By Gamini Jayaweera –
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is still going through a phase of rebuilding a cricket team to an international standard following the retirement of few world class players from the game more than two years ago. Loosing experienced top-quality players is not a new thing. Every country in the cricketing world has experienced this situation in the past, some countries are experiencing it now, and many other countries will face the same situation in the future. This is a natural process and the officials in the authorities should devise strategies to minimise the impact of losing talented senior players due to retirements. Forward thinking countries have put in place strategies to nurture talented youngsters to take over the positions vacated by the seniors to minimise the negative impact.
It seems like the SLC has had no visionary leaders in the recent past to foresee the situation. The previous administration miserably failed in planning, organising and implementing a structured long-term plan to resolve the inevitable exposed position of the national team. That is the reality but I do not want to harp on about the past. It is a big challenge for the newly appointed officials in the SLC as it needs to develop an unobstructed Vision, achievable realistic timely Objectives, and Strategies to address the critical issues in question.
After losing world class cricketers like Sangha, Mahela, and Dilshan just over two years ago the SLC team was left with only three internationally renowned and experienced talented cricketers to carry the young players in to the international arena. Angelo Matthews, Lasith Malinga, and Dinesh Chandimal are the three players who have taken the responsibility to carry out this enormously challenging task. Matthews is 29 years old and Chandimal is 27 years old. Matthews is a world-class allrounder respected by the entire cricketing world whereas highly talented Chandimal has very impressive batting averages in Tests and ODIs in his relatively young career.
33 Years old, experienced world class bowler Lasith Malinga joined the team during recently concluded World Championship competition in England after one year without playing cricket due to injuries sustained during his lengthy cricketing career. Few other experienced cricketers like Upul Tharanga (out of the squad in the past for lengthy periods) and Nuwan Kulasekara who served the country well in the past, appears to have lost his effectiveness during the last two years, have been included in the squad.
The new administration should have carried out a situation analysis to understand the short comings of the national team as soon as they were elected about 1½ years ago. But instead of focusing their energy in developing short and long term plans to address the problems, the recent events in the SLC indicate that it is in disarray due to many reasons such as Undermining the authority of well-respected Head Coach forcing him to resign his post, Lack of strong leadership to give clear direction to the players hence creating chaos in the dressing room and uncertainty among players, Backward-looking team selections, Unacceptable behaviour by the influential members of the selection and coaching staff resulting demotivated players, Insulting talented cricketers publicly for the failure to win a match are some of the demoralising incidents which have taken place recently among other things.
Since Sri Lanka beat the mighty Australians 3-nil in August 2016, the young talented players who had performed well to win the series had been in and out of the team for reasons known only to the members of the selection committee. The talented youngsters were denied more exposure at international level to gain experience in different conditions due to the short-sighted selection policy. May be the other players who have been drafted in to the side are not performing to their potential due to the fear of losing their place in the side.
After the defeat in the Champions League in England, Sri Lanka had been beaten by Bangladesh and Zimbabwe on home soil for the first time in Sri Lanka’s cricketing history. Though some selectors have blamed the players for these defeats there are other factors which could be identified in the selection and management of our national cricket team.
Captaincy, Poor fielding, Careless shot selections, Irrational bowling, and Lack of effort, energy, and enthusiasm on the field have been identified by the administration as the main factors for our defeats. The players are not wholly to blame for these short comings. It appears that the confidence of the talented young cricketers as well as the experienced cricketers have been destroyed by dropping them from the side as soon as they fail in one or two matches. Majority of the players did not know whether they were in or out due to irrational team selections.
It appears that the Selectors, Coaching Staff, and other responsible people in the SLC have failed to manage and motivate the players. Demotivation could create negative emotions in the players’ mind such as uncertainty, sadness, panic, unnecessary pressure, confusion, feeling guilty, anxiety, and hindrance to mental preparation. All these negative emotions will impact the players’ performance levels.
It is my view that the so called “experts”, administrators of the SLC, the Selectors, and the players to a lesser extent are directly responsible for the mediocre performance by our cricketers since the new administration came to power about 1½ years ago.
It is time for the leadership of the SLC to examine whether SLC has got Skilful Administrators, Competent Coaches, Knowledgeable Selectors, Experienced Mind Setters, and Effective Motivators to nurture and motivate our talented cricketers to successfully compete at the highest level of international cricket.
