It was good news for Sri Lankan sports with victory finally achieved on Saturday after a prolonged period of heartbreak. Emerging Asian champions with an unbeaten record is no small task considering that Sri Lanka was without a few seniors like Tillekaratne Dilshan, Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangaka Herath.
World champions India are always a favourite in this regional tournament, but the absence of a few top Indian stars in the line-up had a bearing in the final outcome as their traditional rivals Pakistan also got the better of them.
Sri Lanka had a reputation for choking in the finals -- following losses in the 2007, 2011 World Cup finals and 2009, 2012 ICC World T20 finals. Though this tournament may not rank in the same league as the World Cup, it still gave Sri Lanka a much needed morale boost and a tonic to the fans with something to be cheerful about, since of late.
The victory came close on the heels of another dismal performance by our next generation cricketers who finished seventh in the under-19 World Cup, losing even to Afghanistan. Last Monday, we focussed on the pending disaster for Sri Lanka’s most loved sport, but this week we see a slightly brighter future.
The performance of youngsters was heartening. Lahiru Thirimanne, who emerged player of the tournament, is a shining example while Kusal Perera, Chaturanga de Silva, Ashan Priyanjan and Suranga Lakmal showed us it is not so bleak for Sri Lanka at least for the next few years.
We also note with concern the loss of form of Sri Lanka T20 captain Dinesh Chandimal, who not so long ago was touted as the country’s most exciting future prospect. The only player to have earned a promotion in the annual SLC contracts had to be dropped from the final due to lack of form.
The cricketers’ contract was the other headline grabber of the week with the fact that players had been forced to haggle over their pay in full view of the public leaves a bad taste in the mouth. If it happens once it could be termed a mistake. But, this has happened for three years in a row and it only shows the ineptitude of the officials.
We do not say that SLC should bow down to all the demands of the players and pay them what they ask for. But there are more effective and diplomatic ways of sorting this matter once and for all. But that needs skilful administrators who don’t value their ego above their country.
It is common knowledge that players have to sign their annual contracts before March 1. If SLC stars preparing the contracts a few months in advance, it could easily meet the deadline.
Secondly, it is no difficult task to sit down with the players and discuss terms, well in advance. Officials and players should meet with open minds, ready to accept facts and admit it if they are wrong.
The present mess, despite several SLC employees earning six-figure monthly salaries when compared with cricketers, is not acceptable. What have these administrators and SLC employees been doing if not attending to cricketer issues? The fact that it happens every year like clockwork is proof that something is amiss within the SLC.
The public see only one side of the coin because officials do the talking while the contract with SLC has virtually gagged the players. The only avenue for players to let their views be known was the Cricketers’ Association, but this was down undemocratically when the SLC decided not to recognise the association. The only thing the public see today is players refusing to sign the contracts and this makes a major impact when it hits the media.
Seeing both officials and players washing dirty linen in public is disgusting to the common man but a delight to newshounds. It is sad that, what could be easily sorted out though dialogue between the employer and employees has now become an annual circus.
The players proved on Saturday in Bangladesh that they have got their act together. Now it is time for the officials to pull their socks up.