What ails Sri Lanka cricket?

Sri Lanka cricket is at the crossroads cricket wise as well as administration wise. It has reached a critical stage where the performance of the national cricket team is at low ebb and this can be attributed to many factors. For far too long the various governments in power have used Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) as a tool to enhance their image politically as well as making it an institution where easy money can be made. Over the years politicians have got the taste of the amount of money SLC generates and thus have shown no inclination to free it from its shackles but kept a tight leash on it by appointing various interim committees that has led to the present precarious situation.

SLC not only has an empty coffer unable to pay its 100 or so contracted cricketers and over 200 employees, but the circumstances are more serious because the present predicament SLC is placed in is not helping to develop its cricket and its young cricketers. SLC does not have the finances to pay the Premier and Sara club sides or to organise junior and ‘A’ team tours which is detrimental to the future of our cricket. They have in place junior squads and coaches to attend to them but the absence of tours is making the players older and leaves them with less exposure to international cricket. The lack of a strong domestic structure is not producing cricketers who can straightaway fit into the national side. The case of cricketers like Chamara Silva, Chamara Kapugedera, Thilina Kandamby, Suraj Randiv, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal, Jeevan Mendis etc are good examples of players struggling to bridge the gulf that exists between our domestic cricket and international cricket. These players have eye-catching performances in domestic cricket, but when they are exposed to international cricket the gap shows.

Cricket is the only sport today that Sri Lanka can compete with other nations and win. But unless it is rid free of politics and politicians it is in great danger of going into decline. Politics has been the bane of sport and in a country like Sri Lanka it is sad that it continues to flourish via interim committees.
It is only the ICC’s recent strong stand taken against government interference in the running of a national cricket board (that allows them to suspend a member country) that has moved the Sri Lankan government to call for elections which has been fixed for January 3, 2012. Until the elections take place and the office bearers duly elected thereby hangs an element of doubt because in the past governments have talked about holding elections but nothing had materialised.

The financial situation SLC faces today has reached international proportions that FICA (Federation of International Cricketers’ Association) has issued a release to the effect: “We are aware that Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is undergoing some cash flow difficulties at present as it awaits its final payment from the International Cricket Council for World Cup hosting fees, but SLCA and FICA will be looking at possible ways of ensuring the monies owed by the ICC, which are due to be paid in late December 2011 or January 2012, are released with urgency, and on condition it is used to pay the players forthwith.

“It is important that we keep International cricket as the ultimate goal for budding cricketers around the world. The situation that SLC finds itself in certainly does not assist in achieving that goal. It is in the interests of both Sri Lanka Cricket and the players that these cricketers are paid as a matter of great priority “With the IPL and other T20 competitions emerging as a realistic alternative to International Cricket for players, SLC urgently needs to address this situation with its players. The players have been incredibly patient to date and continued to play in the interests of their country but this is now reaching a critical point.” (See full report on page 15) Sri Lanka’s cricketers have not been paid their salaries since the 2011 World Cup in April. Whether that has anything to do with their poor performances in both Tests and ODIs after the World Cup where they have lost consecutive series to England, Australia and Pakistan is a matter of conjecture. But it is clear as daylight that the team is not performing to expectations and there is something radically wrong with either the team selections, the players’ lack of commitment, the roles played by the coaches etc.

There is talk that politics has crept into selection of the teams and that has affected them overall. The players are in a state of insecurity not knowing what their roles are and their future. There is also undue pressure being brought upon the two senior players in the team Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene by forces from within and outside just to make life difficult for them, maybe with the hope of forcing them to quit the scene. That won’t be a difficult decision for them to make. Remember how they quit the Sri Lanka captaincy when they were unduly pressurised. And what has it done to our cricket today? It has left us without a good leader and the team struggling for success. What these elements don’t realise is that Sri Lanka is already on the backfoot even with the presence of the two seniors and removing them from the scene is only going to weaken the team further and make it a punch bag for the rest of the cricket nations. What motives these elements have against the two seniors is difficult to understand but some are of the opinion that it goes back to the 2011 World Cup.

Whatever the motives of certain individuals are it should not be made at the expense of Sri Lanka cricket and its players. It is the only sport we can proudly hold ourselves in the international arena and that attainment should not be destroyed at any cost or even such thoughts allowed to exist.