Governments may come and governments may go, and Sri Lankans are able to get rid Presidents when they are becoming autocratic, but the comedy of errors at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) continues.
A few days ago, elections at SLC saw the re-appointment of ThilangaSumathipala as President. Running against him were the Ranatungas, brothers Arjuna and Nishantha, world cup winning captain and former secretary of SLC.
The crux of the matter is that SLC has been strangled between two camps—the Sumathipalas and Ranatungas and cricket’s apex body has been compelled to choose between the lesser of the two evils
The Ranatungas were beaten convincingly but the elections were no gentlemen’s game. No sooner it was over, the slanging match began. At a media conference, with a dumbstruck Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera seated by his side, Sumathipala lambasted ArjunaRanatunga. Jayasekara didn’t utter a word, nor did he even attempt to defend his Cabinet colleague.
A few days later, Ranatunga had his own media show. He professed to being afraid of Sumathipala because, he said he knew Sumathipala’s ‘history’, citing several court cases to which Sumathipala’s name had been linked. And so it goes on.
Meanwhile, last Sunday, the Sri Lanka cricket team suffered yet another humiliating defeat. Those who woke up early to watch the game were put out of their misery soon: The New Zealanders knocked off the required runs inside ten overs and Sri Lanka lost the top spot in World T20 rankings after three years.
Of course, you can pretend that the turmoil at SLC is unrelated to our performance on the field but that is unlikely. The management at SLC decides on all crucial issues that ultimately affect the game: the coach, selectors, tours etc.
To cite just one issue, because of so many changes in the management of SLC, the country has had seven coaches in the last five years! Little wonder then that the team’s performance has not been up to expectations.
The crux of the matter is that SLC has been strangled between two camps—the Sumathipalas and Ranatungas and cricket’s apex body has been compelled to choose between the lesser of the two evils—whichever that is!
Sumathipala has been under a cloud because of his family’s alleged connections to the betting industry and because of this, his election as President still requires ratification by the International Cricket Conference (ICC).
As Ranatunga was quick to point out, during Sumathipala’s engagement in politics, his name also surfaced in several unsavoury court proceedings.
Ranatunga doesn’t fare any better in the propriety stakes. Initially admired for his fearless criticism of nepotism in the previous regime, he has indulged in just that after becoming a Cabinet minister by appointing one brother, Dhammika, as head of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.
Then, for the SLC elections, he teamed up with another brother, Nishantha, who was a staunch loyalist of the previous regime. So, his blood is certainly thicker than water!
Ironically, both Ranatunga and Sumathipala are also close to the highest levels of government. Ranatunga was among the few who defected from Sri Lanka Freedom Party when President Maithripala Sirisena announced his candidacy for the Presidential election. Sumathipala is close enough to the President to gain nomination to Parliament through the National List, though losing at the general election.
So, as long as the present SLC Constitution is in operation, control of the game’s apex body will keep changing hands between the Ranatungas and Sumathipalas or their proxies and the game in this country will be doomed.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has suggested a way out: change the SLC Constitution, in consultation with the ICC. This could be done through a committee overseeing SLC, he has proposed.
Surprise, surprise, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera has taken umbrage at this. How dare the PM interfere with SLC without asking me, he says. Yes, this is the same Jayasekara who only a few months ago ridiculed President Sirisena when he was running for President for his frequent use of the word ‘hitan’!
If things stay the same at SLC, its motto should be ‘abandon hope, all those who enter here’. What’s more, in two months’ time, we will be “celebrating” the twentieth year anniversary of winning the World Cup!
Maybe we will have to hark back to this forever, with nothing else to claim credit for, just like we talk of our 2500-year-old heritage!