18th March 2001
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ICC should be blamed and not the umpires

By Fourth Umpire

The International Cricket Council (ICC) the games governing body should take full blame for the unsavoury incidents that unfolded in the recent test matches that not only brought the game to disrepute but also left an ugly scar in the play-ers,officials and the viewers mind.

Officials of the ICC have been meeting frequently in Air Conditioned Lounge rooms formulating strict Codes of Conduct for players and penalties for breaching such codes.In their latest Publication on the Code of Conduct for pla-yers,(Nov.2000) the Captains are held responsible at all times for ensuring that play is conducted within the spirit of the game as well as within the laws of the game.The Code for players also stipulates that at all times the umpires decision has to be accepted and players should not show dissent at the Umpires.Players should also not engage in conduct unbecoming to their status which could bring them or the game to disrepute.Prior to all Tests and One day series the ICC appointed match refree reminds the Captain and team officials of this Code of Conduct and demands strict Compliance, failing which penalties are imposed.

Having a Code of Conduct for players is fine.Imposing a penalty if the Code is breached is acceptable, only if the ICC has left no stone unturned in their bid to ensure that the Captain and players are not lured into any contro-versies.But sadly the ICC has not done their homework here.

With the appointment of inefficient umpires and the fact that the available technology is not used for lbws and bat pad catches,the ICC only lures the players to controversies that brings the game to disrepute and kills the spirit of the game .After all, today the game has become extremely competitive and there is so much at stake that players are bound to react and behave in a manner that is unbecoming to their status if atrocious decisions are given against them when it could have been avoided.

Asgiriya and Galle were not the only places which had controversial decisions lately.Bombay,(Ind-Aus)Guyana (WI-SA) and Auckland (NZ-Pak) where test matches were played last week also had a handful of controversies according to reports filed on the internet.

It’s happening all over the world and with all ICC umpires although the Western media is quick to pinpoint the Sri Lankan and sub continent umpires. Infact this unfortunate situation was in the pipeline for a long time and it was only a matter of time until the bubble burst.Strangely the ICC either did not forsee it, or maybe preferred to ignore it until England or Australia were victimised.

Now the ICC is talking of having two Neutral Umpires in tests. Umpires are not being biased or partial,they are only making an error in their judgement.Neutral Umpires can also make wrong decisions as was the case with Jayapra-kash(India) in the 1 st test and Rudi Koertzen(SA) in the 2 nd test.But you will eliminate the element of alleged biasness with the appointment of neutral umpires though the actual problem will still exists.

One obvious wayout would be to make use of the Hi-Technology that is available and make more use of the TV umpire.

Bat/Pad catches should be refered to the TV umpire not only to check whether the catch has been taken cleanly(current laws permits only this) but also to ascertain whether the ball has hit the bat or not.TV umpires could also assist in lbw decisions by way of confirming where the ball pitched(on off stump or leg stump or outside) and whether their has been an inside edge on the bat or not. If, and of it even the TV umpire count-give a firm ruling should it be reverted back to the standing umpire for a final verdict

Undoubtedly whether the Umpires are biased or not the same cannot be said for the English Commen-tators. To say the least their comments are totally biased and shoc-king.Botham,Willis and Allott are quick to find fault and criticise the Umpires but they don’t realise how biased their comments are and the mistakes they make.

There were instances when lbw decisions were given against Eng-land,(AlecStewart in the second innings) and when the incident is produced on the TV screen in the replay showing that the ball was pitched on the leg stump,the English commentators were quick to say that it was pitched outside the leg stump.Any viewer with some sense of cricket can see that the ball has pitched on the leg stump(with the help of the mat) but the English commentator thinks otherwise.Why!

They are also very reluctant to call for replays over and over again when a decision has favoured the Englishman.Unfortunately all the Commentators except for one are Englisman.The only Sri Lankan in the com box fails to challenge the Englishman on many occasions.He very often compliments the comments made by his English collegues and rarely gets his views or the Sri Lankan point across.Thus leaving room for the Englishman to dominate and criticise the Lankans.Infact it is only Tony Greig who had the courage to stand up to what is right and speak on behalf of us.His departure during the 2 nd test was a big blow to the Lankan viewers and helped the Englishman to have their own way.

