It was late December, and things were not so ruffled in local cricket. The Lankans had duly beaten Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe without huffing and puffing and blowing the house down. The next Lankan assignment was against the South Africans and, please don’t get me wrong, no one in a right state of mind expected us [...]


Cricket debacle: Who is the Jonah?


Now there are more empty seats at the Test venues. (Pic Amila Gamage)

It was late December, and things were not so ruffled in local cricket. The Lankans had duly beaten Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe without huffing and puffing and blowing the house down. The next Lankan assignment was against the South Africans and, please don’t get me wrong, no one in a right state of mind expected us to beat them. At that particular juncture, the Proteas were right on top.

Yet, at the same time, the Lankan team also had a good practice of having a selector on tour. We all agree that, in this day and age of modern technology, many things could be achieved through the screen of a computer, yet, a hands-on system also has its own merits. Yet, may be for sheer logistical reasons, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) President Thilanga Sumathipala was and is a firm believer that a selector on tour is not the biggest of priorities for Lankan cricket.

There were arguments for and against on the pending tour selector issue but, just before the South African tour, chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya dimmed his lights, agreed to the Sumathipala vision and said “yes”, there will be no selectors on tour for the South African series.

Then, the Lankans had just crossed a land bridge from Zimbabwe to South Africa, and the pendulum swung back. Yes, no one expected the Lankans to win against South Africa, as they were playing on foreign soil and taking on the top ranking side of the ICC at that time. The Test series was a total disaster. Sri Lanka lost the series 3-0 without a fight. Sri Lanka lost the first Test by 206 runs, the second by 282 runs and made it worse for themselves by losing the third by a huge innings and 118 runs.

Hey presto! Out popped the ‘selector on tour’ yet again. Nevertheless, the Lankans were stampeded in the ODIs 5-0, but did somewhat better by beating the Proteas in the T-20s at 2-1.

Yet, by then the Lankan hierarchy had thought seriously about making amends to this tour selector process.

Lanka’s next assignment was a T-20 three-match affair with Australia and, at the same time, SLC was organising its Cricket Aid project to be launched in Australia. I wonder how the profit-loss column of the project was depicted at the end of the exercise but, at the end, Sri Lanka through that project discovered its lost link to humanity in Asanka Gurusinha, who himself had a 20-year hibernation from serious cricket.

In Gurusinha, Sumathipala found the cure to Lanka Cricket’s all ailments. First Gurusinha cured Jayasuriya’s penchant for tour-selector ailment. At the same time, in Gurusingha, Sumathipala also found the ideal candidate to replace Ranjit Fernando who stepped into the shoes of Charith Senanayake as cricket manager, who was suddenly asked to stay at home, after the Zimbabwe excursion.

A top level cricket meeting! Did they address the real issues?

Gurusinha was made the all powerful selector, tour selector cum cricket manager and then, when Aravinda de Silva decided that he had too many business commitments and resigned to act as cricket committee chairman – that post too.

Then, it was not long before Gurusinha prevailed upon the intricacies of cricket and, under its constant pressure, Graham Ford, the Lankan coach assigned until 2019, also packed his bags with two years of his contract still intact.

Lo and behold, it seems that the shots fired by the Sumathipala vision now have gone astray. Since the Lankans enjoyed a fairly decent outing until the win against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe, Lankan cricket has gone into a nosedive and gradually disintegrating to a point of no return.

Even during a Test series against the high riding Indians, Lankan stands are almost empty and the majority of spectators are those who have crossed the Palk Strait, and not people living next door. Thus it’s a double whack! The Lankans are not only losing in cricket, but the public interest in the game of cricket is waning. At the venues there are far too many empty seats and, at the same time, most people are not watching the proceedings of the Test matches even on television.

However, the bubble nearly burst during the second Test, when there was a dispute within, with some insiders blaming cricket manager Asanka Gurusinha for pressuring the selection committee to make some changes in the side. This turned out to be a judgmental error. As a result, it was rumoured that Gurusinha would resign or take action to that effect.

Gurusinha later dismissed the reports about him resigning but, we are aware that there was a development within.

The immediate reaction to this was the high level meeting that was called by the SLC hierarchy.

As far as we could see, the only significant change is the re-emergence of Aravinda de Silva into the Lankan cricket fold, and it is now rumored that he is going to be installed as one of the vice presidents of SLC, once SLC officially accepts outgoing vice president Jayantha Dharmadasa’s resignation.

At the same time, the inclusion of Rumesh Ratnayake as a fast bowling coach has also added muscle to the flagging morale of Sri Lanka cricket.

Yet, cricket insiders are still sceptical about the resurrection of Lankan cricket under the present scenario. They keep arguing that placing a mere plaster on a wound that needs serious surgical attention would not suffice.

They argue that, as long as the present tentative situation within the line of authority prevails, there would be tension in the dressing room. If the manager has the last word as to who’s going into the playing XI when the chief selector is the highest authority in the selection process, there is bound to be bad blood within, and wheels within wheels.

An irate former cricketer told the Sunday Times, “The problem is they keep changing the goal posts to suit the whims and fancies of the hierarchy. According to the cricket constitution, it is the selection committee that is responsible for the final playing XI. But recently, the SLC adopted a practice to the effect giving the Coach, the captain and the vice captain the powers to select the team from the 15 names put out by the selectors. Then, on tour, the manager is added on to the list but, if there is a selector on tour, the selector helps to pick the team instead of the manager. As a result, everything has gone topsy-turvy. Now no one knows who the authority is? Is it the team of selectors or, is their job only confined to signing the set of names that is drawn up by some others. Who is the coach? Is it Nick Pothas or is he just a namesake?”

The former cricketer who did not want to be identified for good reasons, further explained, “Just see the plight of the players in a conflict of this nature (between the selector and the manager). If a player heeds to the demands of the selection chiefs, he would be marked and maybe the player concerned would even lose his place in the squad. Then, if he heeds to the manager cum selector, the story might be the opposite, but, the repercussions may be the same.”

The former cricketer also pointed out that, “We have seen top sides crashing out of contention as a result of internal strife. Just see what happened to the West Indies. They were world beaters, but they are now on the verge of being demoted. Why? Because they lost their focus big time. Still they do have abundance of talent, but what is the use, they cannot get the desired results as a team. Another team that plunged to the bottom is Zimbabwe. Even though we beat them, they are right now at the bottom. Now if this bad management continues we will not be surprised at any eventuality”.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.