There are times when you feel utterly lost and hopeless and even the horizon looks a parched desert, void of any oasis. At a time like this, if you do not stop for a while and pull your thoughts together, you may be chasing a mirage forever. Thank heavens, our cricketing pundits have seen the [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Panel, poll and politics: Whither Lanka’s cricket?


There are times when you feel utterly lost and hopeless and even the horizon looks a parched desert, void of any oasis. At a time like this, if you do not stop for a while and pull your thoughts together, you may be chasing a mirage forever. Thank heavens, our cricketing pundits have seen the ominous signs that are hovering overhead like a pack of hungry vultures and are putting the runaway train back on track in a bid to go ahead with their scheduled journey.

We have heard through the grapevine that there is an experts’ panel which is sitting with all its earnest trying to untangle the huge knot that the Lankan cricket has got into.

The panel can forge ahead with its studies and planning. But the wagon has to move on. Cricket cannot stop even for a minute – waiting for the experts to arrive at a plausible decision that would work for Sri Lanka cricket.

Meanwhile, the next cricket election will be held on March 31 and the nominations would close by March 14. Yet, rather amusingly there is no one who has come forward and said that he is definitely going to be a candidate and given the cricketing public his side of the story.

Yet, we must mention that former Sri Lanka Cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga – the most successful at that — came out and said that he would run for the post of President of Sri Lanka Cricket if the authorities shed its political hide off it.

Like what we said in this column even last week, Ranatunga and co. are aware of the declining factors of the cricket administration and even have been a part of it at one point of history. Yet, people of his calibre know what cricket is all about and know what even happens behind the curtains. If a person of the likes of Arjuna could learn from his past mistakes which are not hard to adjust, he could be the ideal candidate.

However, we hear that there may be only a change of pillows at the helm at SLC. In all , it points to a situation where younger brother Upali Dharmadasa may step down and offer the seat to his elder brother Jayantha Dharmadasa and hypothetically the same team – may be with some insignificant changes – would go on. Because it is what the doctor would prescribe. The rest of the contenders would be mildly asked to lay off and the status quo would remain. Is this what we or the stake holders want or need? A marriage made in heaven to run the family?

The plain truth is not only cricket; every sport in the county is under the political blanket. Tomorrow if you form the National ‘Gudu’ Association there would be a politician who is willing to sit at the helm of it and if there is no political patronage, the sport would die a natural death.

Nevertheless, what we are interested at this point is cricket. Because cricket by far is the only sport that this tiny island nation has excelled internationally and even the biggest stake holders of the sport fear and respect the natural ability and the excellence of the Lankan cricketers.

Coming back to our former point, there is a panel which is finding ways to change the existing constitution of Lankan cricket and bring it on par with the other administrations that govern the game within the peripheries of the ICC.

This means first we have to shed the sweat-soaked political coat that is emanating an unbearable stench.

Then the Lankan cricket will have to reshape the voting system that also has germinated parasites that keep eating into living cricket for their sustenance.

The above factors are the most difficult barriers to overcome. The first fact is, as a result of the Sports Law of this country, there are ways and means that the sports minister could hold administration by the collar. The present cricket administration cannot agree upon any sizable monetary deal without the approval of the sports minister/government audit. Then the cricket administration cannot appoint a selection committee – the body which decides on so many aspects pertaining to the game of cricket other than direct selections. In return the selectors cannot select a team and make it legal till the Minister of Sports approves it.

This means Sri Lankan cricket is left with only other logistical matters such as building Stadiums around the country and naming them after politicians.

However, the truth is there is this panel in all its seriousness regularly meeting to seek ways of taking Lankan cricket to the next millennium.

Then what the experts in the panel have to do is to at least adopt the Australian module and look for an entity that would sustain itself. Then the onus of selecting the administration could go to three auditing firms who would name three former cricketers with managerial skills to run the day-to-day affairs along with a person with a legal background and a person with an accounting background. This means the Lankan cricket runs as a profit centre. If this happens they would have to ascertain how the rest of the stake holders could fit in.

However, running as a profit centre also has its own drawbacks. Once a system gets into the commercial stream, it gets very finicky about in-bound tours that do not yield profits. Administrators have more than once confessed to me that bringing down sides like Bangladesh and New Zealand is a huge strain on the board’s coffers. This means once they become strict profit making centres the administrators would be more concerned about loss-making tours because they are supposed to run as a profit-making entity.
For instance Australia last played Bangladesh in April 2011. They would play them next in October 2015 and both will be away tours. There will be no strain on the Australian coffer.

These are the surface intricacies that we could observe. Yet, the committee would have to arrive at a system that would take Sri Lankan cricket on its future run.

At least now they are trying to implement some of the Haroon Lorgat report recommendations such as the new work load of the SLC-CEO and other futuristic steps that are being taken into consideration via the newly appointed Selection Committee. At the same time if they also could pay attention on a National Cricket Policy where the direction could not be changed by short sighted culprits, it would serve the cricket’s best interests. While they could effect many other changes, they also must have a clear understanding of a cricketer’s life at the crease like what Australia adopts today. In that manner no cricketer could turn and run to a top VIP when he is dropped. No cricketer also can come back on a witch hunt in his post cricket era, because the elimination and the grooming process is very clear in the National Cricket Policy.

But, before they could do anything, the system will have to be free of politics and for us to foresee cricket sans politics is like finding a human being without a fault.

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