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Thilanga Sumathipala (left) presents his financial statement to Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera in the presence of his secretary Mohan de Silva

Politics of the highest order that Sri Lankans are excellent at, lies, deception and cover-ups are all taking centre stage as some elected officials of the game are having a field day, helping themselves to the spoils of a sport that can hardly be called gentlemanly any more.

From a domestic match-fixing investigation that is now dragging on as the accused clubs enlist lawyers to debate cricket that can only be guarded by the Spirit-of-the-Game code, to another team taking the sport to court, the mess at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has taken a course for the worse according to analysts.

To overcome the rot, SLC officials called an emergency meeting where it was decided that the best way out of the humiliation was to replace the so-called Major Tournament with a 24-team district tournament to be conducted by the Colombo District Cricket Association.
“We need to keep cricket in progress and with the obstacles we are now facing we thought it was best to have an inter-district (50-over) tournament that will help select players for the Provincial tournament from which we hope to prepare for the Champions Trophy in England in June”, said SLC vice president K Mathivanan, the spearhead of domestic cricket in the country.

It is not known how much the bail-out inter district tournament will cost but it is expected to be an investment more than bargained for as many players will have to be accommodated.

The inter-district tournament will have players from all clubs and will ironically be confined to venues only in Colombo starting on March 15.

It brings to zero the Major Tournament that was heralded last month with a massive song and dance. The introduction of the tournament alone ran into a reported cost of Rs. 8 million.

If conducted according to plan, the district tournament may overshadow the match-fixing episode where Panadura Sports Club and Kalutara Physical and Culture Club stand accused of stage-managing their Premier League match so both teams could accumulate points to stay in the top division that offers more financial gains to teams. Both clubs have influential officials as heavyweights deciding matters at SLC.

The scenario gripping SLC has only brought it into conflict with the International Cricket Council and the rules of cricket which wholeheartedly pontificate on the Spirit of Cricket that precludes any acts of unfair and unethical play which both Panadura Sports Club and Kalutara Physical Club have to answer for.

More embarrassment unfurled when another team Negombo Cricket Club successfully sought a court order to halt the conduct of further domestic tournaments after claiming they were victims of injustice over issues connected to the 2016 season where they were deprived of a possible promotion to the top grade.

As the circus stands, SLC will be able to do very little or nothing to save face in the eyes of the public where some of its swashbuckling officials are alleged to have made huge rip-offs by way of foreign travel, five-star hotel accommodation at home and overseas, extravagant contracts and tenders and international match tickets.

Critics of SLC call it the ‘curse of democracy’ whereby elected office-bearers of SLC have to please their voters who demand their pound of flesh for services rendered during campaigning.

But SLC wasted no time in convincing the government that contrary to what critics say they were on a sound financial wicket through “transparency and financial discipline”.
“I am pleased to note that we concluded 2016 with a surplus of Rs. 200 million”, said SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala when he presented his financial statement to his close buddy Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera on Wednesday. “When we took over, we were up against a budgeted cash deficit of Rs. 320 million for 2016 as envisaged by the Interim Committee. We saw this as a challenge and spearheaded initiatives to increase our revenue while curtailing our expenditure”.

He’ll have a hard time nudging opponents on financial curtailment over the coming months.