The late great singer cumsongwriter John Lennon came with this timely melody – “So this is Christmas… what have we done?” I think, for the year-end there is no more pertinent melody than this. Yes, it is time to look at the next calendar and plan out the strategies and to fulfil that objective, you [...]


Inglorious certainties of Sri Lanka cricket


The plain truth.......After the press briefing to welcome Chandika Hathurusinghe the professional Lankan born cricket coach, he is made to stand in the thin drizzle while the MSD parasols are hoisted to shelter Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thilanga Sumathipala and Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera. Also standing in the drizzle is the head of Sri Lanka Cricket -- CEO Ashley de Silva. Doesn't it project a clear picture? (Pic Amila Gamage)

The late great singer cumsongwriter John Lennon came with this timely melody – “So this is Christmas… what have we done?” I think, for the year-end there is no more pertinent melody than this. Yes, it is time to look at the next calendar and plan out the strategies and to fulfil that objective, you have to reminisce and take stock of your performance record of the past three hundred and sixty odd days at the same time.

Nonetheless, at this juncture, Musings would like to be more specific. This year through, we have been sceptical, especially with the performance of the Lankan cricket administration and how their actions at that summit have cascaded on to the performances in the middle of the national ensemble. Because people tend to generalise the performance of the given year before they visualise what’s going to be included in the diary for the next year!

A few days ago, one of the big wigs at Sri Lanka Cricket was trying to validate the performance record of the institution. He boasted, “Just imagine when we got the reins of Sri Lanka Cricket we were in the red; now just see the organisation has got so much of funds we do not know what to do with it.” I know he made that statement in lighter vein, but I understood the score – I mean lines in-between. Well if that is the real picture of Sri Lanka cricket – I am sorry to say we are on the wrong track. On the one hand, the institution is making huge profits and is onto untold riches, while on the other, Sri Lanka’s cricket is capitulating and soon becoming another “also ran nation” and in the future we will only make the numbers at ICC events like the West Indies — and not real contenders.

We genuinely feel the first cut – the deepest-came at the inception when the Sumathipala administration tampered with the players’ wages which began to dwindle to a tuppence. It was at that point the players learned that the administration did not respect them for what they were and they were just pawns in the game that the big wigs played according to ‘their’ rules. I know as long as there were players in the calibre of T.M. Dilshan, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas, Kumar Sangakkara or Mahela Jayawardena on stage, no such moves would have been possible, but, as soon as they crossed the boundary-line for the last time SLC pruning shears were at work.

Nonetheless, let’s turn the pages of 2016. It began with the Lankans being engaged in a tussle for supremacy against South Africa in South Africa which started in December 18 2016. The Lankans lost the Test series as well as the ODIs badly and the result was that the South African authorities decided that they would do without their next engagement against Sri Lanka which was to begin in November-December 2017. That was the first nail on the Lankan cricket coffin.

Very, soon the Lankans were sandwiched in a T-20 engagement against Australia and Sri Lanka who by beating the South Africans in their T-20 tussle went one step further beat Australia handsomely. But, in fact as for the Australians, they used a host of greenhorns who were a part of their Big Bash which was played a while before.

At the same time there was another development brewing within the cricket citadel. It was the Ford-Gurusinha conundrum in which the incumbent coach Ford ended up as the second best.

Once Ford packed his bags, Gurusinha shares rose gradually in the Lankan cricket bourse. Right now he has been elevated to the level of Mr. Cricket in Sri Lanka – colloquially to say his shares are dearer than those of Aravinda de Silva who also ended as second in another race to Gurusinha. At present Mr. Gurusinha serves in the SLC cricket committee; he is a member of the selection committee as well as the manager of the national cricket team.

While this transformation was being enacted, the Lankan cricket began to crumble like house of cards. First it was a bitter pill against Bangladesh where the South Asian brothers clearly looked the better equipped side. Then the bitterest of all occurred when the Lankans were decapitated by Zimbabwe. Captain Angelo Mathews had to pay with his crown. But, someone pointed out, though a part of our land, cricket in Hambantota is rather rare. As for the young Sri Lankans who were being tossed around like sprats on a frying pan, the Sooriyawewa Stadium was as alien as the ground at Harare. So on equal terms Sri Lanka cricket lost.

Thus, there were cricket riots. By the time the Lankans began to lose to the marauding Indians there were ugly scenes at Dambulla and protests in Colombo. The fall guy in this melee was chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya who was a bitter man when he decided to tender his resignation.

Suddenly the whole atmosphere became hazy. There were rumours of Thilanga Sumathipala himself deciding to abdicate. But, knowing the man we knew it was never to be. Then in time, ‘superman’ Dayasiri Jayasekera flew directly from the north pole and rescued the day for Sumathipala with one of the biggest spectacles in the sports ministry’s annals when he had a meeting of cricket’s stake holders where some attended. But, it did save Sumathipala’s day, and not only that, the minister even got Aravinda de Silva, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena to present a rescue package to the beleaguered cricket president, in the form of a domestic cricket format. But, if I am not mistaken, the same or almost the same format was presented by the former Wettimuny administration prior to this; only to be thrown out of the window the moment the Sumathipala administration took office. So the longevity of this proposal is yet to be ascertained.

All this means the solutions to cricket ills are bound to get more complicated. Please do not think for a moment that Chandika Hathurusinghe is the solution for all ills in Lankan cricket. Of late, we have had a rain of stars – Rumesh Ratnayake, Hashan Tillekeratne, Chaminda Vaas, Thilan Samaraweera, Graeme Labrooy, Avishka Gunawardena and Asanka Gurusinha trying to row the boat along with Nick Pothas. Yet, no proper answers have been found.

On Wednesday there was high level security for the warm up parade of new coach Chandika Hathurusinghe. Not only the deputy speaker of Parliament himself and Sri Lanka Cricket President Thilanga Sumathipala, but, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera who rushed down to Colombo from his electorate Kurunegala leaving all his election chores behind to sit in front of the galaxy of cameras. Thus inevitably the proceedings as usual got off to a late start.

There at the head table, the minister, while explaining the Sumathipala rescue package, said that payments package to our domestic cricketers was still on drawing board stage and according to the committee chairman Hemaka Amarasuriya, the final draft would only see the light of day around February next year and the clauses will be put into action in 2019.

This, thankfully, gives the Sumathipala administration sufficient time to go through the SGM early January 2018 and get an Interim lifespan of around six months before the next AGM — a clever ploy indeed. Now instead of a maximum of four years, Sumathipala administration could go on for nearly five years.

There was another point that I was interested in while being enthralled with the proceedings. In answer to a question the SLC President very seriously asserted that we would not have brought in Chandika Hathurusinghe as coach if he was not a true professional. With all due respect to Hathurusinghe I still wonder if Graham Ford – the previous coach was not a qualified coach because he survived for less than a year with the Lankan squad.

Hathurusinghe may be a naturalised Australian, but, his heart is Lankan. We have a certain culture that is inherent to us. While in Bangladesh, Hathurusinghe, as an outsider, may have been able to do certain things that he may not be able to do when he is rowing the Lankan boat. There may be wheels within wheels where some may not want to give up good things going.

Besides that we all know who sits at the helm of cricket in Sri Lanka and he is always right or else the ministers sees to that he is right. There is also talk about what happened to the ICC match-fixing probe charge where a lot of print worthy names were discussed. Then also what really happened to the half probed local match fixing inquiry. There too a lot is yet to be ironed out.

I still ponder about what John Lennon wondered so many moons ago.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

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