By Malinda Seneviratne –
It has been an incredible run. The word can be used considering how quickly Sri Lanka became a force to reckon with after achieving test status. The word ‘incredible’ is apt for many other reasons. Just check the records chalked up by Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans over the past few years.
Sri Lanka is not one of the so-called ‘Big Three’, but there’s only so much bigness and clout in the cricketing market can purchase. Sri Lanka is not the No 1 test-playing nation, but it’s been No 1 in ODIs and in T-20 versions. There are other feats. Highest totals in tests, ODIs and T-20s. There’s Murali’s 800 wickets. Partnership records. Second-only-to-the-Don records set by Kumar Sangakkara.
More than all this, there’s heart. Few would deny that Sri Lanka has as much heart as mind, technique and cricketing sense. That’s something.
What is miraculous, however, has nothing to do with bat, ball, what happens in the middle, ‘Spirit of Cricket’ speeches, records, match-winning or match-saving performances etc. It is about all this happening in a sport which has been administered by egotists, crooks and morons, sometimes all rolled together.
Sure, there have been exceptional individuals at the helm of Sri Lanka Cricket and the Cricket Board. Their commitment, ability and vision went a long way in setting up a strong foundation. Indeed if the players and teams have not been tripped too much it has a lot to do with intelligent and giving individuals putting certain things in place.
Times have changed though.
Financial mismanagement, scandals and non-payment of salaries are so common that a smoothly functioning cricket establishment has become a utopian concept. If we were just saying ‘the sport’s administrative body is a mess’ it would not be worrisome. What is disturbing is that we have reached a point where people are openly saying ‘it will always be a mess’.
What is sad is that when the President of Sri Lanka Cricket and his Secretary have a spat and it comes out in the open, few are bothered. Scandal and Cricket go together, the general public has come to understand and even expect. Catty comments, contradictions, retractions, denials, accusations and counter-accusations are ‘par for the course’ as far as Cricket Sri Lanka goes. Indeed, considering the corruption and mismanagement are frequently tagged to that body, such things seem quite mild.
No one will say that cricketers are saints. No one will say that ‘the 11 men out there’ and only ‘the 11 men out there’ have brought glory to the country. There is a thing called ‘supporting cast’. There are nuts and bolts that have to be put in place by ‘officials’, elected ones and employees. Should not be downplayed. But then again, considering the interminable hiccups that plague this particular sporting body, it is incredible that Sri Lanka manages to actually field 11 individuals in all international encounters. It is a miracle, then, that they’ve done what they’ve done on an impressively regular basis.
While we can step back in awe at this miracle, it must be understood that there’s only so much miracle-fuel that heart and skill can conjure. That fuel will run out someday. There is reason, after all, why the word ‘patch’ goes with ‘purple’ when one refers to an incredible run by an individual or a team. ‘Patches’ by definition speak of highs preceded and followed by lows.
It was a tough ask for Sri Lanka to beat the rain and reach a target back in Galle, but that’s still kids’ stuff compared to asking someone, anyone, to set Sri Lanka Cricket right. It has to be done, though. Those in the know would probably say ‘too far gone’. Well that would amount to making a case for sweeping the garbage out, cleaning house and setting things back in place from scratch. If that’s what has to happen, then there’s no way around it.
We shall of course savor the miracle(s) produced by Angelo Matthews and his men. The future asks for more. A bigger miracle, perhaps, but one that has to be conjured if we are to get more Mahela-moments, Sanga-moments, Murali-moments, Matthews-moments, team-moments and of course more Mahelas, Sangas, Muralis and Angelos.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com