When you think rationally there is very little difference between an elephant performing in a circus and a sportsman performing in an arena. In real life they both are not life sustaining ingredients. You can lead a full life without the input of them. But for the advanced state of our minds, we have learned [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Amden’s cricket dinner and other related matters


When you think rationally there is very little difference between an elephant performing in a circus and a sportsman performing in an arena. In real life they both are not life sustaining ingredients. You can lead a full life without the input of them.

But for the advanced state of our minds, we have learned to enjoy the little niceties that they bring to our lives. The elephant perched on a tiny stool and playing with a ball or a cricketer with a bob of funky hair running down the track to bowl with a sling arm action bring us joy. It’s the same even the clowns in the circus keep committing their dumb acts with the aim of bringing a crack of laughter. Yet in life you at certain times come across people who live in the mundane world but do cross the line of sanity and behave akin to a circus animal.

The outburst of Sri Lanka T-20 vice captain Lasith Malinga on the unsuspecting media man on Monday was one such act. From the time he came into the limelight in 2004 – a guy with a different action bowling at a healthy speed, Malinga made his name. He was different from the others, like an exotic circus animal and the media loved him. As much as the media loved him Malinga too grew to be a bowler whom the batsmen all over the world respected and soon the mingling of both ingredients grew him to iconic proportions and he became an idol.

Soon the fashion world followed him. His hair do became an accepted norm in any cricket, at any given international cricket match even in the western hemisphere there would be at least one spectator wearing the bobbed hair do with the Malinga curls. Who took him to that status? The media!

So it was no surprise that the reporter on Monday tried to induce Malinga to a conversation and ask his views on the contracts they signed – a thing that came the cricketers’ way with a clipped pride and lower income. But what the journalist did not know was that Malinga’s ego has even outgrown his curls. At this end, we do not condone players acting in the manner that Malinga did the other day. But, what is worse here is that now he holds the position of the vice captain of the Sri Lanka T-20 team – an official position in the Lankan cadre – he is not just another player any more. So as a responsible person in the lot, he should have been more diplomatic or the board should have provided some lessons to him on how a vice-captain should act and interact with the media. Besides, some feel that Malinga is Sri Lanka cricket’s ‘Amden’.

However, from what we learned this change in the cricket contract was coming for some time now. Some six months ago, Sports Minister of Mahindananda Aluthgamage speaking to the Sunday Times initially revealed that they intended a cut-down on the monies spent on the players and were on the verge of preparing a new payment module.

Besides, we also learned that the administration also had briefed the cricketers from batch to batch in various categories about the changes that they were expecting to make.

So, when the last seven days came within sight, all the cricketers knew what they were in for, but, what stood between the board and the signing of the contracts were the top five – the lot that generally controls the rest of the flock.

We also learn that at one point, the seniors called up a meeting and made a request to the rest of the players about the pros and cons of the cut-down and advised them not to sign the new contract. Initially it was working well, but by Saturday afternoon when the deadline was approaching there were a majority of players who wanted to sign the contracts, but peer-pressure kept them away.

The majority of the Lankan players are young and in the initial half of their international careers and they are in no position to take the battle to Maitland Place. Though a minority, the seniors who were really pressed with the situation, were the real contributors to the Lankan cause and through all these years had built up their images here and overseas – their names are brands and they hold a price.
Lo and behold! When on Sunday morning, when the authorities told Kumar Sangakkara that he will not be allowed to play the warm up game against Bangladesh, as the deadline had passed to sign the contract, the domino effect began. The icebergs began to melt and by the time that Chief Selector Sanath Jayasuriya met the players, the message was clear. Either fall in line or become the ‘girl from yesterday’.

This was not the first time that the players had clashed with the administration over benefits. Even the very first Test captain Bandula Warnapura faced the wrath of the administration by trying to reason out the players’ plight and what transpired thereafter is history.
However, from the side of the administration it should be pointed out that what the cricketers received up to that point were not things that they hi-jacked or robbed. These were perks that were afforded to them from time to time and I am sure there would be at least one administrator in the present lot who were in the administration when most of these eyebrow raising perks were afforded to the players.
At the same time the one time administrators should have known what would be the monetary repercussions when they were delving into the infrastructure development while readying Sri Lanka for the 2011 World cup.

They plunged into a binge without thinking about the way we are going to eke out the supper of tomorrow. Today, when the truth is glaring at their faces, they are taking back the perks that they once gave.

This is a clear story of wrong people being given the wrong jobs. Once a wrong is committed it can be adjusted at one given point. But, the cost you have to pay for it will stare across their faces sometime in the future.

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