29 September, 2020

Blog

Sri Lanka Cricket: “Failure Isn’t Fatal, But Failure To Change Might Be”

By Gamini Jayaweera

Gamini Jayaweera

Sri Lanka cricket was admired by cricket fans all over the world for the way they have played their cricket exhibiting technical skills, explosive batting, magical bowling, outstanding fielding, and canny dynamic captaincy. We won the cricket world cup in 1996 because we had the above qualities in our cricketers and a brilliant Administrator together with a very good Coach who worked together with the Captain, drawing up and implementing Strategies and focusing on them daily until they achieved their mission. ie Winning the World Cup.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

Robert Winder, a former Literary Editor of the Independent newspaper in UK, writing about the Sri Lanka’s success in the 1996 world cup in his book titled “Hell for Leather” stated “Sri Lanka looked a street or two ahead in every area: batting, bowling, fielding, thinking and cheek………. They never looked rushed or hassled. They played as if they knew they were going to win.” 

It was a glorious success but unfortunately it appears that the administrators who took over the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) from the winning management team in 1997 did not have a Vision, Mission, Objectives, or a clear Strategy to develop the infrastructure that was needed to search and develop new talent, maintain and enhance the existing talent, introduce innovations, and undertake succession planning. These basic attributes were ignored because the new administrators thought the 1996 success was final and would last for ever. I believe that it was the main reason that we were eliminated in the 1st round in 1999 world cup and could not proceed beyond semi-finals in 2003.  

During 2007 and 2014 SLC has shown some successes at international competitions by winning the T20 world cup in 2014, as runners-up in 2009 & 2012 and ODI runners-up in 2007 & 2011. These successes were solely due to the services of well-respected foreign coaches and the blessings of having some extraordinarily naturally talented cricketers who had shown excellent leadership qualities despite experiencing some hostile environments from the SLC governing body. So, what happened to SLC since 2015?

Internal Fighting

We all have witnessed the ugly personal battle between two prominent members and their supporters in the SLC, behaving in a deceitful and insincere manner to capture power without giving due consideration for the development of our most successful international sport where we have excelled as world beaters. 

It is sad to learn that the proposals prepared and forwarded by some of our well-respected former cricketers to restructure the SLC have been ignored because of the divisions and egoism demonstrated by the members in the current administration. The two prominent members in this dispute have plenty of strong opinions but they lack a very important leadership quality called humility, which is an inherent problem with most of our politicians. 

I hope the following quote from an article published in the Forbes on 18 July 2018 by Karen Higginbottom may help the leaders of the two warring factions in the SLC to reflect on their behaviour and to change their attitudes for the sake of the future of SLC.   

Substantial research shows that humility predicts effective leadership. Humility is associated with minimizing status differences, listening to subordinates, soliciting input, admitting mistakes and being willing to change course when a plan seems not to work.”

Selection Committee

In one of my articles titled “Sri Lanka Cricket – It’s Time For Action To Stop The ‘Rot’” published in the Colombo Telegraph on 26 August 2017, following our exit from the 1st round of the Champions Trophy, I was amongst other things, critical of the then Chairman of Selectors, Mr. Sanath Jayasuriya for the selection of 45 cricketers to play for Sri Lanka within a very short period of time. But unfortunately, it appears that the members in the current selection committee have not learnt anything from the past mistakes.

In support of my statement I would like to point out few shortcomings in the latest debacle. The fast bowlers who have excelled in the last two years have been either dropped from the squad or dropped after one match. One of the batsmen who has exhibited immense talent in ODIs & T20s in the recent past has been ignored in this competition. In 2017 the Indian Captain, Virat Kholi referring to this player’s performance in the 3rd Test stated, “He will be a great asset for Sri Lanka”. Few other talented cricketers who have performed well at international level during last 2 years have also been overlooked. The Selectors may have their own reasons for the omission of these players, but I feel that the confidence of these talented young cricketers at international level has been seriously damaged by dropping them from the side due to an irrational selection process. 

Batting Order

I firmly believe that the changes to the batting order for a few players have had a huge negative impact on their confidence because they are batting at unusual positions. I respectfully request the Captain and the Coach to look at the performances of the following three past and recent cricketers at the international cricket. Mark Ramprakash was one of the finest batsmen England has ever produced but his international career was cut short due to changes in his batting position many times, resulting poor performances at international level. England’s Moeen Ali, a very good batsman and a high performer at county level has shown erratic batting performances at international level due to batting at different positions. Most recently the England Captain, Joe Root was promoted to bat at no.3 from no.4 position but failed miserably. Joe Root himself decided against the management decision and changed the batting order for him to bat at his usual position of no. 4 in the 2nd innings of the recently concluded 5th Test against India where he scored a century. So, it is very important that the responsible managers at SLC think very carefully about these finer points before making decisions which may have serious negative impacts on the confidence of our talented young cricketers.  

