An international cricket match, especially a Test match at the Galle International Cricket Stadium without the presence of Jayananda Warnaweera is unthinkable. Since the venue came under the auspices of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) in 1997 he has been part and parcel of the Galle Stadium and somewhat become its supremo.
Warnaweera ran that stadium like his own home caring for it like his own family sprucing up the surroundings outside the playing area to make the venue look more attractive and giving it a touch of what Sri Lanka has to offer to international figures who arrive at the venue whether it be the players, officials or spectators.
For Warnaweera the Galle International Stadium was his lifeline. He devoted virtually his entire life to it and for him to prepare a pitch to the satisfaction of the national cricketers was his ultimate objective.
Being a former Sri Lanka Test cricketer he always wanted his country to win and when the great Muthiah Muralitharan was spearheading the country’s bowling the pitches were prepared to suit the home team’s strong point which was spin. Thus it is of no surprise that Galle has the best win percentage amongst Sri Lankan Test venues with 53.84 percent.
Warnaweera was also very supportive of the national players wanting to help them out in every which way he could. His best contribution was ensuring that any retiring cricketer was sent off with a memorable farewell. Muthiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara – all of them got a lifetime send-off from Galle which they would treasure for years.
As much as he was dedicated towards his task as curator and secretary of the Southern Province Cricket Association, Warnaweera also had his faults. He was not the darling amongst the several officials who administered Sri Lanka Cricket whether they were elected or appointed. He was not only a law unto himself but the manner in which he sometimes addressed people did not go down well with them and only earned him their wrath, not that he cared.
Today the fantasy world of Warnaweera has fallen apart and he is on the run from the international governing body for cricket – the ICC whom he has infuriated by not appearing before on certain charges of alleged match-fixing connected to Test matches played at Galle where he is the chief curator. He stands accused of passing out vital information on the pitch to interested parties who may have paid him off handsomely.
The ICC we are made to understand have sufficient evidence which they want to investigate and confirm and had in advance informed him that they were travelling to Colombo for the purpose, but despite agreeing to meet them he failed to turn up which may prompt the ICC into taking sterner action. After the ICC attempted to meet him it was reported that he had tended his resignation as a member of the interim committee on personal grounds probably on the interim committee’s advice as his presence as one of its members would have caused embarrassment to SLC. His resignation raised suspicion why he had done so especially with an impending Test match between Sri Lanka and West Indies due to take place at Galle in a few weeks.
Since making himself unavailable to the ICC officials Warnaweera it seems has gone underground severing all contacts so that none is able to reach him. In the circumstances the SLC took a decision to debar him from all cricket activities and went ahead with the ongoing Test against West Indies by appointing one of their own curator’s for preparation of the pitch and ground facilities.
From 2006 Warnaweera’s activities have been in the radar of the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit. As a result in 2009 when they wanted to question him on those grounds he had evaded them which resulted in the ICC telling Sri Lanka Cricket to conduct its own investigation against him. But the administration that was there in place at the time, took no action and he continued to hold positions not only as curator at Galle but also in the SLC Executive committee which irked the ICC.
It is easy to understand why an elected body turns a blind eye on his activities because he controls many votes down South and those votes become vital when it comes to an election for any candidate vying to become the president. An interim committee has no such commitments as they are only appointed and they have no fear of taking such drastic action as the present committee under Sidath Wettimuny has done. This clearly shows the difference between an elected body and an appointed one on how decisions are made.
With the Sports Minister announcing that elections of Sri Lanka Cricket will be held in January it will be interesting to see how the elected body would handle the Warnaweera controversy.
At the moment Warnaweera stands accused of failing to co-operate with ICC officials on an investigation concerning match fixing and under the ICC Anti-Corruption Code it becomes a serious offence for which he could face a suspension for a minimum period of six months unless he shows reasonable cause for failing to attend. If he is found guilty of match fixing he could face a life ban which will result in him terminating all ties he has with cricket especially international cricket in Sri Lanka.