In spite of it being a Saturday, the majority of the sports fraternity had opted to stay home and keep themselves occupied with the Soccer World Cup now in progress in Russia. They had their minds set on watching the France vs Australia match, while keeping a tab on what’s going on at the test [...]


Musthapha III: Hell’s angels are still at work


DInesh Chandimal's appeal has been thrown aside by the ICC

In spite of it being a Saturday, the majority of the sports fraternity had opted to stay home and keep themselves occupied with the Soccer World Cup now in progress in Russia. They had their minds set on watching the France vs Australia match, while keeping a tab on what’s going on at the test match at St. Lucia’s between Sri Lanka and the West Indies.

The soccer match was full on the screen and busy as a hive, but even by 7.30 pm Sri Lanka time, there were no signs of the Lankans coming on to field for the third-day’s play in the second Test between Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Then the focus shifted to the cricket channel, with the news that the Lankans were refusing to take the field over an incident we knew then only in bits and pieces. Then, after much huffing and puffing, play began 120 minutes later. It was alleged that the Lankan team had tampered with the original state of the ball.

By then what was left of the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) hierarchy had converged on the citadel, and that included SLC’s CEO Ashley de Silva and International Cricket Head Chandima Mapatuna. They had a discussion with Sports Minister Faiszer Musthapha and the incumbent Competent Authority, Kamal Pathmasiri. Even the depleted battleship at Maitland Place was ready for battle and, in fact, they were.

After awhile of deliberations, they even put a communiqué which read: “Sri Lankan players have not engaged in any wrongdoing during the ongoing (2nd) Test match played between Sri Lanka and West Indies. The team, on the third day of the match, protested a decision taken by the Umpires citing ‘Changing the Condition of the Ball’.

“SLC advised the team to take the field to ensure the continuity of the match, and wish to commend the decision taken by the team to continue with the game ‘under protest’, to ensure upholding the spirit of the game.

“Sports Minister Faiszer Musthapha and Competent Authority Kamal Pathmasiri, in collaboration with CEO Ashley De Silva and Head of International Cricket Chandima Mapatuna conveyed to the team management that SLC shall take all necessary steps to defend any player, in the event any unwarranted allegation is brought against a member of the team.

“SLC reiterates its commitment to adhering to the laws of the game and upholding the spirit of the game. SLC stands firm in its commitment to protect the dignity of the National cricketers at all times.”

Yet, we suggest, first and foremost, when the incident was brought to the notice of the players, the team management should have taken control of the situation and asked the players to take the field. Manager Asanka Gurusinha and Coach Chandika Hathurusingha looked into the logistical part like talking to the Lankan authorities and looking for plausible damage control, while talking to ICC officials.

The next day, with the arrival of the footage of the incident, SLC was looking for experts to go through the proceedings and give its opinion — and, by then, a tired Sports Minister Musthapha was beginning to complain. At one point he confided, “Now, for two full days I have been at the cricket office, I am not the Minister for cricket, I am the Spots Minister, looking after the welfare of Sports in general,”

Yet, after all that baloney, what happened? Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal was suspended for the third and final Test of the series against West Indies, after he was found guilty of changing the condition of the ball during the second Test.

What’s worse for Sri Lanka is that, Chandimal, Coach Hathurusinghe and Manager Gurusinha could miss between two to four further Tests, after being charged with “Conduct contrary to the spirit of the game,” after their side refused to take the field for almost two hours on the third morning.

This is one point where we really agree with the beleaguered sports minister. First, he has said that his knowledge of cricket is limited. But now, we find him looking into cricket matters for two full days. Then, what about the other chores that he has in his larder? Yet, someone has given the poor sports minister who does not know much about cricket affairs, the wrong cue and now he is singing out of tune.

Just imagine, a few hours prior to the ball tampering incident, sports minister Musthapha faced a huge setback when Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena, Roshan Mahanama and Muttiah Muralitharan refused a role in a hastily arranged concoction, which would have helped someone else in an indirect manner.

This is the time the sports minister really needs help and guidance. Besides the cricketing fraternity who are directly and indirectly employed and are depending on Sumathipala handouts, these rest are looking for a change in the existing SLC constitution.

Right now, SLC is a melting pot. First, it was the Galle pitch match-fixing revelations that hit worldwide headlines in the cricketing world. Al Jazeera took the story to town, and they have not stopped, they are digging further. Further, the ICC has requested for any incriminating evidence from Al Jazeera which are in their possession.

Now, on our own, the cricketers once again have pushed the game to the brink of uncertainty, and with both the Manager and the Coach along with the captain being involved in the degradation, cricket-wise, there is nowhere else that we could hide.

We feel this is a direct culmination of players and player management losing its fear of doing the wrong thing. When the very cricket management of this country is posturing that there is no harm in being involved in matters which the rest of the cricketing world, including the ICC, is trying to eradicate, you lower your bar in standards. In this instance, we can clearly say that our Lankan cricketers were oblivious to the niceties and obligations to the larger extent of the game. At the same time, in modern day cricket, TV plays a huge role and the general money bags are hidden there. But, on that fateful Saturday, SLC held up TV telecast for 120 minutes, without any rhyme or reason.

Even prior to this ball tampering incident, the rest of the cricketing nations have given us the indication that they are not taking the Lankans very seriously anymore. If you care to go through the latest edition of the ICC future tours programme, you will find that there is definite cut in our international assignments standard wise.

Then, if sides begin to decline to play Sri Lanka in bilateral series, the TV companies also would abhor the Lankan experience and, even if there is a TV offer, it would be next to nothing, like what TV people offered for the Nidahas Trophy, in spite of the series involved TV magnate India.

Coming back to the Chandimal conundrum, the ICC threw another egg that Lankan cricket’s face when they threw the ball tampering appeal out of the window.  Now just imagine the state that Sri Lanka Cricket is in.  They do not have an administrative ahead as result of the AGM being postponed. Now we do not have a cricket captain – he is under suspension for ball tampering.  We ask, has Sri Lanka cricket ever has slid to uncertainty of this nature and who is responsible for this sorry state of affairs?

As for sports minister Musthapha, it is not too late. If he opts to live in the prevailing political quagmire that is his option; we can do nothing about it right now. Yet, the millions of cricket loving people would not take that option lightly in a future expression of judgment, and that is left to be seen.

At the same time we learn through the grapevine that the minister is only using the names of established past cricketers only to buy time, before sliding back to the prevailing cricketing hole. If that happens it would be really a sad day for the game’s future. Just imagine we hear that two former World Cup cricketers had made a visit to see the dethroned boss. Why? To get the budget passed for an age group coaching at SLC to continue. Sad isn’t it?

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