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20th June 1999

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Chucking from the cricket board end

Last week Swarnawahini Television aired a programme titled "Mokada Vune." The programme was a panel discussion dedicated to analysing the cause of Sri Lanka's recent World Cup debacle. The President of the cricket board Thilanga Sumathipala made certain contentions at this discussion. Here, our writer takes a look at the credence of what Mr. Sumathipala said in the course of his analysis.

by Backward Point

Thilanga SumathipalaAt every turn of the Mokada Vune TV talkathon, Thilanga Sumathipala seemed to be betraying a tendency towards making statements that, to say the least, smacked of an inability to square with the reality and the truth.

It appeared that he thought he is vested with some special knowledge about cricket, and that he and his associates therefore have some special right or ability to rule over the fortunes of the game in Sri Lanka. .

I wish Swarnavahini can release a copy of the transcript of the tape, but it was funny that at one point he said "gihiyo oka gena danne ne.'' (Laymen do not know about it)

This was in relation to a question about restructuring and reforming Sri Lankan cricket subsequent to the recent debacle. gihiyo ova ganne danne ne.

The answer captures in a nutshell why it is likely that the stewardship of Mr. Sumathipala and his likes has resulted in the rather pathetic mess that Sri Lankan cricket is in today.

It appears from most of Mr. Sumathipala 's answers that his attitude to the Cricket Board is closely tied to his notions of personal prestige, and his own almost self serving attempts to cultivate an image.

When he says "gihiyo oka danne ne'' above all, it's apparent that he places himself on a pedestal vis a vis his knowledge of cricket and the administration of the game. This flies in the face of the fact that cricket is not such a sophisticated enterprise, that only some esoteric coterie of people can have a knowledge of the rudiments of the game! Every armchair cricket expert may not be able to set a field for Muttiah Muralitharan bowling to Sachin Tendulkar, and that's granted. Its doubtful that even Thilanga Sumathipala knows much about setting a field for Tendulkar, because the days he played cricket are long gone, not forgetting the fact that he played the game at a different level.

But it needs a bit of special hauteur to arrive at the conclusion that only a special set of people such as himself constitute the experts, and that other armchair experts know nothing about issues such as where the game went wrong, and where the damage control needs to be done. For example, any fairly intelligent housewife or accountant will tell you that Sri Lankans can neither bowl on hard tracts or face bowling on hard tracts. Their ability to play reverse swing — or for that matter any kind of swing at all, is minimal . So is their ability to bowl that kind of powerful swing bowling combined with pace . That's one reason our players keep failing outside the subcontinent.

Now when "laymen'' make this kind of criticism, is Thilanga Sumathipala under the impression that his pedestal is so high that laymen or gihiyo cannot point to him what the facts are.

This is not for someone to suggest that the uninitiated or the housewives or accountants should take over the management of the Sri Lankan cricket board. But it shows that there is something revealing about Thilanga Sumathipala 's attitude, and something revealing about how his stewardship may have contributed in no mean measure to Sri Lanka's spectacular decline in cricket, both during and before the 1999 World Cup. His whole condescending reference to "gihiya's '' in an interview broadcast to the whole country shows that the man may have a problem in listening to people or ridding himself of the idea that the Cricket Board is something that should be run for the public cause, with the help of whosoever is willing and able to help.

But, with this kind of attitude, its hardly likely that Thilanga Sumathipala was that kind of democrat or visionary who would have taken decisions by consensus. If he is so damning, for instance about "gihiyas, '' what is there to say that he did not have the same sort of disdain for the others in his Cricket Board as well, or outside it? What is there to say that he did not treat other experts who proffered advice to the Cricket Board with the same kind of condescending disdain?

The long and the short of what can be concluded from Thilanga Sumathipala 's comments, is that there seems to be something wrong in his whole approach to the Cricket Board and its affairs. A pertinent example would be how he answered the question posed to him by Palitha Perera, the anchorman of the program. Perera asked him why there seems to be such a mad scramble each year for positions to the Board of Control of Cricket.

Without batting an eyelid, Sumathipala answered that people vie for places for reasons of prestige. Not stopping there, he went on to say that anchormen for TV stations, such as Palitha, are there for prestige too, and not just for the money, and therefore there is something similar in that. (Hilariously when Palitha Perera contradicted Sumathipala 's supposition about why anchormen do what they do, Sumathipala said "ëka nam mata pilligane be." I can't believe that.) So, Sumathipala says candidly (which one can appreciate) that he is in the Cricket Board because of the prestige. He can't possibly say that others are in it for prestige because he cannot speak on behalf of others, he can only speak for himself.

Now this shows abundantly that Thilanga Sumathipala is President of the Cricket Board for all the wrong reasons, and it follows that that is possibly one of the reasons for the current debacle in Sri Lankan cricket, because if the Board President is there for all the wrong reasons, then it would follow that most of the mistakes made by the Cricket Board may have been made because the President is there for all the wrong reasons.

The "prestige'' reasoning shows amply why our cricket may have gone wrong ever since Ana Punchihewa was defeated as Board President. It appears that all his successors were there for "prestige'' and not for the noble and selfless cause of promoting our cricket in a spirit of selflessness/self-sacrifice. The Cricket Board Presidency is an honorary public cause.

It should be ideally held by philanthropists or perhaps even idealists of some sort who dedicate themselves for the public cause.

Prestige should not come into the Cricket Board equation at all, because the Cricket Board presidency should have nothing to do with "prestige'' and should have everything to do with promoting Sri Lankan cricket. That kind of promotional endeavor requires a selfless tireless worker, certainly not a person who holds the job for personal reasons… be it prestige or whatever.

