Cricket Board elections, accountability and Hobson’s choice

The Skandakumar Report:An unhappy tour of India

1994. Sri Lanka lost three Tests in a row against India in January 1994 to equal a 70-year-old record created by the youngest Test team of the time, the West Indies, who were beaten in all three Tests (three days each) in England in 1928. Sri Lanka lost all three games in less than four days each.

With these losses, Sri Lanka had lost seven Tests in a row. Although the earlier Tests with Pakistan, South Africa, and India were lost, the Sri Lanka team had performed well. That was not the case here.
One commentator seeing the Sri Lanka team in India before the commencement of the tour said that the team looked jaded after 18 months of non-stop cricket. When another correspondent asked Ranatunga when Sri Lanka would win a Test match overseas, he replied, “When we have neutral umpires”. Ranatunga kept his promise later in the year.

A published comment on Ranatunga’s quote was, “Ranatunga was not the first visiting captain to point fingers at the umpires. The Sri Lankans were not well treated by the umpires in the First Test, favouring the home side bowlers and denying the Sri Lankan batsmen the benefit of the doubt, while Venkataraghavan was seen to be too cold and unapproachable by the visitors”.

Another comment on Sri Lanka’s batting read, “That one of the major visiting batsmen Aravinda de Silva should perish in the hook trap by finding unerringly the only fielder at long leg in acres of untenanted turf also suited the home side.” This refers to Aravinda’s batting in the second Test and what happened seemed like the Sri Lankan version of hara kri.

In the first Test, Kapil Dev took his 431st Test wicket in 129 Tests to beat Sir Richard Hadlee’s record of 430 wickets in 86 Tests.

The Indian totals in the Test read 511 for 6 decl., 541, and 358 in comparison to Sri Lanka’s 218 and 174, 231 and 215, 119 and 222. The overall picture was:
                  RUNS             WKTS       100/50                R/W
India           1410                26              4/6                      54.23
Sri Lanka   1179                60              0/4                      19.65
Only Mahanama (73 and 45) and Samaraweera (45), who put on 120 for the 1st wicket, Tillekeratne (45) and Dassanayake (36 and 18) batted well in the first Test.

In the second Test, Mahanama again batted well (47 and 34), while Tillekeratne scored 80 in the second innings and Kalpage contributed 63. In the third Test Mahanama once more batted well, scoring 18 and 63, while Tillekeratne scored 40 in the second innings and Dassanayake scored 10 and 21 not out. Muralitharan (41 overs, 65, 36.3), and Arunasiri (58 overs, 45, 28) bowled marathon spells in the three Tests. Four other bowlers bowled 187.3 overs in all compared to the 273.3 by Muralitharan (12 wickets) and Arunasiri (5 wickets). A consistent feature of Sri Lanka’s Test cricket in recent times has been Mahanama’s batting, but it has not guaranteed him a place in the team.

For India, the captain Azharuddin batted brilliantly, scoring 47, 108 and 132, while N. Sidhu scored 124, 99 and 43. V.G. Kambli (82 and 57) and Tendulkar (142 and 96) also batted well. A. Kumble, V. Raju, C. Chauhan and Kapil Dev carried out the destruction of the Sri Lanka batting unhindered.

Sri Lanka played two other first class matches, both of which were drawn. In the match against the Punjab C.A., H.P. Tillekeratne (176 n.o.) and D.P. Samaraweera (89) put on 209 for the 2nd wicket.
In the ODIs, Sri Lanka lost the first and second matches, but won the third by four wickets on a revised target necessitated by rain.

What went wrong in India?

1994. A serious situation arose at national level after this disastrous tour. Several unsavoury allegations and seedy stories were flying around as to why Sri Lanka lost all three Test matches badly, each in less than four days. The BCCSL appointed a Committee comprising S. Skandakumar (former Hony. Secretary) as Chairman, T.R. Mirando, Brigadier S.D.N. Hapugalle, A.B.P. Tennekoon, L. Rodrigo and M. Seevaratnam with T.R. Mirando as Secretary to investigate all aspects of the tour that led to the poor performance.

