- Lankan cricket today is in the doldrums due to mismanagement, corruption and lack of integrity in selections
By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
In the last few weeks, the media has been replete with the news of the pay cuts that are to be imposed on the contracts of the national cricketers, supposedly citing a string of poor performances by the national team.
What the pundits who administer the game of cricket at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) fail to realise is that the players are not to be blamed entirely for the poor performances that the national team has gone through in the past five years, where their rankings, especially in white ball cricket, have dropped dramatically to levels never experienced in the country’s history. Sri Lanka are ranked seventh in Tests, eighth in T20Is and ninth in ODIs.
It is grossly unfair to penalise the players for the shortcomings of the administration. Our cricket is in the doldrums today purely due to mismanagement, corruption, favouritism and lack of integrity in selections. In the absence of integrity nothing can come right the moment the players are not given that trust and comfort that they will be picked on merit, merit alone and nothing else.
Everybody agrees that the performances of the players and the team over the last five years have been below-par, but that has been due to no fault of theirs; this is also due to administrative blunders, and the environment has not been conducive for the players to flourish and perform to their optimum capabilities. The bane of Sri Lanka cricket has been the lack of trust in the selection process by the players in the arena.
Nobody in any workplace or environment likes a pay cut because that can affect you mentally and reflect in your performances and lifestyle. The players perform better when they have more to lose than when they are promised things after their performance. When people have more to lose, they always come out better. By imposing things like salary cuts on the players, SLC is only creating a pathway for the players to go overseas.
With cricket becoming an Olympic sport in 2028 in Los Angeles there will be another 195 other countries looking for talent in order to compete in the Olympics. Countries like the USA are already on a major recruitment drive from all the Test playing countries. So, we are going to see an exodus of all our young talent. Sri Lanka has already been subjected to a brain drain for the last several years and shabby treatment towards the cricketers will naturally lead to a talent drain. The day that happens Sri Lanka will have no choice but engage playing the official national sport, which is volleyball, because we will no longer have the talent to be competitive in cricket. The officials and the administrators responsible for that eventuality will be the corrupt office bearers who are allowed to administer the game like what we are going to see on 20 May.
Players’ rebellion for pay hikes and suffering pay cuts instead, are not new issues. It has happened in the past as well when a Players’ Union was mooted before the Sri Lanka team undertook a three-month tour to Australia in 1989-90. The players felt that they were being underpaid. The players were asked to report to the cricket board headquarters to thrash it out, but when they turned up only the captain and the vice-captain were invited for the discussions. After the meeting the captain and vice-captain had said that the cricket board was not agreeable to their demands because they didn’t have the money and they were asked to sign what was offered to them. What the cricket board had done was very craftily increase the entertainment allowance given to the captain and vice-captain by $ 500. When this information leaked to the players, the formation of a Players’ Union came to a grinding halt.
The chairman of the technical advisory committee Aravinda de Silva, with whose committee (comprising past cricketers Roshan Mahanama, Muttiah Muralitharan and Kumar Sangakkara) SLC has sought assistance to draw up the new salary structure for the players, may recall how the captain and the vice-captain short-changed the players before they embarked on the tour to Australia.
Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander
Further, when Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene were players they made sure that the players took every penny off Sri Lanka Cricket for themselves, and now that they are on the other side of the fence they are trying to impose themselves and bring salary cuts for the players whilst doling out millions to so-called foreign experts whose real capabilities was on display at the recently-suspended IPL tournament, where his team is languishing at the bottom of the table in spite of the superstar players in the squad.
It also needs to be pointed out that some of today’s advisors to the Sports Minister and Sri Lanka Cricket were also active office-bearers of the Sri Lanka Players’ Association in the past. They should be hanging their heads in shame for allowing the cricketers to be short-changed whilst they hold the ability to ensure that their rights are protected.
One must also state that all those handouts that Sri Lanka Cricket has given to temples and various other places are the rightful earnings that the cricketers bring in, and the administrators have no right to use their positions to gift these monies to every Tom, Dick and Harry at their behest. These irregularities on donations are cited by no less a person than the Auditor General. It seems the poor cricketers are getting short-changed from all sides. Cricket fans from this country sincerely hope that someone will step in to redress this situation for the poor cricketers.