Embarrassed International Cricket Council (ICC) officials pleaded with the Sri Lanka cricket team management to reverse the host team’s smart move to sidestep ICC’s regulations during the ICC World T20 by switching the captaincy, sources told “Daily Mirror”.
It was only after a reciprocal promise by the ICC to adopt a lenient approach on Sri Lankan over rates, that Sri Lanka agreed to put Mahela Jayawardene back at the helm for the tournament semi-finals and finals while covering ICC’s sorry mistake with a cloak of empathy.
After Sri Lankans handed the captaincy to Kumar Sangakkara for their final Super Eight game against England in a brilliant move that checkmated the ICC rule book, ICC’s General Manager – Cricket, Geoff Allardice and Match referee Jeff Crowe met the Sri Lankan team coach Graham Ford and Manager Charith Senanayake for an urgent discussion on the instructions of ICC Chief Executive David Richardson.
Sri Lanka captain Jayawardene was facing the possibility of receiving a one-match ban if the ICC found a repeat offence of slow over rates by the team, but after the hosts had found a loophole and appointed Sangakkara to captain the team in the next match, the red faced ICC had to somehow quell the raging controversy.
ICC officials had given an assurance that Sri Lanka would not be penalized unjustly and made it clear that as long as the team showed intent on the field to bowl their overs quickly, they would be out of danger. It had obviously not been a hundred percent guarantee but was a clear indication that unless Sri Lanka deliberately slowed down proceedings, Jayawardene would be out of danger.
“Be reasonable and we won’t punish you unreasonably like in the last game,” was the gist of the message and Sri Lankan management agreed to give the reins back to Jayawardene.
ICC had also made it clear that penalising a star player and taking him out of the game during such a big ICC event would simply take the whole glamour out of the tournament and that was the last thing they wanted to do.
But this incident exposed ICC’s stupidity of having such a rule as penalising a captain who is obviously bound to be a star player and was not the fault of the Sri Lankans.
Sri Lanka were fined for a slow over rate during their match against West Indies and under ICC rules Jayawardene will face a one-match suspension if Sri Lanka makes a similar infringement again inside the next 12 months under his captaincy.
In the match against England Sangakkara went in for the toss with England captain Stuart Broad but Jayawardene was clearly leading the team on the field taking all decisions.
Jayawardene was frank about it afterwards and explained that they decided on the witch to counter the unfair rule.
“It's a tough system and it's tough to bowl 20 overs in one hour and 20 minutes in a tournament like this. We try our best, but the penalties are harsh. We don't want to miss the big games, so we did it with the right intentions,” said Jayawardene.
“The management and I felt that we needed to do something to handle certain situations. Different people will have different opinions, but there was no malice on our part,” he added.
Jayawardene who retired from the T20 captaincy after the tournament also admitted it was a personal decision. “I haven’t had any influence from anyone, it was a timely decision I thought. Personally I feel that we had no malice in taking that decision and, during a game, we take different decisions and it was a decision like that. It was not to undermine anyone or to do anything illegal”.
However the team’s move has also not gone down well with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) though it received thumbs up from critics around the globe.
“We told the boys our position. When there is a law, don’t try to go round it. Play the game the proper way. That is the SLC stand. We felt the game should be played within the rules without looking at loopholes to exploit,” said SLC Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga.
Ranatunga however said they would not take any action though the team management did not keep the SLC informed of it.
“They did it with good intentions. To make sure that Mahela is not affected. It is within the rules. But we as a board can’t support a situation like that. People will laugh at us,” Ranatunga explained.
“Winning and losing is a different thing. But what is important is playing in the right spirit,” he added. (Channaka de Silva)