The year 2004 that was
Apparently, more often than not, sport in Sri Lanka is full of square pegs in round holes. So much so that the deterioration in some of the major sports in the country has been pathetic.

Top of the billing come athletics and rugby. The doldrums that these two sports have fallen into is a crying shame. In the year 2000 Sri Lankan athletics reached dizzy heights with our sprint queen Susanthika Jayasinghe becoming the third fastest woman on earth. Come year 2004 and Sri Lankan athletes are not of a standard to make their mark even at a regional Asian Athletic meet.

Then in 2004 the same contingent took wings to Athens to take part at the Olympic Games along with a posse of officials which later turned out to be an utter farce or else you could say a crude attempt at making a funny movie by athletes, officials and members of the government themselves. The icing on the cake was that one clown who wants to get counted, gets up in the aftermath of the Olympics disaster and makes a proclamation and states that the year 2000 Olympic bronze medal was a mere fluke.

Unperturbed by the happenings the wagon moves on. At present they are in the process of making preparations for another spectacle in the year 2005-the South Asian Federation games. Ironically it was just the other day that the whole bunch got a piece of her mind from none other than the President of the country herself. She said she did not like the lackadaisical approach of the officials in the run-up to the games.

The other shameful sport in the country is rugby. Under normal circumstances in this game only the ball is flung backwards when a move is on but at present, thanks to official bungling, this sport is running backwards. For instance China which took to the game only recently have made easy meat out of Sri Lanka who have been playing this game for over one hundred years. Generally what happens is that when you are at a given vocation or sport for a period of time you acquire more skills which take on the quality of being intrinsic. But, it seems in Sri Lanka we are losing our skills at rugby, which we have developed down the century. Pointing a finger at the culprits is rampant. One is accusing that the other is at fault. But, the ultimate result is that when the Rugby Asiad will be held in the island next year, Sri Lanka will only be competing in the 'bowls' tournament. What an achievement for a host country!

Leave alone running backwards, Soccer, Hockey and some other sports remained non-starters yet for another year. However the public’s focus on these sports have not been too great and may be officialdom also prefers to keep things out of ken so that they can linger comfortably.

It seems that only in cricket - by far the most popular game -- that Sri Lanka is willing to learn from her own mistakes.

It was not so long ago that for some undisclosed reason the national cricket selectors decided to appoint Hashan Tillekeratne as the Test match captain and Marvan Atapattu as the one-day captain. Under these circumstances for a while it looked as if Sri Lanka had lost the art of winning till they got a three-nil home drubbing at the hands of the Australians. Mind you, Sri Lanka led in the first innings in most of the matches, only to throw away the initiative in the second innings.

Then these wise selectors finally decided to dump Hashan and give both responsibilities to Atapattu. With this move they hit the correct button. Lankans in their reciprocal visit down under did not do badly as they did in their own backyard. Since then Lankan cricket has been on the upward trend, having won the Asia Cup and their maiden series win against South Africa.

Cricket through its own achievements has now hit the pinnacle. At present the game is of a high professional standard and it has also become an important commercial venture and the people involved in it too cannot cross the line too much without being exposed. But, as far as the other games and its officialdom are concerned there are too many square pegs in round holes and till the root causes of the ailments are attended to, these games will remain in the same quagmire even in the future.


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