Sri Lanka Cricket – still in convulsions | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka Cricket – still in convulsions

The tragedy of Sri Lanka’s cricket is not in the game or with the players, but in the governance of this country’s most lucrative and accomplished sport. Yes, sadly, for some of the key players in cricket’s governance, the lucre aspect comes first and, has long taken precedence over sporting accomplishment.

Today, the national team convulses in repeated collapsed innings, whole tour whitewashes, questionable team strategy or non-strategy, and player pangs over selections. Most recently these convulsions turned into carnage: match-fixing for high stakes and globally syndicated. Inevitably this carnage is equally reflected on the administrative side of the sport.

In fact it was the carnage wreaked on cricket’s governance that paved the way for the veritable collapse in the game itself.

That we have accomplished much in cricket, rising to the pinnacle of at least genre of the game, gifting the world with cricketing virtuosos and writing record books, must be acknowledged. At the time of our cricketing maturity in the 1990s, it was recognised by all that the foundation for this accomplishment was built by the cricket administration of the time, with its untiring, dedicated and skilled personalities and a meticulous propriety in governance.

In those formative years of dedication and skill on and off the field, virtuosity on the pitch was matched by virtuosity in the club house, and in the administration. Some of those personalities at the helm of the old ‘Board of Control’ are legends still for their accomplishments in ensuring the most skilled, best trained, best nurtured and most united team of players went on to the pitch.

That it is indeed carnage in the governance of cricket here is not more demonstrated by the tortuous processes now involving the conduct of elections to the board of Sri Lanka Cricket. Hedged in as it is by severe strictures from the world governing body on slew of corruption scandals, the SLC is further under direction by local courts with regard to the very process of the election itself.

This is how suspect that the administration of the ‘gentleman’s game’ has become.

Right now, aspiring candidates for top SLC posts who have been suddenly ‘disqualified’ from contesting have rushed to courts to challenge their disqualification. Their court hearing comes up this week the very day before the scheduled Election Day on February 21.

After all these years of reported shady deals, manipulations and massive financial corruption, the public, especially cricketing fandom, can only speculate darkly what these last-minute legal actions entail. Is there an unseemly (again) scrabble for power for individuals to save themselves and their deals? Are there manoeuvres to cover-up criminality; to hide the shame of exposed betrayal?

It remains for the news media to monitor events and scrutinize proceedings to maintain that vigilant eye that has so far helped expose misgovernance and corruption in the sport.

And politicians dabbling in the game can no longer take credit for success because there has been no ‘success’ either in matches or in administration. In a situation where the Minister of Sports must ‘approve’ the selected team, it is clear that over the recent several years of persistent game failure and massive corruption, the nexus between businessmen and politicians, including businessmen-turned-politicians, must bear some responsibility for the carnage in the sport.

As it is, in the light of the current court actions, there is doubt whether the elections can be held on schedule.

In the darkness as we are today after the blaze of glory in Lahore Stadium in 1996, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

Will grasping politicians and business moghuls alike have the courage to let go of the goose that is Sri Lankan cricket so that many more golden eggs are laid?

It is ironic that the international interventions this country’s political regimes have had to engage with due to misgovernance and repression are also now paralleled by similar interventions by the international cricket authorities to resuscitate our cricketing life. When we mess up, we must be glad that the larger world community comes forward to help and advise.

Ultimately, however, it is how WE play the game, both on the field and in the boardroom that counts.

Cricket in Sri Lanka has become a multi-million dollar sport and sporting industry, as well as a wonderful spectator culture that has unified us Sri Lankans in fandom, in triumph and, in loss.