Once Johnny next door thought that he would try to teach Mr. Crab how to walk straight. Johnny tried in vain, because Mr. Crab kept on with his perambulation sideways. Finally Johnny satisfied himself thinking at least he tried to teach someone how to do it right.
This crossed my mind when I met former secretary BCCSL Kushil Gunasekera and had a chat with him as to how they accomplished a very successful Under 19 World Cup in the year 2000.
In this effort Kushil was working in an honorary capacity as secretary along with Air Commodore Ravi Arunthavanathan who headed the committee. They accomplished their task in such a manner that at the culmination of the tournament, the ICC gave the committee a certificate of competence congratulating them on benchmarking and showcasing the Under 19 World Cup.
In this World Cup year where Sri Lanka is also a leading stake holder I thought this may be a kind of a refresher.
Kushil Gunasekera explaining how their team achieved it.
We asked Kushil logistically, would there be any differences in hosting a senior World Cup and an Under 19 World Cup and how the whole machine does work when one takes the enormity of task at hand into consideration. His answer was candid. He began “I think the logistics are more or less the same, but the scaling how it is done is different. A senior World Cup as against a Junior Under 19 World Cup. At the onset, the interest and the responsibilities are far greater. Especially you get the sale of tickets. There are huge expectations and the pressure built is tremendous.”
Then Kushil compared the two efforts how he was progressing with his Seenigama project before the Tsunami disaster and the scale of work after it. He said prior to the Tsunami the whole episode went on a leisurely pace, and then in the aftermath there was work at hand which had to be looked into on an urgent basis.
Then he added, “Having said all that setting up of the World Cup secretariat is the same. The best practices have to be put into. In my view you have to understand the task at hand from the beginning, in the best interest of the country and the best interest of the ICC, with no agendas. In this effort the logistics are too numerous to mention. That platform you set is the foundation and it should be firm. It is planning your work and working your plan.”
Kushil explained that they went about with the organizing of the under 19 World Cup in a very professional manner. They had all Test playing nations and some non test playing nations too taking part in the tournament and the matches were played in most parts of the island working out to 64 matches in all. At the same time this was the first time that Sri Lanka was hosting the Under 19 World Cup. He continued “We had different people manning the vital points – manager logistics, venue managers etc. We had a checklist of what we had to do in line with the mandate and the terms and conditions provided by the ICC. So it was mandatory that we set up a separate secretariat to run this full time.”
“It is a difficult task. For instance when you are choosing liaison officers some one is going to call you and request you to support a certain individual. Then there may be accusations that a person belongs to one camp or the other. At this point you should not compromise. There was the interim committee headed by Rienzi Wijetilleke and I had the complete backing from the IC. At the same time when choosing a candidate we knew what we were looking for and there was a panel to choose them and we got the best. At the same time they were not just employed and given a position. They were given training on the entailing job. We had the umpires discussing the Duckworth/Lewis system. It was all about being organized and doing things passionately in executing your work plan in the best possible manner”.
At this point Kushil Gunasekera explained how there was a bomb blast adjacent to the Prime Minister’s office and how some teams were looking to pull out and how they worked to calm the storm. Then in another issue a match that was scheduled to be played at the FTZ Grounds, Katunayake had to be shifted to Police Grounds in just half an hour’s notice due to rain and how they did it successfully and played the game to a finish. Then he reiterated that it is somewhat the same organizational structure and it depends on how you want to cut down on the costs or else you can enhance the projected cost if you wish to. “In the ICC under 19 World Cup we don’t have that much of money.
The effort has to be supported also by the host nation. But, when it comes to the senior World Cup, there is a huge amount of money doled out to dress up the venues etc. So that can also get into places where transparency and accountability starts to count. There you are watched by people who work with you, then the people within the cricket board, the media. So if you make one mistake, people who are operating under you will also try to emulate your actions. But, if you are straight and operate within the given guidelines that counts leadership to me”.
What is important, Kushil said, that was setting up a plan and work meeting the deadlines and the goals and setup standards that would make Sri Lanka a country to be recognized best in terms of organizing capabilities and maybe in the future make a bid to host the World Cup on our own.