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Has the ECB played an unfair game?

Money talks, and in light of the current shake-up of the ICC, the ECB's act of poaching another team's coach deteriorates from free-market aggression to oligarchic hypocrisy

Andrew Fidel Fernando

April 22, 2014

Comments: 71 | Text size: A | A

Paul Farbrace chats with Mahela Jayawardene, Dhaka, April 22, 2014
Three months, job done: the ECB's financial clout has lured Paul Farbrace back home © AFP
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Less than an hour after Paul Farbrace's resignation was announced, Nishantha Ranatunga, the mover and shaker of the Sri Lankan board, made a comment that exhibited the feebleness of SLC's present place in the cricket world. When asked what he thought of the ECB approaching Sri Lanka's head coach with a job offer, without consulting SLC first, Ranatunga's reply was docile. "That's another board's issue," he said. "It would be unfair of us to comment on that."

It is a revealing choice of words, because to many, "unfair" would be having a man who has worked intensively with Sri Lanka's players across all three formats and been privy to every scrap of long-term strategy the team has devised, suddenly move to an enemy camp with whom Sri Lanka will do battle next month. "Unfair" might be being left so far out of the loop that, hours after Farbrace had been strongly linked with the assistant-coach position in the English press, SLC's CEO was rubbishing those reports as "speculation and rumour".

"Unfair" may be choosing a well-regarded second XI county coach to fit a slim budget, only to have him bought back months later, after Sri Lanka had facilitated a considerable rise in his value. That Farbrace assisted in the winning of the World T20 and Asia Cup is almost indisputable, but the groundwork for those triumphs had been done long before his ten weeks with the top side. Sri Lanka's limited-overs tournament record is testament to that. It is believed Peter Moores specifically requested Farbrace be installed as his deputy, but it seems unlikely he would have done the same, if Farbrace had remained at his county job.

SLC cannot afford to voice their frustration at the ECB in public, because at present it has the weakest grip on its future of the top eight teams - among the Full Members, only Zimbabwe is worse off. SLC took a surprisingly principled stance on the Big Three takeover in January and February, and now it has the most grovelling to do. Pakistan provided the other abstention in Singapore, but their finances are in less disarray, and they had been surviving without India tours in any case. A much larger population, and hence revenue-generation capability, also helps.

 
 
SLC cannot afford to voice their frustration at the ECB in public, because at present it has the weakest grip on its future of the top eight teams - among the Full Members, only Zimbabwe is worse off
 

And it is in light of this ICC shake-up that the ECB's act of soliciting another team's coach deteriorates from free-market aggression to oligarchic hypocrisy, as Rex Clementine has already suggested in the Sunday Island. The ICC had said the ECB, along with CA and BCCI, would provide "leadership" to the cricket world, in its new order.

Leadership entails some level of obligation to those outside the leading group. A team like Sri Lanka, which, even accounting for gross financial mismanagement from their own board, regularly makes better use of their limited resources than most sides, would presumably be deserving of the greatest goodwill from the game's financial giants. Instead, by "stealing" Farbrace, in Martin Crowe's words, the ECB has actively injured a smaller, poorer cricket nation, regardless of its intentions.

Even if SLC had not squandered enormous amounts on stadiums for the 2011 World Cup, it could never hope to near the ECB's budget for coaching staff. There were more backroom attendants on England Lions' recent trip to Sri Lanka than SLC regularly sends with its national team.

After Farbrace's move had been confirmed, Lawrence Booth wrote: "You wonder how the ECB would feel if, three months down the line, India made a raid for Peter Moores." To align that thought even closer to Sri Lanka's reality, what if, following the victorious 2009 Ashes series, Andy Flower had been pinched from under the ECB's noses, just ahead of the return tour, by CA?

For Sri Lanka, the upcoming tour to England is as big as any Ashes. They have already been done the indignity of having one Test lifted from their schedule and placed in India's loaded lap (and for that, SLC largely has itself to blame). And they will tour in early summer, as they almost always do, when they would clearly prefer to visit drier decks in July and August. Sri Lanka will have hoped the pace their cricket has gathered this year might intimidate an ailing opponent, but the Farbrace switch has levelled the field.

There is no doubt SLC has damaged its reputation as an employer, of coaches and players, over the past few years, and they will now embark on another search, soon after the last, difficult one ended. Yet as the larger nations set themselves to pull away even further financially, pumping up pay not just for national coaches, but for men in charge of IPL, county, Sheffield Shield and Ranji teams, it is the new order that sides like Sri Lanka must become accustomed to.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by rajithwijepura on (April 24, 2014, 20:02 GMT)

Paul Farbrace has done nothing for SL to lift the Asia Cup And T20 World Cup. He was and is a below average coach. He just ruined the best chance to embark his name with a much capable team to win the 2015 WC.

