Last week’s shocking events in the
Pakistani city of Lahore has focussed the spotlight on Sri
Lanka’s cricketers like never before even more so than when they
won the cricket World Cup thirteen years ago.
Since the attack on Tuesday, many questions have been asked
regarding the incident itself. Why was security provided at a
level which was clearly mediocre if not insufficient? How could
all the attackers get away unscathed? Why were Sri Lankan
cricketers targetted? Was there a plan to hold them hostage?
Answers to some of these questions will hopefully emerge in the
coming weeks. However, some queries may never yield satisfactory
responses. Nevertheless, this is also the best moment to turn
the searchlight inwards at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the
institution that is supposedly administering the game in this
There have been searching questions as to why SLC undertook to
tour Pakistan when countries such as Australia and neighbouring
India had refused to do so, citing security reasons.
Minister of Sports Gamini Lokuge has re-iterated that the
Government was satisfied with the assurances provided by the
Pakistani authorities. Sri Lanka was also reciprocating a
gesture by Pakistan during the 1996 World Cup when Australia and
the West Indies refused to play in Colombo and Pakistani and
Indian cricketers obliged.
Whether there is merit in these arguments or not, there are
underlying issues here that need discussion for it is no secret
that SLC is in the throes of a power struggle and this has been
so for the past several years.
Consider the evidence: The administration has been run by
interim committees for some time which have been replaced by
other interim committees, former Sri Lanka cricket captain
Arjuna Ranatunge himself headed one such committee only to be
sacked by the Minister and now SLC is headed by a ‘Competent
Indeed, Ranatunge’s appointment itself was a reward for being
politically loyal to the ruling party in Parliament. Even if it
was so, many welcomed his entry into the arena as he brought
with him the promise of a clean administration.
Sadly, Ranatunge may have been an astute cricket captain who won
the World Cup for his country but he proved to be an
unsuccessful administrator. His naturally abrasive manner
quickly brought him into conflict with Minister Lokuge and even
some senior players of the team.
Despite his considerable lack of tact, Ranatunge made many
allegations against previous administrators and that too in
Parliament. To date, these allegations have not been
convincingly refuted suggesting that there could be many
skeletons in the cupboards at Maitland Place. Ranatunge of
course was unceremoniously shown the door and there the matter
rests for the time being.
In the meantime, in addition to being in the red financially,
SLC’s cricket schedule is in chaos, and is facing the prospect
of litigation from would be television sponsors. There is no
long term sponsor for the national cricket team and cricket
captain Mahela Jayewardene has quit, apparently sick and tired
of the interference he has to contend with. Lahore, it seems,
was the icing on the cake, in a paradoxical sense of course.
What everyone must now realise is that cricket in this country
is not played for peanuts anymore. Whether the purists like it
or not, it is a game of big bucks and players have the potential
to become superstars and multimillionaires overnight. The
recently invented Twenty-20 format only augments this process.
This has made the game a goldmine for those seeking to make a
quick buck. For some, getting themselves into the cricket
administration has become a means of making their fortune with
mega salaries, generous allowances and foreign jaunts up for
grabs. But that is all the more reason why the game should be
administered with an enhanced degree of transparency.
Still, just as much as our cricketers sport the Sri Lankan
jersey and represent the country, it must be realised that
appointing officials are also not the personal prerogative of
politicians. Similarly, the administration should be cleansed of
those who only wish to make profits for themselves from the
It is sad that the game’s administration has been allowed to
sink into the abyss in which it finds itself today. It is sadder
still that the Minister of Sports thinks it fit to dilly dally
in the matter of appointing a suitably distinguished body to
administer the sport and keeps resorting to interim committees.
There is of course an argument that if elections are held to
elect officials of SLC, it would be manipulated and would yield
a set of administrators with vested interests and this has
happened in the past.
But surely, the last few years is ample testimony that the
present state of limbo will not get cricket in this country on
the path to recovery. Maybe it is time for intervention from
President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself for we need to save the
sport that most men, women and children of this country love.
After all, providence may have saved our cricketers last week,
but that alone will not be sufficient to salvage the game in Sri