Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) President Thilanga Sumathipala showed he is made of sterner stuff by, attending the recent ICC Executive Committee meeting in Dubai, a move that is certain to silence his critics for a while.
Sometimes Sumathipala surprises us all. This he does by displaying the power to endure storm after storm that comes his way in the form of criticism and accusations. There was a time the court gave him a prison sentence for two years, which sentence he was later acquitted of. There were times when his election as SLC President was interrupted by government interference. But the man returned and now, apart from winning the elections for SLC Presidency, sees his nomination being accepted as a Director of ICC’s Executive Board.
Sumathipala has a vision, whereever he assumes duties. Given his latest portfolio, we are compelled to think he might be even targeting the hotseat of the ICC as its next chairman. However, when we track his moves in the international scene he has been successful in securing top posts in the Asian cricket scene. What happens when you secure these posts is that your image too grows in equal proportion to the weight that these portfolios carry. This is probably why this man is able to get so many high profile expatriate coaches to serve SLC. For the record, he was one of the first Asian cricket administrators who was successful in getting Bob Woolmer down to Sri Lanka for a seminar, a little more than a decade ago.
Sumathipala can shock people with his moves. When he hired Graham Ford as national coach a few months ago, Sumathipala had made up his mind to have his (Ford’s) services till the 2019 World Cup. Who would have thought that this offer had the potential to entice an individual in the calibre of Ford who, at that time, had already made a commitment to undertake a less hectic job with the Surrey cricket team?
At present the Sri Lanka cricket team is preparing to tour England where they are expected to feature in three Tests, two ODIs against Ireland, five ODIs against England and a solitary T20 International which will be against the host nation. Sumathipala might not be able to do much in structuring the composition of the next team, but he can ensure the cricketers ‘home’ at Maitland Place (Sri Lanka Cricket) functions akin to a well-oiled machine.
At the ICC meeting in Dubai, where Sumathipala was present, representatives of member nations had confirmed support to have day/night Test matches. Sumathipala is a shrewd politician who knows the geography of the island well. This is why he supported the upgrading of the Rangiri Dambulla Stadium because this place is the least affected by monsoonal rains and suits cricket. This stadium can support a cause such as conducting day/night test cricket. For the record, moves are afoot to replace the eight outdated floodlight towers at this stadium with four LED ones.
Sumathipala during his career as a cricket administrator has been effected by a wave of criticism which highlights the fact that he is a person who has connections with the gaming industry. The SLC president has said that he has divested these interests in gaming and the business is now run by members of his family. However, ICC’s Code of Ethics specifies that family involvement in gaming can disqualify a cricket official from holding office. Why can’t Sumathipala, once and for all, lay to rest these criticisms directed at him in connection with gaming?
There was a lot of talk last week doing the rounds that an interim committee would replace the executive committee at the SLC because Sumathipala wouldn’t be entertained at the ICC Executive Committee meeting in Dubai. Sumathipala cleared that hurdle. Both Sumathipala and his critics must remind themselves that the appointing of an interim administration doesn’t go well with the ICC and even associates with such a move, the possible suspension of the membership SLC has with the world governing body for cricket.