It’s high time that Television Companies that win the rights to Telecast matches insist that commentators should not be overts “patriotic” and must be from both countries or still better from neutral countries. Because it’s not only Umpires but commentators too who can kill the game .

Int. race circuit, a daring possiblity in Sri Lanka

Richard de Zoysa, the Sri Lankan Rally Champion in 1995 and 1996 was the first Sri Lankan to compete in a World Rally Championship Stage (East African Safari Rally) as a Co-driver and was sponsored by Subaru Kenya to drive in the Caltex Equator Rally. Driving a Subaru Legacy in group N he failed to complete the final 120 kms to the finish due to an electrical problem. He was also one of the first drivers in Sri Lanka to fully modify a Subaru Impreza WRX, which set a bench mark for high performance modified racing. Close friends, the achievements of his 15 years old son Dejan de Zoysa and the principal sponsors Caltex Lanka Lubricants inspired him to build a Prokart Track - a scaled down Formula I track of Brazil, now gaining the reputation of being the Cradle of Motor Racing. He is also the founder of the Motor Racing Association and heads a leading Security Company.

Motor Racing in Sri Lanka over the years can be best described in one word the type of flag the leading driver in any race yearns to see - CHEQUERED.

In the 1960’s era top drivers in the calibre of David Pieris, Priya Munasinghe, Shanti Guneratne, Jeff Mason and Mike Rauff dominated the regional Motor Sports scene. But sadly, due to indifferent administration by the Governing Body of Motor Sports progress up to now revolves around substandard racing round a domestic airstrip in Katukurunda. In contrast, the rest of the region has developed the infrastructure required for top-level competition racing.

For instance Madras is a racing destination for the Asian circuit, though not fully geared to hold a Formula 1 Event. Malaysia has a state of the art racetrack, described to be amongst the best Formula 1 tracks in the world. The Formula 1 race organisers with FIA approval clearly endorsed this view by holding two Formula 1 events and is now a permanent venue in the Formula 1 racing calendar.

In 1996 Sri Lanka’s rally wizard Richard de Zoysa met the former Minister of Sports, SB Dissanyake and impressed upon him the importance of constructing an International Circuit for Motor Racing. The Minister agreed immediately to allocate land and when de Zoysa conveyed this to the Presidents of Ceylon Motor Sports Club and SLARDAR who were also members of SLAMS (The Governing Body) of Motor Sports in Sri Lanka, they squandered away the opportunity of exploiting such an invaluable offer. The Minister, later realising the exclusive claims and inefficiency of SLAMS appointed an Interim Board to take the sport forward. During this period one of the highlights was the formation of FASSL (Federation of Automobile Sports in Sri Lanka) where for the first time in the history of the sport all 19 clubs met and elected the office bearers and committee of FASSL where every club is being represented in the Federation. Currently, the Minister of Sports is strongly considering the possibility of gazetting this Federation as the Governing Body of Motor Sports in Sri Lanka.

The encouraging news at a time when Motor Sports is at crossroads is that the Minister of Sports and Tourism, Lakshman Kiriella and the Secretary of the Ministry Dr. P Ramanujam has given the green light to Richard de Zoysa to head a commission to submit a project report into the viability of constructing an International Race Track which can in future allow the FIA (The International Governing Body of Motor Sports) to sight a possible Formula 1 venue. The FIA and the Formula 1 race organisers will be consulted in track design and the futuristic infrastructure requirements. The Ministry has made a bold move allocating 250 acres in Mirijjawila, Hambantota to construct a racetrack and on the recommendations of a preliminary project report submitted by de Zoysa will invite investors to build a six star hotel and a Golf Course to complement it. The Ministry will also allow maximum corporate tax relief for the Corporate Sector if investments are channeled into the Sports Fund. The Ministry is well aware of the benefits that the country stands to gain by implementing this Project.

