It was just the other day that I was trying to run a parallel. I wanted to draw up a hypothetical picture to a businessman friend of mine who is also a cricket insider. I argued that if his shop shelves were empty and there was hardly a turnover and he was heavily in debt to most of the financial institutions and other businesses with hardly a way out, would anyone want to take over and run his business?
When I got a negative answer I threw back another question: “Then what is so attractive about Sri Lanka Cricket? It was run aground by those very people who professed that it should be run like a premier corporate institution. Yet, the race for the up coming seat is very hotly contested”.
The picture down Maitland Place looks very gloomy, with persons in high positions talking openly about mass retrenchment while the employees themselves keep looking over their shoulders fearing “will I be the next?’
On Monday at an after-dinner chat on a popular TV channel former national captain Arjuna Ranatunga lamented that Sri Lanka after building three national stadiums for the 2011 World Cup had run dry while the other two hosts of the same tournaments were in their counting house counting out their monies.
Arjuna added that when he was heading the Sri Lanka Cricket he pointed out to the ICC that the eight World Cup games scheduled for Sri Lanka could be played in Colombo and its environs and the SLC should only renovate the R. Premadasa Stadium and that too not in the finally done manner incurring a huge cost.
However once the D.S. de Silva committee came in to hold the cricketing reins the tune changed and the once-almost-shelved gigantic project saw day light once again.
The ICC committed US$ 6 million (Rs. 660 million) towards this project for the World Cup venues. However the Lankan Cricket authorities ended up spending Rs.3.7 billion and borrowed monies to build two and a half stadiums as the R. Premadasa Stadium was already a sprawling structure.
Nishantha Ranatunga who was the livewire secretary of the D.S. de Silva administration still believes the Upali Dharmadasa administration which took over from them took the wrong approach.
He explained that the loans that were taken for that purpose of building the stadiums should have been stretched out for 8-10 years and then should be paid back gradually. He added, “even if someone builds a house he takes a loan for 15-10 years or more; that’s the approach we should have taken. If one tries to pay back those loans on a short term basis, he is asking for trouble and this is exactly what has happened”.
We also understand that even the government gave an assurance to the ICC telling the world cricket authorities that they would be ready playable finished products for the 2011 World Cup.
Yet, now once the project is over, it seems the government is backing out of helping the beleaguered sport. The one billion bailout package sought by Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage from the cabinet was turned down and instead a paltry Rs. 50 million was given.
What we cannot understand is that if the government thinks that the project was mishandled and there was mismanagement and corruption like the COPE report says, it must take stern action against those responsible and save the game from the embarrassment that it is experiencing now. Now it is the game of cricket and the cricketers who have brought this tiny nation so many laurels that are being punished.
On the one hand, the club cricket tournament is running in stutters with ‘RED’ marked on empty SLC coffers, and on the other, the cricketers who are the real actors who take the Lankan message across to the field are not paid for more than six months.
The reverberations are not only felt in Sri Lanka. At one end FICA – Cricket Players’ World Body -- is agitated about the non-payment of dues to the Sri Lankan cricketers, while the South African cricketers are making a plea on behalf of the Lankan players for their bread and butter.
Can the Lankan game fall below this point where self respect is concerned?
However, the race for the chair in the offing is hotly contested with 5-star gala dinners for the club membership and many promises and baskets in the offing.
Halfway down last week it looked a joint marriage of the two teams which were going to share the seats at Maitland Place, but the negotiations failed and it is reported that the Thilanga camp which already has its line-up in order will hand in its nominations tomorrow.
The Upali camp is still on the lookout for that perfect combination.
Yet, one wonders how on earth that these persons who are going to takeover the seats are going to put the truck back on the road.
The engine is failing and malfunctioning with player dissention and a perforated dressing room. So much so even the parting advice given by the Buddhist priest to the players conveyed a message about unity in the team and how the captain should consult his peers to get maximum results on the field – with that they left for the ‘Dark Continent’. If one can call that the ‘Dark Continent’ what should they call Lankan cricket with its present state of affairs?
The four tyres in the truck are deflated with an empty coffer.
Even Arjuna Ranatunga admitted last week while taking part in the TV debate that it would take many years to put Sri Lanka Cricket back on the road with good management, but, even to do so it will have to go through some severe restraints and self discipline.
Nevertheless the promises put out by the hopefuls to the throne spells out a future of plenty and prosperity with transparency along with a brighter future for cricket in Sri Lanka and its cricketers.
Mandrake and Houdini, are you ready? Two Sri Lankan maestros are challenging your abilities. The winner will take on the task after January 3, 2012.
PS: No wonder they say that the end of the world will be in 2012.