Longden Bridge is falling down they said. I wondered why? Isn’t it the proverbial London Bridge that stands very much alive in the heart of London. Then it dawned upon me, they must have been referring to Maitland Place – the road that leads to Longden Place in posh Colombo 7. This piece of wisdom [...]


Is the Maitland bridge really crumbling?


Longden Bridge is falling down they said. I wondered why? Isn’t it the proverbial London Bridge that stands very much alive in the heart of London. Then it dawned upon me, they must have been referring to Maitland Place – the road that leads to Longden Place in posh Colombo 7. This piece of wisdom helped me patch up the missing jigsaw.

In fact, were they referring to the bridge that is swaying at Maitland Place? Then I have a story! That is swaying because the very bases of this bridge are getting gnawed away gradually. The irony is that, the pillars which are crumbling are pivots which hold on to the main cables.
Yes, I am referring to Sri Lanka Cricket and its fast track to oblivion.

Is it bye bye for Jayantha Dharmadasa? Pic by Amila Gamage

If I am not mistaken, it was early 2015, may be early March, the heat of the 2015 World Cup in Australia was just beginning to fade away. The Lankan lads did pretty well to enter the semifinals but, the crux of the story was something else.

It was the time of the Sri Lanka Cricket elections. By then, the incumbent Executive Committee had crumbled. The pillars of that bridge – Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga and Vice President Mohan de Silva were on one track, while incumbent President Jayantha Dharmadasa and Treasurer Nuski Mohammed were on the other. Of course, the SLC’s then kingmaker Jayananda Warnaweera was deeply entrenched in the Dharmadasa camp.

By then, the SLC strongman, however, was Nishantha Ranatunga, who had worked his way through to the Lankan Cricket vote base, and was on the verge of handing over the nominations. Lo and behold! At that particular juncture, the then Sports Minister Navin Dissanayake, who had very close links with outgoing SLC Treasurer Nuski Mohammed, turned tables. As you know, new hammers give a harder punch, suddenly, there came an Interim Committee headed by much respected Sidath Wettimuny, which also contained the names of Nuski Mohammed and Warnaweera, while Dharmadasa opted to stay in the shadows.

In reality, it was the moment the Ranatunga pillar crumbled.
Knowing Sidath Wettimuny, he tried to live by the rule, but the Interim Committee was interim only for twelve months. However, that time was sufficient for the Dharmadasa Group to regroup and strengthen themselves against the old enemy – Ranatunga. I was referring to the Dharmadasa faction and not Wettimuny. May be Arjuna or Nishantha — any Ranatunga became the common enemy.

The Dharmadasa faction took some well calculated measures. To overcome the Ranatunga phobia, Dharmadasa needed a common front. Then it came to a situation where they had to fire with a multi-barrel gun. So, they signed into an another marriage of convenience – Jayantha Dharmadasa-Thilanga Sumathipala union, which was once like chalk and cheese married in reality.

Once the Wettimuny-led Interim Committee had to call “time out”, the Dharmadasa-Sumathipala coalition had gathered momentum. Backing Dharmadasa was his long time ally, K. Mathivanan from their half of the faction, while Sumathipala managed to salvage the support of his pupil Mohan de Silva, who was to hand over nominations along with Nishantha Ranatunga, during the last aborted election bid.
Nishantha Ranatunga was backed by his brother Arjuna – by then, they were not as strong as the Sumathipala faction, and the whole tussle became a mismatch.

Team leader Sumathipala then formed the SLC administration in 2015, with Sumathipala as President, Jayantha Dharmadasa and Mathivanan as Vice Presidents and Mohan de Silva as Secretary. Adding weight to this whole exercise was Sumathipala’s longtime friend Aravinda de Silva – who was thus appointed Mr Cricket. Jayantha Dharmadasa was in charge of International Cricket, while Mathivanan is still handling local cricket.

