Absent players and fiction writers
While our diplomatic sleuths were doubtless trying to unravel the mystery of Kofi Annan's unprecedented message of condolence that made Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar indignant, few seem to have paid much attention to other peculiar happenings.

Admittedly they do not have the same implications for international relations as the UN's faux pas. Have our sports writers lost their investigative skills or do they avoid crossing swords with sports bodies that are their bread and butter? Followers of cricket have been wondering what really happened that night when Australian Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralidaran were at a fund-raising dinner for tsunami victims.

How curious that not one of our current national cricketers was there that night if we believe sections of the media-and that, I assure you, is not easy as you will discover shortly. So there they were, the world's leading spin twins and not a single batsman to bowl at.

That is if you don't count Arjuna Ranatunga who is now playing politics instead of cricket. Or Aravinda de Silva, who apparently was also there, but not padded up, naturally. So what happened to our present crop of players? Where were they when the soup was served?

Perhaps they feared being in the soup if they had coughed up 10,000 rupees each to be among the other glitterati. A player or two failing to attend is understandable. When a whole team absents itself could anybody be faulted for suspecting that more than flat tyres or sudden exigencies made them keep away en masse?

Could anybody be blamed for thinking it was a neatly-choreographed act?
There I was waiting for answers and debating whether to pen a word or two. After all I have developed such great respect for Sri Lanka Cricket and its doughty representatives following my recent encounters.

Then lo and behold a report from a Sri Lankan newspaper lands in my email box or whatever those IT buffins call it."Thilanga has swipe at Warne's charity dinner," the headline read. All this time I thought this Sumathipala chap had bowed out of this cricket business. But there he was talking to the media as chairman of Cricket-Aid.

Whatever that is, cricket and Sri Lanka Cricket do need some aid, particularly with regard to holding fair and transparent inquiries, not to mention some accountability in its activities. Judging by some of the comments by Sumathipala and others they entertained doubts about the organisers of this dinner. One host apparently was the National Council for Mental Health.

One would have expected Sri Lanka Cricket to support anything to do with mental health."If this was a case of supporting a cause, they should have had the protocol in inviting the SLC President, but that did not happen. And if I was invited I would have bought a ticket and attended it," SLC President Mohan de Silva was quoted as saying.

His linguistic aberrations apart, does anybody really know what the protocol is? Since it is a charity dinner, should people be invited and if invited are they expected to buy tickets?
Anyway, if Mohan de Silva's interest in such drawing room niceties had also been extended to an interest in judicial rectitude in the holding of disciplinary inquiries he might be forgiven his pique at this perceived slight.

For one month now I have waited for a response from our cricket authorities on my comments over its fatuous conduct of an inquiry. Particularly so because it has led to serious misreporting in some media, showing a crass lack of journalistic professionalism in those who should know better.

On January 20, "Cricinfo", an on-line cricket information service run by the Wisden Group, said among other things, "A Sri Lankan journalist resident in the UK broke the story in a Sunday newspaper soon after the team's knockout from the tournament, alleging that the pair were seen drunk in the team hotel…"

This was a reference to the ICC Championship Trophy played here last September and the two players are Avishka Gunawardena and Kaushal Lokuarachchi.

This remark was totally false as my column in The Sunday Times never named the pair nor accused them of being "seen drunk."

I contacted the Editor of Cricinfo, Steven Lynch, who first said that it could be a reference to another journalist. After I said that I was the only one who wrote about it and I never mentioned what the report purports, he wrote back saying: "On investigating the situation it seems that the article in question was written by our correspondent in Sri Lanka, reporting the news, but adding the names of the players, whose names he managed to obtain from the Sri Lankan Board."

The question is not whether he obtained the names from the Board but whether I had said what he claims I had.
Any cub reporter would have first checked my original column to see whether such accusations had been made. Obviously this reporter had not. This is the trouble when every Tom, Dick and Charlie pretends to journalistic competence.

In my day our editors would have verbally lynched us for such obvious incompetence. But not Steven Lynch who later writes that it was "a slightly clumsy piece of editing of one sentence at our end" that might have given the impression created.
It is not the editing that is clumsy but the excuse. The fault is obviously with the reporting not the editing. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in ourselves.

Having now tried to move the stumps, as it were, what does Cricinfo do. It deletes the offending sentence from its January 20 report several days after it had first been published.

Editor Lynch admits this change: "I apologise for that, but as you know that reference was changed as soon as you pointed it out. I have made a further change to the article now to clarify the position further."

Apologies apart, this is sleight-of-hand because it gives anyone who delves into Cricinfo archives the impression that it had not been guilty of irresponsible reporting.
This unsavoury episode with Sri Lanka Cricket was compounded by a tabloid here called NEWSLANKA that thoughtlessly reproduced the Cricinfo story.

The trouble with NEWSLANKA is that it lifts news stories from Sri Lankan newspapers and websites and reproduces them without undertaking the elementary journalistic task and duty of verifying the veracity of what it culls from others.

Since most of what it publishes comes from other sources with an occasional original piece, often badly written, and has little or no professional journalistic input each week, it finds itself in the position of having to apologise as it did when it reproduced that news report.

But even then it tried to shift the blame on to Cricinfo, as though reproducing what is tantamount to falsehoods exonerates one of culpability.
In days gone by, public opprobrium for bad journalism and even worse newspapers, was described in the colourful Sinhala phrase "only good for wrapping fish." That was when fish was relatively cheap.

Reading what is written and printed today the public would think such a description only dignifies irresponsible journalists and rags. It is scant wonder that in the UK, journalists are held in low public esteem - along with estate agents and politicians. And they are the least popular.

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