A good eye-opener

The events that took place over the controversial oil hedging crisis and the subsequent suspension of Ashantha de Mel from the post of Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) chairman are further proof that cricketers cannot be good administrators. This is a good eye-opener for all those who still continue to toe that line.

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is already in a mess and saddled with a load of problems leading to disunity amongst its members following the appointment of former captain Arjuna Ranatunga as interim committee chairman. Now comes the De Mel affair where the former Sri Lanka fast bowler has been exposed so badly that even his educational qualifications have been questioned by the Supreme Court. To quote the Chief Justice “peons and arachchis were more qualified than the CPC chairman.”

It is seldom that outstanding cricketers like Ranatunga and De Mel had enough time on their hands to become erudite individuals because their cricketing talents exceeded all of them. Therefore whatever employment they got soon after leaving school was purely because of their cricketing background and to a great extent had nothing to do with their academic qualifications, if any.

One cannot expect individuals of such standing to administer highly responsible institutions for the simple reason that they are not professionally qualified.

Ranatunga was so talented that he represented his country at the age of 18 while still a student of Ananda College. He went onto achieve great things for his country as captain winning the World Cup in 1996 and became a celebrated cricketer in the world.

De Mel who also played alongside Ranatunga in the country’s formative years as a Test nation was a fast bowler of repute. His talent was spotted by Royal College who managed to grab him from Isipathana MV for their Centenary match against traditional rivals S Thomas’ College in 1979. As the country’s leading fast bowler De Mel spearheaded the bowling attack for five years before retiring.

To run institutions such as the CPC and the SLC you need professionally qualified people, but sadly in Sri Lanka it is not the case for individuals are appointed to such high ranking positions on political grounds. The end result is what we see today, a total embarrassment for the government as well as the entire country.

If De Mel’s credentials as CPC chairman are questionable and as the Supreme Court decided he is not fit to hold that position, he cannot in fact hold any other responsible positions and pass judgement on others. His action was described by an opposition MP as “you were a good cricketer but this isn’t a ball game and what you did is not cricket.”

Therefore without causing further embarrassment to the government if he has any sort of self-respect De Mel should resign as chairman of cricket selectors forthwith. But being the haughty person he is one won’t be surprised if he hangs on until his term expires or he is shown the door by the Sports Minister.

Our politicians and people who hold responsible positions should take a leaf out of our closest neighbours India’s book. Following the aftermath of the Mumbai terror that left nearly 200 people dead a fortnight back the Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil resigned taking “moral responsibility” for the attack. He was followed by the Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh who resigned because he “could not protect the lives of the people.”

But acts of this nature are anathema to top Sri Lankan government officials and Minister’s. They seldom take such an exemplary decision even when they have been proved to be in the wrong.