Let’s call them the chokers. Well! At least for some time, they have been called that in the world of cricket. Yet, so far in cricket history, they have managed to achieve it through their deeds within the peripheries of the boundary line, but this time it just happened to spill over. There was a [...]


The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

The inside story of South Africa’s betrayal


Let’s call them the chokers. Well! At least for some time, they have been called that in the world of cricket. Yet, so far in cricket history, they have managed to achieve it through their deeds within the peripheries of the boundary line, but this time it just happened to spill over.

There was a cause for the battle. The enemy was called the Big Three. The fighting force was dubbed as the Small Three and a key player in this group — South Africa — became the choker. The choker left the Lankans and the Pakistanis – the other two in the Small Three – in the lurch at the most crucial time of the battle.

This was how it all happened:

The battle ground for the big showdown was at a plush hotel in Singapore.

The Small Three had a cause for the fight, but each worked on its own agenda. Yet, while the shadow punches were being thrown in, it was learned that South Africa had already began their discussions with ‘godfather India’.

At this end, the sceptics began to urge the Lankan think-tank to launch their own behind-the-curtain ‘horse trading’ for a compromise. However, Sri Lanka Cricket’s ex-co is so divisive and complex that maneuvering with guile could have become tricky. If you miss the step and fall into the pit there would be many trigger-happy people to shoot you down, pointblank including one who came out with the proposition.

So for all it was worth, the Lankans decided to play it straight, do the right thing and put a lot of faith in the chokers. Because right through, the chokers too kept saying they were against the advances of the big bad wolves and gave the impression that they would fight till the end.

It was Friday about 5 p.m. — the day before the dawn of the big showdown. The Lankan contingent was in the company of the chokers and there, too, the Lankans were made to believe that South African were with them. Satisfied that they had the numbers to defeat the ICC’s controversial proposal, they trod towards the watering hole awaiting the arrival of the Pakistani contingent.

While the others walked towards their restaurant, one Lankan delegate decided to go back to his room. While on his way to the room, he met the ICC’s Chief Executive Officer, David Richardson. At this point the Lankan delegate had inquired about the situation from the ICC CEO and the reply shook him out of his wits. Richardson is believed to have said, “According to Srini, South Africa has already signed”. Then they exchanged pleasantries and parted.

The Lankan delegate wasted no time. He contacted a Lankan member who was with the chokers and conveyed to him what he had learned. By this time the chokers were chatting with the Lankan delegates and saying how they were admiring the Lankan contemplation of legal action and the qualities of Mandela policies.

The Lankan delegate at the table then politely broke the news that he had received. But South Africa Cricket’s CEO Haroon Lorgat told the Lankans that there was no change in the plan and they were going ahead with their fight for democratic rights. While Lorgard gave this pledge, South Africa Cricket’s President Chris Nenzani seemed to be non-committal and was deep in thought.

The Lankan delegate who was out then met an Associate Member delegate from Singapore. He was returning from another meeting, where he had met the Indian chief delegate V. Srinivasan. The Singaporean delegate told the Lankan that Srinivasan had stated that the ICC had the necessary eight votes to pass the resolution as the South Africans had joined the band wagon. Yet, at the chat table, the stance was still the same.

Then once the Pakistani delegation arrived the informal meeting of the Small Three began. Here the Lankan delegation once again confronted the South Africans with the million dollar question: “Have you’ll signed the resolution?” At this point, the President of the Chokers came out with their real stance. He said: “We have come with the mandate of signing the resolution if our demands are met and it has been done”. That was the end of the meeting.

The Lankan and the Pakistani delegations had a sleepless night in Singapore.

The next morning with the whole world on their shoulders, the Lankan delegation did the inevitable. Now that the battle was lost, what was remaining was damage control. Soon they sought a meeting with the ICC President-to-be Srinivasan and they met him a few minutes before the big meeting.

Here Srinivasan had told the Lankan delegation that he would like to have the full house voting for the resolution because he did not like to have a split organisation. Srinivasan had told them that he would prefer them to be in the forum so that there would be strong Asian footing.

Then the Lankan delegation had pointed out that they had arrived in Singapore with an agenda of opposing the resolution and they did not have the mandate to go back on it. They even made a request to postpone the meeting to another date so that they might be able change their stance. Srinivasan retorted: “Now that we have the required eight votes, why on earth should we postpone the meeting? The only way that we could arrive at a solution now is that you may abstain from voting”.

The main meeting started almost an hour late and the proposal was passed unopposed with Sri Lanka and Pakistan abstaining.

Now the Lankans have managed to salvage their 2017 Indian tour of Sri Lanka plus another tour to the country prior to 2023, the next scheduled England tour to Sri Lanka as well as the 2016 Australian full tour of Sri Lanka.

However, as things stand today, the Lankans have been ruled out as a possible IPL host if the tournament is to clash with the Indian elections. However, South Africa who faced a chopped Indian tour of the country just the other day is named as one of the destinations under consideration.

The West Indian Board has already been rewarded with an US$4 million loan. The Zimbabwe cricket authority has received a US$ 19 million loan. However, Sri Lanka which sought an US$ 8 million loan and then subsequently slashed it down to U$ 2 million is still awaiting a positive response from the International Cricket Council.

Now the Future Tours Programme will have to be renegotiated for the eight-year period from 2015 to 2023. The meeting is scheduled for next Sunday. The real spots of the leopard would only be seen at that time.

However the Lankan delegation does not see this situation as a complete loss of face. What they say is because they stood at a certain stance, the resolution which initially came out as a draconian piece of legislation was watered down drastically. They claim if they had run with the initial wind, cricket as a whole in this country would have lost in the long run. They admit that there would be hiccups. But, hiccups are there to be countered and won over.

The Sunday Times also learns that prior to the meeting, the ICC President Alan Isaacs while turning down the Lankan letter regarding the legality of the resolution, had hinted that they even would contemplate passing the resolution with only a two thirds majority, if it came to a push.

A delegate who was in Singapore explained the magnitude of that statement. He said, “Had they passed the resolution with a two thirds majority, we would have been compelled to seek legal remedy. Then going to courts on a matter of this magnitude would certainly be time consuming. Then the result would have been that we would have been singled out and subjected to a lot of hardships. So what happened was a blessing in disguise”

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