by Champika Fernando
Cricketer Lasith Malinga launched a scathing attack on Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) for preparing wickets against the wishes of the national team during the recent home series defeat to India.
Making a presentation at a brainstorming session in Battaramulla to create a new direction for SLC and transform the team’s fortunes, Malinga highlighted several key factors that he thinks have contributed to the current worrying state of the game.
“When we asked for a grass track, they trim the grass and give us a grass less track,” he said. “When we asked why the grass was cut, they say they used the wrong blade. This has happened not once but twice. I notified the authorities but nothing happened. I am not saying we lost matches because of that but, when things don’t happen the way we want, the players lose confidence.”
It had been doubted whether Sri Lanka exploited the home advantage by preparing pitches suitable to the strengths and weaknesses of the home team in the recent series against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and India. Malinga’s comments appeared to put those rumours to rest.
Malinga also asked SLC to invest on quality coaches. “We have a lot of coaches but we need to ask whether we have the right coaches,” he said. “And whether they are qualified enough to help the smooth transition of the players. For instance, if a player is going through a bad patch, the coach should be able to help him regain his confidence and come back strong.”
He was critical of the appointment of the Simon Willis, a cricketer with just 16 first-class matches under his belt, to the important position of High-Performance Manager.
“Are we resting the future of our cricket on a man who has no proper first-class experience?” he asked. “We should have appointed someone with necessary qualifications and knowledge. We have given the responsibility to a man who has played just 16 matches and scored less than 100 runs in his career. This is a big mistake.”
“When a national player went out of the national squad, they were not allowed to use training facilities by this man,” he continued.” We spoke about this but there was no solution. So we had to go back to our clubs for training.”
Malinga was also vocal about the policies of selectors which led to a lost generation of cricketers in the last decade. He urged authorities not to repeat the mistake.
“There was a public perception some time back that we should consider cricketers for national duty straight from school,” he said. “So, when the selectors gave into the public perception and started looking at young players, those with first class experience got a raw deal.”
“We wouldn’t be in this situation had we managed players like Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Kapugedara, Malinda Warnapura, Jehan Mubarak, Kaushal Lokuarachachi and Kaushalya Weeraratne who had enough first-class experience behind them at that time,” he asserted. “It’s all gone for us now. So I appeal you to not to make the same mistake again and, if you do it, our fate will be the same in few years time.”
Admitting that the country’s first class structure needed revamping to produce cricketers with quality, Malinga said all first-class matches should be played on Test venues to help players acclimatise to international conditions.
Hemaka Amarasuriya, a former SLC Chairman, Aravinda de Silva, the former head of the cricket committee, insisted on a consistent selection policy where players are given adequate time to settle into their positions. De Silva is expected to replace Jayantha Dharmadasa as Vice President in charge of international cricket in the Executive Committee.
The one-day brainstorming session was attended by the members of the national team, former cricketers, board employees and a host of other invitees including former cricket administrators and Sports Ministry officials. It focused on addressing key issues like revamping the domestic cricket structure, a consistent selection policy and making SLC more transparent and accountable.
However, the meeting was snubbed by several former players and administrators who have been lobbying hard for a change of guard in the wake of recent defeats.
“I have invited almost everyone including Arjuna Ranatunga and Sidath Wettimuny to come and share their opinions so that we could prepare a blueprint to Sri Lanka Cricket for implementation,” Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera said. “Unfortunately, they are not here. Isn’t this the best forum for them to come forward and help the game?” He said he will not heed to the demand of appointing an interim committee.
Minister Jayasekera promised that, once the post-brainstorming report is compiled, he will press for implementation of proposed changes. “I will make sure these recommendations are implemented,” he said. SLC chief Thilanga Sumathipala, too, said he’s ready to carry out the recommendations.