The Lankan cricket hierarchies in recent times have developed this canny ability of pulling out tantrums with their own players. The latest being the piece of paper circulated by the SLC Coaching and Cricket Committee (SCC)’s much respected chief Ranjit Fernando who has sent SOS signals through the Lankan cricket kingdom, claiming that its race [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Fitness to the fore: Fact or fiction?

Bid to undermine high-riding cricketers

The Lankan cricket hierarchies in recent times have developed this canny ability of pulling out tantrums with their own players. The latest being the piece of paper circulated by the SLC Coaching and Cricket Committee (SCC)’s much respected chief Ranjit Fernando who has sent SOS signals through the Lankan cricket kingdom, claiming that its race horses are partially lame, and over that, they have an attitude.

At times these happenings are absolutely hilarious. Here, there is a Sri Lankan team that is performing at international level reaping results at all three levels of the game and thus helping Sri Lanka Cricket to keep its merchandise at optimum levels.

Right at this moment the Lankan team is a prize horse. They are winning Derbies, the Royal Ascots and even races from the village stables. True, in the process they may flounder once or twice, but in the global village of cricket the Lankans are on a high. Yet, the general acceptance of their performance seems to be sliding into down thumbs lane as a habit.

From 2007, look at the number of ICC finals with which the Lankan cricketers have become a part of. Then at their recent performance that has kept the whole cricketing world agape!

But, what do the Lankan cricketers get in return? After the 2007 World Cup final, the then skipper Mahela Jayawardena resigned from the captaincy. Then in 2011, Kumar Sangakkara who led the team to the ICC World Cup final in Mumbai relinquished his position upon returning to Sri Lanka and opted to be just a member of the team. Why? Only the future will tell. Generally a captain who is good enough to bring a team to the World Cup finals does not resign that easily.

Then arrived the recent contract problem where the SLC hierarchy and the players locked horns over the disbursement of ICC grants. This generated a friction of a bigger magnitude than the fisticuffs between politicians Dayasiri Jayasekera and Harin Fernando at a public forum.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. In reality, there is a huge rift between the players and some officials and it even has reached personal levels, where some players do not acknowledge the presence of certain officials. In return, the officials wait for a chance to pounce on them. A good example is the Mahela-Sangakkara burst at the Bandaranaike International Airport on the controversy over their retirement from T-20 cricket. Both sides will have their own side of the story, but the truth is there is a rift between the officialdom and the players.

Sadly, on this background, a move is made by the of SLC’s Coaching and Cricket Committee to undermine the achievements of the Lankan cricketers — in public, mind you.

May we ask: Do the Lankan cricketers have the same training facilities that the English cricketers have or even what the New Zealand cricketers could talk of? Yet, they come out and perform on the same stage under the same ICC rules.

This is not a very conducive situation. We admit that the SCC is there to see and nurture the game in the country and keep it at optimum levels. We even agree that the Lankans do possess chinks in their cricketing armour. But, there are levels of tackling such issues when it comes to handling players of that level.

Yes, the Lankan cricket runs on the shoulders of the five seniors — Sangakkara, Jayawardena, Dilshan, Malinga and Herath. Even in the match that levelled the series at Pallekelle, the general Derby winner Sangakkara failed, but, it were Dilshan, Mahela and Malinga who finally made the difference between the two teams.

Exactly what we should be concerned about is why the young guns are not firing. Why a cricketer in the calibre of Chandimal is watching the proceedings on television when players visibly inferior to his talent are trying to perform in the middle. Why Thisara Perera was driven out of cricket. Here the same mathematical calculation that applied to Chandimal prevailed.

Why has Sri Lanka not produced a spinner even like Ravindra Jadeja in the last decade or so? Well we play the game in the Indian sub-continent which is known as breeding grounds for the wily stuff in bowling.

We at this end feel that the whole episode could have been handled in a better manner. The SCC is concerned about the attitude of certain players! What does the SCC mean by that? In most occasions, good players do possess an attitude and that is one of those little aspects in them that keeps them driving on even they are up against it in real terms like the facilities in England and Sri Lanka.
Anyway why should we wash our underwear in public? That is the main question.

Yet, at the same time what the cricketers do is also sometimes not right. Sometimes when the plot dissolves they look for fall guys. It so happened during the recent lights issue.

Well, light and darkness came into a lot of debate last week as Sri Lanka lost their way through the latter part of the inning while chasing the South African total of 300 plus in the first ODI at the Premadasa International Cricket Stadium.

Opinions published in the news columns were interesting. When the light was dropping at the stadium, even the cricketing pundits who had converged on the match commentary box were wondering why the lights were not on. Then it was revealed that a clause on the lights was not included in the original Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

One of the articles on the issue claimed that both Sri Lanka Cricket’s CEO Ashley de Silva and Cricket Operations Head Carlton Bernadus said in one voice that they had sent the MOU to the players through manager Michael de Zoysa and the players were privy to the contents of the document in question.

It is understood that prior to the tour, it was the local coaching staff and the senior players who wanted the day matches to maximise their home advantage and also it is learned that the seniors were not keen on having the lights either.

What we cannot understand here is as to why Lankan captain Angelo Mathews made a statement claiming that they were not aware that the lights were not going to be a part of the day games. Here there is an argument. If the MOU was studied by them as claimed by Ashley de Silva and Carlton Bernadus they would have known what the contents were. Leave Mathews alone. At this point there are a few cricketing brains which are unmatchable. Manager Michael de Zoysa may not have played Test cricket, but, just walk down the corridors of the Premier Club SSC and make some inquiries, they will tell you about de Zoysa’s knowledge of the game. Then the two former captains Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena are also very knowledgeable of the game and any clause that would have brought in an iota of discomfort to their winning strategies should and would have been picked up, discussed and amended before the MOU reached the South African camp and the final signatures were placed.

By now when you read this column the whole ODI series is done and dusted. But, as always the games behind the curtain are as enjoyable as what is produced in front of the camera on the green.

Please don’t make cricket a thing that just run on greenbacks.

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