Any sportsman or sportswoman who has reached the level of administration should tap their own hearts and ask themselves: ‘Have we done the right thing by the sport and have our decisions cascaded into results in the arena?’ You can be sure they would turn around and make some utterances about their glory days and [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

The FCID and those who try to score centuries with straw bats


The SLC swimming pool project which was shelved

Any sportsman or sportswoman who has reached the level of administration should tap their own hearts and ask themselves: ‘Have we done the right thing by the sport and have our decisions cascaded into results in the arena?’

You can be sure they would turn around and make some utterances about their glory days and how we beat so and so, yet in the present context they are at zilch, swirling in a bottomless pit.

For instance, the Lankan athletics, football and hockey were of considerable standards once, at least in the Asian circuit, but due to faulty handling by our administrators, the standards kept on gradually decaying, till the sports were left with only the mat to sleep on.

Arguably cricket has been doing well for the past century or more, but, could we count on that status quo?

For the past two decades or so, to be precise from 1999, it has been largely Interim Committees ruling the gamut of Lankan cricket, though intermittently a few individuals — that too from two families; the Sumathipalas and the Dharmadasas — have been voted in by Sri Lanka’s cricket stakeholders.

This time, too, there is no difference. The only difference is the present setup is a marriage of convenience between the Dharmadasa/Sumathipala clans, managing to stave off and neutralise the threat posed by the third party – the Ranatungas.

The Ranatungas also have a long history in these exchanges. Ever since Arjuna Ranatunga led the Lankans to that memorable Cricket World Cup win as its captain in 1996, they have been looking for that plum at the cricket administration.

Yes, for eight months or so Arjuna flaunted his power in an Interim set up, but, the real uncrowned king of cricket administration for a long time was Nishantha who kept the game on a tight leash and had an unhindered control of things as the secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket.

Nevertheless what has been the ultimate result? During that period, Lankan cricket had run on the shoulders of a few individuals, namely, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas, Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara and to a lesser extent Angelo Mathews, T.M. Dilshan, Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath. The rest of the crew could be termed as also-rans.

Just imagine in almost two decades Sri Lanka has managed to produce less than ten top World Class cricketers who could win a game for the country single handed – consistently. What a pathetic situation? It takes eleven cricketers to make a team.

This also spells out another theory. From 1999 to date, no cricket administrator who is worth his salt has shouldered the burden and tried to infuse some sanity into this madness.

Is it because, year-in-year-out, the administrators were more interested in wooing the hungry stakeholders who kept screaming for their pound of flesh? Or were they more than comfortable because they had the a few top class cricketers to produce the necessary results, when it really mattered?

Now the status quo has changed. The Lankans have begun their slide in cricket’s roller-coaster. Not only are the Lankans losing matches. We are now confronted with challenges like the steroid issue, match fixing issue and captains being hauled up at the FCID.

We figure that anyone in the SLC administration would be smart enough to understand that world class cricketers cannot be produced or be churned out with a magic wand.

It is a matter of up grading ourselves keeping abreast with the methods and facilities so that the Lankans could build a strong base that keeps churning out cricketers of quality, just as it is happening in countries like Australia, England and India – you name it.

We remember the day when the Lankans returned to the island after that disastrous tour of New Zealand recently, all sorts of clowns were trying score centuries with straw bats.

They were trying to form committees to find out as to who ran in the dark and misbehaved, thus igniting the poor show by our cricketers into a cavalcade of political hotpotch. All that hullabaloo only managed to take the Sri Lanka’s national cricket captain to the FCID.

But, during the post-New Zealand-tour press conference, SLC stand-in coach Jerome Jayaratne very bluntly spelled out that our cricket lacks the necessary infrastructure to take the game to the levels that they desire. He said the local tournament is in total disarray.

As far as I am aware, the facilities at the R. Premadasa nets are archaic and are miles behind when compared with facilities available in countries like Australia and England.

A side wicket stillborn

Recently former Interim Committee chairman SidathWettimuny during a conversation with me, pointed out that the Asian Cricket Conference had built cricket facilities in the little known Indian city of Dharmasthala in Northern India.

Wettimuny said he was amazed at the facilities provided. They were much more advanced than the ones that we get at our national cricket academy. Yet, the facility has been used to cater to the lowers rungs of cricket in the backwoods of India.

Recently there was uproar when SLC decided to hold the cricketing upgrading facilities at the R. Premadasa Stadium and at some of the provincial hubs, giving some lame excuses like the earmarked facilities lacked proper authorisation.

At the same time they also did away with the Zonal cricket tournament that the former IC had taken a lot of pains to research and formulate.

True a proper zonal system would always been looked crookedly by any of the stakeholders, because they fear that a strong Zonal system would undermine their authority.

In the same breath, the former Interim Committee also formulated a new constitution that could be the stepping stone to a new cricket culture in the country.

The response to all these reforms was hostile. Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera was of the view that the Interim Committee chairman had exceeded his authority by taking the proposal to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

At this end what we are interested in is definitely not petty politics. What is needed is a new vision for Lankan cricket which is now riddled with problems largely arising from a lack of proper vision and bad handling.

For the 2011 World Cup, Sri Lanka built three international stadiums and ended up in the red financially. In 2015 the World cup in New Zealand and Australia played in facilities (Not the main the stadiums where there are better in-built facilities) which were not half as elaborate – for instance at Christchurch and Hobart.

Yet, even the secondary cricket facility at Melbourne that I had the opportunity to visit together with former national fast bowler Saliya Ahangama was more elaborate than the facility at the R. Premadasa Stadium.

For instance, in recent times Australian cricket has introduced a lot of new faces. The majority of the fast bowlers who played against the one-day series against India were all newcomers, but, they won the series with ease.

Then the new opening batsman Joe Burns has as an average of 43 plus with two centuries and three half centuries in eight Test matches. That is because the Australian cricket has a proper base and a better system.

We in Sri Lanka are living in the political wilderness because the Sports Minister takes cudgels against an administrator who does not see any wisdom of putting up two grounds in the backwoods of a political constituency for no apparent cricketing reason.

We Lankans will have to grow bigger than petty politicians who have no vision for the sport other than their own vested interests. We need a better tournament which could develop cricketers who will be as effective as the Burns of Australia. If not we all could end up at the FCID the very moment Sri Lanka loses the next cricket tournament.

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