By Nimal Chandrasena –
In 2011, when Sri Lanka wantonly capitulated to India in the 2011 World Cup final, I wrote a piece (“Cricketing Defeat – should be an eye opener”) asking why the Chairman of Selectors – Aravinda De Silva, one of our greatest cricketers – made four changes in the final team, which gave Kumar Sangakkara no chance of winning.
Dr. Google says that the word ‘déjà vu’ literally means “already seen”; it is having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been already experienced in the past, regardless of whether it has actually happened. What happened at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 18th March was certainly a “déjà vu” for millions of Sri Lankans, who tuned into see the game via TV, and for the thousands and thousands of Sri Lankans who actually went to the SCG to witness the event.
Once again, our selectors have DONE it! It would be remiss of us not to talk about it – from the point of view of passionate fans. The Chairman of selectors – I hate to mention the name – was talking about “sticking to basics”! An uneducated man like him? does he really know what basics are? and where in hell did he learn them? I bet he meant only: “bowl, bat and field as best as you can; play your natural game; enjoy the game” kind of motherhood nonsense! Tony Greig used to take the mickey out of him every time they sat together at the Commentary Box; this brainless fellow is a blight on our cricket! He simply is not sophisticated, and the quicker we send him packing, the better it is! But that looks like wishful thinking on my part.
He made several changes that were illogical, reckless, foolish, and contributed heavily to our defeat and early exit. Many Australian friends of mine laughed at me for Sri Lanka’s unwarranted implosion, and asked me what were the Sri Lanka selectors thinking? They asked me the same question four years ago! Therein lies the “déjà vu” My answers have been full of invective and expletives – they cannot be repeated here.
Muttiah Muralitharan – probably our greatest-ever bowler – has already written a piece expressing his displeasure pointing the finger at incompetent selectors; and there is not much point in repeating the glaring errors. Briefly though, an ‘out of form’ man Kusal Perera was asked to be a pinch hitter! He had hardly faced a ball in Australia; the knowledgeable Lankan fans were dumb-founded when he walked out to open the inning! The omission of Sathithra Senanayake, already an established spinner, who also has big-hitting, late-order credentials, in favour of a new ‘mystery’ spinner Tharindu Kaushal, who had just arrived in Australia, beggars belief! What happened to Sekkuge Prassana, who was in the original squad as a spinner?
The same can be said of the medium pacer, new arrival Dushmantha Chameera; what happened to Dhammika Prasad and Suranga Lakmal? If these guys were not good enough why were they in the original squad? Lakmal bowled beautifully in a previous match; and I had hoped he would play instead of Kulasekera, who has lost pace and sharpness of his bowling in the last 12-months or so. Whatever happened to Jeevan Mendis and Upul Tharanga?
Promising cricketers mis-led by a bunch of clowns; These are questions burning in the minds of the millions of fans, not just Sri Lankans. The selectors should be ashamed, and sack themselves, or be sacked; that would happen in most countries, but not in our ‘paradise isle’.
The biggest disappointment is the sad farewell Lankan gave to two of the greatest batsmen the Nation has ever produced, or is ever likely to produce – Sanga and Mahela. Both were damned from the start. We, the tragic fans, can’t stop wondering whether these veterans had any say in the selection process? They are too intelligent, and they are not in it for the perks; these ambassadors of the Nation have repeatedly proven that over nearly two decades. The same cannot be said of the selectors. In our assessment, and there are many who share my views, it is time to get more intelligent strategists to take over cricket in Sri Lanka.
Recriminations aside – when the pain has dulled – the essential question for the future is – when will Sri Lanka learn? Is cricket, which is a part of our national, sporting pride – to be continued to be run by a bunch of incompetent mediocrity? Much has been already written about the general malaise of Sri Lankan cricket, the corruption, nepotism and politicisation that allows mediocrity to run the establishments.
When the country continues to have a brainless and laughable Selection Committee, lacking in strategy or plan, beyond planning how to travel business class and getting their own perks – what else do we expect? More of the same, I guess. Angelo Matthews – even with his lion heart – cannot win all the games alone, this being a team sport. One also cannot blame cricketers for looking around for opportunities, and signing up for overseas stints.
In 2011, I wrote that planning is such an essential part of the modern game. One cannot plan without a proper education, and I really mean education, not just in the cricketing field, but also beyond cricket. Sadly, as fans, we see no evidence of a truly knowledgeable lot running the show in Sri Lanka. Selections on merit have never been our forte; more important has been ‘patronage’ political or otherwise – who knows who, and who supports who.
Although, my critique is not a political analysis, I submit that those with financial power wield sufficient influence within our systems, suppressing merit through the sharing of privileges – this is a well-known sickness in non-egalitarian societies. Cricket in Sri Lanka suffers from it, at the behest of a few, who enjoy the perks. Otherwise how can two families (I desist from mentioning names here) only vie for the Board President’s Job?
Over the years, dud selections have been masked by the individual brilliance of a few. All of us know that this cannot continue. In a country that is re-building after the passing over of a ‘tsunami’ of pollicisation, nepotism, corruption and thuggery, which affected every facet of our lives, this will be a crucial time. Re-building confidence must begin at club level. Political patronage must be replaced by a system that recognises merit; national selectors should be far removed from politics, and must be people with solid educational backgrounds, who are astute and globally-oriented to see what the future holds. Let us see whether the new leadership has the courage to start this process.
There are many aspects of cricket in Sri Lanka that need fixing, if one approached it with a futuristic, professional view, and understanding the nature and competitiveness of the modern, global game. It involves the system that produces well-rounded players with natural talents, and/or acquired/coached skills; and ethical administrators, as well as externalities, such as venues, pitches, travel, education, fitness, and others. Given that the objective of my rant was to primarily record and let the selectors know that we – the cricket fans – are not fools – I will also resist the temptation to reflect on methods by which Sri Lanka’s cricket may be improved, over the next few years. I leave that to many highly-qualified professionals in Sri Lanka, who may want to take up the challenge. However, this is not the time to remain silent, and allow our Nation to be diminished by half-wits!
Here, down under, on a Sunday afternoon, as I write this piece, venting my displeasure, I console myself – as Andrew Fidel Fernando wrote on 19th March after the defeat – “A lifetime of grace trumps one stinging night”. The contributions of Sanga and Mahela are legend; their deeds are much talked about around the traps. Even Aussies, who cannot, or will not, pronounce my name correctly after 20 years in this Country – adore these two giants, and amazingly, with slight accents, still manage to pronounce get their names right!
But, I cannot and will not forget and forgive the Selectors for shaming our Nation again. The proud lion was put down on that day not by the players, but by dumb, half-wits called “national selectors”; Please don’t tell me – “it’s only a game” – it’s a lot more to me than a game; it is my Nation’s pride; and by extension – mine too!