Political Interference 

As a nation we are suffering from the unnecessary interference by some of our politicians who think that they have got the knowledge, experience, and the expertise to resolve all issues in our national institutions. Ministers from successive governments in the recent past have adopted this method to flex their muscle over the decisions made by senior members of the civil service and independent institutions. The Ministry of Sports is no exception. 

We have seen in the past, Sport Ministers getting involved in teams’ physical fitness, criticising players in public for dropping catches, putting undue pressure on team selections, direct administration of democratically elected (though I do not agree with the SLC’s current electoral system) independent sports institutions, undermining decisions made by CEOs on employee transfer matters, etc to name a few. 

The Hon. Minister of Sports is a person who is responsible and accountable for developing and raising standards in ALL sports in Sri Lanka to the highest international level. The ministers should not get involved in things that they do not need to get involved in. e.g taking direct control of administrative matters of sports bodies and other government institutions by themselves. These kinds of interferences remind me of the famous Portuguese Proverb “Not my circus, not my monkeys”. Trying to take control of what is in someone else’s circus can produce disastrous consequences. I Hope our politicians will reflect on this proverb and think twice before they interfere unnecessarily in the management of the internal matters of independent sports bodies and other government institutions.      

Conclusion

Yes, we have lost badly to Bangaladesh and Afganistan. Yes, our batting, bowling, fielding, and thinking were mediocre. Yes, the players were lacking in concentration of performing their tasks. Yes, it appears that we have made a few mistakes in the preparation and selection of players for the Asia Cup tournament. The players have already made apologies and accepted that their performances were well below the brand of cricket that the srilankan cricketers used to play in the past.  

I hope the Hon. Minister of Sports would concentrate on his ministry level administrative matters related to SLC by finding a solution to reducing the number of SLC representatives who are currently eligible to vote from over 100 to less than 50, as proposed by some of our well-respected past cricketers. I believe that if this proposal is implemented it will improve the openness, accountability, and responsibility of the SLC because it will reduce the environment to form a group culture from the top office bearers and their henchmen, resulting in the ability to act against allegations of corruption and mis-behaviours very quickly. 

The Hon. Minister has problems in other sports bodies which are not performing their duties honestly and efficiently to produce world class athletes. We have experienced this dilemma in the recently concluded Asian Games where Sri Lanka Athletics could not win a single medal. It would have been more beneficial if the Hon. Minister of Sports would have focused his attention on ALL sports bodies to ensure that legislations are in place to stop elected officials using these sports bodies as gravy trains to fulfil their personal gains. These are the kind of issues that the public and the sports lovers in Sri Lanka would expect to see the Hon. Ministers being directly involved in.    

There is no doubt that we have talented cricketers and an internationally well-respected coach. We need to have the courage to learn lessons from our failure, adopt a more structured policy to change our plan very quickly to prepare for the forthcoming world cup. I suggest that the practice of mindfulness meditation for at least half hour a day for all players until the end of 2019 world cup should be made mandatory to develop concentration, which is a major shortcoming in our players. It is scientifically proved that athletes who practice meditation every day gain immense benefits, such as training the mind to focus on job in hand, positively respond to fear, tension & emotions, deal with negative thoughts effectively, and increase the absorption capacity in the brain etc. amongst other things. I believe that it is a waste of time having pep talks from our famous past cricketers just before the start of a major competition if we have not prepared our players mentally and physically to get inspiration from such talks. 

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden

Yes, Sri Lanka’s cricket hit rock bottom. But it is not the end. If we are brave enough to change the course now, as we have experienced that the existing plan is not working, I am optimistic that we would be able to repeat the same words of Robert Winder at the end of the 2019 World Cup Final to say “Sri Lanka looked a street or two ahead in every area: batting, bowling, fielding, thinking and cheek………. They never looked rushed or hassled. They played as if they knew they were going to win.”

Good Luck Sri Lanka Cricket!

*The writer is a former cricketer who has played for Isipathana College and SSC

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 3
    1

    As an Englishman living in Batticaloa I follow Sri Lankan cricket with great interest and enjoyed the variety of your prescriptions for recent disappointing results. Whatever the shortcomings of the administrative structure, particularly in respect of meddling by politicos and ex-players, the playing squad seem to be simply worn out by years of playing as much white-ball cricket as humanly possible, anywhere in the world, most of it wholly meaningless other than as means to filling TV company and the Cricket Board’s coffers. The world class talents they have, including Mathews, Mendis, Chandimal have to play all three formats, giving little time for rest or technical development (e.g. a few months away in English county cricket) etc. Only the incomparable Herath seems to be surviving the merry go round relatively intact.

