Sri Lankan cricket's quagmire July 15, 2006

Was it the right move?

Sri Lankan cricket has plenty to do if it aspires such glory again © Getty Images

Was the move to cancel the eagerly awaited elections of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) on the orders of Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapakse the correct decision?

The president had to force his hand in this matter after a team of past national cricketers headed by Arjuna Ranatunga, the former World Cup-winning captain and present tourism deputy minister, had met him personally and apprised him of the situation at hand with regard to the administration of cricket in the country.

Acting on a directive from the president, Jeevan Kumaratunga, the sports minister, said that the elections were cancelled because it was not the appropriate time to have it keeping in mind the 2007 World Cup which is eight months away.

Kumaratunga said he feared that under the present circumstances, interested parties could go to court and obtain stay orders to affect the administration of the game. He said that cricket cannot suffer from bitter experiences of the past especially with South Africa due for a tour here for two Tests starting July 19 followed by a one-day tri-series also involving India next month.

To a point the sports minister is right because the SLC has been riddled with enough and more court cases which has not only proved detrimental to the development of the game in the country but also made its administration a laughing stock in the eyes of the entire cricket world.

Kumaratunga indicated that he may consider changing the composition of the interim committee to accommodate reputed former cricketers and administrators with genuine interest for the game, but for now the present interim committee headed by businessman Jayantha Dharmadasa would continue until at least the end of the 2007 World Cup although no specific date has been decided.

The present committee appointed on March 24, 2005 comprises, apart from Dharmadasa, Adel Hashim (secretary), Sujeewa Rajapakse (treasurer), Damien Fernando, K Mathivanan and Prakash Schaffter.

Mohan de Silva, a presidential candidate, expressed shock at the cancellation of the elections which came less than 48 hours before it was scheduled to be held. The date was fixed for July 15. De Silva hit out directly at Dharmadasa, his rival candidate, and accused him of deliberately getting it postponed.

"This is definitely the work of my rival candidate because he knew that he was going to lose the elections. My feeling is he did not want to face defeat," he said. "Leading upto the elections Dharmadasa's team had brought various allegations and filed court cases against us to prevent clubs from supporting us. But despite these attempts I was quite confident of racking up more than 100 votes out of the 146 who were eligible to vote.

"The majority of cricket lovers in the country are sympathetic towards our cause. We were sent out on wild allegations of financial mismanagement made by the sports minister. But sad to say to-date we have not received a single charge sheet to answer if that was the case."

De Silva said that he would take up the unfair postponement of the elections with Rajapakse.

Dharmadasa said that the interim body accepted Kumaratunga's decision, and added: "I am sure the minister has taken this decision in the best interest of the game. If the elections were held I was quite confident of winning."

During Dharmadasa's tenure as interim chairman his committee had put into place several plans to develop infrastructure facilities, school cricket, high performance centres at each district and commenced a spinners' clinic among other things. The cancellation of the elections will come as a big body blow to those seeking a democratically elected body to run the SLC.

Petty politics have been the bane of the SLC cricket for the past seven years or so with the two camps trying to wrest control of running the affairs of it Their individual greed to run the richest sports body in the country has resulted in the destruction of the game today with the Ministry of Sports also being responsible for taking sides and allowing them to be used as a puppet to suit the whims and fancies of individuals.

As a result of this petty politics Sri Lanka's had four interim bodies and as many elected bodies administering cricket in the past seven years. Can any long term plans be drawn up for the betterment of the SLC if there is going to be such a constant change of administration?

The most of what has been happening is mud slinging and trying to prove that one administration has performed better than the other - something similar to a change of governments. The result is that no firm commitment or plans can be put into motion (or if they have been they have not being given sufficient time to implement it) to develop the level of cricket in Sri Lanka.

The SLC should be thankful that the players have started to perform on the field after going through a lean period. The way they performed in England brought back smiles to the faces of all cricket lovers in the country. They at least cover the sins of others.