Cricket’s attempted rip-off! Another brick in the wall | Sunday Observer

Cricket’s attempted rip-off! Another brick in the wall

Nero was fiddling while Rome was burning: File photo of Sports Minister Faiszer Mushtapha (centre) and Competent Authority of SLC Kamal Padmasiri (centre) talking to SLC’s Ashley de Silva before a fruitless meeting with the ICC last month
Nero was fiddling while Rome was burning: File photo of Sports Minister Faiszer Mushtapha (centre) and Competent Authority of SLC Kamal Padmasiri (centre) talking to SLC’s Ashley de Silva before a fruitless meeting with the ICC last month

Just when almost everything appeared to be brought under control and Sri Lanka’s cricketing stables on the threshold of a hyped-up change, the seemingly relative peace was shattered when the Chief Financial Officer of Sri Lanka Cricket directed its commercial partner Sony Television to deposit 5.5 million US dollars to a bank in Hong Kong in what some analysts say was the “widest ball ever bowled”.

The money, totalling nearly Rs.900 million in Sri Lanka currency which is enough to build a state-of-the-art stadium or keep a professional set of players on contract for almost 10 years, was only part of the earnings paid by Sony Television for buying the rights to telecast England’s tour of the island starting next month.

Sri Lanka Cricket has a banking partner in the Bank of Ceylon and the transfer of the money to an alien institution is being seen by many as what is commonly called a “daylight robbery”.

“It was stupid and whoever tried to do this got his wires crossed”, said Jerome Jayaratne the Chief Operations Officer of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). “Funds are never transferred like this without us being contacted by the company that pays us. He (chief financial officer) was never going to pull this one off”.

Despite several barks from the Media, SLC’s CEO Ashley de Silva withheld the name of the Chief Financial Officer who was recruited by the former administration under Thilanga Sumathipala after a high profile recruiting company made a head-hunt and recommended he be enlisted.

But he remains a mystery, his office sealed and unlike the majority of followers in the country, SLC has placed its faith in an ongoing investigation.

“We don’t know why he did this but we are very confident a proper investigation will be done and everything brought to light. We are not here to cover up for anyone”, said De Silva.

But to the passionate follower of cricket in the corruption-tainted island, the drama smacks of a gamekeeper turned poacher and the perfect lily whites that took over an allegedly shady cricket administration have themselves shown their true colours or exposed in the sideshow.

While police sleuths probe the matter the bar rooms and sports clubs are doing the rounds with some patrons alleging ex-cricket chief Thilanga Sumathipala may have manipulated the episode while others who have lost faith in a public system argue the investigation will also end up in the where-are they-now files.

“This is a deliberate attempt on the part of detractors to sling mud at us. Not only us but every cricket follower in this country wants a thorough investigation. Whoever is running cricket today should be held responsible for this shameful act”, said Mohan de Silva a firebrand supporter of Sumathipala who was on the verge of being re-voted as vice president of SLC when the election was declared illegal.

There are others who believe that a huge manipulation process had been put in place to justify the existence of the interim authority and the occasion provided the ideal platform for rival factions to settle scores dating back to a near 20-year hangover period.

One former administrator who did not want to be dragged into the current mess said the administration of cricket provided the perfect fertile ground for anyone wishing to, what he called “share the spoils” that no other public institution provides while a stop-gap Sports Minister Faiszer Mushtapha and his so-called Competent Authority Kamal Padmasiri who runs cricket are merely batting to draw the match.

Minister Mushtapha made no secret that he followed very little or no sport while growing up and now appears to be enjoying his globe-trotting jaunts and hobnobbing with the big wigs of international cricket, a giant leap from the days when he was a relatively unspoken Minister of Provincial Councils.

His rendezvous brought Sri Lanka absolutely no relief other than make the country look a baby in the eyes of professionals.

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