It all began with someone shouting “The leopard has come to the village” to mislead the villagers and the game went on and on. Now it’s a case of the leopard really coming to the village and attacking the people. How true that narration is, even though it has trickled down the ages in folklore. [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Lanka bowled by its own doosra


It all began with someone shouting “The leopard has come to the village” to mislead the villagers and the game went on and on. Now it’s a case of the leopard really coming to the village and attacking the people. How true that narration is, even though it has trickled down the ages in folklore.
Yes, there was a time when political authorities, especially in South Asia with the exception of India, took cricket — which they saw as their countries’ icon sport — under their control and ran it under various guises and in Sri Lanka it was the Interim Committee.

Initially one must probe into what transpired these Interim Committees in Sri Lanka. Then the finger at once is pointed towards the Sumathipala doctrine that shifted the voting pattern among Lankan cricket stakeholders forever. The doctrine envisages a method of first winning over clubs and organisations that have votes by giving them various incentives and then win the cricket elections with their votes.

It was during this period that one of the Sports Ministers looked at the powers vested in him through the Sports Law and installed an Interim Committee that comprised gentlemen who otherwise would lead a life as true professionals in spite of their deep knowledge of the game and its governance.

I remember the first Interim Committee had a short span of life and the same Minister of Sport called for fresh elections and the then corrupt system of voting once again was at work and the same lot that the Minister removed was voted back into power.

Thilanga Sumathipala met his Waterloo at the ICC itself when the game’s world governing body introduced the gaming resolution that put a stop to his travels to the decision-making forums in World Cricket.

Yet, as a result of the Sumathipala Doctrine, the Interim Committees became so common a feature that the previous government even went to the extent of rewriting the meaning of an English word and appointed a permanent Interim Committee, that only changed its face once in a while to the fancy of the Minister of Sports or the Head of Government, but, not to the will of the stakeholders who were still under the spell of the Sumathipala doctrine.

The ICC bigwigs -- Chairman N. Sri Nivasan and Chief Executive Officer David Richarson at the meeting. - ICC pic

This situation irked the ICC. It studied the situation that prevailed in countries where the game was embroiled in local politics and run according to the whims and fancies of politicians and made a request to revert the selection of the respective cricket administrations to the democratic process.

Accordingly, the Lankan political authority seemingly backtracked, but, lo and behold what transpired in reality was only a beautiful screening to mislead the ICC. The Lankan government did give the SLC the green light to hold its AGM to elect its office bearers, but, the President and the Secretary were airdropped by the political authorities.

Then came the last episode where the two airdropped officials — President Jayantha Dharmadasa and Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga — began to haggle over the 2015 election. At one point of history even Nuski Mohammed, the treasurer of SLC, was a close associate of Nishantha Ranatunga, but, one incident over an appointment and an argument that pursued prompted the former to shift his stance. I wonder, minus that incident, would this whole episode be a possibility.

Now the ICC has taken a tough stance against the Lankan Interim Committee. The world body is of the view that till the prevailing situation is explained and the picture is made clear, it would withhold around 16 million US$ — monies that it gives to members.

We have learned that there were several calls fired across to Dave Richardson from this end. Among the callers were some of the high-ups in the Interim Committee, but, the ICC was clear in its stance and it gave permission for appointee Nuski Mohammed to be an observer at the Dubai meeting so that he could explain matters to the ICC. Ironically Mohammed declined to take part as an observer. However if my memory serves me right Sports Minister Navin Dissanayake once went on record saying that he intends explaining what forced him as the minister of sports to appoint this Interim Committee. Then, Nuski Mohammed refusing to attend the meeting and explaining the Lankan Interim Committee stance has missed a golden opportunity.

SLC CEO Ashley de Silva on Friday said that they were awaiting the return of Mr. Mohammed to discuss and envisage their future action.
The ICC statement reads:

“ICC Board takes steps to investigate apparent government interference in Sri Lanka
“The ICC Board today considered the implications of the appointment of an Interim Committee of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) by the Government of Sri Lanka and whether this may be a breach of the ICC’s constitution which requires free and fair elections for office-bearers within Member boards.

“After considerable discussion, and without making a final decision on the matter, the ICC Board supported a recommendation of the ICC Governance Review Committee that it should write to the Sports Minister of Sri Lanka seeking a full and proper explanation of its intervention that prima facie puts SLC in breach of the ICC’s constitution.

“The Board further decided that, pending the satisfactory resolution of this matter, the next financial distribution due from the ICC to SLC will not be advanced to SLC and will, instead, be held in an escrow account.”

However the following areas of concern require clarifications from the authorities.

* Why couldn’t the minister let the election process go on? If Nishantha Ranatunga becomes the President of SLC and there were corruption charges against him — bring them against him and then install an InterimCommittee with the ICC in the full picture of the proceedings and have it until such time the air is clear. Cricket is bigger than an individual.

* Now that the stakeholders are in the lurch, wouldn’t they make any representations to the ICC on the prevailing situation?* Wouldn’t the deposed executive committee make representations to the ICC about its plight and how it was deprived of being voted in?

At the moment Sri Lanka cricket is at crossroads where standards are concerned and there are differences surfacing even in the officialdom. Now for the first since 1982, an ICC executive committee meeting to my knowledge has been conducted without the participation of a Sri Lankan executive committee member.

It is also a known fact that without ICC funding cricket in Sri Lanka cannot sustain the game at this level. Then, what is the next plausible step – a step in the right direction that encompasses politics and factionalism?

PS: Now the Sports Minister has gone on record saying “Our sovereign law is paramount to all the other laws, If that is conflicting with the ICC charter, then we will have to see what we are going to do”.

That is exactly what the ICC is talking about. Not only in Sri Lanka. The ICC charter speaks against any government of a member-state trying to take control of the game of cricket in that country. Hope we could settle these differences amicably.

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