First time since the World Cup victory in 1996, the entire cricketing fraternity in Sri Lanka is perturbed and is openly expressing its displeasure about the state of the game in its present context. Though small in numbers, heartbroken fans held a candle light vigil on Tuesday at Independence Square and the following day staged [...]


They all ‘no-ball’ the cricket management


Our staff cameraman Amila Gamage was there when irate cricket fans met the press to complain about the state of affairs in Lankan cricket.

First time since the World Cup victory in 1996, the entire cricketing fraternity in Sri Lanka is perturbed and is openly expressing its displeasure about the state of the game in its present context.

Though small in numbers, heartbroken fans held a candle light vigil on Tuesday at Independence Square and the following day staged a demonstration at the same place. This is besides the large number of critical comments in the electronic and social media. In addition, there is also a public protest petition that is out for signatures. The initiators will submit the petition to the President and the Prime Minister for speedy action.

According to social media comments, the blame is not put squarely on the players. Most of them blame the poor administration and its manipulations. The Sunday Times decided to see what’s going on and we sought the views of a few prominent past players and administrators on the crisis that has beset Sri Lanka’s national cricket.

 Former BCCSL President Ana Punchihewa – a vital cog in the 1996 World Cup victory in his capacity as the head of the then cricket administration — said: “It is the responsibility of Sri Lanka Cricket administration to ensure the stability of the players by not changing the players at the drop of a hat.

“Let’s go back in time and see how things could change for the better. If you remember between January 22 and February 12, 1994, Sri Lanka crashed to their heaviest away defeat at that time when India beat Sri Lanka 3-0 — all by innings.

“There were huge rumblings in cricket and then, one of the marked changes took place on April 1, 1994 when the late Gamini Dissanayake took over the Lankan cricket administration with me and Upali Dharmadasa as vice-Presidents. Then in a twist of fate, Gamini Dissanayake was assassinated in October 1994 and the two vice presidents looked after the day-to-day affairs of cricket till I took over in 1995.

“In spite of the loss, we went along with a co-group of players that consisted of captain Arjuna Ranatunga, vice captain Aravinda de Silva, Pramodya Wickremasinghe, Roshan Mahanama, Hashan Tillekeratne, Asanka Gurusinha, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan and Marvan Atapattu as I remember. In fact in the aftermath there was a change at the top. I don’t remember now the names of the vice presidents but, the then president Tyronne Fernando had to make way for Gamini Dissanayake as President.

“On our part, we as the cricket management tried to change the culture of cricket like bringing in a fresh outlook to the whole gamut with the introduction coach Davenell Whatmore. Alas! There were results and by 1996 we were the cricket champions of the world!”

Michael Tissera former Sri Lanka captain – the only person to lead a national team that beat a fully fledged Indian side in India in an unofficial Test (even in an official Test) — wrote to the Sunday Times to share his views on the parlous state of current Lankan cricket.

“Cricket is in a shamble at the moment and probably dropped to its lowest ebb ever. However, I do not blame the cricketers. Some of them are very talented. Cricketers need a clear head and a trouble free mind, also encouragement at every turn if they are to perform at their optimum level. That cannot happen if there is a large turnaround of players and constant changes in support staff.

“Ever since the sports minister sacked the selectors at the eleventh hour just prior to Sri Lanka nominating their squad for the T20 World Cup, at whose instigation I can only surmise, I knew cricket was in for big trouble. We obviously had not learnt from the four changes for the final of the World Cup 2011.

“Let’s look at the numerous changes that have disrupted cricket. Alan Donald brought in as bowling coach just prior to the Champions Trophy. He himself admitted he could only go so far as there was a language problem. The chairman of the Cricket Committee, Aravinda de Silva resigned as he was not consulted.

“Champaka Ramanayake, bowling coach for many years was left out in the cold and subsequently resigned.

“Next Gurusinghe was brought in and given powers of manager and selector. Graham Ford found his wings clipped and he resigned, with two years of his contract still intact. Pothas, the Fielding Coach then made National Coach.

“Following the disastrous Zimbabwe series there was pressure on national cricket captain Angelo Mathews and he resigned. Subsequently Jayantha Dharmadasa, vice president of the board, who had tendered his resignation letter more than once decided to stay away.

“Then Hashan Tillakaratne was appointed batting coach for tests only and Avishka Gunawardene batting coach for one-dayers. Whose crazy idea? Laughable. How can a batting coach do wonders in a few days? The result: in two of the six innings in tests Sri Lanka lasted just 37 overs or thereabouts.

“Next Chaminda Vaas was made bowling coach and now Rumesh Ratnayake brought in and Vaas is deputy. I have the highest regard for Rumesh but it is the constant changes that affect players.

“Added to this, 40 odd players have been turning out; so is it any wonder that players do not know whether they are coming or going and when the chop will take place.

“We have spoken at length over many years about a stronger tournament but I am glad that a player has now recognised the fact. His pleas might well go unheard as votes are more important than cricket.

“I am also mystified at the cricket think tank that decided on the type of wickets for the Indian test series. Our batsmen were up against it on turning wickets, including the SSC wicket, which has always been a good batting wicket — against two very experienced Indian spinners who got much more turn and bounce and used the conditions far better than any of our spinners.

“If cricket is to go forward there has to be a complete re-vamp of the administration. This one seems inept on cricketing matters and on the grapevine we hear it is run by just one or two.

“For a start I am firmly of the view that no politician should hold office in any sports body. Then you might find that sportsmen with knowledge of the game will offer their services to better for sport”

Another former Sri Lanka captain who always opted to remain out of the local cricket administration, but, was involved with the game outside in a very big way said: “The other day I read in the newspapers that Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera had said, ‘We must help the team. If anyone can propose a team or a cricketer better than those in the current Test Cricket Team please go ahead. I have no hesitation to bring him to the National Team if anyone can name a better bowler or a batsman. However, I don’t want to intervene in team selection or other affairs of cricket than necessary because the media will target me even for that’.

The former cricket captain lamented, “This is where the problem lies. What right has the Sports Minister to ask for players or to get involved in the cricket selection process? May be he could ask for a report from the cricket board president to that effect, but, he has no moral right to get involved in such matters pertaining to the game of cricket.

“At the same time an ad hoc change into the cricket administration also could be detrimental. After an interim committee, how would we know who is going to occupy the big chair in cricket? As I heard Thilanga had stated at the last media conference that there is a problem with the players, but there is no problem with the cricket management. Then why did they change Charith Senanayake as manager, then moved Ranjith Fernando from that position too, then saw to that coach Graham Ford tendered his resignation? Weren’t they also a part of the management team of Sri Lanka Cricket?”

Renowned Lankan commentator and former national cricketer Jayantha Seneviratne said: “The general public is blaming the players for the poor performance of the national cricketers in the recent past. But, I feel the blame lies in the inconsistent selection policies which lead to psychological instability of the players resulting in poor performances”.


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