The day of reckoning

Monday, March 17 in the year of 1996 Sri Lanka won the Cricket World Cup by storming to a famous victory against the tournament favourites Australia, at the Gaddafi Stadium Pakistan in front of cheering thousands of Pakistani and other nationalities. In Sri Lanka it was close on to mid-night when the euphoria began.

The euphoria was still hanging in the air, almost every Sri Lankan walked tall, proud being one of them even thirteen days later. However the then incumbent president Ana Punchihewa’s office room on a Saturday night was a hive of activity. A few insiders were going through the final details. Early next morning it was the day of reckoning or you can name it as Election Day.

The president was on his own, while the two vice-presidents Mr. Upali Dharmadasa and Thilanga Sumathipala on one platform had agreed to gang-up against their former colleague. Nevertheless a last count before dispersing, some numbers and names against them showed that in spite of all speculation the president had a comfortable lead. So much so the next day the incumbent president even did not oppose the voting rights of non-functioning Ampara and Nuwara Eliya Districts. Lo and behold! There was also one notable individual voting against the mandate of his club along with the two districts who were anyway going to the opposition along with some undisclosed turnarounds – the incumbent President lost by three votes.

Thereafter there were bloodier wars fought at cricket elections, but this was one heck of an election that people still talk about. Some even call it the first step that has led to cricket’s present predicament.
Since the 1996 elections things started to get more complex till it led to a situation of unmanageability and various types of interim committees began to mushroom till it culminated with the one we are saddled with right at this moment.

Hey presto! There is light at the end of the tunnel! Like Christmas, there is a promise of elections in the air and now-a-days for Sri Lankans where voting is a thing that is in their daily work chart. It was only last Sunday a week-end newspaper announced that elections for new office bearers for Sri Lanka would be held in another two full moons hence. The newspaper was quoting the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Mr. Gamini Lokuge. A day later another newspaper was hailing the minister for taking such an appropriate step.

Knowing the typical Lankan situation, The Sunday Musings spoke to the Minister as to really when this D-day would arrive. Speaking to this newspaper the minister was quite apologetic. He said “There what I really meant was that this interim committee should be dissolved as soon as possible, but I did not put a definition on that statement.”

However, when we put our ear to ground, once again the reverberations said that it was really going to happen very soon. On the blind side, under the prevailing sports law, all sports bodies come under the hammer of the ministry of sport and at any time the Minister could bring that body under this new phenomenon called ‘Interim Committee”.

Two wrongs cannot make one right. Ironically in Sri Lanka both systems so far have apparently failed.
When a weak, but calculating leader is on board even being elected from day one, what he does is work towards the next election. Step by step those creepy crawlies who have bisected all norms of decency by the name of the game, begin to spread their tentacles deep into the system for their own good rather than the betterment of the game and the whole tree begins to deteriorate while the hangers-on get the larder into their boot. Finally the one who can throw the better fruit gets the peck, but is it the right man who walks down the isle at the end of it? I wonder?

Then in the second scenario it is there to be seen what an Interim Committee which is put in place to convert the wrong into a right also could do! A man with a different agenda seemingly could upset the whole apple cart. Just imagine the shortsighted steps taken by stubborn individuals who have ended up in huge hullabaloos?

When has the administration of a cricketing nation stood against the entire senior lot over an issue that could have been sailed over with a little bit of better understanding and better judgement? So much so, it was only a few days when it came to light that Sri Lanka has already drawn up a memorandum of understanding with the ECB for Sri Lanka’s tour to England next April.

Earlier to this a similar situation arose when Sri Lanka agreed to tour Pakistan upon Australia’s refusal to tour that country. Ironically this too was to overlap the Indian Premier League Tournament which the cricketers publicly signed for a period of three years.

This time once again the whole episode is over the players signing individual contracts with the Indian Board to play in the IPL. Players’ contention is that the administrator while knowing the surface situation has gone ahead and signed MOU. When things of this nature happen on a very frequent basis how could Sri Lanka preserve its image in the world forum? What we have discussed is only the tip of the iceberg. But, the sore could fester beyond redemption if remedial steps are not taken on a priority basis.

No one can argue that the game of cricket is a money spinner right at the moment and to a cash strapped poor country like Sri Lanka and even the ‘tuppence’ of foreign exchange that it brings could come in as a help. Now it has grown to bigger proportions than a mere game. It should surely be at the hands of professionals who are capable of running huge transparent conglomerates with the correct P & L in mind, while nurturing the game to keep it to its maximum marketability like Australia or South Africa. Thus they too should preferably be elected to seat rather than parachuted through political push.

Only then will Sri Lanka really make the maximum of the current cricket economic boom that has hit the Indian sub-continent at present. The day should come when one says – “why we should invite Australia for a series when we can invite Sri Lanka and fill the same bottom-line – they are so much closer to us in everyway”.

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