The first step

Saturday, 9 July 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

AFTER many twists and turns for Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the time has come to retreat, at least from one battle. Media reports have indicated that the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) has been postponed for a year, provoking largely positive responses since it gives the organisation a chance to put its house in order.

Over the weekend many were the opinions voiced among fans and non-fans over the speech made by former Captain Kumar Sangakkara. In the candid, eloquent and insightful address, he not only traced the rise of cricket in Sri Lanka but also its downfall. His call for the SLC to clean up echoes the hopes that have resonated among the people for a long time.

While some may criticise his speech as being “out of context” or even unpatriotic given that it was made in England and can in some cases be considered airing dirty laundry in public, none can doubt its necessity. It is clear that a player of his calibre and seniority had to take a stand to emphasise on the mismanagement that has been allowed to pollute the very heart of cricket. Under this short-sighted and unaccountable action, the players were made into individuals and often political pawns. The games brought riches to the powerful, but heartache to the passionate fans – those who, as Sangakkara pointed out, valued their own lives less than those of their heroes.

The address was one of feeling, but also of long-term understanding of the system that had finally forced him to hang up his cap as captain and take a stand to fight for the game that has become the lifeblood of a nation. Surely such a strong emotion should be reciprocated with lofty feelings such as honesty, integrity and a genuine desire to be honourable. The new interim committee cannot start with an entirely clean sheet, but it can take strong steps to reverse this disturbing cancer that is threatening players and fans alike.

Since the inception of the SLPL, there have been rumblings of discontent. First, the very appointment of Somerset Entertainment Ventures has been questioned and the lack of transparency and accountability highlighted to no avail. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) refused to allow their players to take part in the venture, causing even more tension and eventually postponing the entire tournament. However, the SLPL is a symptom of a much deeper disease.

The World Cup brought much joy to Sri Lanka and even losing the final did not defeat them as the details of the colossal losses that have filtered out have done. It is clear that the system needs to change and as fast as possible. The postponement of the SLPL can be pointed out as a prudent move, but withdrawing from imprudent decisions can only be the start.

Sangakkara outlined the ills of the SLC in detail in his speech. While not naming names, he nonetheless clearly laid the blame on officials and interfering politicians alike. These people are answerable to the fans and players who fund and indeed keep life in the game. The true details of the mismanagement need to be revealed and the offenders brought to book. Moreover, there must be stronger processes in place to ensure that this debacle will never be repeated. Only then will justice be served.