Cricket polls:  Anyone could use the most flowery language or the most number of adjectives on any other national past time in Sri Lanka. Yet the game of cricket is the most deep rooted in this tiny island nation by far. The game of cricket has somewhat shaped the nation to what it is now [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

A stroll beyond the boundary line


Cricket polls: 

Anyone could use the most flowery language or the most number of adjectives on any other national past time in Sri Lanka. Yet the game of cricket is the most deep rooted in this tiny island nation by far.

The game of cricket has somewhat shaped the nation to what it is now where the 21st century is concerned.

All Lankans are proud of what Sri Lanka’s cricket has achieved within the boundary lines and sometimes also what it does outside it — like the Sangakkara speech to an awed English audience at the Colin Cowdrey Memorial Lecture.

In short, no other pastime in this country could ever come even to a close distance as to how cricket has enveloped our imagination.
In a scenario of this magnitude, it is a dream of almost every boy to become a batting or bowling hero of the nation and at every given moment of the day there would be some young or old thinking of the game of cricket.

Then there comes a lot of people who do not exactly fit into the natural motion of the game. Nevertheless their love for the game of cricket is no less to the others who are successful at it. Most of them become fans. There is another minute fraction who are born with the ‘silver spoon’. This category of people may not have the batting skills of Sangakkara or the bowling skills of Rangana Herath. Yet, their passion for the game and the thirst to get a piece of the cake are unquenchable. This is the type that we have to encounter in Lankan cricket on a day-to-day basis, now. Like Zeus, the mythical Greek god of lightning, this category wield power and are in positions to strike where it matters and get what they want.

As we have discussed before there are three most powerful cricketing families in Sri Lanka. The Ranatunga family needs no introduction and from the day Sri Lanka played its first Test match at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium in 1982, they have been a part of our cricket and it is unlikely that they would be out of it in the near future.

Then with little cricket background at Ananda College Upali Dharmadasa who grew to be a part of the Nawaloka Group also loved the game as any other and soon indulged in it. He transformed his company into an entity aligned with cricket by employing cricketers in the calibre of Aravinda de Silva. In 1990, Dharmadasa together with illustrious Michael Tissera became a vice president of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka under P.I. Peiris and also held the same position on four more occasions until he took over the mantle from Ana Punchihewa in 1996 as president for the first time.

The last to arrive in on the street was Thilanga Sumathipala, who represented Nalanda in school cricket and later the CCC. The son of U.W. Sumathipala – a pioneer in the gaming industry in Sri Lanka, he became a vice president under Ana Punchihewa along with Upali Dharmadasa.

In our earlier articles, we discussed how the three cricket-loving families impacted the game in the country.

Thilanga Sumathipala, a vibrant character and a go-getter, has to live with his gaming chip upon his shoulders. On three occasions, 1998-1999, 2000-2001 and 2003-2004, he held the reins of cricket in the country, but other forces who wanted him out always had an excuse.

As we had mentioned before, Sumathipala built a huge following around him. Seemingly the cricketing fraternity was a force behind him and that is how he managed to reduce the 1996 World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga to less than ten votes in the 2003 elections for the post of cricket president.

Yet, when things were going awry for Sumathipala, he bestowed his image upon his close disciple Mohan de Silva for the 2004-2005 term and did the spade work from behind the curtain. It was the first occasion he let his followers down.

Sumathipala laid low and strengthened his political image during the ensuing interim committee rule period between 2005 and 2011.
Once again when the gates were opened and elections were held in 2011, Sumathipala was up for the contest initially and at the eleventh hour let his side down and pulled out of the race.

Once again this year Sumathipala seemed to have done his spade work and was cock-a-hoop, but, there were laws preventing him from alighting the platform. For the third time in-a-row he had let down his followers.

Yet, as the gauntlet goes his team of candidates was left in the contest, even if they were headless.

Both Jayantha Dharmadasa and Nishantha Ranatunga had won their seats uncontested also slithering through the legal carpet.

The pre-indicators said that if Sumathipala had come for a straight head to head, he would have won. However it also proved you take the head off, the chicken may run astray. The best example is the fight for the post of vice president.

Trapped behind a sea of mikes, the new SLC president Jayantha Dharmadasa will have no excuses. - Pic by M.A. Pushpakumara

For the first time there was a secret ballot. Only the individual voter knew who would get his favour.

The Sumathipala-backed vice-president was Mohan de Silva. However the Dharmadasa-backed vice president K. Mathivanan, also a man with an ear to the ground, bagged 113 votes while Mohan de Silva ended with 81 votes.

This probably indicated that as a result of the secret ballot, most of the voters who had mandates from their clubs or associations to vote for the Sumathipala-camp candidate had changed their stance. Only a few Sumathipala-backed candidates such as Shammi Silva, Irwin Jayawardena and Jayantha Paranathala managed to come in.

Anyway this is the best thing that could happen to the beleaguered Lankan cricket, which seems to have been gradually losing its way.
At the inaugural forum the newly elected committee promised to work towards the betterment of the game forgetting petty factionalism. At least now we can see for the first time a part of the Ranatunga legacy. A part of the Dharmadasa legacy and a part of the Sumathipala legacy in the same forum. Now if these heads work together uniting as one, they have a four-year path ahead of them and you may never know, they may succeed.

PS: At the meeting the most interesting point was the way the accounts report was handled. Point taken and can we move on to the next matter?

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