The tour comprising 3 Tests and 3 one-day internationals was not on Sri Lanka’s original international calendar for 1994 and was arranged only after Pakistan called off their official tour to that country in the latter half of 1993.

India, at the conclusion of the “Hero Cup” one day Tournament in November, 1993, were a team that was not only playing cricket of a very high order but one that was at its peak in terms of enthusiasm and team morale as well.

With this background and awareness of the difficult conditions normally associated with a tour of India, not to mention the umpiring aspect and turning pitches, which could also have been anticipated, we can only observe whether it was appropriate to have blooded any inexperienced players.


It is noted that Anura Gunawardene was not included in the original national pool selected on 17th December and yet made the tour on his performance in a couple of hastily arranged trial games. The team could have benefited from greater depth in experience.

The pre-tour preparations were limited by the fact that the tour by West Indies to Sri Lanka concluded in mid December, and practices for the tour of India commenced around the 18th of December. With the intervening Christmas and New Year holidays, time would not have been adequate for the new faces in particular to have got attuned to the tough professional series ahead, for which the team departed on 10th January 1994. There is evidence that players did not apply themselves diligently to pre-tour preparations.

At this stage, we wish to go back in history as we feel that it had a bearing on morale and attitudes on the Indian Tour. Bandula Warnapura was chosen Cricket Manager for West Indies tour of Sri Lanka taking over from (T.B.) Kehelgamuwa, who, in turn, replaced Duleep Mendis at the conclusion of South Africa’s tour to Sri Lanka. Mendis held this position from Sri Lanka’s tour to Pakistan in 1991/92 followed by Australia’s tour to Sri Lanka in August ‘92, and the subsequent visits by New Zealand, England, India and finally South Africa. The last named concluding in September 1993. It is in evidence that in the early part of his “home” assignments, Mendis spent a great deal of time at team. meetings, programming relevant videos for viewing, and subsequent discussions. These programmes obviously inculcated a sense of participation amongst team members. The benefits were seen in the matches.

With the advent of India’s tour to Sri Lanka in July/August ‘93, however a noticeable change seems to have taken place and Mendis appeared to confine himself in almost all matters to consultations with the captain and vice captain only. It has been mentioned that during the series against India and South Africa, the rest of the team had no idea of what the tactics were as team meetings were merely brief discussions, between the cricket manager, captain and vice captain. This was interpreted by some senior team members as “a draft” of an official into the influence of the captain and vice captain, who themselves had by this time isolated themselves from a majority of the team. It is noted here that the cricket manager was often referred to by some players as “Aiyya”*, a familiarity that was hardly appropriate for a professional environment.

When the players’ share of sponsorship fees from the Coca Cola Company was paid to the cricket manager, on a move initiated by the captain and vice captain, further dissension took place. Here; the Cricket Board definitely erred in not specifying the manner in which these funds could have been distributed, resulting in an official appointed by the Board receiving a payment through the courtesies of the players, a most undesirable situation. If the Board felt that officials should benefit from such payments, they should have made the payment direct to the official concerned.


For reasons not entirely known to us, nor the players interviewed, Duleep Mendis was removed from the post of cricket manager at the end of the South African tour and this decision does not seem to have been well received by either the captain or vice captain.

After Kehelgamuwa stood in as cricket manager for the tour of Sharjah and India (Hero Cup), Warnapura took over for the tour of West Indies to Sri Lanka at very short notice.

In his initial address to the players, he stressed the importance of discipline and requested that references to officials as “Aiyya”1, “Malli”2 etc. be dispensed with. He said, “To all of you, I am either Bandula or Manager”. This, unfortunately, was not particularly well received by either the captain or vice captain and a strain entered the relationship at this stage.


