The raw Sri Lankan team and the abusive bureaucracy
Imagine a family with an abusive father and a petulant mother. The father boozes at will and the mother smokes pot. Their dwelling is literally a bull-ring and anything that has mass and occupies space is used as a weapon. The father is blithe and a spend-thrift while the mother does everything that can hinder the running of a family.
But the child is studious, noble and pious. It brushes the mayhem that is home, under the carpet and self-propels itself towards success. Though it struggles to exploit its full potential, it does enough to wheedle itself to live up to expectations. And hence, nobody endeavours to look beyond the achievements of the child, at the family. The child becomes the veil behind which the parents hide their nakedness- that is their hideous delinquency.
The team- nascent with no guidance
The family produces another child. The senior traverses through its teens and attains adulthood while venturing to guide its junior. Having to find the balance between nurturing the junior and accomplishing the fulfilment of his own life, it finally graduates adolescence and leaves home with its younger sibling half-nurtured, half-groomed and half-mature.
All of a sudden the parents are exposed. The younger child, now the only child, is clueless, aimless and daunted to the bone. It doesn’t have the same resoluteness as its brother nor is it tenacious. Now the fingers of the world start pointing at the parents. The child needs its parents more than ever and the parents procure an opportunity to straighten the crooked home.
Just when everyone expects the parents to come good together, they shift a gear further and begin their tirades at each other. The father blames the mother for their child’s plight while the mother calls the father a stooge. A spree of name-calling ensues and the child is seen scratching its head as the parents roll over each other with their fingers deracinating each other’s follicles. This is exactly the current state of affairs of cricket in Sri Lanka.
The brother- the senior players- has left the family and he has no plans of returning back for he knows how ugly from inside it is. The parents- the management and administration- are abusive and exploitative. The team -the child- is gawking at the sky. It’s future being a mystery and the glory now being a part of the history. No one has written a script for its future and anything, if can be done, needs to be extemporaneous.
The brother was the architect of his family for a while, at least in the eyes of the outliers, but now somebody needs to write the script so that Sri Lankan cricket can sail forward. Seemingly, there is no script writer within this team, at least for the time being.
The irresponsible officials
As this green, raw team is struggling to cope up with the rigors of international cricket, instead of aiding the national team, the senior officials who are supposed to be responsible have acted in their archetypal negligent way.
The Minister of Sports, Dayasiri Jayasekara, protested the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint an apex body to monitor the activities of the newly elected board, threatening that he would resign if such a thing came to pass.
He too took a step further in withering the national team who had already been battered by New Zealand by making an official statement about rumours that circulated in social media about the Sri Lankan players boozing and partying all night. However, the claim was disputed by the hotel in which the team was lodged in.
The not so important national development plan
The newly elected president of Sri Lanka Cricket, Thilanga Sumathipala, rather expectedly decided to shelve all the developmental plans undertaken by the interim committee. A plan to take indoor facilities to stadiums out of Colombo was derided by the president. “National development plan – there is nothing of that nature in the horizon,” he patronizingly declared. Both Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara had called for improvement of the domestic cricket structure, but as is the case with most things in Sri Lanka, intelligent opinions are the first to be cold-shouldered.
The return of politics
The Youth World Cup team manager Shane Fernando was axed barely before the team left the island allegedly for siding Nishantha Ranatunga- Sumathipala’s rival- in the concluded elections.
The World Cup winning captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, debased the newly elected president of Sri Lanka Cricket, Thilanga Sumathipala, saying that the board is a mafia-style unit. This comment was made despite him siding with his brother, Nishantha Ranatunga, who has been investigated by the Financial Crimes Investigation Department. What ensued was an ugly verbal wrangle between the two politicians- Arjuna Ranatunga and Thilanga Sumathipala. Is this what is expected from a veteran like Arjuna and a responsible official like Sumathipala when cricket in Sri Lanka is in dire straits?
The match-fixing allegations
As if the already existing problems were not enough, a fast-bowling coach affiliated with Sri Lanka Cricket and his acolyte have been given a two-month suspension on suspicion of approaching the Sri Lankan players to fix matches. This comes not too long after Jayananda Warnaweera, the curator of the Galle Cricket Stadium, being dished out a ban of two years for not attending the interview held by the Anti-Corruption Unit of ICC.
The media, to have their own fair share in the dismantling of cricket in Sri Lanka, have blown the match-fixing allegations out of proportion by claiming that the team was involved in match fixing, which prompted a dejected tweet from the captain of the Sri Lankan team, Angelo Mathews.
Jobs that are not guaranteed
Despite, the team acclaiming the efforts of the new head coach Jerome Jayaratne, the newly elected board has decided to advertise for the post of a new coach and has already trashed the prospects of having a local as the head coach. Do they really think a man with his position in jeopardy would be able to perform well, especially when there is a WT20 lurking in the horizon?
The new board has also made their affinity towards having the same captain for all formats of the game. According to reports, Mathews will be made the captain of the T20 side before Sri Lanka tours India. How much would it affect a player like Malinga who has already devised his plans for the WT20 as a captain?
During the home series against Pakistan, when Malinga decided to drop both Chandimal and Thirimanne so that he could know what is left in the benches, the former selector Pramodya Wickramasinghe alleged that the T20 skipper had been gunning for Chandimal for a very long time. This comment came despite Chandimal averaging 13.65 in T20Is with a strike rate of 100.62.
Is this how a senior official helps a team that is coming to grip with international cricket?
There is no Sanga or Mahela in the Sri Lankan cohort to lead the team amidst internal turmoil. This young team needs the support of the administrators and managers. Yet, the administrators are content cutting themselves some slack and indulging themselves in political games.
The cricketers are the only ones that seem to be wanting play for the country and the fans. And still, it is they who end up being unduly criticized and harassed, both by the officials and the media.
A sane person would hope for a better administration, but with Sri Lanka cricket it is never going to happen. What the fans can hope is that a rebel like Sangakkara or Jayawardena would rise once again to stonewall politics and guide the team in the right path all by himself. In Sri Lanka, the cricketers write the best script for cricket as a whole and the island is waiting for that script writer.