President’s Counsel lawyer Kalinga Indatissa intends to write a new chapter in sports administration with transparency, efficiency and faith, which will be portrayed as his vanguard slogans. Indatissa, an alumnus of Royal College and a former administrator of Sri Lanka Cricket, pointed out his objectives to the Sunday Times after being elected the new president [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Lankan baseball aims for perfect pitch


President’s Counsel lawyer Kalinga Indatissa intends to write a new chapter in sports administration with transparency, efficiency and faith, which will be portrayed as his vanguard slogans. Indatissa, an alumnus of Royal College and a former administrator of Sri Lanka Cricket, pointed out his objectives to the Sunday Times after being elected the new president of the Sri Lanka Amateur Baseball and Softball Association (SLABSA).

Indatissa stressed that as the president of the SLABSA, he intends to initiate the practice of sending audited account reports monthly to the Ministry of Sports in order to keep his organisation’s doors open to the press.

The Sri Lanka baseball team, ranked 30th in the world, have done tremendously well in the Asian region. The Lankans in action against Afghanistan at the SAARC Cup. - File pic

“The Minister of Sports and the SLABSA committee have totally agreed that any member of the media will have the liberty to access information at any point of time from our association. In addition, on a monthly basis we are hoping to send audited accounts to the Ministry of Sports. I don’t know if other sports governing bodies follow this but we believe in transparency,” said Indatissa while praising the former officials who shouldered the burden of raising the standards of the sport.

“The office bearers of SLABSA who voluntarily did their utmost best to help baseball achieve its present status have been silent achievers so far. With this setting, we are equipped with a comprehensive plan to bring about some degree of success, enthusiasm and hype for the sport. Personally I’m thankful for those who shed their sweat right throughout for baseball and it gives me the highest confidence and the honour to lead such a capable team of officials,” he added.

A solicitor who has spelt his name alongside sports after having appeared in famous cases involving two of the most loved sports personalities of Sri Lanka, Indatissa revealed that he thought deep before stepping into the role of heading baseball’s hierarchy.
“As far as sports are concerned I’m not a stranger. My first involvement in sports was when I got the opportunity to defend former cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga against match fixing charges levelled against him in the 1990s. I appeared as junior council to Mr. S.L. Gunasekara and we managed to clear him from all charges. Secondly in 1997 I had to travel to Monaco to defend Olympic medal-winning sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe against whom doping allegations were levelled. I managed to successfully defend her and that enabled her to compete in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Then thirdly I have drafted constitutions to a few sports governing bodies, and then I was invited to function as a member of the interim committee of Sri Lanka Cricket,” Indatissa explained.

Kalinga Indatissa hopes to elevate baseball domestically with a comprehensive blueprint in hand. - Pic by Amila Gamage.

In a country where cricket, rugby and football steal the higher portion of public interest, Indatissa has taken up a daunting task of promoting a sport that was introduced by westerners. Besides popular sports practiced and followed in Sri Lanka, Indatissa’s challenge will be to promote a sport that contradicts the country’s very own version of baseball, Elle. According to available information, baseball was introduced to Sri Lanka in 1987 by the well-known political figure, Festus Perera. The sport was then introduced to Joseph Vaz College Wennappuwa and Royal College Colombo. With a history of a little more than 26 years in Sri Lanka, SLABSA has quietly achieved great heights in the global arena, one of the reasons which led Indatissa to decide that baseball had potential as a local sport, if a comprehensive plan was brought into action.

“The incumbent Secretary Manoj Fernando and Vice President Sagara Kariyawasam came and met me prior to the elections. Their grievance was that baseball did not enjoy the recognition in Sri Lanka although as a country the sport has reached great heights. Baseball is a sport in which Sri Lanka has managed to gain top recognition. Sri Lanka is currently ranked 30th in the world from over 150 countries and very few people know about this.

“In 2008 we were somewhere down the line at 80, but during the last few years we have really come up. Interestingly nobody knew this. We are only second to Pakistan in South East Asia. I generally don’t want to get involved in anything unless I have the liberty to function with a free hand. I took some time to think and took advice from a few well recognised sports personalities who encouraged me to do so. I’m here with a comprehensive blue print and confident of achieving all goals set.”

While adamantly stating that he would step down as the head of SLABSA after the tenure of two years, Indatissa revealed some portions of the blueprint that he has planned out for the development of baseball during the period. Among them are proposals to promote baseball among schools, potential clubs, besides the existing number of 32, and the general public whom he insists the sport should essentially reach if it is to touch every Sri Lankan’s hearts. In addition to the two domestic competitions that are being held in Sri Lanka, Indatissa revealed that his new committee has made proposals to add more tournaments to their annual calendar. According to new plans, the SLABSA will hold at least 10 domestic tournaments during a calendar year.

New competitions will include a separate tournament for the defense services in both men’s and women’s categories and competition among universities. I is learned that the SLABSA has had a bank balance of Rs. 100,000 when the new committee took office but within a month, the new set of officials have worked together to raise nearly Rs. 5 million through personal contacts which they consider sufficient to initiate their proposed plans for the moment. They also have negotiated with top corporate establishments to attract them into baseball as sponsors. And attracting sponsors for each district will be one of their top priorities. Other proposals include adding new baseball stadiums in the Central and Southern regions of the country apart from the existing sole facility in Diyagama, Homagama, which will be open for competition from June this year. Developing international relationships is another key aspect Indatissa and his team are focusing on, with many countries showing interest to play against and in Sri Lanka. Furthermore they have made links with Sri Lankans living abroad who have shown interest in helping baseball prosper, especially among the schools.

“I’ll be in office only for two years and definitely not a minute longer. I have learnt a few lessons working with Sri Lanka Cricket in sports administration. If we consider our feat in cricket in 1996 we were elevated as world champions due to a few reasons. One was the comprehensive school structure and the next reason was the club cricket structure. In my opinion the provincial concept does not play a pivotal role in this country, because we don’t find a sense of belongingness. If we compare this concept with India it’s a totally different story. But in Sri Lanka we don’t find that affiliation. Therefore we have looked at the map and we have sketched a road map considering all these facts for baseball which we will be launching very soon.”

“Baseball cannot be compared to cricket, rugby or football as those sports have been traditional in Sri Lanka for over a century. These sports are deeply rooted in the sports system of the country. We can only hope of creating hype because there are a number of schools, national and international, and new clubs that are highly interested in getting into baseball. If that picks up, then we will be able to reach our goal, which is to make baseball the number three sport in Sri Lanka. That’s our primary goal for the beginning. If this works out accordingly aligned to our development plans, I’m sure many individuals will fight for the top seat of SLABSA in time to come,” an optimistic Indatissa pointed out.

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