One in Pakistan and the other in Sri Lanka

Robert Knox who was held captive by the natives of Lanka from 19 November 1659 along with his father and then slipped away from the scrutiny of King Rajasingha the second along with his friend Stephen Rutland after a nineteen-year stay in Lanka returned to his native England.

Upon his return to his land of birth Knox wrote the manuscript of “An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon”, an account of his experiences in the island, which was published in 1681. Reading this book one thing that I noticed was that Knox was intrigued by the well organized, but the laid back living style of the islanders.

The players will always refute allegations, but the people have the right to question.

How fortunate to be born in a land so laid back! The islanders take any disaster - tsunami, an insurgency, a civil uprising or a callous approach to a cricket tournament that Sri Lanka could have done better - just in their stride.

Sri Lanka performed ‘Hara-kiri’ and got knocked out in the first round. At the same time Sri Lanka’s good neighbours - Pakistan got into the semi-finals and then blew away their chances in an anti-climax game against the ‘dark horses’ of the tournament - New Zealand.

But in Pakistan all hell has erupted.
‘Pakistan’s largest English daily The Dawn’ reported on Wednesday - A Pakistani parliamentarian has accused the national cricket team of deliberately losing matches in this month's Champions Trophy tournament and has demanded an explanation from its coach, captain and chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board.

‘We will be meeting them on Oct. 13 as we feel the team deliberately lost the games against Australia and New Zealand,’ Jamshed Dasti, chairman Standing Committee on Sports in the Pakistan Lower House, told the Associated Press.

Pakistan was defeated by Australia in the last group match last week before losing to New Zealand in the semi-final.

‘They lost to Australia just to keep India out of the tournament,’ Dasti said. Australia might not have qualified for the semifinal had Pakistan won against the defending champion and India could have advanced had they defeated West Indies by a big margin.

‘There are lots of doubts on the performance of the team and we feel it has to be cleared by the PCB officials and the team management,’ Dasti said. ‘The way we lost in the semifinal, it has left the whole nation disappointed and the PCB has to give answers.’

It is not the first time that the parliamentary committee has summoned PCB officials; however the committee has only the power to give recommendations to the prime minister and the president.
‘This time I can assure you that we will make sure our recommendations be given due considerations,’ Dasti said.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is the patron-in-chief of the PCB. Now this is an accusation of a team that entered the semi-finals. But, yet in this island of serendipity whatever the performance of the national team is swallowed and digested by the officialdom without any misgivings.

Yet, there are questions which are asked by the public and we here at this column think that if we forward them to the relevant authorities on their behalf it should be very appropriate.

One of the most evident factors of this episode is the pathetic fielding display put forward by the Lankan team. The Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara went public lamenting the poor show on the field but other than that what action has been taken to remedy the anomaly and who has been held responsible?
It is not a secret Sri Lanka was one of the most envied fielding outfits in World Cricket and the best by far in the Asian circuit. Another basic fact in cricket is that if the fielders complement the bowlers their success rate goes up more than 50%. In short like batting and bowling fielding is also an integral part of cricket and the onus goes up with the grade of cricket you play.

Sri Lanka’s fielding coach is Manoj Abeywickrema. Now the question is has he performed up to his job description? Yes, he has worked for a while with his predecessor Ruwan Kalpage prior to his elevation and prior to that he was only an assistant coach in the club circuit. Yet again if he can fit the bill and keep the Lankan fielding machine at its prime none of these questions would arise. But, has it happened so? The answer is a huge NO! Sri Lanka was by far the worst fielding outfit in the entire champion’s trophy tournament.

Then there should be an official explanation as to why the hierarchy waited for the ‘cookie to crumble’.
Then the next question is whether skipper Kumar Sangakkara is immune from any blame for this folly?
The Pakistan skipper was blamed for worse offences after he had batted slowly in one inning and then spilt a match losing catch in the next. Then what are the accusations that the public can bring against Kumar Sangakkara?

They say as a captain of a Test playing nation he should have the ability to read a wicket and say if one should bat first or second. Generally these things do not come, luck by chance. Not that other captains have not done it before, but, Sangakkara who protrudes himself as an authority of modern day cricket also read it wrong and batted second - just to lose!

Then in the New Zealand innings where all the seamers were treated almost with contempt and where Sanath Jayasuriya ended up with three wickets, Sangakkara took the decision to drop his best spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

In another issue a bowler who takes six wickets in one game is given only five overs in the very next game and… the list goes on.

My question is isn’t there an authority in this country who has the guts to tell the Lankan skipper that he is traveling down the wrong lane or else take whatever action that has to be taken?

“An irate cricket insider lamented the cricketers have lost their direction and some even have grown bigger than the institution. So as long as the situation is such Lankan cricket will be hopeless”.

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