With this background, there was obviously tension in the team when they embarked on the tour, and a split amongst the players was evident. It was hardly an appropriate atmosphere to blood so many youngsters. There appeared to be very little cordiality amongst the senior players, and crucial team meetings on tour were not only short but had very little substance. There was, consequently, hardly any planning from match to match.

The team clearly lacked direction on the field and also motivation. In addition, poor umpiring compounded the situation, resulting in an attitude where games appear to have been given up by some players even before the first ball was bowled. We feel that this approach, on account of anticipated bad umpiring alone, is unacceptable. It is common knowledge that “bad umpiring” is a reciprocal complaint between the two countries.

There is also evidence that Sri Lankan Umpires have been subjected to considerable pressure in this area, in recent ‘home series’. In fact, it has been recorded by the committee, that players had once pleaded with former cricket manager (Duleep Mendis), current captain and vice captain, that “we can win without cheating”.

  1. Elder brother
  2. Younger brother


If Mahanama could have batted as well as he did, we see no reason as to why others of his seniority and experience could not have done likewise or, at least, fought their way through as Tillekeratne and Kalpage, on occasion, did.

If there were ten bad umpiring decisions, then there were possibly more than twice that number in poor strokes that accounted for dismissals.

In our opinion, there was a lack of commitment on the part of a few players on this tour, and an absence of NATIONAL PRIDE, which makes us ask the question - “Have financial considerations overtaken all else?”

The captain, no doubt, as a result of his excess weight, had a tendency to field in relatively insignificant positions and was therefore unable to raise the morale of his team when things went wrong, which was quite often.


In sharp contrast was his Indian counterpart, who was not only seen in the most strategic positions throughout the series but also provided inspiration to his team with some remarkable fielding and batting performances. In batting, Ranatunga failed to produce the fighting qualities normally associated with him.

As for the vice captain, it is difficult to concede that he set an example with his batting and the manner of some of his dismissals can only be termed as being irresponsible. Acknowledged as a world class player, his approach should have been more exemplary in the difficult situations encountered and was hardly an ‘ideal training ground’ for any of the new faces in the squad.

With over 100 Tests and 250 One Day Internationals between them, these two very experienced players, unfortunately, provided very little by way of either leadership or inspiration on the field throughout the tour.


It is acknowledged that on account of a slight deformity the vice captain requires extra attention from the physiotherapist but his attempt to almost completely monopolise him and his attitude towards him, hardly did his image as vice captain any good on tour. This was rectified by the tour management but not without strain.

It has been reported that some measure of time and energy, of the vice captain in particular, was spent in coordinating the arrangements for the subsequent unofficial tours involving benefit matches. The Tour Manager seems to have been ineffective here.

As players are currently contracted from tour to tour, unlike previously, when key players were contracted from year to year, it is not clear whether the Cricket Board’s approval was either necessary or was in fact given for such a tour.

However, considering that the major domestic tournament, viz, the INTER PROVINCIAL, was in fact in progress at the conclusion of the official tour of India, the act of some of the players in proceeding to India immediately upon their return to play in benefit matches and, for some, to repeat this process a week later, not only undermines the Board but places it in a state of ridicule as we understand that there was once a Cricket Board directive that to qualify for national recognition, participation in the Inter Provincial Tournament was a must. This aspect is quoted as we consider it relevant to the attitude of players to a controlling body.


If approval was in fact given, it reflects unprofessionalism on the part of the administration. If not, the matter requires investigation.

History has it that in approximately six months, some prominent names in our national team have been on no less than four overseas tours of an insignificant nature, viz, the Hong Kong six-a-side, the Singapore six-a-side where two of India’s principal participants were Sunil Gavaskar and his son! and the two recent tours to India. Whilst noting that the Hong Kong tournament did have prominent players from other Test playing nations as well, it is nevertheless hard to believe that a professional outlook to national cricket could be sustained with this degree of distraction.

It is therefore our view that there should be a definite policy by the Board to ensure that the more important players are contracted for longer periods, as was in fact the case up to 1991.


