January 30, 2013

Don't give up the day job, Sanath

Multiple choices of headgear, Mr Jayasuriya. Tsk tsk

A few months back the ICC proposed that governments should not be fiddling about with cricket. Everyone said this was a splendid idea and signed up to it hungrily, like dieters pledging to drop three dress sizes for their summer holidays.

Unfortunately it's now 2013, and Sri Lanka's government still has its fingers in the cricket pie. This is fairly naughty, but we shouldn't be too harsh. We all know it's hard to stick to resolutions. Giving up the cupcakes may help unclog your arteries and enable you to see your toes, but it leaves a terrible empty feeling come afternoon tea-time.

If the ICC has its way, being the Sri Lankan sports minister would be no fun at all, like being the British sports minister. She doesn't get to pick Manchester United's defence, she can't design the England rugby team's shirt, and she's not even allowed to sack Giles Clarke. Her job involves handing trophies to sweaty people, trying to pretend she's interested in cycling, and making sure she doesn't tweet anything silly before a better post comes along.

And there are benefits to having politicians running sport. If they're meddling in cricket, by the laws of physics, they can't simultaneously be meddling in anything else (leaving aside for the moment the idea that digital technology opens up the possibility of quantum meddling). While a politician is scratching his chin over whether to play Angelo Mathews at six or seven, by definition, he can't be messing up the economy or declaring war on anybody.

Still, I suppose it was a little cheeky of Mr Aluthgamage to appoint one S Jayasuriya to the position of pin-sticker in chief. Not only is Sanath a politician these days, but by an oxygen-depriving coincidence, he's a politician from precisely the same gang of politicians to which Mr Aluthgamage belongs. It seems that, having promised to ditch the cupcakes of cronyism for the celery of good governance, the sports minister has instead doubled the cupcake ration, outlawed green vegetables and spooned himself an extra helping of rum trifle.

This has not gone down well with the cricket community. So in response the minister has made it clear that Sanath the selector will not allow Sanath the politician to involve himself in the business of picking the team; just as Sanath the politician will refuse to reply should Sanath the selector email him about the public sector borrowing requirement.

To make this separation of Sanath's powers even clearer, he has agreed to wear different hats. If he's wearing his slightly grubby "Sri Lanka 96" baseball cap then his politician friends will know not to sidle up to him in the corridor with the latest political gossip. Equally, when he comes down to breakfast wearing his "Vote Jayasuriya" trilby, his family will know that all talk of the deterioration in Dilshan's batting average is off the table.

And if they need it, the Sri Lankan government have an escape clause. He's got the job on an indefinite basis, which sounds like a long time, but in reality means a period of time somewhere between forever and a week next Tuesday. I wouldn't give up the day job, Sanath.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England