So the latest of Sri Lanka’s sports ministers has taken wing to Australia. Some say he is due to attend an event said to be connected with the country’s national day tomorrow. But the first news out of Canberra suggests that this is not the only reason Minister Harin Fernando hurriedly departed for Down Under. [...]


Cricket as tainted as our politics


So the latest of Sri Lanka’s sports ministers has taken wing to Australia. Some say he is due to attend an event said to be connected with the country’s national day tomorrow. But the first news out of Canberra suggests that this is not the only reason Minister Harin Fernando hurriedly departed for Down Under. It has also to do with the state of Sri Lanka’s national cricket team which seems intent on going down under — six feet or more, metaphorically speaking — of its own volition.

The trouble with our sports ministers is that they have deluded themselves into believing they are some kind of modern-day Aladdin who can vigorously rub the lamp and let the genie do the rest.

Harin Fernando is now Sports Minister the third — like a descendent of monarchical lineage. While a recently short-lived minister was more intent on travelling to Dubai to plead with the ICC, cricket’s international governing body, Fernando seems to believe he can settle internal problems if he turns up on the scene and shows his face to some quarrelling cricketers and their spouses who have also entered the fray through social media, instead of trying for a spot in Sri Lanka’s women’s team.

One must seriously ponder whether Sports Minister Fernando’s decision to poke his nose — as politicians are wont to do — into a simmering messy potage is the correct approach.

Or, perhaps, he should have left it to the cricket administration, which itself needs to be straightened out, to deal with an unsavoury row among senior players that sets a sad and bad example to emerging new players.

It would be far better for the game of cricket if sports ministers spent their time more productively helping to draft new laws to tighten up the administration of the game, or draw up a new constitution itself so that Sri Lanka can have a cleaner, more efficacious and accountable administration than a band of professional politicians and power-hungry administrators squabbling over who should control the running of the game, as there is power and influence in it and money to be made.

After hearing of the disgraceful performance of cricketers and administrators of the game and how the quality of both have deteriorated in more recent decades as politicians began tampering with both players and the running of the game, one is tempted to throw the mind back to the days when cricket was called a gentlemen’s game.

Aficionados of this game, which our colonial masters bequeathed to their vast empire as a precious legacy, will remember the annual match played at Lords, the home of the game, named Gentlemen vs Players.

It was played for 150 years or more before it was called off in the early 1960s. It was not because England could not find enough players to continue with the game even with the British fighting two world wars and lesser battles and little by little losing parts of its empire.

The truth is that though players were available they could not find gentlemen to make up the other team. If this same match was replicated in colonial Ceylon one must surely wonder how long it would have lasted.

Just as our politics has lost the gentlemen who made up our legislatures even before independence, politics now consists of all sorts of riff-raff determined to display their brawn instead of their brain, which, some claim, is non-existent. Even if the grey cells appear to be non-functional, they do work to evolve devious schemes to rob the country of its wealth.

If the colonial power did it in the past and transferred the assets to their capital, today Sri Lanka’s politicians and crooked administrators and officials move them to their banks in Sri Lanka or elsewhere.

So if they all join in to celebrate our independence day which happens to be tomorrow, it is more to thank our colonial occupiers for clearing the path for daylight robbery and political interference.

In the decades gone by the playing fields of Ceylon like those of Eton, were adorned by gentlemen cricketers who respected the laws of cricket and conducted themselves with dignity.

There was a time when our parliament — the old one by the sea — would adjourn earlier than usual on a Friday so that ministers and MPs could go to the Oval or SSC to watch the annual Royal-Thomian match.

So where have those gentlemen players and the cultured and dignified politicians gone? These thoughts came to mind when I read of our latest minister’s attempts to settle internal disputes in the team which now appear to involve even the feline kind with sharp finger nails.

In days gone by the umpire’s word was law. If the distinguished-looking man in the white coat — not in fancy dress like today — said “Out” it was “Out” and the batsman walked back and waited to consult the bookies.

Today they have several adjudicators, some on the field and others hidden somewhere in the undergrowth or pavilion, their eyes glued to TV screens.

Now if a batsman or team dispute the official decision, they could always appeal to Gnanasara Thera or those chair-hurling or chilli powder-throwing representatives of the people.

What is more, the game has reached such a pitiful state that microphones are planted in strategic parts of the playing area so some wire-tappers can listen to what is said on the field.

No wonder that today spies and other types of vermin are tapping telephones and other communication devices to pick up private conversations and pass them on to other parties.

The degradation of the game of cricket has led to the invasion of privacy outside the field and to violations of the law. If President Sirisena is free and has little to do except search for countries to visit before time runs out on him, he might well appoint a few more commissions of inquiry.

With a plethora of PCs now dotting the legal landscape, President Sirisena claimed that he had consulted the leading legal brains that said he had the power to dissolve parliament and call elections any time he pleased.

The truth is that the President got it wrong and his attempt at political trickery was thrown out — the bath water, the baby and even the bath tub, if you get what I mean.

But one thing Sirisena could not do even if he wanted to stop foreigners interfering in Sri Lanka’s affairs, is block the ICC from investigating match-fixing or other charges against some of the country’s cricketers, officials and assistants.

He and others with patriotic pretences cannot stop top ICC officials from collating evidence against Sri Lankans supposedly breaking ICC laws and even setting up shop here. In fact, the ICC even gave any whistle-blowers a two-week amnesty that has just ended.

Such is the state of our politics and cricket. All one crazy witches’ broth and the sooner our cricket is cleaned up even if cleaning up politics is an impossible dream, the sooner Sri Lanka can hold its head up again.


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