We also inquired into the alleged walk-out by the national team from a three-day match, on tour. We understand that the opposing side Captain, Sidhu, had indicated to the Sri Lankan Captain that the match had been called off due to bad weather. However, the Tour Manager acted unprofessionally by not following procedures and authorising the team to leave the venue without being advised appropriately by the Umpires.

We are not in a position to comment on fitness and related training programmes, but if the Captain’s appearance is anything to go by, they obviously require urgent review.

In 1988, the Board secured the services of Don Smith, a qualified Coach of high standing in England, to coach the national team and his report, at the end of his assignment, had the following quotes:


The players must change their attitude to practicing and training.”
“Discipline is obviously the key to all else and without it being maintained at practice, there is little hope of a disciplined approach to match play.”

Regrettably, these shortcomings are prevalent even today and an undisciplined approach largely contributed to the disastrous performance.

We understand that personal files on physical fitness of players which were opened immediately after Smith’s visit, to monitor their progress, are now not available at the Board’s Secretariat!! This merits investigation.


It is essential that the Board specifies minimum standards for physical fitness to qualify for selection if this is already not being done. There is absolutely no doubt that with the growing importance of fitness in modern cricket, teams will have to give it their fullest attention if they want to be competitive.

There is evidence that a bookmaker of Indian origin has attempted to make his presence felt in the national cricket scene. The subject of "gambling with the toss” had been a point of discussion at one of the team meetings on tour. There is, however, no further evidence available in this field.

Before turning to our summary, we would like to comment on the profiles of the two senior world class members of the team who have played a significant role, from time to time, for Sri Lanka, in the international scene.


There is evidence that he did not play an effective role as captain on the field. He has been quoted as being somewhat aloof and uncommunicative off it and subject even to the occasional tantrum.
He has been found wanting in tact in handling the Press and, during the “Hero Cup” series, he was quoted in a newspaper as having said “I do not wish to play cricket in India ever again” or words to that effect. Such public statements from a national captain do have their dire consequences not only on the team but also on the country’s image and should be viewed as being irresponsible. These comments may have had a bearing on the treatment meted out to the team on the tour, of which there have been complaints from our Management. Controversy has often surrounded his cricket life and he was removed as captain in 1991 to be reinstated later.

Some of the leading international captains in the 1980s and 1990s. Arjuna Ranatunga had played or led Sri Lanka teams against most of them.

Prior to this, he was found guilty of misconduct in a domestic tournament in an issue involving an umpire and was officially warned by the Board.

His association with the Singhalese Sports Club where he has been a member for over a decade has also not been without its share of problems.

His bulky appearance in sharp contrast to his international counterparts, lends little evidence to any self-discipline and provided hardly any inspiration on this tour. He should be encouraged to get back into peak physical fitness without delay. These shortcomings are not consistent with the profile needed of a National Captain and the tour lacked leadership.


A genius with the bat on his day. Unfortunately does not seem to command much respect from some of the players in his role as vice captain. Considered to be moody and there is evidence of his tendency to make disparaging remarks to his fellow team-mates, which have had a demoralising effect.

His inability to co-operate with the Cricket Manager should be viewed with serious concern as it conveys a lack of respect for decisions of the Board. Professional cricketers should not get involved with personalities and it should be the player’s duty to give of his best to any official appointed by the Board.

His handling of the physiotherapist, in particular, on the tour left a great deal to be desired.
Such insensivity could only have an adverse effect on the team in general.

There is evidence that he lacked a disciplined approach to the tour, which was not consistent with the profile as vice captain.