Richard de Zoysa has laid the foundation by forming a commission comprising of top racing stalwarts who are brilliant drivers and riders. The commission comprises Bri Ponnambalam, Dallas Martenstyn, Suren Cooke, Gerard Abeysena, Ravi Iddamalgoda and Rohan Peiris. The Finance Committee will be headed by Rohan de Silva, also a brilliant racing driver in addition to his many laurels in the field of Commerce. On a request made by the SLAMS-Interim Board and the Federation of Motor Cycle Sports in Sri Lanka two representatives of the respective Governing Bodies have been included after the success of the preliminary Ministry meetings.

De Zoysa speaking to The Sunday Times made no reservations of the fact that implementation of this project entails a lot of dedicated teamwork amidst a sea of controversy and criticisms which will always prevail by disgruntled elements in the sport whose wings have been clipped for weak leadership given to clubs or for lacking vision and foresight.

As a first step there will be invitations for expressions of interest and the commission has decided to insert press notices to assess the response prior to forwarding a Comprehensive Project Report to the Ministry for final approval. De Zoysa firmly believes that there are Sri Lankan drivers who are of International class and has the talent to achieve laurels in the International Circuit, the only negative being lack of opportunities, sponsorship and the absence of an International Racing Circuit. Asked by The Sunday Times to name drivers who in his opinion can make the grade on the International scene, de Zoysa named Dilantha Mallagamuwa, Nishan Weerasuriya, Pradeep Jayawardene, Aravinda Premadasa, Yoga Perera and Sheran Cooke.

Test cricket as played in the Botham barracks.

By Man at Gully.

English cricket fans who call themselves the Barmy Army, should device a name for the English commentators. The British threesome are an army, but are far from balmy by any stretch During the whole test series, they’ve been getting hot under the collar, and have displayed a siege mentality which has characterized the whole British attitude to the ongoing test series in this island.

In Kandy for example, this Botham’s army in unison went on about the “local umpire’’ and his decisions, forgetting to mention that most of the decisions taken by the “local umpire’’went against the local side.

No matter. Any opportunity to paint this test series as a “Sri Lankan cricket conspiracy to rob England of victory’’, on the assumption that England is the superior side, due to fluke victories over Pakistan and the West Indies.

Justice was not only not done by the British commentators in this series, it didn’t appear to be done at all. Ian Botham, a cricketer who is remembered as a rambunctious unruly and un-gentlemanly player who set the trend of “victory at any cost’’ in his salad days as a cricketer, is fond of giving lessons on “the spirit of the game.’’

Inference being that the spirit of the game is being violated by the Sri Lankan cricketers. However, if there was an award for violating the spirit of the game from the other side of the boundary line, Botham will surely be Man of the Match and an Oscar recipient all rolled in one. Count David Lloyd and the other what’s his name as runners up.

When a British batsman is clearly out like in the case of their captain Nasser Hussein in the first innings at the Asgiriya Test it’s a bad umpiring decision because the culprit is B.C.Cooray. When Aravinda de Silva is clearly out in the first innings of the Colombo Test, it’s not a case of bad umpiring decision by South Africa’s David Orchard but Botham thinks Aravinda should have ‘walked’ in the spirit of the game. Yes, Aravinda ought to have walked. But our issue is why didn’t Botham think Hussein ought to have walked-in the spirit of the game. What’s sauce for the goose, eh what?

If a close-call decision has favoured the English, there are no replays. But if one has favoured Sri Lanka, all hell breaks loose in the Botham’s barracks. The army goes berserk, and there is whining about “the spirit of the game’’ and the innuendo that furthers the general British construct , which is that there is a “massive Lankan conspiracy to deprive Hussein and his world class team of their obvious victory.’’

At least in the commentary box it is, and it is so blatant that “conspiracy’’ is the wrong word - it is a heist and a hijack.

Botham and his broadcasters have taken over the commentary box, and are running a propaganda campaign for their country that would have made Goebells blush. Though the match is played on the cricket fields, if it’s not cricket on the airwaves, it’s not cricket for millions of viewers. If bad umpiring is bad, biased commentaries for most viewers is worse.

What’s pertinent is that TV rights are today the top financial draw in any international cricket match. It’s not the gate collection or the sponsorships that bring in the buckshee, but the selling of TV rights.

Which is why the Board of Control of Cricket in Sri Lanka has been sold down the drain in this test match by the British, and their “we are terribly hurt’’ bluff.