    I’m looking forward to seeing some live Test Match cricket later in the year and hope that the army of Sri Lanka’s supporters who flock to white ball cricket come out to join me, otherwise England will be better supported, by the Barmy Army, than the home side.

    • 2
      0

      Dropping Mathews, Mendis , and Lakmal is not a wise decision. According to the Coach, Mr. Hathurusinghe Mathews dropped because of his injuries but Mathews’ letter to the SLC Board does not indicate such injuries. So, who is telling the truth?
      Have Mendis and Lakmal suffered any injuries to drop them from the side?
      Please Don’t destroy the confidence of our talented cricketers in this manner.

    • 0
      4

      Dear Steve Large,
      .
      You have yet to learn what horrible politicians we have to tolerate. It is ultimately because of them that the English Cricket team will be starting a tour of Sri Lanka in late October.
      .
      October and November is when it seems to rain incessantly in all parts of this country. A few years ago, the New Zealand team toured during that period, and it was a total washout. the series could well have been played in New Zealand those very months, or preferably two months later.
      .
      We’re not all fools. We know that the “powers that be” work in some mysterious ways because they have some self-seeking reasons for doing so. More important things go uninvestigated so I’m not wasting my time on making out that this is criminal activity.
      .
      You know, we’re not as bad guys, as some Brits once thought. You may like this:
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7DNoPsMWL4
      .
      And here’s something else to set you thinking:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/nasheed-requests-sri-lankan-government-to-engage-robustly-in-transition-of-power/
      .
      The coral reefs there are fantastic, but a holiday there is very expensive if blindly charge in there.

      • 0
        0

        It’s true that countries like SL have to pick up the scraps from the table of the Big Three, Eng/Aus/Ind, and one result is daft scheduling as for the forthcoming series. But the alternative at the moment is Eng and Aus not coming here at all.

        So fingers crossed for a few days of decent weather (you generally only need 3 to finish a Test Match these days!).

        And thanks for the reading tips…I hope the Maldives can manage to abide by a properly democratic election result. We shall see come November.

  • 1
    1

    Only one man or a team can win in any game.By now 4 teams have gone home without the Asia cup.Tomorrow another team will be out. Let us think of Buddhas words ‘LABO ALABO AYASO YASOCHA ‘ and accept defeat gracefully and try again like Robert Knox.

    • 0
      4

      Yes, Upali, I agree with your sentiments.
      .
      But the guy who kept trying was not Robert Knox.
      .
      https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/try-try-again-works-for-robert-the-bruce-ndash-130-years-late-1867261.html
      .
      See if that helps you identify the Robert concerned.
      .
      But repeating a losing action a hundred times isn’t a very sensible response to the events that face us – I mean where the fate of our country is concerned.
      .
      Cricket is just a game, but our fellows sure did us proud for some time. On the other hand, I think that you must take account of the fact that cricket fever caught on wonderfully well once the commentaries began coming over in Sinhalese. This also coincided with the period when the best athletes in the West Indies discovered that they could succeed even better playing basket-ball, or quite simply running.
      .
      To a lesser extent, the other competing sports in England and Australia may also have helped elevate standards in the Sub-continent.
      .
      Far more significant are the politics that ruined not so much cricket, as our entire social fabric.

  • 3
    0

    We won the cricket world cup in 1996 because we had the above qualities in our cricketers and a brilliant Administrator

    Bangladesh & Afghanistan did not have non of above but there winning and showing
    more quality than world cup winners it is due to high target, continues effort, able direction and skillful performance; wise Administrator

  • 1
    3

    Mahinda Rajapaksa’s greed for money is the only reason as far as I see for the fall of Sri Lanka cricket. He took 6 billion out of the SLC kitty and built a stadium in the elephant corridor and named it after him spending a very small portion and putting over 3 billion rupees in his pocket.. That was the money that we could have used to encourage the youth from all over the country and built an army of cricketers. Nishantha Ranatunga is the culprit behind this robbery. After he took the money SLT went bankrupt and lived on overdrafts. Then Lokuge robbed another 5 million dollars in the Nimbus deal. That’s why when C B Ratnayake said that SLT is the 3rd most corrupt institution in the country, he was immediately removed even before the expiry of one month since appointment. So Rajapaksa is soly responsible for this pathetic situation of SLC. .

  • 1
    0

    Who cares about Cricket?

    Economic woes, poverty, and struggle for survival amidst mounting corruption of the current and former governments are more acute issues we experience daily. Cricket only distracts attention from those burning issues of our lives.

    Cricket takes away our resources and national focus that should have been expended to bring about a few Olympic athletes. Cricket is not an international sport – it is played mostly in a few former British colonies and not even recognized in Olympics or Asian Games. Since independence, Sri Lanka produced only one Olympic athlete so far. It is high time Sri Lanka shifted its focus from Cricket to other sports that are truly international.

