Rome (cricket) is burning while Nero plays the fiddle

Monday, 15 March 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

The 64 AD tale of how Nero was playing the fiddle is common knowledge to all. Ironically, this famous adage appears to draw a sad parallel today, where cricket is concerned in Sri Lanka. To describe the situation with cricket as being “chaotic” is an understatement and “comic” is more appropriate. Let’s examine the sad ground realities.

We have an administration that has completed its term of office and whose continued occupation of the posts at SLC pending elections in May is being challenged by the opposition candidates. The sitting administration boastfully claims that a majority in the membership supports them and chooses to dismiss the contentions of the opposition. They also have the audacity to hint in the form of a subtle threat that the upcoming tour of Bangladesh and the LPL may be in jeopardy should they be removed. 

The opposition has submitted a detailed list of misdemeanours of the individuals listed to be eligible to contest for various posts at SLC. The legality of the high-profile recruitment of Tom Moody made by the SLC administration on the recommendation of the newly-appointed Technical Committee too has been challenged by the opposition.

These objections we hear are under scrutiny by the Attorney General’s Department to ascertain the legal interpretation of what is being challenged. 

Let’s park aside the “legality” of the entire process for a while, and simply focus on the “eligibility” of the candidates running for office on their credentials, performance and track record. 

In any sphere of life, one’s “performance” needs to be the sole criteria for “eligibility” to run for office. This is the key parameter on which CEOs and boards of directors are appointed and granted extensions based on their performance and delivery. 

That the outgoing administration has been running cricket in this country for the last five years is common knowledge. Barring a few flashy tag lines and empty promises to make Sri Lanka the No. 1 team by 2020, the reality has been in converse. In fact, the team has plummeted to No. 9 and 10 in the rankings across all three formats.

Add to this melee the revelations being exposed in the ongoing Parliamentary COPE sessions, should not only trigger an investigation, but ban all accused from running for re-election pending conclusion of a forensic audit and if need be criminal proceedings.

The tragedy is there are sufficient provisions in the Sports Law of 1973 to disqualify the candidacy of individuals facing serious charges of misappropriation among other more serious charges. The illegal attempt of registering a company under Cricket Aid with several elected members and the CEO as directors would attract a criminal inquiry in any other country. Since this is one investigation being scrutinised by the Parliamentary COPE, cricket fans can only hope that a proper investigation by the Police Department shall ensue. 

If this wasn’t bad enough, another candidate is accused of “match fixing” in a domestic tournament, a charge as serious and concerning as the latter. If incompetence and arrogant bungling weren’t bad enough, the Sports Minister is being hoodwinked by this administration happily doling out voter funds to the stakeholders on the pretext of conducting domestic tournaments subverting the Minister’s instructions.

It is no secret that the previous Government of ‘Good Governance’ should take the blame for the plight of cricket in this country. They began with much promise under Minister Navin Dissanayake who immediately installed an Interim Committee and cricket started looking up again to the delight of the fans. 

But these hopes were short-lived when Minister Dissanayake was replaced as Minister of Sports with the coalition partners strategically hijacking the portfolio. The cricketing fortunes of this country hit a slippery slope since, and the electorate expressed their displeasure for their folly in no uncertain terms at the last election.

When all this madness is unfolding here, the team performance in the Caribbean is heading towards an iceberg.

The team has now lost both the white ball series, and face the danger of an ODI downgrade in the rankings similar to what transpired with the T20 format which could end up with having to qualify for the 2023 WC unless the course is reversed. The selection blunders in the second ODI remain quite stark, similar to what was seen in the T20Is. 

Angelo Mathew’s unexpected exit on personal grounds was naturally going to open a void in terms of “experience” in the team. The most sensible automatic inclusion should have been Niroshan Dickwella who has played in 52 ODI games commanding an average of 32.73 with a strike rate of 93.57. 

The selector/s (whoever is picking the side) instead opts for Oshada Fernando who has featured only in 6 ODIs with an average of 21.33 and a strike rate of 63.05. The difference is, had the right choice been made it could easily have been a 300+ score as opposed to 274 and victory for Sri Lanka in the game.

Whilst, all this is going on Nero continues to play the fiddle or follow the ostrich theory of burying one’s head in the sand, by allowing an illegal administration to occupy the seats at SLC with grave injustice to the other contestants, and permitting a dysfunctional selection committee to be selecting the national team, causing immeasurable damage to the cricketing pride of the nation, and by extension letting down 22 million cricket fans of the country.

These columns have repeatedly stated that the current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had the best business model when it came to administering cricket in this country. The fervent hope of the cricket-loving public is that the incumbent will not tread the same path as his predecessors, but take affirmative action to salvage this much-loved game of cricket from the clutches of the undesirable elements without following the example of Nero!