The tale of the KINGMAKER

Had the great William Shakespeare been living in the twenty first century he surely would have taken a stroll down the streets of Colombo to write the modern day version of the family feud between the Capulets and the Montagues of Verona. However on this occasion it would not take on the dimension of a love affair like in the world famous saga of Romeo and Juliet, but just the strong desire of the two families of the Dharmadasas and the Sumathipalas in their battle to have custody of the “golden bat’ which gives them an opening to untold power and world fame through the game of cricket.

In the post Gamini Dissanayake era of cricket, besides the mere one year tenure by Ana Punchihewa the rest of the years have been overseen by either of these two families. However during this period there were also short stints which were ruled by government appointees in the guise of interim committees, in which the last one was also a Dharmadasa himself.

Approximately a year ago the minister of sports Jeewan Kumaranatunge scrapped the then Sumathipala - controlled Sri Lanka cricket administration and handed it over to Jayantha Dharmadasa and now the minister has called for fresh elections to be held on the 15th of July and they say the latter is ready to take the bull by the horns now.

Ironically both leaders of either camp have their own impediments in contesting the elections and both will have to get their names on the “all clear list” if they so desire to contest the election. Now down the grapevine we hear that the Sumathipala clan will come out with their time tested second-in-command of Mohan de Silva while Jayantha Dharmadasa is making a bid to come out as the candidate for his camp with the necessary blessings from the minister of sports.

Taking this whole act into consideration it is also intriguing to delve a bit into the history of the SLC politics and see how the wheel has turned so far.

In this game of power one may have the necessary credentials of the lust for power and the money that goes with it but, not if you do not have the most important ‘kingmakers’ to back you.

At the time of the untimely demise of Gamini Dissanayake who was a then cabinet minister and the person who was largely responsible for Sri Lanka getting the final nod to being selected as one of the ‘big ones’ in world cricket, the then Managing Director of Pure Beverages Ana Punchihewa came in as the uncontested choice to head the destiny of cricket which was not such a hot item at that time.

Yet to win a Test match abroad, Sri Lanka was one of the minnows that had promise, but, were yet to prove themselves by a long shot. However at the same time people in the know say that it was the ‘kingmaker’ as he later came to be known who was largely responsible for the elevation of the former President to the hot-seat. Prior to the elevation the ‘kingmaker’ also had seen to it that the then vice-president took over the mantle of the former’s ‘down-South’ club before he was given the seat at the promised podium.

When Ana Punchihewa was installed as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, Upali Dharmadasa (The younger brother of the President of the present Interim Committee Jayantha Dharmadasa) and Thilanga Sumathipala were the two vice presidents.

With the passage of time Sri Lanka registered their first overseas win in New Zealand and in the rush won the World Cup too. But, with the flagging fortunes of president Punchihewa in his own work place, saw the ‘kingmaker’ turning his allegiance and within the space of fourteen days of winning the World Cup, Ana Punchihewa lost his seat at the next BCCSL elections.

Nevertheless the kingmaker’s agenda was different. Upali Dharmadasa too did not last long. This was the beginning of the end of the Dharmadasa-Sumapthipala alliance with Sumathipala taking over as the next president of the BCCSL.

With his advent as president the Sumathipala faction were soon to assert their influence through every nook and cranny in the officialdom of cricket. So much so there were others of cricketing authority and persons of great political influence who contested the Sumathipala regime and failed, the reason being the vast majority of the cricketing machine including the kingmaker backing the incumbent regime.

Now the scenario has changed. The Last Tsunami took a heavy toll of the kingmaker’s own backyard. The then policy makers wanted to change the venue to safer grounds, while the current IC is gearing up to revamp the lost entity. Lo and behold now it is reported that the kingmaker has changed his allegiance once again!.

In normal civic society one is able to hold on to only one vote. However it is said that this kingmaker holds the key to six votes on his own.

This tale which was unfolded just now is as interesting as one of the Shakespeare dramas. However truth will out on July fifteen and let the best man win.

In conclusion the irony is that specimens like this kingmaker thrive under these circumstances even though their intentions are not built on the purest of final goals. On our part we who love the game of cricket hope that the future will hold the key to the exposure of these elements and the game will once again revert back to its pristine glory with the right elements occupying their rightful places including the ones who have already declined to be a part of the machinery under the present circumstances.

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