28th September,  2003, Volume 10, Issue 11

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Guest Column

Time to jettison deadwood
and get professionals on Board

By Mahinda Wijesinghe

A recent news report that the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka has been transformed into Sri Lanka Cricket Incorporated and Sri Lanka Cricket, in conformity with current international commercial needs, is good news indeed. Another report stating that Cricket Australia helps Sri Lanka Cricket earn an additional Rs.80M is, of course, additional good news for those who mind the cash box. Though, playing five One-day Internationals within a short period would please the TV magnates, it can be strenuous to both players and spectators alike. And finally, that the Damoclean problem regarding who should televise the upcoming England tour seems solved is a big relief. Now professionals must take over the administration of the game. Otherwise, the entire edifice of the sport can collapse. Sri Lanka Cricket Incorporated and Sri Lanka Cricket cannot carry deadwood in their ranks.

Sri Lanka, the hub of Asian Cricket

It has been a long, hard grind from the modest Ceylon Cricket Association that was formed in 1924. The current administration, on the back of a five-year plan, is hoping to make Sri Lanka the hub of Asian cricket. With Big Brother India breathing down our necks - and not forgetting Pakistan either! - this will be a tough ask. Setting targets and working towards them - though Ana Punchihewa came a cropper! - is proper strategy for any organisation. An ambitious programme to collect US$30m in the next four years is on the agenda. Five of Sri Lanka's cricket venues are to be upgraded to the tune of a value between Rs.800m and Rs.1 billion! Phew! That is a lot of money and there must be many interested parties licking their lips in anticipation!

What Bradman said of the Oval

Whilst commending these progressive measures taken by our administrators, what bugs the average observer is, when there is already a more than basic infrastructure in terms of facilities in place, why was the P.Saravanamuttu stadium left out of this programme? After all, this is the good old Oval where Sri Lanka began hosting international teams with pride when the country had no other grounds of similar stature. In 1948 when Australian captain, Don Bradman, with his now famous team of 'Invincibles' played at the Oval, this is what he mentioned in his autobiography: " Worthy of mention is the scoreboard which in some respects gives more information than any board in the world - a tribute to local enthusiasm." Leading English cricket correspondent, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, described the Royal-Thomian cricket encounter, played 45 years later in the Wisden Almanack (1994), on this venue as follows: "The match was played on Sri Lanka's most famous ground where Test cricket was first played..." That was the home turf of the mercurial Sathasivam, and on which Ranji, Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Bradman, Weekes, Worrell, Walcott, Sobers, Miller, Harvey and a galaxy of former cricket 'stars' have trodden. That was the turf on which Sri Lanka's first-ever Test match was played on in 1982. That was the ground on which Sri Lanka recorded her first-ever Test win in 1985. Sadly, the club has had to write these high-water marks on their wall to remind the public and the administrators! What a fate to befall to the venue described less than ten years back as "Sri Lanka's most famous ground." It is akin to kicking the ladder we climbed on. Simply not cricket.

Chippy, Barney and Gerry

The word 'great' is sometimes abused. However, very few, if any, would dispute that Gerry Gooneratne (85) who passed away on Wednesday, was a great coach. Gerry, as he was universally known, was in the mould of other coaching 'greats' such as L.D.S. 'Chippy' Gunasekera and Dr. D.B. (Barney) Gunasekera. In addition to having similar sounding names, the three of them shared three characteristics: 1. All had played and loved the game. 2. None had a coaching certificate and 3. They helped the players to improve by focusing attention on their natural attributes and did not try to impose the coaching book unless it hampered their progress in some way.

Player, selector, and coach of Nalanda

Gerry, an old Josephian, was a complete 'south-paw' and represented Ceylon as a 20-year old, under S.S.Jayawickrema. A capable left-hand bat, he scored a sound 96 runs on his representative debut against India in the 1940-41 season at Bombay. He played club cricket for the S.S.C. and led Saracens to win the premier trophy in 1938, and was a brilliant gully fielder with bucket-like hands and a telescopic reach. Later he was elected Chairman of selectors and national coach as well. Yet, his main claim for fame began as coach of Nalanda College, a task he discharged for well over three decades.

Beau Brummel of cricket coaches

During the 1950's and the '60's, Nalanda possessed successive stables of brilliant players and it was no coincidence that Gerry was their coach. Stanley Jayasinghe, Carl Obeysekera, Ashley de Silva, Lincoln Perera, Amarasiri Gunasena, W.J.Jayasuriya, Chandrasiri Weerasinghe, Sarath Silva and a host of others did their school and coach proud. Gerry achieved most of this by, inter alia, knowing what NOT to interfere in the natural make-up of a player. At the Nalanda nets, he could be seen standing, where the head umpire would, studiously watching, watching and absorbing. Occasionally, I am told, a word of encouragement or a mild reprimand would escape his lips. He respected the players and the game. Always sporting a necktie and sometimes wearing buck and tan shoes, Gerry was immaculately turned out at practices. He was the Beau Brummel of cricket coaches.

Surely, an epitaph that would not desecrate the memory of a great connoisseur of the game.


Chivas Regal October Monthly Medal

For the second year in succession. Periceyl (Pvt) Ltd. the Sri Lankan joint venture between the Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka and Group Pernod-Ricard of Franch. the owning company of Chivas regal, teams up with the Royal Colombo Golf Club for the Chivas Regal October Monthly Medal.

The competition will be over 18 holes and is open to all members of the men's section. with a current RCGC handieap who will play off their handieap.In the event of a tie the winner would be adjudged on the basis of the best medal score over the back nine et al.

The handicap categories are:

Group A Handicap  0-09, Group B Handicap 10-18, Group C Handicap 19-28, Seniors Pool Caddies Event.

The competition commences at 6.45 a. m. at the RCGC on Saturday 4 October. Entries will close on Wednesday 1 October at 6.00 p. m. with the Secretary, R.C.G.C The awards ceremony will be held the same evening at 7.30 p. m. at the Royal Colombo Golf Club.


Past and present cricketers clash

A friendly cricket match between the past cricketers and the present under 19 cricket team of Anthonys College, Wattala will be played on 9 November at St Anthony's College, grounds, Wattala. past cricketers who are interested in participating in this match please contact Lakmal Perera on T. P. 0777-787370, Niroshan Perera on 2937077 Elvis Koelmeyer on 074-831221 and Emil Diaz 2928923 before 15 October. This match is organized with the intention of assisting the school to develop the game of cricket.


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