmes.