The unkindest cut
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
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.