Soon, with the help of Aravinda de Silva and former captain Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka managed to coax Graham Ford to take up the position of Head Coach and given the task of running Lankan Cricket till the 2019 World Cup. Along with Ford as Head Coach, Angelo Mathews was named Captain and Dinesh Chandimal his deputy.

Yet, it took hardly fifteen months for this coalition to start falling apart. Now the bridge that was craftily patched up is seemingly crumbling.
First to go was Cricket mentor Aravinda de Silva. It was de Silva who designed the present cricket administration’s ‘work blueprint’. He was the brains behind the operation. De Silva resigned over the infamous Alan Donald issue. This was a huge blow to the Sumathipala ego.

Meanwhile, Asanka Gurusinha, who crossed the Australian shores after a twenty-year break, has become the cricket mentor. Besides being the Cricket Manager cum Selector, Gurusinha is also the man in the Lankan Cricket Committee, but that tilted Ford’s balance. The direct result of this conundrum is the departure of Lankan Head Coach Graham Ford, who was supposed to help the Lankans till the next Cricket World Cup in England and Wales in 2019.

Lankan Cricket has got so much poorer. First it was the loss of de Silva and then the crisis was compounded by the loss of Ford. It’s no laughing matter for a team still trying to find its feet for a prolonged period of fifteen months, since the departure of the trio of Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara and T.M. Dilshan.

Now it is rumoured that the person who really built this citadel – Jayantha Dharmadasa — had taken a cue from Coach Ford and made a backdoor retreat with bag and baggage. Yes, of late, he has become a bit of a joke with his yo-yo resignations but, according to insiders, this time it is for real. The rumour became very pronounced when the Zimbabwe team was introduced to the media. The man in charge of international Cricket at SLC – Jayantha Dharmadasa — was missing.

At the same time, Chief Selector Sanath Jayasuriya did not get the blues. He is happy. His tenure now has been extended by another year. Yet, how he is going to wield the stick hereafter, is anyone’s guess.

However, the first act that he performed was to axe Dinesh Chandimal from the ODI squad. It seems that Sri Lanka Cricket is suffering from Sangakkara phobia. It was only the other day that Sangakkara was explaining over the ICC airwaves that head Coach Graham Ford and Dinesh Chandimal are pivots in the present Cricket checklist, and by today, both are out.

This spells out a disturbing message. The present Sri Lanka cricket hierarchy does not respect the country’s senior players. Now Chandimal has been put out of action and that definitely does not help his psyche at all. At the same time, it even gives the fledglings a sense of insecurity. Another development that cannot be condoned is the pressure being built against skipper Angelo Mathews.

Right now, the man who has to be looked after is definitely Mathews. He is the only national cricketer who is standing strong on his own two feet at the moment. Mathews not being able to bowl does not come into the equation at all. He has the ability as a capable fielder and has taken some amazing catches in the slips. More often than not, his bat speaks for the whole nation. The situation is compounded by the fact that Coach Pothas is a standby, and hasn’t even proved himself as a fielding coach – the job he was originally hired for. As for Asanka Gurusinha, I feel, he still has a lot to learn about how the present day cricket machine works. As this column is being read, you will learn about the doors that have been shut on people’s faces, in recent months.

As for Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera’s heroics, it was former National Captain Michael Tissera who summed it up beautifully. He said, “Very soon, we will have a fit bunch of novices who cannot play cricket. First, one must understand what the game is about. In cricket there should always be a mix of youth and experience. Then, when it comes to experience, they may not be in the same levels of a youth of 23 but, the equation balances out with various other factors.”

May I note!!! Do you think, when we won the Cricket World Cup 1996, we had 15 players who were 100% fit, and be at the same levels that Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera demands?

Is there more to cricket than just fitness ? With many views being exchanged these days our Deputy Editor Sports S. R. Pathiravithana share his thoughts with viewers. Got something to say ? Then share your views in the comments section. Alternatively follow Pathi’s Column – Sunday Musings

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