Posted by PACERONE on (April 24, 2014, 12:16 GMT)

If in 10 months Farbrace was so good why was he in Sri lanka with all the confusion between the board and players.ECB is always working on other factors of the game instead of putting a talented team on the field.Sri Lanka will have a batsman and bowler who will wreck England.If Sri Lanka hold their catches England will LOSE.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (April 24, 2014, 9:43 GMT)

@Rufus Fuddlduck you wrote "Sri Lanka have done well in the past five years due to intrinsic talent, grace and respect within the team. The Board was a testing factor more than a facilitator. If they remain together like the Musketeers ... all will be well." Yes you hit the nail on the head regarding SL success, their team are like the Musketeers of 17th Century France, despite the SLC. I blame the SLC as they facilitated these conditions. Because they didn't want to hire a local because it would be a political hot potato for them. Also you can't blame Paul Farbrace for leaving. First its his home country's team also he got a better offer Yes he should have honored his contract But lets live in the real world for a moment.Most people would do what he did Can't blame the ECB either, I wish they didn't do it, but Sky TV and central contracts has bulged the ECB coffers in the last 10 years.Oz just beat Eng back into the 1990s. So if SL beat England this series.SL should thank Australia.

Posted by james_thomson on (April 24, 2014, 8:33 GMT)

While I have a lot of sympathy for Sri Lanka, if they were really keen to keep Farbrace then perhaps they shouldn't have put a six month probationery period, something which cuts both ways, into his contract, or at least cut it short when the T20 World Cup was won.

Posted by Rufus_Fuddleduck on (April 24, 2014, 7:58 GMT)

England are clutching at straws. What Farbrace will do is to create another document on the lines of what was done prior to the Australian Ashes. Sri Lanka have done well in the past five years due to intrinsic talent, grace and respect within the team. The Board was a testing factor more than a facilitator. If they remain together like the Musketeers ... all will be well. It is well-documented that India's team fell apart once Kirsten moved away and Marvel started his educational drive. Farbrace is hardly a Kirsten. Having said that, Shaminta Jayatilaka has a highly valid point - the Board's behaviour created a situation where external offers could entice. Cricket meets corporate culture.

Posted by SportsObserver on (April 24, 2014, 7:28 GMT)

Sri Lanka has limited resources but they are a proud nation. Their unity won them the T20 cup, not that coach. Sri Lanka is better off without disloyal people anyway, honorable people would not break a contract to join the enemy side just before a tour. The best way Lanka can answer England is to go there and beat them on their own soil, I believe this team of proud players will give their all, may be even more than T20 WC. As for the "Big 3", with them in total control, and with this kind of money and power- this is just the beginning, rest of the cricket world has seen nothing yet..... May be next are the players, England already is #1 in poaching players, maybe "Big 3" will give huge contract to all the big names from other countries and employ them to play for their county teams, in the mean time, they will play "small 7" countries and beat their second strength eleven! All hail Big 3!.................

Posted by   on (April 24, 2014, 7:20 GMT)

Sri Lanka white-washing England would be a sweet revenge.

Posted by ms2000 on (April 24, 2014, 6:55 GMT)

It is simple to understand. ECB must be thinking that Farbrace did magic for the Sri Lankan team to perform that way. Now they want to save their faces when Sri Lanka tours England this summer . But all I can see is that England will look a schoolboy team in front of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka should consider a coach from India. Ganguly is one of the best!

Posted by Chanaka on (April 24, 2014, 3:29 GMT)

Paul Farbrace is a lucky guy. The SL cricketers made certain that his CV would look good by winn ing the T20 WC. I cant see how in such a short time as coach he could be given so much credit for the team's success. It is time the SL cricket admin handed over the job to a Sri Lankan. Why not give Marvan A a chance. What about Roy Dias if he is interested in th job.

Posted by Reggaecricket on (April 23, 2014, 22:48 GMT)

Farbrace, who was with SLC for such a short time, cannot be credited with Sri Lanka's recent successes. I really don't think he is in the same class as Whatmore, Fletcher, Flower and others, but the ECB might have made a short term tactical move in enlisting him at a time Sri Lanka is about to embark on a tour of England! See, England have had an awful few months and would hate to face the prospect of defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka, so having Farbrace, who is familiar with al of Sri Lanka's strengths and weaknesses might really beneficial to them. So, yes, I do think they have played an unfair game. Having said that, I doubt it will make much difference to the results, as Sri Lanka can struggle with the moving ball in early English summer conditions anyway.

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