I love to indulge in cricket. But, nowadays it is confined to the couch in my living room and the press enclosure at the venues. If watching cricket is my favourite past-time, about 75-80 per cent of my time is devoted to supporting Sri Lankan cricket and watching them in action. Yet, in the recent [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Playing dug-out cricket at Champions Trophy


I love to indulge in cricket. But, nowadays it is confined to the couch in my living room and the press enclosure at the venues. If watching cricket is my favourite past-time, about 75-80 per cent of my time is devoted to supporting Sri Lankan cricket and watching them in action. Yet, in the recent past, I was compelled to witness the despicable.

Three Rajastan Royal players had been floored by the Indian Police after screening them for a long period and taping their conversations for more than one hundred hours. The Indian public is demanding for their blood for bringing shame to their country, but little do they know that the IPL is gradually becoming the dark alley in cricket.

Mahela Jayawardena with his present miserable form in IPL is taking the Delhi Daredevils to the doldrums.

However, there also is another truth. Some of those who were reprimanded for match fixing – a bigger crime than spot fixing — are now in the Lok Sabha and at the IPL podium as preview experts. How would one know how far this new development would take these three cricketers in question?

Yet I would like to bring the index back into the Lankan IPL plight. Even with bleary sad eyes I was forced to focus my attention to the screen. The bowler was Lasith Malinga operating for his franchise – the Mumbai Indians — and the batsman was Cameron White, captain of the Hyderabad outfit, the Sunrisers. In the middle of the over the camera moved to the dug-out and in the back row of the Hyderabad camp was former Sri Lanka skipper and dethroned Sunrisers skipper Kumar Sangakkara perched on his seat looking quite blank, but growing dollars at the same time. My thoughts began to wonder. I just thought to myself, thrown at the back there is one of the most prolific run makers in Lankan cricket history and an ICC cricket committee member who was chosen for a second term. There perched the man who delivered the Colin Cowdrey oration not so long ago to a stunned English audience – it was so perfect. There sat the man who led Sri Lanka to be the runners-up of the Cricket World cup in 2011. But, right at that moment he was thrown at the back like a cabbage patch doll, not being able to find a place in an Indian state-outfit which is engaged in a domestic T-20 tournament.
That is the plight that we are facing right now. The pitiful state of affairs is not confined to Sangakkara. Sri Lanka’s No 1 batsman in the line-up, Tillekeratne Dilshan, is languishing in the Daredevils dug-out. Sri Lanka’s No 2 batsman Kusal Janith Perera is stuck in the Rajastan Royal’s dug-out in utter boredom. After failing in the first few matches he was relegated to the jacketed pool. Then Mahela Jayawardena with his miserable present form is taking the Delhi Daredevils to the doldrums. To make things worse even Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews who was invited to lead the Pune Warriors, was later stripped off the title and right now is a little more than a passenger in the side.

This situation yells out loud to the rest of the cricketing world that everything is not hunk-dory in the Lankan camp. The present Nos. 1,2.3.4 in Sri Lanka’s batting line-up are woefully out of form and out of match practice or they are wielding their willows like a ninety year old man’s walking stick. Then the No 6 batsman Mathews surely must be wondering about his leadership qualities.
The sorrowful cricketing tale does not end there. At this end the SLC has worn their swim suit in a desert. Instead of a bath they have jumped into a mirage and now are about to drown in it.

With the champions’ trophy in mind, the cricketing brains at the SLC drew up a three cornered limited overs tournament which is in progress (if you can call it so) between the Sri Lanka team, the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team and a Combined Xl. The matches are scheduled to be played between May 12 and 29. The tournament is going to cost the cash-strapped cricket’s governing body a cool 14 million bucks. However, the usefulness of the tournament is up for debate.

Firstly, this tournament was born in place of the four-day Provincial tournament which could be considered as the most important tournament in the calendar. This is if you take the board’s cricket professors who were barking about the importance and the promotion of the Provincial Tournament just a few months ago seriously.

Then the second reason: If it was for the benefit of the cricketers who are bound for England (or the ‘A’ team that is scheduled to visit the West Indies) the modus operandi is not clear.

The majority of the Champions Trophy players are languishing in India and only five cricketers from the fifteen-man squad — vice captain Dinesh Chandimal, Rangana Herat, Nuwan Kulasekera, Lahiru Thirimanne and Chanaka Welagedera — are engaged in the conundrum. If anyone opens the mouth to say that the Lankan ‘A’ team players who are bound for the West Indies are also taking part in this tournament, and they need the practice, I would ask why play night cricket with a red ball? These lads initially will be engaged in two four day unofficial Tests. Then where is the match practice?

This only underscores the lackadaisical planning of the relevant SLC officials. Where is their forward planning? Before any mundane person like me learns about a tournament the privileged few at Maitland Place are wise about the tournament and the match dates. Then why couldn’t they have proper plans about their IPL release? The IPL matches are scheduled till April 30. On April 30 Sri Lanka’s captain Angelo Mathews is scheduled to be engaged in a match for the Pune Warriors against the high-riding Chennai Super Kings.
Thereafter they hardly have a month to practice as a unit before taking off to England and the West Indies. More than a few members of the touring squad know about the playing conditions in England. They may remember how they were exposed badly in the initial half of their previous tour to England. There the players arrived in batches after their IPL engagements last year.

At the news conference that was held to announce the Champions Trophy Squad, chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya stressed the importance of having an experienced squad on tour because each team will have only three matches in the first round. If you fail there you have to attend your requiem mass.

Indeed there was a feeble attempt made to get back the ditched Lankans back from the IPL, but that was of no avail. The authorities should have looked to the future and pre-conceived the notion of taking part in a tournament like the Champions Trophy and then given their no-objection letters for the IPL accordingly – covering also the Lankan national interests. It would cost only a sentence or more in the letter. But in reality were they scared? If there was a problem at that end the 10 per cent commission that the board receives for releasing the players may have been in jeopardy? If that was the case they should hide themselves like the Ostrich.

Yet, the epilogue reads as – ‘Why should the players worry?’ Now they have established themselves and it is irrelevant if they are in the middle or sitting in the dug-out, they get their contracted money. For SLC, it gets its share of 10 per cent if the players oblige the contracts. Yet, as a leading cricketing nation we are the ones who would be unhappy if the Lankans get kicked on the butt unceremoniously.

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