Clean up cricket
Sri Lanka’s cricketing fortunes seem to be changing of late. The team’s better performance has raised hopes among many fans, while the Sports Ministry’s decision to finally pay the cricketers through a Rs. 600 million loan from the Bank of Ceylon will raise moral still higher.
The financial fallout that resulted from the co-hosting of the World Cup early last year is still being felt and no clear indication has been, given beyond the payment of the salaries, on how Sri Lanka Cricket will recoup its massive losses.
With the Government tapped out giving fuel subsidies, it remains to be seen how the organisation will find its financial feet again and in a broader sense, install sound financial management and good governance into this most corrupt of institutions.
On the one hand, there is the conventional wisdom that Sri Lanka Cricket is corrupt, bankrupt and a bastion of bureaucratic mismanagement; quite symptomatic, in fact, of the general malaise that ails typical Sri Lankan State institutions. On the other, there is a resurgent sentiment which holds that the spirit of cricket as embodied by the national team is still a bulwark against the rising tide of the institutional failure and moral decrepitude that characterises Sri Lankan politics.
The new Skipper of the national side (a former Skipper himself), Mahela Jayawardene, for his part, has insisted that his own acceptance of the troubled captaincy is in the team’s and the country’s best interests – a “privilege” he could scarce forbear to refuse at this juncture.
That hype and hoopla apart, the reality is that Sri Lanka Cricket continues to be conflated with amoral misdemeanours of the monetary sort in the minds of the general public – an impression that is readily confirmed by State watchdogs. The Committee On Public Enterprises, for instance, in its most recent findings, declared the administrator of national cricket to be among the most bureaucratic and wasteful of over 225 public institutions and statutory boards surveyed.
Many optimists in the cricket-loving nation, though, continue to put their faith in its cricketers, especially the likes of Kumar Sangakkara – another ex-skipper and the author of an outspoken diatribe against Sri Lanka Cricket’s corrupt ways, in his internationally well-received Colin Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Lecture (2011). He also became only the third Sri Lankan to achieve 10,000 one day runs in the game and continues to be a rallying point for those who love cricket for its own sake.
In such a scenario, Sri Lanka Cricket and even the whole Government prefer to hide behind adored individuals of the cricket team and the wins of the national side, rather than dealing with the financial mismanagement that has taken stranglehold of the game. In fact even Sangakkara himself in a recent interview pointed out that talent alone would not keep the team to winning ways unless the entire system was cleaned out, so that new players could be blooded fairly and running of the game was not killed off by cancerous politics – by both players and officials.
The fans are hoping that the protractedly underpaid cricketers will provide a counterpoint to the corruption juggernaut that is Sri Lankan politics, for otherwise the greatest passion of the nation will die out.