  • 2
    0

    All these are owing to the swollen heads of idiotic SLC’s donkey officials of the administrations and f’-king politicians, the two breeds born to destroy everything in SL. They destroyed everything, and the last thing – cricket- people had to enjoy too going to the gutters Any thing these vultures touch gone to cesspits. All of them are born curse to the country and people. Like what happened for the last railway strike, soon people would take all matters into their own hands, then match over for these no two penny worth scoundrels, all of them are testing too much of the people’s patients, everything has limit, when it reaches the prople’s combustion point, it going to be over for them. SLC is not their grand mother’s dowry for them to run it as it pleases their wimps and fancies. These are people’s institutions and assets, it’s their prime duty to account to the public for their every action. It’s the high time for the minister and all them to get out of it, and leave it to New breed of honest high caliber persons to take over and deliver the good results to the people. Period.

  • 1
    0

    Thank you Gamini Jayaweera for the constructive criticisms on SLC. This is the first of its kind and hopefully there will be follow-ups.
    Other factors dogging cricket in general are match fixing, media coverage, sponsorship, etc etc. SLC has to put up with he direct interference of the Minister of Sports.
    .
    Somewhere at the top Gamini says ~ “……unfortunately it appears that the administrators who took over the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) from the winning management team in 1997 did not have a Vision, Mission, Objectives……..”.
    This is but a tap on the head of the nail to position it. The hammer blow is, “……..sucessive SLC did not have separate Vision, Mission, Objectives…….”.
    To put it bluntly: The culture of corruption/nepotism/impunity has invaded the pitch.
    By the way, Afghanistan Cricket is a phenomenon. Did merit selection play a part? How long will the shine last?
    How about Hong Kong?

  • 0
    0

    Gamini Jayaweera was an excellent slip fielder for SSC. Also one of the best throwers of those days. I can remember how ran out Bandula Warnapura who was then Blomfield Captain,

  • 1
    0

    Tell Sri Lankans cricket is not everything

  • 1
    3

    Now that the ‘pililaya’ Anjelo Mathews is gone (hopefully forever) Sri Lanka cricket will prosper under Dinesh Chandimal and Hathurusinghe

  • 2
    0

    Dinesh Chandimal is not leadership quality.

  • 0
    0

    What ever the management may be it is useless if the players cannot perform. We saw how ineffective is our bowling is and batting is a disgrace. Our cricketers should concentrate to keep the ball on the ground with out lifting up to give silly catches.

  • 0
    0

    Dear Gamini, I defer your statement below that “well respected foreign coaches did the job”…. the foreign coaches are/were always with the national team and they cannot do magic if the coaches of the academy didn’t do the initial work with the players to bring them up to where they are when the come to the national team… they had their techniques sorted out by the ground level and when they are in the national team, the successful coaches use the players intelligently…….

    You have missing a point here… just talk to the players and who are the foreign coaches who helped them and you will then know the reality!! You are no different to a person who see the cricket from outside without taking the inputs from horse’s moth

    During 2007 and 2014 SLC has shown some successes at international competitions by winning the T20 world cup in 2014, as runners-up in 2009 & 2012 and ODI runners-up in 2007 & 2011. These successes were solely due to the services of well-respected foreign coaches and the blessings of having some extraordinarily naturally talented cricketers who had shown excellent leadership qualities despite experiencing some hostile environments from the SLC governing body.

    • 0
      0

      Dear Tim,
      I read your comments with interest.
      Thank you.
      I never said that “well respected foreign coaches did the job……”
      As I have stated that there were two factors for our successes from 2007 to 2014.
      1. Well respected foreign coaches
      2. Extraordinarily naturally talented cricketers and their excellent leadership qualities.
      Tom Moody, Graham Ford, and Trevor Balyliss are 3 very good, well respected coaches who worked with the Sri Lanka team from 2007 to 2014.
      I would be pleased if you could kindly consult Mahela, Murali, and Sanga to find out about the quality of services that had been provided by these 3 gentlemen.

      Thank you
      Gamini Jayaweera

  • 0
    0

    Afghanistan is a new cricket force. Bangladesh has shown the team’s prowess. In a few hours we will know the result of the game with India. We may be surprised.
    The SLC results is probably just ‘one of those things’.
    .
    Is there some other reasons for dropping Mathews, Mendis, Lakmal, Dilruwan for England ODIs?

    • 0
      0

      India won when the last ball hit the pad and went and went all the way to the boundary!
      Bangladesh was not a walkover. India’s draw with Afghanistan was an exceptionally rare rare rare ODI draws!

      So SLC (under direct rule by Minister of Sports): Was Mathew sacrificed? To appease?

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.