The unkindest cut

By sacking popular media manager Samantha Algama, Sri Lanka Cricket interim committee chairman Arjuna Ranatunga brought upon himself a load of needless criticism locally and internationally which he could have avoided at a time like this when his popularity in the high seat is on the wane.

No one is indispensable and Ranatunga had every right to terminate the service of Algama who was not a permanent employee of SLC, but worked in an honorary capacity. Where Ranatunga earned the wrath of the media was that his decision to remove Algama was ill-timed and the manner in which it was done. It came just two days before the start of the Women’s Asia Cup which Sri Lanka is hosting and with an important tour of Sri Lanka by India around the corner.

Algama was dismissed for being too friendly with the media and for not defending the ‘sins’ of the SLC over a shady tender issue. Now what is the role of a media manager? He is expected to keep the media informed of news connected to Sri Lanka cricket and at the same time have a good rapport with them, above all ensuring the integrity of Sri Lanka Cricket. In that respect one cannot find fault with Algama.

The grouse that Ranatunga had with Algama was that he did not defend them when the media was critical of certain actions of the interim committee.

What Ranatunga and his sidekick Guy de Alwis have done since taking over the administration of Sri Lanka Cricket at the beginning of the year is to scrupulously disband the committees and appointments made by the former chairman Jayantha Dharmadasa and replace them with their own men. Although from outside he has been rather critical of past administrators and the way they had handled the affairs of SLC, Ranatunga’s action is no better. It is like one government replacing another and making changes in its administration for the sake of a change. There is a certain sense of vindictiveness attached to Ranatunga’s decision-making which is going to be detrimental to the future of the game in this country. Both he and De Alwis have made it a two-man show by taking decisions on their own and keeping the rest of the interim committee members in the dark. Algama’s dismissal was known to other interim committee members only the following day when the news broke out in the internet.

The decision to oust Algama was shocking and the majority of interim members were quite sympathetic towards him. How popular Algama was could be gauged from the number of calls he received from overseas including the ICC and from the local media.

The first step towards silencing the media was taken by barring the secretary K Mathivanan from talking to the press. He is also kept away from attending important SLC meetings and from media conferences.

Universally Ranatunga has cut a very sorry figure as a cricket administrator in the four months he has been in the saddle. He first antagonised Pakistan, a country which has helped Sri Lanka a lot by trying to take away the Asia Cup and the ICC Champions trophy from them and bringing it to Sri Lanka; then he annoyed India by saying he was not a supporter of Twenty20 cricket and describing the short game as ‘Maggie noodles’; then he went and agreed with Pakistan to play a five-match ODI series knowing very well it would clash with the Indian Premier League in which all the top Sri Lanka cricketers had signed up. It almost led to an upheaval with some of the players threatening to quit the game to play for IPL.

Ranatunga’s very actions disprove his own theory that cricketers can be good administrators. In the few months he has headed SLC he has shown the world how immature and unsuitable he is in handling administration affairs. He is trying to run cricket administration like a captain setting a cricket field.

What is happening at SLC must be an embarrassment to President Rajapakse who appointed Ranatunga to the post not for his cricketing prowess but on political grounds to win a crucial vote for his wobbly government.

Ranatunga’s inaugural statement when he was appointed chairman was that SLC was financially unstable. By getting rid of Algama who was doing an honorary job he will now have to find the money to pay the new media manager.