The Sunday Leader

Cricket, Poor Sri Lankan Cricket…

by Gamini Weerakoon

The topic last week was supposed to be cricket but it was more politics than cricket.

It took our minds to those happy days of cricket in the 1950s and a calypso that went with it.

Cricket lovely cricket,

It was at Lord’s that I saw it…….

The mighty Windies were on tour of England led by Jeff Stollmeyer and Norman Yardley was England’s captain.

As schoolboys we gathered round the family’s five-valve Echo radio and tuned into the hardly discernible BBC commentary wafting to us from far away England. It was indeed a ‘cricket lovely cricket’ world we eight-year-olds lived in. Now anywhere in the world – Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Windies, Australia, England- cricket is not lovely anymore.

Election to the board of control of Sri Lanka cricket that took place at the Sports Ministry was peaceful, unlike in some years before. Yet no chances were taken. Seventy five policemen were on duty, the police spokesman had said. No private security personnel; no Ministerial Security Personnel or mobile phones were permitted in the premises. Another report said that a police squad was also kept in waiting at the nearby Cinnamon Gardens Police Station. Hardly cricket, what? a cricketing purist will say.


Thilanga Sumathipala and Arjuna Ranatunga and Nishantha Ranatunga

One horse race

Thilanga Sumathipala’s group defeated former World Cup winning cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga’s side. It was a ‘One Horse Race’ with Arjuna’s brother, Nishantha proving to be a dead weight also on the same horse.

The cricketing public was interested in the outcome but not optimistic that the outcome could be for the betterment of the country’s cricket. The consensus was summed up by the cynical Sinhala saying:

Unuth Ekai, Munuth Ekai (No difference between them).

In English, both sides would come under the description of: Same old wine gone sour in the same old chipped bottles.

Since the Golden Year of 1996, when the Board of Control for Cricket had Ana Punchihewa as chairman and Sri Lanka cricket turned out to be a pot of gold, political hawks, their hangers on and gold diggers moved in and now only entrails of Sri Lankan cricket seem to be left behind.

Like when an outcome of elections of any kind is announced, winners dream aloud of rosy visions ahead and Sumathipala and his squad are now dreaming such dreams. But what Sumathipala and his lieutenant Jayantha Dharmadasa – both former presidents- can achieve now is a matter of conjecture.


Cricket’s mysteries

Although the Sri Lankan cricketing public is now well aware of the intricacies and mysteries of the game of  cricket, they are clueless about the mysteries of how the Sri Lanka cricket board is elected which is all important to understand how our  bosses of cricket come to lord over the game. It is well known that the rot starts there.

Eighty five clubs with 143 valid votes decide on whom-or which group- would take control of the game. Most of the clubs are financially in dire straits and depend on the munificence of cricket’s godfathers to keep them going.

Not only clubs but also very many club stalwarts depend on the munificence of godfathers to keep them happy with beer and chips and even bigger favours. When elections come along, loyalties of clubs and their stalwarts have to be paid for in votes.

No proof is required for this modus operandi other than the obvious fact that only ‘money bags’ are in the running for top posts while others such as powerful politicians may also be in the running. Two mudalali dynasties and a powerful political family have been in the running to control Sri Lanka Cricket during the last decade or so.

The corruption and skullduggery pervading Sri Lanka Cricket for some time is well known and needs no elucidation save for one comment of a recent Minister of Sports, C. B. Ratnayake, who declared: It is the most corrupt organisation in the country.

It is a pity because this small country became the world champions of this popular game only to be sunk in the mire by egocentric politicians and corrupt mudalalis.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has recently said that the Constitution of Sri Lanka Cricket needs to be changed. This indeed is hitting the nail on the head. India, the most populous and most corrupt cricketing nation in the world, now appears to be heading in the same direction through amendments to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) through a legal process directed by the Supreme Court.


Lodha Commission in India

When the Spot Fixing scandal broke out in 2013 and the issue of the arrest of three prominent crickets went to the Supreme Court, the court appointed a panel to hear several cases relating to IPL corruption and also a public interest litigation filed by the Bihar Cricket Board.

The panel comprised a former Chief Justice of India, R. M. Lodha and two former judges of the Supreme Court. Apart from the inquiry into the IPL affairs, the panel was also asked to make recommendations to the BCCI in reforming the governance model and eliminating conflict of interest.

The Lodha report released last week has delivered ‘sledge hammer blows on the impregnable fortress of BCCI’ and creating a space for professional management and prevention of one individual from dominating the board, as President N. Sirinivasan did. A recommendation that would be of relevance to Sri Lanka is that ministers and government servants being forbidden to be office bearers of the governing body. Players and match officials to declare their assets.

Creating of a supreme body with 30 state associations based on one state, one vote preventing certain states such as Mumbai having more than one vote.

The Lodha Panel report has been submitted to the Supreme Court and the court may ask the BCCI to accept some of the recommendations, commentators said. The BCCI has already summoned a special general meeting for next week.

Amending the constitution of a governing body for cricket, even in a country such as Sri Lanka, will be no easy task. An unimpeachable body should make recommendations as what has happened in India.

Arjuna Ranatunga has alleged that a mafia had prevented him from being even a vice-president and Sumathipala is threatening to sue him. This does not augur well for Sri Lankan cricket.

It’s not cricket lovely cricket any more. It’s cricket poor Sri Lankan cricket.


2 Comments for “Cricket, Poor Sri Lankan Cricket…”

  1. Don

    Sri Lanka cricket needs a management that is truly serve Lanka cricket and I feel it should consist either of ex cricketers or professionals or atleast decent individuals. The voters of the election too should vote for people of decent track record for every position of the administration for sake of Lanka cricket.
    If they have voted for first class crooks, who have tainted track record with possible well publicised investigations for plundering poor Lanka under ministries held by his close relatives, who even may not have basic qualifications such as GCE’s and hence questionable ability to add 2 complicated numbers, with poor command of English in this highly internationalised and connected institution, who may have had many other pathetic record socially for highly responsible positions such as assistant treasurer……… I am gravely concerned for Lanka cricket!!!!
    What you could expect from such crooks are plundering, more corruption etc once again for the detriment of Lanka cricket.

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