In these days of doom and gloom, rains and storms, it is rarely that we hear good news. There was some last week, in the form of national cricketer Kusal Janith Perera being absolved of all charges of taking banned substances by the game’s governing body, the International Cricket Conference (ICC).
It was not just a happy co-incidence. It came about due to some smart work by lawyers retained for Perera through Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) who for once got their act together when it really mattered. To give credit where it is due, SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala took decisive action, not sparing expenses, having faith in Perera who has maintained his innocence throughout this incident.
It would be good if we could all wish young Kusal well and say that all’s well, that ends well, but several questions remain and there are signs that this saga will continue for at least some time.
When Sumathipala made the announcement regarding the ICC dropping all charges against Perera, the young cricketer made it clear that he was not hell-bent on seeking compensation from the ICC. It was a magnanimous statement considering the mental agony, loss of reputation, loss of earnings and potential loss of career that Perera had to undergo because of the ICC’s flawed decision.
At that same media briefing, Sumathipala also stated that SLC was not keen to pick a fight with the ICC on the issue but said that it would be seeking the reimbursement of the costs it incurred in securing Perera’s innocence. That too seemed a reasonable compromise, even if it was heavily skewed in the ICC’s favour.
Now we hear the ICC saying that it is ‘not taking responsibility’ for the adverse findings of a Qatar based laboratory that sent Perera into sporting wilderness for five months, before he could be cleared. As such, it was not obliged to reimburse SLC, is what they say.
Now, that is a bit rich isn’t it? It was the ICC which decided which laboratory should do the testing that found Perera ‘guilty’. It was the ICC which summarily suspended him without waiting for absolute confirmation of his ‘guilt’. Yet, they don’t think they should be held responsible for its reckless decision-making!
The ICC has an established track record of treating Sri Lanka like poor relations. It happened before in the Muttiah Muralitharan saga. Now it is at it yet again, even though it has been caught on the wrong foot. That raises the question, would they dare to do the same with some of the other nations?
For example, if it was Virat Kohli or Alistair Cook that had been wrongfully dealt with, would the ICC sing the same tune? We think not. They would be on their knees, apologising and offering to pay any sum demanded as compensation. And Kohli or Cook would have sued them too.
Maybe that is where SLC got it wrong, after doing all the hard work with Perera. It must be remembered that Perera was not simply found innocent, all charges against him were withdrawn by the ICC which meant that he did not even merit investigation.
The investigation meant that he missed a tour of New Zealand, a series against India and two major tournaments in the Asia Cup and World T20 where his absence also hurt Sri Lanka’s fortunes. Perera was also ineligible for the cash rich IPL auction where he would have been a definite draw card given his style of fearless batting. So, he suffered dearly due to the ICC’s flawed decision.
Perhaps Perera and the SLC should have, once the cricketer was cleared, gone all guns blazing and demanded compensation from the ICC and threatened or even initiated legal action. Maybe then, they would have listened more readily instead of bickering over the $92,000 that SLC is requesting and the ICC is refusing to pay up.
There was a time in the late ‘70s when Sri Lanka went, begging bowl in hand, to the ICC demanding Test status so it can stand on equal terms with other test playing nations. Almost forty years later, after producing two world cup victories, numerous other ‘Test’ wins and producing the best bowler in the world, it seems we are still doing much the same thing!