For sports and war, there is one common golden rule. Though the two subjects exist at the opposite ends of the pole, both entail one common phenomenon. They both categorise endurance, cunning foresight and the guile. Then if the two opposite camps are equally balanced, it comes to the point where who drops their guard [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Lookout! Test-killing Lankan cricket is rolling over


For sports and war, there is one common golden rule. Though the two subjects exist at the opposite ends of the pole, both entail one common phenomenon. They both categorise endurance, cunning foresight and the guile. Then if the two opposite camps are equally balanced, it comes to the point where who drops their guard first. The moment one drops the guard, all endurance, foresight and guile are blown with the wind and the opposition uses them as its doormat.

Though it is common to all sports, I would narrow it down to the sport that I mostly engage in and see how it implies to my subject.

Let us wind the clock back to 2006. Sri Lanka was to tour New Zealand for a full tour of three Test matches and five one-day internationals. However, that June the New Zealand Cricket chief executive Martin Snedden announced that one of the Test matches would be cropped off and instead the two teams would indulge in the new fang T-20s – two matches at that.
Prior to that Sri Lanka had played their only T-20 international against England at Southampton in June that year and beaten them by a narrow margin of two runs.

However when the announcement came I remember I was shocked to hear that the Lankan hierarchy had agreed to drop a Test match to play some new fanged cricket mini-skirt.

That was the first occasion that Sri Lanka dropped its guard, and the opposition devoured them. As good old Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene said “Let the robber barons in”, the Lankans had agreed to cricket blasphemy.

Once you start walking naked, your nudity becomes something usual and you let off your right to preserve your modesty and self-respect. Likewise, it also becomes the mode that others take to visualise your character.

According to a former Chief Executive Officer of Sri Lanka Cricket, playing against any other opposition than India, Australia or England is a waste of money, when one looks at the proposition of a profit and loss (P&L) angle. But here the argument is why that entity called Sri Lanka Cricket exists. It is there to harness the local game and nurture it so that it could exist on par with the rest of the cricketing community.

However, Sri Lanka has dropped its guard during the past twelve or fifteen months — may be looking at its P&L and gave up as much as ten Test matches that the country could have played.

Please do not mention about this to any of the cricket administrators or senior cricketers because they too feel that Test cricket is a waste of time simply because the dollar returns are less in comparison to the shorter versions of the game. Besides, the Sri Lankan practice is that players retire from Test cricket in a bid to prolong their ODI and T-20 careers while cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne gave up short cricket to prolong their Test careers.

Prior to the present administrators (or the majority of them) chomped up the said Test matches there was a development in 2008. That year England had escalated their perennial wounds against Zimbabwe and the latter’s tour to the queen’s county was cancelled. At this juncture the then new Chairman of the Sri Lanka Cricket’s Interim Committee Arjuna Ranatunga mishandled a good opportunity. He undertook a tour of England in place of Zimbabwe, but how he handled the situation at that point was not the best that he could have.

At this end I am not a fan of T-20 cricket. I am a vehement foe of the Indian Premier League, but a good follower of man management and ethics. Where Ranatunga went wrong was the approach and the manner of handling his senior cricketers.
The IPL was also a new adaptation and the Lankan cricketers with the blessings of Sri Lanka Cricket had signed their contracts with the respective stakeholders of the Indian T-20 league.

As a result, the Lankans had to abort their tour of England. The messing of the Test series thus gave the subsequent managements the cue. They now began to cut down on Test matches to save money and time while dumping the very essence of cricket.

With these developments, another defect protruded. When a country plays less Test cricket and concentrate on only the shorter versions of the game, the cricketing status of that particular country dwindles as a major cricket playing nation.
Once Zimbabwe made this mistake due to their dire financial state, they gave up playing Test cricket and almost went into the oblivion, now they are back.

But, in recent times what happened? Zimbabwe under their new revamp had three major tours. Yet, India opted to send a kind of an ‘A’ team which was captained by the new kid in the bloc, Virat Kohli.

After the Indian tour, Zimbabwe took on Pakistan and played a good series where they even beat the full-fledged Pakistan team. Alas, thereafter the Zimbabwe cricket authorities declared that they did not have sufficient funds to entertain the Lankan cricketers.

The Lankans were ready to go to the landlocked Southern African nation with a full side, but, Zimbabwe cricket authorities thought playing a second string Indian side had more benefits. Repercussions of the Lankan authorities dropping their guard had come to light.

Then the next shock, the Lankan authorities have just swallowed. Last Saturday, the New Zealand cricket authorities announced that they have decided to hold back their two most experienced cricketers – Brendon McCallum who is the present skipper of the New Zealand team and Ross Taylor, the former captain to keep them ready to take on the West Indies at home. Then what protrudes here is that the New Zealand authorities do not mind having a shove against Sri Lanka without the services of their most experienced international cricketers. In addition to the Lankan woes, the appointed captain for the tour Kane Williamson also has flown back home with thumb injury and the reins now have been handed over to fast bowler Kyle Mills who has never led his home team prior to this.

Then just look at the plight of the Lankan camp. As the former CEO said, playing New Zealand may not be a financial success. But, a New Zealand team with Taylor and McCallum may be a financial disaster. There would hardly be any interest in the advertising segment. The cricketers may have to perform their skills in an international stadium which is only manned by some TV commentators and Press reporters and may be some free loading guests.

Why do these things happen to Sri Lanka cricket? Through the past few years, the Lankan authorities have brought down the image of Sri Lanka cricket. Playing Test cricket and being a strong Test playing nation still count in the cricketing world. That is why cricket playing nations like England (still to win the ICC Cricket World Cup), South Africa, Australia and India are still on the pedestal? They take their Test cricket seriously. But, Sri Lanka are the current runners-up in the ICC World Cup, the current runners-up of the T-20 World Championships. But, the rest of the World does not want to play serious cricket with us. When Zimbabwe bailed themselves out, Sri Lanka could not find a proper opposition and they had to play a home and home four-day affair, which produced good cricket but, scant interest among the Lankan cricket fans. The ICC has not given Sri Lanka any of its tournament assignments till 2022. Why? Sri Lanka has dropped its guard and left the gate wide open.

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