By Geethal Fernando –
I represent the many devoted Sri Lankans cricket fans living abroad and in Sri Lanka. As a Sri Lankan expat living abroad, our “Lankan get-togethers” were scheduled around cricket matches. We made cutlets, rolls and wadey on these special occasions to gather around the TV and watch our beloved players take down foreign giants, one by one. I cannot fathom the grandeur of the celebrations in Sri Lanka but we made the best out of what was given, to celebrate in our own way. We stood behind Murali when he was called a chucker, and we cheered for Sana when he thrashed bowlers all around the grounds. We didn’t have to go watch Broadway shows because we preferred to see Sanga waltzing down the pitch. And of course how can we forget the brilliant minds of Arjuna and Mahela?
More than that, cricket brought all of us together. We never cared about race or religion; we cheered our way through every ball with our Tamil and Muslim friends. Cricket united us, and it united an entire nation under one Sri Lankan flag. When we won the World Cup in 1996, the LTTE leaders declared a ceasefire to cheer for our cricketers. That was how united the fans were to see our cricketers succeed. Unfortunately you all are the reason why it has demised to this level today.
I may not have the great cricketing brains like any of you (sarcasm), but one thing I know is the love for this sport runs deep in my Sri Lankan blood. As a staunch supporter of our cricket team, it is utterly disappointing to see that your kith and kin have dragged cricket in this tiny island to a bottomless pit. So before you get on your high horses and discount this letter, please take a moment to read from a fan’s perspective of what we are expecting from our cricket administration.
As far as I can remember, Dharmadasa, Ranatunga and Sumathipala names were involved in our cricketing administrations (for better or for worse). Remember when Marvan Attapattu called the then administration a bunch of “puppets”? We all know the reason for this foul language and yet the same puppets continue to be in control of the current administration. The reasons behind your involvement have nothing to do with love for the sport but everything to do with money and politics. You have seen the amount of money you can “commission” through these dealings and to get a leg up on these dealings, you brought politics in to a “gentlemen’s game”. And not just regular politics, but the Sri Lankan brand of politics. The results are quite obvious from the way our team has been performing. At the end, it was only the young cricketing captain who took the blame and you are all shamelessly hanging on to your dear positions.
The current President of the cricketing board, Mr. Sumathipala, is the managing director of Sporting Star in Sri Lanka. Sporting Star is a sports betting company. He is also the deputy speaker in the current Sri Lankan parliament. Clearly this does not seem to be a conflict of interest by the Sri Lankan standards; that the director of a sports betting company is running the most lucrative sport in the nation. The ICC Code of Ethics states in section 7.2 (b) that “no director shall have any business association, or enter into any business arrangement (whether formal or informal) with any person or company who has interests in gambling.” However, these rules do not seem to apply when it comes to the “good governance” of your administration.
The Dharmadasa brothers (Upali and Jayantha) were in charge when the cricket World Cup was played in Asia. If one family can claim the crown for being the most bankrupt, then I think that they highly deserve it. These goons (who by the way cannot stand each other) ran the cricket council bankrupt under the disguise of building cricket infrastructure for the 2011 World Cup. What is ironic is that the corrupt Rajapaksa government that was in power at the time, even rejected your plea for a bailout. Many Dharmadasa family members were in high positions in the administration and getting paid 6 figure salaries (staying at home) while the players had to represent their country for months without getting paid. If the world class players were not getting paid, one can imagine the plight of the ground staff. Oh wait! Didn’t your board reprimand Mahela Jayawardena for sharing his pay cheque with the ground staff? Shame on you!
At last, we come to the Ranatunga’s; the bitter sweet memory for Sri Lankan cricket. Nishantha, I recently saw your TV interview for Times Online. If integrity means anything to you, you would know that fans do not need your opinion about the cricket predicament that we are in today. You are one of the main culprits who ran the administration bankrupt, yet acted as the sole savior of the cricket administration. You are still under investigation for granting TV rights to the Carlton Sports Network (CSN) in which you held a chief executive position while being the secretary of the SLC administration. Under your guidance, SLC board was named the third most corrupt institution in the country (which is nothing to be proud of). Arjuna, you are the pioneer of Sri Lankan cricket who took us to glory in 1996. But you sold your soul when you turned into a dirty politician. When Shane Warne called you a “fat bastard”, your fans didn’t abandon you, but rallied behind you. Yet you, along with the sports minister, are calling our players “fat” in public media. It is sad that you are airing out your dirty laundry in public to bring shame to our beloved cricket legends. Just like we didn’t abandon you back then, we are not abandoning our cricketing heroes today to side with corrupt politicians.
Some may argue that you have done an enormous service to Sri Lankan cricket. Maybe you have. But you are also keeping the true gentlemen from serving our nation through the sport. Great cricketing minds like Ana Punchiheva, Sidath Wettimuny, Aravinda De Silva, Roshan Mahanama, Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara and Chandika Hathurusingha have distanced themselves from the administration just because they do not want to drag themselves down to the level of dirty politicians. Recently Mr.Sumathipala claimed that Mahela Jayawardena “does not possess adequate experience to be a full time head coach”. Maybe you should look in the mirror and question yourselves about the level of experience you have to become politicians in Sri Lanka. A recent fact check revealed that 94 MPs in the current Sri Lankan parliament have not passed GCE (O/L) examination, while there are only 25 graduates among the 225 legislators in the present Sri Lankan Parliament. If you are going to criticize our players for their lack of qualifications, then this is an extreme case of the kettle calling the pot black. The level of hypocrisy in this cricket administration is simply astounding.
May be I am yet to convince you all that you should hang your boots and give the gentlemen in our country a chance to govern the “Gentlemen’s game”. Therefore my final plea to you all is to serve our beloved sport by retiring from the administration and stick to your dirty politics.
Long live SL Cricket.