When we were in school Social Studies were known as civics. Then, there was our civics teacher who taught us a lesson that stayed in me for the rest of my life. He explained that a human hand reads out a fine lesson. First is, like the people in society all five finger are not [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

What’s good for cricket and the hangers-on


When we were in school Social Studies were known as civics. Then, there was our civics teacher who taught us a lesson that stayed in me for the rest of my life. He explained that a human hand reads out a fine lesson. First is, like the people in society all five finger are not the same as they are useful for different tasks, but at the same time the five fingers in unison form the palm – a strong unit that is good for many a task. Likewise people from different walks of life make up the society.

It does not stop at that. The hand also has its own language. It can applaud. It can call us. It can stop us. It can reprimand us and at the same time convert itself to become as soft as cotton to stroke other beings in their hour of despair. Like the different strokes of our palm, the Lankan cricket structure is also made up of people from different walks and different talks. Some come into it just for the passion that they have for the game. Some come to it see their kith and kin thrive. But there is another lot who are perched their and keep sucking it dry, but yet show the world that they are the real benefactors and the game largely relies upon their input for its sustenance.

With hangers-on sucking the Lankan cricket dry, any positive development will get bowled like this batsman. - File pic

For the past few decades or so, there has been a school of thought that believes that the game of cricket in this country should keep evolving and change its structure in such a manner that it would find its natural course of feeding quality players to the national grid.
Once upon a time, we had a tournament that was structured well with a fewer teams than the normal club tournament. They called it the Robert Senanayake Trophy tournament which had the best 75/80 cricketers taking part in it. Arguably this is the first instance that cricket’s inner thinkers broke shackles of the club cricket frame and looked at the bigger picture.

The teams that took part in this tournament were from the Government Services, the Mercantile Services, Nationalised Services and the Central Province Cricket Association in addition to the Rest Xl and a School’s Under 19 team. There was no way that someone who had the talent in him was going to be overlooked. If I remember this was in the mid-sixties. This was Sri Lanka’s first lean and mean tournament which was played for the duration of three days. But the pundits at the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka at that time did not consider it to be fit enough for the ‘First Class’ tag.

In spite of the presence of a few pundits, the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) was a committed entity and it also evolved with the growth of the game in the island. It was the BCCSL that later came to be known as Sri Lanka Cricket as we call it now. Its base structure is set upon the democratic lines where the membership votes in a few of their fellowmen as office bearers to run the game on their behalf. The membership comes mostly from the local club structure and the abovementioned participants at the Robert Senanayake Trophy.

As the game has grown in this country for the past hundred years and the club and the other allied membership for at least three quarters of that life span, persons from different walks of life have also evolved to dwell upon the system. From this there is a group of persons who keep feeding upon it and have become the Mafia Dons within the system. Now the cricket in this country is run according to their whims and fancies. They have no intentions of becoming the officialdom. What they want is to have someone of their choice up there on the seat and run the cricket to their agenda. So for them the prevailing system and structure has to survive.

About a decade ago some elite cricketers who just do not have the time to get involved with the murky politics of the game, but have consented to lend a helping hand saw that the game has to take its next step in the right direction, to grow with the demands of the world arena which is transforming very fast.

Persons in the calibre of Sidath Wettimuny, Michael Tissera and even Aravinda de Silva felt that the local structure also needed another superior shelf where they could place the top 75-100 players in a very competitive tournament where the best would meet the best and not the next best. They wanted the Provincial system to be the pinnacle programme. They wanted a system where the club cricket was played to feed the provincial system and the Provincial system to feed the international requirement. For most cricket lovers this system run to its very meaning was the answer to their cricket prayers.

It was at this point only the dwellers got upset. They saw all the demons on stage. They thought that their hand in the pie would be pulled out. In short they will be discontinued from feeding upon the game.

There was a time when the sports ministers saw the flaws in the system and thus brought in the interim committees. At the beginning it was like the god’s gift to cricket. The persons appointed were men of calibre and they were not willing to supplement themselves from the game. They were there to nourish the game. Yet, the Sports minister being a politician and a member of the five fingers, quality was compromised, and finally the interim committees became another stooges’ paradise. Even to the game’s controlling body – the ICC – the interim committees became like plagues and soon it officially issued a directive to run the game through elected bodies.

However, even during the last stages of the interim committees the provincial dream stayed like the evening star shining at the end of the horizon.

But, now once again the democratically elected system has been brought back (even partially). But, for the leaches who feed upon the game this is time for rejoice. Now gradually the provincial system is weaning from the minds. The 2013 Provincial tournament’s 3-day version was thrown out of the window, though the questionable T-20 tournament with all its evil is preserved.

Some tried to make some changes and restructure the club system to be mean and lean, yet the hangers on keep demanding their piece of the cake.

Last week, the cricket administration called up its membership to have a discussion about the club system. First the system was down pruned from twenty teams to fourteen as the preliminary test for graduation. Then next year it was going to be ten clubs. Yet, the officialdom faced its perennial obstacle. The hangers on objected.

The news reaching this desk is that the hangers-on do not want the club championship to go down below 14. They do not want the Provincial system to have a meaningful entry into the system. What they want is a system where they could exploit the game, the same way that A.R.M. Aroos confessed to our sister paper the Daily Mirror on Monday on how he fed upon the labour of the women cricketers.

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