That was great. It was a class performance meant to draw sustained applause not only from aficionados of Sri Lanka’s cricketing world but also those who risk life and limb to climb nearby trees or clamber on to buildings to watch national teams lose matches in grand style. So before the 4th ODI went the [...]


Playing pandu in political style


That was great. It was a class performance meant to draw sustained applause not only from aficionados of Sri Lanka’s cricketing world but also those who risk life and limb to climb nearby trees or clamber on to buildings to watch national teams lose matches in grand style. So before the 4th ODI went the way of the others those who the pick players who are to be slaughtered on the field with no judicial consequences, paid the ultimate price.

Last week the five-member Selection Committee of Sri Lanka Cricket decided to commit collective suicide, in a manner of speaking. Together they signed a suicide note, handed it over to the Minister of Sports (who is not much of a sport anyway judging by the berating given to players with protruding bellies), said their farewells and returned to commit joint hara-kiri.

It was so much like the national self-sacrifice committed days before by two ministers who gave up their ministerial life for people and country. The British, especially when they ruled the waves, would do so for king and country. Our chaps cannot do the same because we have no king, though there are several pretenders to a non-existent throne.

It is hard to recall any such collective suicide pact as that of the five brave men of the Selection Committee unless one goes all the way back to 73AD when the Jewish zealots committed mass suicide on Masada, the rock fortress on the way to the Dead Sea. With a Roman legion led by General Flavius Silva (no ancestor of mine I assure you) who had laid siege to the rock fortress for many a day, all ready to breach the walls in the morning, the 900-odd zealots chose to end it all without falling captive to the Roman oppressors. Two women and five children, who had hidden inside, lived to tell the tale.

Naturally the hara-kiri of the Famous Five bears little historical significance or the dramatic denouement of the mass act atop Masada. The selection committee, one gathers, is still on its feet like Ravi K and Dasa R unlike the brave zealots who died within a “hoo kiyana” distance of the Dead Sea.
One might also recall the mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana almost 40 years ago. But to equate that cult massacre to the sacrifice of the Famous Five in the name of cricket, country and culture would be to denigrate last week’s act with all its nationalistic ardour.

Over the years one has been led to wonder whether our cricketers and administrators take their cue from the antics of our politicians or the other way round. The events mentioned above happened in Sri Lanka so close to each other that one is inclined to look deeper at any possible link between our politics and cricket than casually dismiss it with the disdain that Donald Trump reserves for the media and any of the 300 million Americans who seriously believe that his propensities should lead him closer to the loony bin than the Oval Office..

Any alien watching us from somewhere in outer space and seeing the active bottle throwers in Pallakele and the varied demonstrators in Colombo and its environs who throw anything they can lay their hands on, would naturally ask themselves whether these are blood brothers. Of course the ‘fake’ newsmakers in our midst have tried to concoct stories that the bottles (empty ones, mind you) were thrown at our players whose overall performance was viewed by Sri Lankan cricket lovers as a disgrace and a national letdown.

But if one hasn’t got the happenings at Pallakele and the chronology out of kilter, so to say, were not the bottles hurled over the boundary line when the Indians were batting? So could this not have been a gesture of utter disgust at Indian bullying as they have been doing since they stepped on to our shores and first put on their protective gear which makes today’s batsmen look like a poor imitation of King Arthur’s knights?

Remember they were empty bottle of no use to anybody save Minister Faiszer Musthapha who has been threatening to clean up the whole mess from Colombo to wherever after the Meethotamulla fiasco. He would probably throw any litterers along with the garbage into a rubbish dump if he can find one without raising the ire of provincial politicians and local residents.

As anybody with some knowledge of Indo-Lanka relations know there are millions of our citizens who would run the Indians out if they had half a chance. Actually our chaps had enough chances over the last days to run them out but given the state of our fielding they could not even catch them out.
Anyway there are several of our politicians who look suspiciously at India, the parippu drop in 1987 doing little to improve bilateral ties. In fact there were Chennai wallahs who threatened our cricketers with one thing or another including stopping them from playing in Tamil Nadu. Parippu being too expensive today to be thrown back at the Indians empty bottles served the purpose pretty well.