If the Sri Lankan cricket fans are to be retained as TV viewers and prevented from getting sickened by this whole Botham barracks barrage, then the Sri Lankan authorities should definitely change the contract rules for TV rights in the next test series.

Before neutral umpires, insist on neutral commentators. A Shashtri, Gavaskar or a Chappell would have been much better than three clones in the box.

But, what’ more important is the larger political underpinning of this whole exercise. In these tests, we have seen that the British have been allowed to craftily and arrogantly set the whole agenda for the whole test series, on and off the grounds. The British bluff is that ‘’Sri Lanka is screwing us.’’ The umpiring itself, though questionable as most umpiring is in this modern day of slow - motion replays, is made out to be a giant conspiracy against the English side.

The BCCSL bites that, and obviously has bitten even before the test series began, considering that they have agreed to the commentary barracks being taken over by three Englishmen, all with dubious commentator ( I almost said umpiring ) records. The less said about Boycott the better, but with him at least we know where he stands. But , Botham, and the rest are, um, just hicks… ( no pun intended ). They wouldn’t know about the spirit of the game of cricket, even if the ICC rule book was read to them every Sunday in church.

But also, why three British commentators in the first place, why at all, and what’s the rationale for it? Obviously, the British wanted to cook this series even before it began, and to broadcast to the sporting world that the British, poor blokes, lost because Sri Lankans played unfair, were too shrill on the grounds, and had spoken in the morning to the umpires. A neat insurance policy against defeat.

A big clap for instance, for preparing the Asgiriya grounds, at the presentation after the match. Inference - that’s the only grounds that are fit for a cricket match, because the British won playing on it..

Another: “Local’’ umpiring was bad in Asgiriya (and this is the one that takes the cake and the whole bakery) and the British were sold down the river because of it. Face it Barmy Army and all ye the Sri Lankans won in Asgiriya, if not for the patently bad decisions by the local umpire which went against the team. The margin of victory, three wickets, seals that argument.

As for the Galle match, yes the British had the bad decisions against them, but not by any stretch of the imagination, enough to alter a convincing innings rout .

But then, who is to believe that? The commentary box is British, the Board of Control loves the British - and blimey, even the artists allowed to prowl the grounds are British. The Sri Lankan cricketing establishment is at least fifty years late. Else, how did these guys hand over the entire game, soap-box, lock, stock, stump, barrel and farm to these English?

By Gad Sir, Howzzat?

Robbialac Junior Masters

LANKEM, the manufacturers of ROBBIALAC moved from sponsoring Golf to Junior Tennis and their recently concluded Masters Tournament was an outstanding success ably assisted by Sudantha de Soysa, the Davis Cup Coach and Co-Ordinator Tony Ranasinghe, Manager Lankem Paints Division, a smart organiser.

The entire tournament comprising 250 participants and played in 3 centres was handled by the British School whose Principal is the irrepresible Jill McDonalds. The beaver busy lady of tremendous skill and experience dovetailed all the arrangements superbly.

The Queens Club Courts, the S.L.T.A. Courts and Health Sports Club were the venues and each of them co-operated immensely in taking their share of matches. The juniors 8 to 18 years played with great enthusiasm warmly supported by their parents and the sports officials of their schools. The standard was exceptionally high with several juniors showing tremendous skill. A coaching scheme will continue with LANKEM, the Robbialac people promising support where necessary.

At the conclusion of this massive undertaking the Award Ceremony sponsored by Lankem Ltd., took place in one of the spacious Halls of the British School. A capacity crowd of participants, parents and well-wishers attended the Award Ceremony which was smartly compered by Eric Gauder. Mr. and Mrs. Tita Nathanielsz were the Guests of Honour and Mr. Nathanielsz distributed the main awards before which he thanked Mr. S.D.R.A Arudpragasam, Managing Director of Lankem Ltd., for generously sponsoring the important event, the British School for their skilful organisation of a massive event and the many participants who showed excellent enthusiasm. He spotted a few excellent prospects and urged them to show dedication and application to the game, cultivate a desire to improve and win, and above all encourage a spirit of sportsmanship.