1.      Considering the nature of the tour, the squad should have had greater depth in experience.
2.      Pre-tour preparations were curtailed and did not receive the attention they should have from the players.
3.      A strained relationship between the Cricket Manager and vice captain caused some tension in the team even prior to the departure.
4.      There were ‘camps’ on tour which did not make it conducive for team effort.
5.      The tour lacked leadership.
6.      The vice captain’s handling of the Physiotherapist, in particular, did not hold him in good stead in the squad.
7.      Team meetings were not effective and there wasn’t much contribution from the players. A further indication of the tension.
8.      There was an absence of motivation, particularly on the field.
9.      The captain and vice captain, usually known for their individual fighting qualities, showed little if any on tour.
10.    The attitudes of players on the field, in general, with few exceptions, lacked:

(a)        National pride
(b)        Commitment
(c)        Discipline
(d)        A sense of purpose
11.       The bowling, with the exception of Muralitharan, was ineffective.
12.       The tour was interspersed with distractions of unofficial tours and some time and energy of key players were spent in coordinating these arrangements. It is learnt that visas for the return of some of the players to India were obtained whilst in India. This must have taken up time of tour in a needless exercise, from a national point of view. The vice captain is reported to have played a key role here.
13.       Umpiring had a very adverse psychological effect on most players.
14.       The hotels in some instances and ground transport arrangements, in general, were unsatisfactory.
15.       The Tour Manager could have been more assertive.
16.       The Cricket Manager appears to have been fair in his dealings with the players. A couple of incidents were reported, which in our opinion did not have any bearing on the tour.
1.         It is apparent that if the structure of the domestic tournament is not changed significantly, our younger national players and those aspiring for national recognition will make very little headway in the tough arena of professional cricket. During the weekend just concluded, the two Division I games finished in just two days. The trophy tournaments, as currently constituted, serve no purpose in building up endurance, concentration and competition designed to meet the needs at international level.
2.         The period of the major domestic tournament designed to meet these needs must be specified, as national players require time off to work on their personal fitness and to upgrade any areas of apparent weakness. This cannot be done whilst a tournament is in progress.
3.         The Indian Tour indicates a crying need for motivation. Ideally it should be the tour officials, captain and vice captain who should provide this. If not, should the Board ask for such a person from overseas, at least temporarily?
4.         Whilst national talent is acknowledged, performance has to be inspired.
5.         An aspect that should be seriously considered is the employment of a qualified physiotherapist, at least on overseas tour, until Lal Thamel acquires greater expertise in this field. The financial implications are appreciated.
6.         If the Board wishes to give strength to the Cricket Manager, whoever he may be, it is important that such appointments should be made for a specific period of time rather than from tour to tour. It would be unfair  to expect the Cricket Manager to build up his relationship with the players, earn their respect, work on strategies and plan national cricket in the long term, if he feels that there is a threat of him being removed at the end of each tour. Short assignments also provide a platform for players to take advantage, if they felt that for some personal reason they did not want a particular official. It will be useful if his duties are spelt out with the appointment.
7.      As for the Tour Manager, we feel that this appointment should ideally be a person with proven administrative ability. To combine this with a national selector is not desirable.
8.      A factor that has emerged from our probe is the absence of a committed approach to the game. Considering the number of new faces that are on the threshold of making the grade, discipline and attitudes require a major change. If not, the current lack of it may be considered as the norm by the newcomers as well.
9.      In response to a letter of 3rd January ‘94 from the players, indicating their intention to stay over in India at the end of the tour, the Board, by the Secretary’s letter of 5th January ‘94, called for specific information by 7th January ‘94. There is no record of this being received by the Board, and yet the tour did in fact take place. This is another indication of an unsatisfactory attitude of players to the administration.
10.    An ugly picture is emerging on the domestic scene where tournament games are being called off for frivolous reasons. Umpires are being questioned, threatened and even assaulted. Discipline requires urgent attention.
11.    It is appreciated that all members of the Executive Committee serve in an honorary capacity and the enormous task of running domestic cricket alone can take up far more time than members could reasonably be expected to make available,

         International cricket requires full time attention too. It will be prudent to consider an Advisory Panel of former top cricketers’ to look at this aspect and to be readily available to national players, in particularly to discuss problems and iron out differences.

  We trust the Board will find this report of use in their deliberations. Commissions will be appointed and reports will be written, but what directives have the authorities given to the management and players to take corrective measures are never known.

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