ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 16, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 42

Catch a falling star

When time began there were stars that adorned night skies and they have been a shining joy to mundane people through every night as the globe rotates. Nevertheless we know for sure that at some given time some of these stars do lose their glitter and fade away into oblivion, but still a clear night sky never loses its mystique beauty.

The game that we all love – cricket has seen its own stars coming out and keeping enthralled thousands of fans around the globe through their special flare, power or sheer elegance. In some instances a fantastic blend of all three ingredients comes in one beautiful package just ready to be served. However once they bid their own adieu new ones are born to glitter just the same.

Within the past year the word of cricket has seen one of the biggest exodus of ‘star’ cricketers from its own galaxy. Starting from the West Indian legend Brian Charles Lara who played his last international game against England on April 27, 2007, there has been a host of players who bid their last good byes. Some likes of it may never strike within the 22 metres for the next comprehensible time imaginable. Along with Lara, Australia’s Shane Warne and Glen McGrath, South Africa’s Shaun Pollock are some of them.

Adding to the latest is our own artist Sanath Jayasuriya -- one of the greatest ever produced by Sri Lanka! If he really has played his last innings for the country it is yet to be ascertained, but, many a pundit feels that he had played an innings too many and it would have been wiser and more fitting had he decided to do the same with his international career what he did to his short tenure as the national cricket captain. That he did with wisdom and gusto and he still remains as the most successful Sri Lanka cricket captain. Through the grapevine we learn that the meeting last Tuesday was not a stormy one but everyone heard the clarion call and heeded it.

However one must remember that because you drop an aging senior, who was refusing to budge, it will not solve all anomalies in local cricket. Have you ever stood and pondered as to how these aging ‘stars’ manage to hold to their perch for so long? Isn’t it that no younger player has come from within and challenged the older guy and has made his claim to the throne? Until this becomes a regular roll call rather than an arduous task the present status quo may not change.

I still remember for the inaugural test the toss of the coin was between Arjuna Ranatunga and the late Anura Ranasinghe. Anura Ranasinghe was an extraordinarily talented all rounder and Ranatunga being just a schoolboy was of a lesser known quality. The selectors took the gamble and kept their faith in Ranatunga and the youngster took the opportunity with both hands.

Then the transformation from the Tissera, Tennekoon, and Fernando to Mendis, Dias and Madugalle to Ranatunga, de Silva, and Gurusinha came down in a uniform flow where the next in line was there at hand to go in to bat the next innings whenever there was a chance at the crease.

Mind you this was an era when Sri Lankans were amateurs or semi-professional cricketers who indulged in the game may be three hours a day as a habit. Even when Sri Lanka won the World Cup beating all those hard core professionals, the scenario was more or less the same.

However since winning the World Cup wittingly or unwittingly the Lankan cricketing format begun to deteriorate and ten years hence we now can just imagine, but cannot focus enough to see the gaping hole at the bottom. It is well known that since winning the World Cup, cricket in this country went to the custody of certain individuals who were more interested in occupying their seats, consolidating their positions rather than changing with the needs and demands of the game of cricket played in the global village. One cricketing-high-up while having a discussion about the game was trying to explain – “As you know there is a huge gap between the local club cricket and international cricket and the only solution is to convert the game into provincial and district cricket and that way we can come up with better quality tournaments”.

Then we from this end pointed out that it will be the very same cricketers who will be engaged in this tournament and even at present there are four-day tournaments being played and they too finish most of the time within two days.

This was not a press conference and the tone and understanding was much better. After a pause came the answer. “Yes, we know the entire system is lopsided. Now at present there is no proper feeder point from the school system to the club system. For instance we have seen three good cricketers coming out of the under-19 squad, but, even these three players may not be able to command a place even in a good club side leave alone the national or ‘A’ or a team of that stature.

“To find the solutions to that there is a huge task at hand. However it is encouraging to know that these impediments have been identified. Now what we really need is a two facetted operation! One is the real long term solution where we would be able to produce Ishant Sharmas and Rohit Sharmas in a real treadmill fashion and the other is to find short-term solutions so that we keep producing international cricketers to the demands of the day”.

National policy on selections or not, we do have a problem at hand. At present cricketers are administering cricket and it is they who will know what ingredients are needed to mix the successful antidote.

Time is certainly running out. However we sincerely hope we have channelled the right physician.

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