Miss Jill McDonalds made an impressive vote of thanks paying tribute to all those who contributed so unstintingly towards an extremely successful tournament with special thanks to ROBBIALAC. The evening concluded with music and an excellent oriental buffet dinner.

In brief

Cooray grabs the show

B.C. (Before Christ) Cooray grabbed the sports headlines in a manner that even the great Don would have envied but I must add my mite if only to keep the pace and continuity. The tragedy is not that Cooray is retiring from umpiring duties but that he ever put on the white cloak for such an onerous task. Two factors may have contributed to his errors in judgement: if it is cataract I commend to him my own Spiderman, Dr. Makuloluwa who restored my sight for me to view Hantane from my garden in Kiribathgoda; if errors were due to a blow he received on the head from a cricket ball at Khettarama, which upset his mental equilibrium, he could ask for a hit on the other side of the head to regain balance. Nevertheless, Cooray’s constancy in making mistakes should certainly earn him a residential visa in UK because had he been living in two other parts of the sub-continent, his house would have been torched. Sharm de Alwis, Kiribathgoda.
O.Z., invited to play in Pakistan

By Bernie Wijesekera

Old Zahirians SC, who are the defending champions are participating in the Pakistan Lahore Rugby FU invitation 10-a-side rugby tournament, starting on March 24 and 25 in Lahore. According to Ibrahim Hamid, who will accompany the team as Chef-de-mission this third annual contest started by Pakistan and Lahore RFC, is with a view to promoting rugby in Pakistan. There was enthusiasm last year among the youngsters who are keen to indulge in this body contacting sport. 13 Old Zahirians won the Lahore trophy last year. This year the organisers are expecting teams from the Arabian Gulf, Afghanistan and probably a team from India. The OZSC team comprising 13 players will be led by Shehan Yehiya. Number of promising youngsters will make the tour. Manager Fawzan Anver, while Nazeem Gafoor will accompany the team as coach-cum-referee. Neil Wijeratne, representing the Pakistan RU, is co-ordinator.
Thomians-Ladies Novice’s Champ

S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia and Ladies College topped the tables with 114 points each to win the men’s and women’s overall swimming titles at the Novices Swimming and Diving Championships organized by the National Amateur Aquatic Sport Union of Sri Lanka (NAASU). St. Joseph’s College came in a close second with 109 points while Ananda College bagged third place with 95 points at the meet which concluded at the Ananda College pool on Friday. St. Bridget’s Convent emerged runners-up in the women’s overall championships with 73 points. Visakha Vidyalaya came in third with 71 points. In the Diving events Royal College won the men’s trophy with St. Bridget’s winning the women’s trophy. The meet came in for much criticism from coaches and parents alike on its first day when the girls’ heats were still being conducted as late as 10 p.m. The first day’s events last Tuesday ran behind schedule by more than an hour due to non-availability of the meet programme. Some of the senior coaches were of the opinion that the meet organizers should have noted the increased entries and worked out a balanced schedule. Surprisingly the heats for some of the senior age groups on Thursday were completed around 5.30 p.m. Bank of Ceylon who are on a 3-year sponsorship contract for aquatic sports, were the sponsors of the meet.
Havelocks outplay gritty Galle

Havelocks SC outplayed gritty Galle RFC by 47 points (6 goals, 1 try) to 5 (a try) in a Group B match of the Western Province RFU Under 24 rugby tournament played for the Le-Bond Trophy at Longden Place yesterday. At the turn-around Havelocks led 26-5. Though the Galle lads lost the game to the fancied Park Club, they tackled hard and played a robust game in the loose. It was the rugby skills which helped them to go on a spree. Galle’s solitary try was scored by winger Tharanga. Referee Dilroy Fernando In the first match in Group B, CH and FC, who confirmed their participation, but pulled out at the 11th hour, according to an official of the WPRFU. CH were billed against Tri-Star SC. Moratuwa. However, University stepped in to fill CH’s absence and Tri-Star scored a runaway win by 54 points (2 goals, 8 tries) after leading 22-nil at half time. Referee: Roshan Deen. This tournament is being sponsored by Hameedias. Today: Police SC take on Navy at the same venue. Kick-off at 5.30 p.m.
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