On February 4, our cricket team playing the second test, in a match series were drubbed by the Australians, by a massive 366 runs with a day to spare. Only three of our batsmen were able to get into double figures.
Our team lost the first match within three days, in what should have been a five-day match. Sadly for the team, there were no positives to take away from the series. The only positive the team captain saw was that fielders in the slip cordon took catches instead of dropping them.
Hardly a positive, as taking catches is basic to the game. A sad comment for a country that has won cricket’s World Cup, were T20 champions and ranked 2nd in Test Cricket only a few years ago.
As reported on Tuesday, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) selectors had decided to drop the losing captain from the touring squad to South Africa altogether; bringing memories of selectors dropping the then skipper Mathews from both the team as well as the captaincy. Yet Mathews had a record of winning 49 matches and losing 49 out of 104 played under his captaincy, in addition to being the highest run scorer during that series.
Between 1981 (the year we gained test status) and 2012 the cricket team had 12 skippers in a 31-year period, but in the five years between 2013 and 2016, the administrators appointed four different captains.
In the ODI segment, in a 35-year period we had 15 captains. But in the 5-year period between 2013 and 2018, the administrators appointed six captains and in the T20 segment they appointed seven captains within a 6-year period
Chopping and changing captains, seem to be the administrators’ post-2012 solution to the ills facing the national cricket team. A solution akin to changing pillows to get rid of a headache.
In the end, we should not be wringing our hands and beating our breasts at this moment. Our World Cup winning captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, had been warning over the years that this tragedy would befall the country’s cricket if steps were not taken to clean up the cricketing administration.
He charged that the structure of the cricket board was being manipulated by particular individuals in a manner to ensure their continued positions of power within the board via offering ‘sops’ to clubs which voted for them. Unfortunately no one paid heed to his warnings.
Soon this rigged system saw the entry of low calibre players into the national team at the expense of better players. It also led to situation where better players were forced to join particular clubs aligned to individual committee members of the national cricketing board, if they wished to further their careers.
This and that of the unusually high number of clubs given first-class status in the country, the domestic first division tournament was weakened with players not having much experience of playing against top-level opposition.
Another development is the growing lack of interest in the game of cricket itself among the public due to a listless string of defeats.
Our sister paper ‘Ada’ a few days ago reported that the present Sports Minister of expressing views recognising the corrupt practices which led to the downfall of Sri Lankan cricket. He expressed an intention of passing legislation to eradicate corruption and ensure corrupt officials would no longer be able to manipulate the system for their private benefit at the expense of the game.
Experienced past cricketers of the calibre of Sidath Wettimuny, Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakara and Muthiah Muralidaran have all refused to get involved in Sri Lanka Cricket, due to the present set-up. But their services will surely be available if the system is cleared of corruption.
It is the wish of the cricket-loving public that such persons of standing and repute guide the destinies of out cricket team.
If the present Sports Minister is able secure a majority in parliament, when and if he presents legislation to eradicate corruption in cricket administration by way of revamping it’s voting structure, the standard of cricket which has now plunged to its lowest depths, will undoubtedly rise again like the phoenix.
While wishing the Minister good luck in his efforts to clear cricket’s Augean stables, it is also necessary to free cricket from being politicised. Where in the world do we hear of a cricket team authorised by a minister!