One may be able to argue that a person can be there for prestige and still do the job properly, but it doesn't appear to stand to reason that a person who seeks prestige can be as effective as a person truly and selflessly dedicated to the cause .

Sumpathipala also appeared to make some more somewhat self serving rationalizations when he said that Dav Whatmore left the island and terminated his coaching contract because his wife was sick and was advised by doctors to depart to cooler climes. There is something doubtful about that example, for the simple reason that it is the first time since Whatmore left, the first time in more than three years, that this explanation surfaces. And so, it surfaces right at the time when we have failed to defend the World Cup and been shot out ignominiously from the tournament. Simple question is, if Whatmore went for personal reasons, why not reveal that earlier and not at this desperate hour?

But, even if Sumathipala is granted that explanation, some of his rationalisations regarding Whatmore again seemed to be almost an act of casuistry.

Having acknowledged that Wahtmore was a good coach (something that no one can deny) Sumathipala then went on to dilute Whatmore's contribution by saying that even when he was there, we were defeated badly in Kenya and Singapore. (äpi antha parajayakata path vuna.") Antha parajaya indeed! Its true we did not emerge winners in these two tournaments.

No team can win all the time, but, it appears that Sumathipala has redefined the phrase "antha parajaya.'' In Singapore, our scintillating batting performances were almost the stuff of legend — Jayasuriya established a world record for the fastest century in ODI's. That's antha parjaya?? In Kenya we lost to Pakistan in the last ball of the game despite the fact that newcomer Afridi established a world record off us

That game went down to the wire, and Pakistan won by the skin of their teeth. Compare that with the äntha parajaya'' of this World Cup.

Was there a single batsman who clicked perhaps apart from Mahela Jayewardene? The less said about the margin of defeat to India, for instance, the better; in fact the less said about our performance at the whole tournament the better.

What does not seem to behove a gentlemen who holds office such as President Cricket Board, is to resort to deliberate distortions and rationalizations which somehow seems to bolster his position and explain his predicament at the expense of others. It would have been, to say the least, much more honourable if Mr. Sumathipala gave Whatmore his due without whittling down his contribution, and then accepted gracefully that mistakes were made and that the matter had to be looked into. It seems one way or the other that Mr. Sumathipala is only interested in salvaging his own personal prestige (don't ask me why so?), and the slant of facts that he resorts to in the process does not quite befit the stature expected of a man who is supposed to be heading a public cause.

The President of the Cricket Board also said something about what he will do for the future of the Cricket Board, but its another matter that he is not exactly entitled to say these things as there is a restraining order stopping him from functioning as the President of the Cricket Board until a court case is resolved.

Incidentally, during the earlier stages of the World Cup 99, there was an advertisement that was frequently aired on Swarnavahini, which comically portrayed a man losing at cricket.

Each time he gets out or misses a catch he says "keva vede'' and goes on in similar fashion saying "ayith keva vede.''

That commercial was funnily symbolic of Sri Lankan cricket in the tenure of this president. It was a question of keva vede and ayith keva vede, repeated endlessly. Its difficult to think that some of the aforementioned attitudes stated in this article had nothing to do with this hapless decline.

If the Cricket Board President played a straight bat, he would have avoided some of these rationalsiations and said, gracefully, that lack of planning and lack of fast tracts in Sri Lanka led to this defeat. This was also coupled with a lack of discipline among the team, which also seems so obvious it seems silly to deny it.

Imran Khan in a recent appraisal said Sri Lanka didn't have swing bowlers who could have handled English conditions. Why so? Mostly because our bowlers didn't have the conditions and fast tracts for practice at home, something for which the Cricket Board, in all its wisdom, should take part of the blame.

Finally, Mr. Sumathipala's evasion of these key issues, and his not so impressive deflections that places responsibility on almost everyone else but himself, seems only to confirm that he fights shy of taking responsibility for the fact that his running of the board had a deleterious effect on the game of cricket in this country.

Why all is not lost for our country!

Random writings and original outbursts on the game we love, from the Googler's Gazette

by Omar Nawaz

Take heart, all is not lost for Sri Lanka. What is this? Muthiah Muralitharan's batting strike (before the Super Sixes) is the thrid highest in the tournament at 145.45 ahead of maestro Sachin Tendulkar who has a mere 101.05 (the statistics do not precisely state whether Murali used a straight bat, no doubt with a bent arm). Was this the secret weapon Arjuna failed to use in time?

I read in the "Cricketer" that Sri Lanka's Australian friends, Prof. Bruce Elliot and Darryl Foster of the University of West. Australia will be presenting video clips on Murali at the prestigious "World Congress of Science, Medicine and Sport" at Lilleshall on (here's the catch) the eve of the semi finals. Why wasn't it presented earlier? Ah ha, the Australians were scared that it may give a morale booster to the Sri Lankan's! If Murali is vindicated, at least for the sake of Lancashire we may see some justice done. I hope Lancashire have taken note of Murali's batting strike.

Now what's this? Bangladesh and Sri lanka have both got 4 points but the former have given away 884 runs to the latter's 1003. Now, don't tell me that the World Champions are a peg below the Bangladeshis? Not even qualify for the best runner's up position? The organizers have taken pity on the poor Sri Lankans and have awarded them 2 bonus points. No we do not need your charity. Sri Lanka will retain the trophy.

I am informed by reliable sources (cannot divulge the identity but not definitely Messrs Duckworth and Lewis) that since England along with Sri Lanka got knocked out of the Super Sixes, the rain that was expected in May is going to pour in June washing out all possibility of play from the 16th to the 21st (inclusive) and since no allowance was made in the rules and regulations for the Cup to be shared by 4 pretenders it has to be given back to the defenders and so Sri lanka remain the World Champions until the next millenium. AMEN!

Courtesy CricInfo

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