straight drive with Sidath
By S. R. Pathiravithana
Just a moment’s pause, did the battle of the Titans fetch
the desired results to the betterment of the game of cricket? Hardly
so, it was more akin to a battle of personal glory and who did what!
The Sunday Musings had a thirst for more. My quest was to dig deep
into the negatives of the game and learn of what they were. There
I met the reluctant, but, solid figure of Sidath Wettimuny who parted
with an iota of the cricketing in-depth that he possesses which
in turn had me pondering for yet another few hours.
on a tight schedule we were on the firing line. The Musings queried
as to what was wrong with Lankan cricket and if it was a thing that
was coming for sometime now and what would be his recommended remedies
for it. The former Lankan batting genius was not perturbed. He began
“I do not think there is a decline as such, may be there has
been a gradual slide, but it does not worry me, there is nothing
to worry about the slight decline in our cricket.
there are some good signs. For instance our bowling today, with
Malinga Bandara coming in (he is one of the best prospects), we
have one of the best combinations that have come in for some time.
This augurs well for the next year or two. It’s our batting
that is the concern. However it’s more of a combination problem.
Now with Sanath losing form, naturally it leaves a huge void. When
you lose a player like Sanath for any team, it’s like the
West Indies losing Lara. Then they will be in a big hole. That is
the struggle we are having. But, I think he will come back and be
around at least till the World Cup. I think we need him till the
World Cup. So, these we can resolve, these slumps are natural in
biggest concern is not how our cricketers are faring right now.
I think we will see that through, my biggest concern at present
is our cricket administration in the big picture. When you take
the last ten years, there have been so many changes. There is no
one who can actually come and see through. Obviously there is something
radically wrong in the system. I cannot claim that I know the answer
to that. From 1995 we have had so many changes.
year cricket administrations are changing. So, whoever comes in
will take measures which will encompass the situation only for today,
may be for six months, so, there is no continuity no long term planning.
I presume the people who are there are either interested in the
long term. They are there to survive for today. From what I can
see because of sports laws and the structure of cricket we are dependant
on the minister or the government to put things right. Ultimately
the government itself will have to decide what we should do? How
important is cricket to us?
is one sport that put us in the map in a positive manner. There
is a huge tourism interest because of that. There is so much goodwill
because of that. I think it is up to the government to realize and
recognize that this is something that we should not play around
with. Then find a system to bring in people who have the knowledge,
who have the commitment, to serve cricket with a long term in view.”
Then when the Musings quipped if cricket should not be an independent
body and run like a corporate, Sidath replied “It may be the
ideal situation, but what do we do? We are tied into sports law
and therefore to the government and along with that all the complications
that come along with it. I do not know the solution to that, but
all I can say is that the people who are running our cricket cannot
look at all the problem areas.
problem areas are the youth cricket, I think this provincial tournament
needs to be completely revamped, to make it a more stable structured
tournament with infrastructure. We cannot do that why? The administrators
would think that is a long term issue, and nobody is interested
in a long term issue. Coaching is another aspect. Then the organizing
of the tournaments and seeing how they would establish themselves,
again in the long term. The other countries are doing it. They have
more stability in their systems and we don’t and the lack
of stability is making people not think of long term but only think
of short term. That state of mind and the state of affairs reflects
in our cricket. Even the cricketers need to have a mind where they
could feel that they are serving an establishment which is stable.
At the moment they are serving an establishment that is unstable.
I am pin-pointing this administration or the other administration.
Then I get the feeling that we do not want to attract enough good
people into out system because of the system. Do we have the best
serving our cricket?
discussion cascaded down to the cricketing nursery. We across the
table pointed out that during his era and prior to that school cricket
in the island was well established so much so that in that era a
cricketer even while a schoolboy could have been identified as a
future national prospect. However now it is completely a reverse
situation. We needed his views on this. – Sidath in reply
said “For that there are many reasons. One thing is we have
all observed this and we feel that there is such a change. But,
you cannot say that the structure has eroded in the last ten to
fifteen years. If you look at school cricket maybe the structures
are the same as they were, we perceive that there are idols or we
do not see any stars, we see quantity but not quality, but the answer
to that may not be simple as we think.
instance, I feel that we have lost batsmen of quality among the
younger generation for the simple reason that every kid is using
a very heavy bat. We are buying all our bats from India and Pakistan
and they produce only bats which are over 2.10lbs. In my opinion
a kid who is under 15 years of age cannot bat with such a heavy
bat. They need to use lighter bats to learn how to pick a bat and
learn how to play strokes. To learn the art of batting you need
to have proper bats. Sir Don Bradman used a bat which weighed 2.2lbs.
He was the greatest batsman on earth. Today what has happened is
that because Tendulkar is using a three pounder, every kid wants
to use a three pounder so our technique has gone haywire. In my
mind those are the issues that should be looked into. To address
those issues you need guys who understand that. Once when I was
in the interim committee I actually suggested that we import hundred
or two hundred 2.2 or 2.4 bats and flog it in the market and get
children used to lighter bats. Because the lighter bats will teach
them to time the ball and not slog. Batting is simply an art, it
is not all about clearing the boundary.
other issue is the new no-ball rule that kills spin bowling. That
is a subject that you need to sit and discuss with people who understand
cricket, see what the solutions are. Today we do not produce spin
bowlers because we are throwing darts. I was in India the other
day and I was discussing this with Hanumant-Singh who is a top coach
in the CCI. We discussed this and he agreed. Today the spinners
do not use the bowling crease; they use the batting crease as a
yardstick. With whom do we discuss this? Who will want to understand
this or who will want to know? There are a lot of issues that are
causing the decline of the game.
bowling has improved. Our fitness levels have improved, our input
fast bowling has been good, we are lucky that we have people like
Rumesh Ratnayake, Champaka Ramanayake and Anusha Samaranayake, who
have put in a lot of effort. But there are so many issues at base
answer to the question as to why batsmen of repute do not get heavily
involved and try to put things right the former Sri Lanka opening
batsman said “Here I think the system is at fault. I think
that there is something wrong with the system. We have to recognize
these. I suggested to the last Cricket Committee which I resigned
from to have a television programme running like a talk show which
would involve cricketers of repute so that we can reach a mass of
people at once and give them an insight into the correct thing very
fast. But that went unheeded. Even the provincial tournament could
be restructured in such a way that it could be more attractive and
meaningful so that a player will have a sense of belonging.
should be a place where they would want to play. Market the concept.
Designate top coaches, managers and have good infrastructure. So,
that if a coach is producing results he can have a stint even with
the national squad. If these do not take place what do you do? Then
you have to let go or just watch in frustration.
that it is the responsibility of the government and the minister
of sport to recognize that cricket is a serious business in this
country with so much goodwill internationally. I do not think that
enough priority is given to cricket.