To add insult to injury Virat Kholi said something about being ready to come over here and help put us together again, if one got the gist of what he reportedly said correct. He seemed to imply that our national team was a dismembered Humpty Dumpty that had to be stuck together with glue and put back in pads and helmet.

It is bad enough that some mutts want to run Mattala airport, pick some slack in Trincomalee and plant a stake there and even push a disadvantageous (to us that is) trade deal. Now they want to help us with our cricket or so it seems. Some might say the problem is that our Selection Committee seems to have misinterpreted the events at an unfortunate moment in our sports history. So the “Master Blaster” blasted away saying the bottle throwing and the insults directed at our cricketers was the “last straw”.

Straws apart, those who would have looked more closely at the parting speeches of Ravi K and remarks by Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe after his removal and the special statement released by the Selection Committee through Sri Lanka Cricket might find some similarity in tone and tenor that would reinforce the view of those who see subtle and insidious connections between our politics and our cricket.

Ravi Karunanayake hinted at conspirators within the party and outside who wanted him out. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe also blamed enemies in the government who wanted him removed for a darker purpose. Both were ready to make those sacrifices on behalf of the people and the country, an unmistakable claim to their patriotic dedication.

“Come what may I would continue to serve my people, my party and my country”, said Ravi K in parliament striking a note of defiance. “I have no regrets in taking this decision. I do so with pride.” Now read the Selection Committee at its nationalistic best talking of the forces of evil that was turning the people against them. It said that “interested parties” with “malicious intent” were making false allegations. The statement accused “disgruntled elements of seeking to destabilise the organisation which has been built up over the decades by the hard work and dedication of its administrators”.

We are all asked to forget the years of infighting and political manoeuvring of potential administrators determined to prosper and once inside made a mockery of the organisation. And what of the petty dictators that emerged from all this mess?

Just as much as Ravi Karunanayake did not fail to commend President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe for their efforts to built a government of good governance, the Selection Committee remembered to add a word of praise for the Chairman of SLC, the administration etc. So that part of its job was done hoping perhaps to rise again like some biblical figure.

The Committee was ready to step down rather than allow the “dark elements” to poison the minds of the Sri Lankan people and damage not only a great sport but also the “reputation of our country, our people and our proud culture”. The whole 2500 years of it or what?

Forget the fact that the politicians and the cricket administrators/officials have been hesitant at identifying the dramatis personae in the demonologies that have surfaced in speeches and statements. What is so infuriating is that even sports organisations are beginning to pick the patriotic babble from our politics the moment they are faced with criticism.

Admittedly some of the selectors who threw in the towel have made valuable and significant contributions to Sri Lanka’s cricket as players. But there are serious doubts about their contributions as administrators. One cannot lay the blame entirely at the door of the selectors for the poor performance of the players. The selectors have had to deal with sudden and unexpected injuries. They are not clairvoyant to foresee injuries to players and prepare ahead.
On the other hand the principal criticism is that the intrusion of politics into the administration of sport, especially cricket, has made a mockery of what the selectors say is a great sport and skewed the running of the game in our country.

If Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara is genuinely interested in cleaning up the game then he should be less concerned about pot-bellied players and take steps to ensure that politicians are debarred from holding office in sports bodies. The current practice has not only infused the dirty aspects of politics into sports such as cricket but has brought into it election manipulation in order to ensure that one has enough votes to win through to the high posts.

Some persons acquire the status of permanent fixtures. There is so much money in cricket today and so much power, influence and glory flowing from it that those holding office want to remain in high positions for life. Those aspiring to hold those posts turn as manipulative and devious as those ‘in situ’. It is this culture that needs to be eliminated. Democracy is one thing, manipulating the system is something else

Some of our former greats such as Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara have urged that the structure of our cricket administration be changed and young players be groomed in an environment that provides them with a real competitive spirit. They must be nurtured in conditions and an in an environment that prepares them for international status by providing them with a first class playing experience.

Just adorning some clubs with a first class label might build vote banks to ensure their votes at election time but is hardly creating players for the future, as some would like to plead. This manipulation is to hopefully ensure one’s place in the administrative hierarchy.

That is selfishness. All this talk of the country and people is so much baloney, an exercise in self gratification more than anything else.

Share This Post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
Comments should be within 80 words. *


Post Comment

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.