This has been a bad year for Sri Lankan cricket. Our defeat by India at the 4th ODI match means that we may now have lost the chance to automatically qualify for a place in the World Cup. What is sad is that our cricket administrators did not see this coming.
For the first time in March this year, the national team was defeated at test match level by Bangladesh, a team ranked lower than itself. Worse was to follow, in April Bangladesh held us to a 1-1 draw in the ODI series.
During the same month the team took wing to England for the ICC ‘Champions Trophy’ series played in England. After the humiliation at the hands of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka’s cricket-crazy public had little or no hope of the national team doing well at the Champions Trophy matches where they would face cricketing giants like India and a resurgent England.
Then the unexpected happened. Sri Lanka defeated India, and many began feeling the team had turned the corner. Sadly, it turned out to be a flash in the pan. The rest of the tour turned out to be a disaster with the national team losing to Scotland in a practice match.
Having been dumped out of the “champions Trophy’, Sri Lankan supporters eagerly looked forward to the series against Zimbabwe (one Test match and 5 ODIs) where victory seemed assured. If there were any doubts they were only regarding the margin of victory over the visiting team.
Victory at the Test match was like a salving balm, but the fact that Zimbabwe amassed over 300 runs in both their innings rang alarm bells in the minds of cricket followers. Sri Lankan supporters, who were cocky before the arrival of the visitors, began to feel apprehensive. And these fears proved to be correct. The Zimbabwean team bounced back to take the ODI series 3-2! Sri Lanka cricket had hit a new low.
By the time the ongoing July – September series against India commenced, the Sri Lankan team were seen as ‘no hopers’ and so it is proving to be. Our team has been white-washed by the Indians in the Test series, the ODI series and it is a very likely to face the same fate at the one-off T-20 match.
Yet, just a year ago this same team comprehensively beat the mighty Australians 3-0. What ails Sri Lanka Cricket? Within this year we have had five different captains leading the team. The national skipper resigned. Cricket administrators rushed to replace him. Yet he was named the ICC captain of ICC team of the year in 2014 which included players of the calibre of Kumar Sangakkara, Rangana Herath, Joe Root, the present England captain and AB de Villiers of South Africa.
Today the national selectors have resigned. We have unceremoniously dumped coaches; losing has become a way of life, but cricket the administrators continue. Cricketing systems, building up cricket at club and school level are not seen to be happening.
Like Emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome was burning, our cricket administrators continue without a care in the world. Meanwhile the game of cricket lies dying on the cricket pitch.
The skipper who led the country to World Cup greatness - Captain Cool’- has for years been emphasising cricket in the country is being ruined by administrators who are involved in the gaming industry - which is prohibited by the ICC. He has called on the President to dissolve the present administration and appoint an interim administration. But this may incur the wrath of international cricket administrators who stand against political interference in sports.
Perhaps we need to look at how India acted when their team was at low ebb, a few years ago. A good example is how the Indian Cricket Board stood solidly behind Sachin Tendulkar when he hit a low patch. Sachin was a brilliant batsman, but failed as a captain. Yet the Cricket Board and the cricketing public stood by him.
All players go through lean patches. They need to be handled with care and given time to settle down. Had today’s selectors run the game in an earlier era, the great Sanath Jayasuriya would never have appeared, Marvan Atapattu with a string of low scores during his debut would have been sent packing as many other greats of yesteryear.
The question that arises is ‘What is to be done’ Unfortunately even Ministers of State not known for their prowess either in the field of cricket or managing their own portfolios make fun of the players.
It is better these know-alls think before they talk. Cricket is a gentlemen’s game, can our cricket administrators discover the gentleman within?