Finally, there is one reason for us in this tiny island to shout out loud and hoarse our throats by shouting “Proud to be Lankan”. At the end of the first round of bullying by the so called ‘big three’ at the ICC, only Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan have stood by their guns [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Taking on Big Three: “Proud to be Lankan”

But is it just for the moment?

Finally, there is one reason for us in this tiny island to shout out loud and hoarse our throats by shouting “Proud to be Lankan”. At the end of the first round of bullying by the so called ‘big three’ at the ICC, only Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan have stood by their guns and fought injustice.

Out of the ten votes of the full members, eight votes are needed to obtain the three fourths majority needed to push through a proposal of this magnitude. But, by Wednesday the worms had succumbed thus leaving the bullies with only one vote away from getting what they wanted. However, the delegates of South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka stood firm and said that they have to get the approval of the majority of their home boards to take a decision.

When the second round of the bout began, the Bangladesh Cricket Board, which was under the threat of being pushed out of the Test arena, jumped into the bandwagon of the Big Three once they were given the assurance that they could stay on board.

Why and how Bangladesh changed their mind just because they were assured of Test status may be having a lot more tail-squeezing behind the curtain. Just look to the future Bangladesh cricket itinerary – the tale of the tail-squeezing could be found out. Bet there would be tours from India, England and Australia granted to that country which was in the fringe of getting kicked out of Test status. But, for now nothing would be apparent.

However, the ‘Big Three’ are confident that they could break the resistance of at least one of the opponents by the end of the week. Are they saying in other words that they could turn the Lankans upside down? I say this because from the very beginning both South Africa and Pakistan showed their displeasure about this move publicly, when the Lankan board was running helter-skelter wondering in which pie it was going to poke its finger. So much so one of the ex-co members, Shammi Silva, even went to the extent of accusing some or one of the co-members of playing foul. It’s good a thing of that nature happened. Now even the bad eggs of the Lankan executive committee know that they would not be able to play behind the curtain poker and change their position. The decision would have to be a clear mandate.

Besides, there are things for Sri Lanka Cricket to get worried about. For instance if they go with the wind and vote, the Future Tours Programme (FTP) becomes a thing of the past. If the FTP is got rid of, the multi-million dollar TV deal signed with Ten Sports also becomes null and void – because the agreement is signed on the strength of the FTP. Up to now, Ten Sports have released about US$ 2.4 million to the Lankan board and by now the cash strapped Lankans may have used up the money. If the deal goes bum, Ten Sports will want their money back. What would be the SLC’s position if the crux of the matter goes that far? On Friday, SLC President Jayantha Dharmadasa and Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga met the ex-co and explained the real situation and what really transpired at the Dubai meeting. According to Ranatunga, the board took no final decision on its stance. However the Lankans will have to take a firm decision before February 6, when the third round of the bullying begins.

The irony is the ICC is very clear about a country’s political system getting directly involved with its cricket administration. But, isn’t what is just happening a bigger threat that borders on cricket colonialism? Isn’t this just plain politics backed by money?

Things of this nature do not occur in the FIFA or the IRB – the two other big field sports in the world — at least not so blatantly. Not that they do not have huge revenue earners or poor but talented nations indulging in the two games.

Even now the poorer nations are being subjected to direct or indirect harassment by Cricket’s Big Three. For instance, it was not so long ago that the Lankan administration had to bow down to pressure and forego a Test series against West Indies. Who was behind the flop of the SLPL tournament? How many Test matches that Sri Lanka had to sacrifice or give up and make room for the Lankan players to take part in the Indian Premier League tournament. If the situation is that bad now, we could just imagine what it would be when the ‘Big Three’ cart wheel begins to show its true colours.

It was not very long ago that the International Cricket Council (ICC) was exasperated over the state of cricket in Sri Lanka as it was run by the Sports Ministry controlled Interim Committees.

It duly informed the local authorities to get the political influence erased off from the local cricket administration and revert to the democratically elected system where the stakeholders would have the say.

Then when the change occurred in Sri Lanka it was a veiled political ‘jillmart’, but, seemingly the ICC request was adhered to and the cricket’s keepers were happy. The bottom line in this scenario was that the ICC did not agree with politics mingling with sport as this important human recreation should have its own freedom.

When this occurred one of the happiest was this particular column as even we at this end prefer the sports to have its own freedom. Generally, in any society, a person who has done sports is accepted – a step higher than the others as the sportsmen are considered to be people who could be magnanimous in victory and balanced in defeat.

But, the recent happenings in the international cricket arena go below all the norms that we have learned as children about sports.

Here, the most important factor has become the money power rather than the skill or the other allied criteria that go with sport.

Initially the cricket boards of England, Australia and India ganged up and announced about their intentions of ruling the roost in the cricketing world. I just asked myself, “Hey, where is South Africa?” They are also an affluent country like the so-called big three. Besides they are also top rung competitors who are No 1 in the Test ladder and third in both the 50 overs and the T-20 segments. Besides they are proud performers and are passionate about the game. Then why were they left out in the original creation of a Test Cricket fund to be distributed among Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the West Indies? Is it because they were affluent like the ‘Big Three’ and they did not need any handouts from the ICC or else the Srinivasan-led BCCI does not see eye to eye with the Haroon Lorgat-led South African cricket administration? If the second reason is the real root cause for this apathy, indeed it is a very sad situation. Isn’t this blatant cricket politics?

However, we need to be happy that sanity prevailed and things were not steamrolled. The ‘Big Three’ have brought in some consolation — the biggest being the removal of their immunity against relegation. (I honestly wonder on a future date if one of the Big Three would face the situation of relegation in real).

First it was thought that this proposal was a well laid-out move behind the screen. But ICC President Alan Isaacs said, “Several months ago I encouraged BCCI, CA and ECB to enter into a constructive dialogue together to help resolve some of the key commercial and governance issues facing the game. These leading cricket nations have worked tirelessly to produce a document which provided the basis for the past few weeks of extremely constructive discussions.”

Then he added his displeasure by stating “It is obviously very disappointing that a draft position paper from these members was leaked as this prompted a debate that ignored the ongoing negotiations between all members and led to unwarranted criticism of many of those involved in the process.”

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