With their selfies and the broadest of smiles, the hopeful Lankans embarked on their Champions Trophy quest mid last week and the act will be staged in ‘Ole Blighty’ from June 2-18. Smiles apart, the proposition is quite tough. The Lankans have been drawn up in Group ‘B’, alongside three heavyweights: South Africa at the [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Anytime is tea time in Lanka and the Aussie brew is cold


The Lankan team top brass, telling the journos of their plans in the land of the Ole Blighty - Pic by M.A. Pushpakumara

With their selfies and the broadest of smiles, the hopeful Lankans embarked on their Champions Trophy quest mid last week and the act will be staged in ‘Ole Blighty’ from June 2-18.

Smiles apart, the proposition is quite tough. The Lankans have been drawn up in Group ‘B’, alongside three heavyweights: South Africa at the Kennington Oval on June 3, India at the same venue on June 8 and then Pakistan at Cardiff on June 12. Yet, in the recent past, the Lankans have not come out with the expected performances or, results against these opponents. Only hope is that Coach Graham Ford, who is familiar with the surroundings of the Kennington Oval, will put to good use some of his past experiences. Yes, how he will exploit this advantage is another proposition.

The Lankans, after their Bangladesh experience, did some hard yards on their own turf in the past few days, with some high altitude training and other relevant pushups. Of course, they would have their own warm-up, in their run-up to the tournament but, rubbing shoulders with the Proteas during this time of day would be a huge task.

As for the Lankans, hoping for a seaming wicket would definitely be a tough proposition in spite of having the services of Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekera. The South African fast bowling quartet led by Kagiso Rabada, even without injured Dale Steyn, would be more penetrative. Then, if it is spin, the Lankans will have to stifle wily leg-spinner Imran Tahir, if they are to stand a chance. But, once again, Tahir was among the wickets against the Lankans in their last test of wits in South Africa, during their last ODI series.

Then, in the next game, straight from their IPL exposure, the Indians are steaming hot. So, Ford’s Kennington advantage would have to be used with a lot of maneuvering and skill. Generally, at ICC tournaments, the wickets are more docile and batting friendly. It would be prudent if they try to contain and push the two oppositions.

At Cardiff, Pakistan have always been an unknown quantity. They have some exquisite batsmen and all-round bowling. But, they do have the tendency of caving in when it is not expected, and this is the opening that the Lankans should watch out for.

In Group ‘A’, England, Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh are tough propositions. But, right at this moment, the news is that the Australians are playing another off-the -Field Test match – match of wits against their own governing body. The Australians are in a revenue sharing war. The warring factions are the Australian Cricketers’ Association and Donald Southerland, Cricket Australia’s (CA) strongman.

The dispute is centred on CA’s wish to ditch the revenue-sharing model that has shaped players’ salaries since the first MoU was brokered 20 years ago.

At the same time, even in India, former off spinner Harbhajan Singh is also talking about similar insecurities. Harbhajan Singh has asked for India’s domestic cricketers to be given contracts to ensure their financial security. The uncertainty over income, according to Harbhajan, was forcing some players to reconsider their future in the game.

Back in Australia, the pay dispute is threatening the coming Ashes Series. So much so, Australian opening batsman David Warner feels the players may have to sit out during the Ashes series, if the crisis is not resolved.

The Australian players will end their current player contracts on June 30, but up to now the negotiations are going in circles without a solution in sight. Australian Coach Darren Lehmann feels the dispute would be settled amicably soon. Yet, the Australian coach finds himself in a unique position, having both the ears of the players and his employer, CA. He was a former president of the ACA (2006-2009), and was privy to previous MoU negotiations. So, even he knows what this difference of opinion means to the players.

Nevertheless, CA needn’t have gone far. If they consulted our Lankan cricket authorities, they would have given some valuable tips on how to bring down the players and their resolve.

It was not so long ago, the Sri Lanka Cricket Players Association was a very powerful entity. They looked into the players’ disputes and other relevant matters, and their annual player-contracts were one of the main items on the agenda. At the same time, they too had something similar to what the Australian players are enjoying at present in terms of revenue sharing.

The then Sri Lanka Cricket foresaw what was coming. They did not rush but, began to move gradually. Their first act was to clip the wings of the Players Association and then disowned it. Please do not blame the Thilanga Sumathipala administration for this. This happened during the previous Jayantha Dharmadasa administration.

Yes, they did move in for the swipe but, could not get a proper grip on the mallet because, like Warner and Steve Smith in the current Australian player group, the Lankans had players of the calibre of Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara who were not afraid to hold to the sentiments which they thought were right, and it preserved the dignity of the players. Then, the Dharmadasa administration had to be dissolved and the matter kept in abeyance.

Then, it was time for both Jayawardena and Sangakkara to hang up their boots. The result was the setting up of an uncertain group of young players who were yet searching for their own feet. They did not have the power or, the resolve, to fight.

By then the Sumathipala administration which followed the Dharmadasa administration later was well set. At the same time, a majority of the Dharmadasa administration who were looking for the kill, had joined up with the present administration. This time there were no protests. The SLC made a killing with a player-deal that made the administration richer at the expense of the players.

The present scenario is that, the SLC or, its representatives, may have voted against the ICC cash flow resolution but, in June, it would take place and SLC would be richer by US$ 132 million in eight years, under the new ICC deal. The timing of the player-deal worked for the Sumathipala administration.

Donald Sutherland should come to Sri Lanka and get some tips from some of the SLC master cutters. It’s always a winning cut. May be they could have it over a cuppa.

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