Is the cat out of the bag?

Monday, 5 April 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • Insincerity the bane of Sri Lanka Cricket

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

Namal Rajapaksa

The Attorney General’s department has confirmed what was highlighted in these columns one and a half months ago on the term of office of the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) administration. The Minister of

Sports has since stirred from his slumber and made several appointments to rectify the irregularities that were allowed to fester for weeks. 

However, whilst the need of the hour is strong affirmative action, what we see happening is quite in contrast. One does not have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Professor Arjuna de Silva, who is vested with responsibilities in the interim period, is a respected health professional. 

He is currently in charge of the COVID-19 prevention health protocols for SLC. One wonders if he possesses the time given his other medical commitments and the “surgical skills” to resuscitate the ailing patient “cricket” that is gasping for breath. 

The composition of the committee, too, does not give much confidence and hope to the average cricket fan anticipating the much-discussed reforms to be initiated. All indications point towards maintaining the same status quo by facilitating the entrance of the same old blemished officials to return through a skewered electoral process. This is an extremely worrying signal that can destroy the very foundations of cricket of what is left in the country.

What the Minister needs to understand is that by not using the powers vested in him by the Sports Law No. 25 of 1973 and the amendments made thereafter, he is failing in his duties to serve the youth of this country. The Minister should be mindful of the fact that he is also the Minister of Youth on top of his responsibilities for sports. The signals emanating from his inaction of cricket, is going to resonate across 75 other sporting disciplines and encourage mismanagement and corruption in these associations too.

The management style adopted by the Minister on cricket is shocking to say the least. First, he permits a dysfunctional selection committee to pick the side for the West Indies. The repercussion that ill-advised decision has brought is common knowledge. 

In fact, we may have sacrificed automatic qualification for the 2023 Cricket World Cup by this folly. On top of this if he allows the current administration of SLC to re-enter and occupy the seats at SLC albeit through an electoral process (deemed democratic) in spite of the serious revelations of corruption and mismanagement being exposed at the parliamentary COPE committee hearings then one does not need to be a private dick to figure out what the game plan is.

Should this be the case, it becomes more apparent who is pulling the strings from behind the scenes and to whose tune the Minister is dancing. One must not lose sight of the fact on who congratulated the Minister on twitter first for appointing the Cricket Technical Advisory Committee with Aravinda de Silva as Chairman. 

The Chairman was showing gratitude for this appointment despite the serious accusations levelled at him by a senior cabinet minister when he was trying to justify allowing 26 cricket clubs to function in the first-class tournament at the recently held press conference to introduce Tom Moody. The irony of this is how the co-committee colleagues view this stance when one member (Muttiah Muralitharan) has petitioned court to reform the cricket structure in Sri Lanka. It is also interesting to see what Roshan Mahanama another advocate of reform, views these sentiments from the Chairman of CTAC.

In fact the conflicting signals are too many to mention here. Moody was seen promising to make Sri Lanka the No. 1 team across all formats at the end of his three-year tenure. What he is probably oblivious to is that the Sumathipala administration made the same lofty promise by 2020 when they assumed office in 2016. 

Unfortunately, the reality is in stark contrast where Sri Lanka has headed South across all three formats to be occupying the bottom of the rankings with us facing the ignominy of having to play in the qualifiers in the World T20 format. What Moody needs to be reminded of is that SLC will be grateful if the same fate is avoided with the 2023 Cricket World Cup by getting this ship on-course. 

The cricket fans in this country should not hold their breath on such a revival with only two members of the CTAC bothering to attend the press conference to introduce their star recruit and Moody immediately taking wing to India to participate at the IPL with three other leading past cricketers vested with the responsibility of rescuing our cricketing fortunes. 

One cannot deny the fact that there has been success during Moody’s previous stint as Head Coach and some other foreign coaches as well. Whilst, the credit was showered upon them, what went unsung and unrecognised was the yeoman service that was rendered by the dedicated team of local coaches who made profound sacrifices under the guidance of Director Coaching Jerome Jayaratne, and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make these achievements possible. As the famous Sinhala saying goes: You have one set of elephants to partake in the logging, whilst the other set enjoys the privilege of participating in the pageants!

It is no secret that several members of the CTAC raised vocal objections when the SLPP government initiated a cricket stadium project in Homagama citing unnecessary and unwarranted expenses for SLC. These same individuals have now signed off a colossal sum of foreign exchange to be gifted to a foreigner to take out of the country without batting an eyelid, more objectionably in the midst of the most critical foreign exchange crisis faced by this country. 

The poor cricket fans are now heard murmuring that had the stadium project gone ahead our youth would at least have another cricket stadium to play in, whereas this expense ($ 600,000) which translates into a staggering Rs. 120,000,000 in today’s exchange rate of $ 1 = Rs. 200.00) can easily balloon to be Rs. 350,000,000 in three years’ time in the context of the depreciating currency we are seeing at present.

This being the case, the onus is on the Minister of Sports to act and act fast by taking firm action to prevent officials with serious allegations of corruption from contesting the next elections and installing an independent cricket selection committee that can bring trust to the cricketers as a matter of priority. The absence of such strong affirmative action from the Minister of Sports shall be seen as callous disregard towards the welfare of sports and the youth of this proud nation especially where cricket is concerned!