The SLC had number of managers during the Champions Trophy and they interfered and undermined the authority of the well-respected SLC Head Coach Mr. Graham Ford. No one knew the remits of these managers and they were giving mixed messages to the players. As usual, these managers are still involved in activities beyond their remits and it appears that they are undermining the job role of the current acting Head Coach and others. It is common-sense that when too many people are involved in trying to manage the same activity it is recipe for disaster. It reminds me the famous proverb “Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth”. This is exactly what has happened to SLC in recent events.
Chairman of Selectors
Mr. Sanath Jayasuriya, internationally renowned as “Master Blaster” was one of the finest, powerful, and hard-hitting batsmen world had ever seen and he was a match winning all-round performer. There is no question about his record and he is being respected by cricket lovers all over the world.
But his ability to perform as the Chairman of Selectors in the SLC is questionable for number of reasons. Selection of Captains, Selection of players who have expired their “sell by date”, Omission of talented young cricketers, Selection of more than 45 cricketers to play for Sri Lanka within a very short-period of time, Interfering in other disciplines which are not part of his remit, and insulting players in public are notable errors of judgement that have been made by the Chairman of Selectors. Being a top-class cricketer is one thing but man management is a different ball game altogether.
It is widely accepted that the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others is a very important factor for motivating ourselves and others. I suggest that all our sports administrators should carry out self-assessments to find out their weaknesses when it comes to motivating others. Building relationships with the players by the coaches and administrators are vital for best possible preparation and superior performance.
No one should humiliate talented sportsmen and sportswomen because every human being is entitled to receive respect and dignity. It applies to the cricketers too. The responsible senior members in the SLC should be using their leadership qualities to motivate the players when they are going through a bad patch rather than humiliating them in public. Motivation in sports is a very important factor for superior performance.
It appears that most of the senior members of the SLC have made slow progress on certain aspects of their Emotional Intelligence dimensions such as Motivation, Interpersonal Sensitivity, and Influence. According to Goleman (1998), Emotional Intelligence becomes more important when one goes higher up the organisation. It is important that the top administrators in the SLC develop certain aspects of their behaviours towards the players to ensure that they strike the balance between situation and task with the needs and concerns of the team members involved.
Interim Committee or Not?
Sports bodies are independent organizations which are run by officials who have been appointed through the ballot box by their membership for a period as stated in their constitutions. Some well-known past cricketers are raising their voices to appoint an interim committee to administer the SLC. It is true to say that majority of Sri Lankans do not agree with the way in which most of our sports institutions are carrying out their responsibilities by various officials elected by the membership of these institutions. But it is also fair to say that on principle majority of Sri Lankans do not agree with the Interim Committees appointed by the Minister to administer these institutions because it is a violation of independence of these institutions. Interim committees are not the solution to the problem. If the Hon. Minister appoints an interim committee to administer the SLC, we will tarnish our cricketing image in the cricketing world and may end up as “Losers” in the international sporting arena.
The honorable thing that can be done by the members of the present administration who are responsible for the “rot” is to resign over the mediocre performance exhibited by the SLC during the last 1½ years. It is entirely up to the individual officers in the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka to decide according to their conscious.
Past cricketers and politicians have no authority to demand that the democratically elected members of the SLC should be sacked. It is time for them to accept the reality and move on. Both factions in the SLC must grow up and work together to improve the circumstances to identify and implement essential changes which are necessary in bringing renewed vitality to the SLC.
The other proposal highlighted by some past cricketers is to change the constitution to reduce the number of representatives who are eligible to vote from over 100 to less than 50. I believe that majority of the cricket lovers in Sri Lanka will endorse this proposal because it may eradicate alleged corruption, irregularities, and divisions in the SLC. I appeal to the leadership of the SLC to take a bold step to implement this proposal for the sake of protecting the integrity and independence of the institution. I wonder whether the Hon. Minister of Sports can influence the leadership of the SLC to amend the constitution to reduce the number of representatives for the benefit of the SLC.
I appeal to the Hon. Minister of Sports, and the top administrators in the SLC not to destroy the confidence of our experienced and young talented cricketers who have served the Sri Lanka Cricket very well in the past at international level with all the above short comings. I Hope that the responsible personnel involved in SLC will treat all players, experienced or inexperienced with dignity and respect for their contribution without humiliating them in public when we lose a cricket match for poor fielding, batting, or bowling.
As Emily Kimbrough said “Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.” It is also essential that SLC will select the cricketers based on their merit to the national team. The SLC should abandon the narrow-minded policies such as egoism, favouritism, criticism, interference, condemnation, and regularly chopping and changing talented cricketers for instant success. Enough is Enough! It’s time for action to stop the “Rot”.