Sri Lankan cricket has become a laughing stock



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Less than a week after SLC Assistant Secretary Ravin Wickramaratne claimed his innocence in the match fixing scandal in domestic cricket, a sting operation by Al Jazeera Television Network had caught an official of Galle cricket ground expressing his willingness to doctor the pitch. Here Wickramaratne is seen showing a copy of The Island report on match fixing.


Picture Courtesy The Papare.com


by Rex Clementine


On Saturday, the entire nation woke up to the shocking news that on a sting operation conducted by Al Jazeera Television network, a curator of the Galle International Cricket Stadium had been caught on tape expressing his willingness to doctor the pitch. The International Cricket Council is believed to have started an investigation on the allegations.


Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) was alerted about the damning evidence, but until noon yesterday the board had failed to issue a statement despite the reputation of the sport suffering irreparable damage. In other parts of the world, the accused – who is an employee of Galle District Cricket Association – would have been suspended until further inquiry. But SLC bigwigs seem to be too busy preparing for next week’s cricket elections.


Galle’s reputation has taken a severe beating in recent times with stalwart Jayananda Warnaweera being handed an ICC suspension. His understudies seem to have not learned the lessons.


Two Test matches that Galle hosted in the last two years are in question - the 2016 game against Australia and last year’s Test match against India. Sri Lanka won the game against Australia while India won in 2017. Allegedly for the Australia game a pitch that turned squad was prepared while against India a flat deck was given.


The Australian media were quick to claim that their team had lost the Galle Test match because the pitch was doctored. It is a mistake for an Australian team to come to Sri Lanka not expecting turning tracks. It is like a Sri Lankan side going to Australia not expecting to be sledged at.


The Aussies lost that series 3-0 due to their own failings and nothing else. To start with, they were under prepared and then played the wrong team. How they managed to keep Shaun Marsh, perhaps their best player of spin bowling, out of the first two Tests is beyond our comprehension. Eventually when he was presented an opportunity, he went onto make a fine hundred at the SSC, but by then the series had been done and dusted.


Sri Lankan cricket is earning a reputation for being corrupt because of the faults of our own administrators. It has been almost 18 months since the domestic match fixing scandal between Panadura and Kalutara took place and still no one has been penalized. SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala even attempted to brush aside allegations that the First Class game was fixed. He repeatedly maintained that no money had been exchanged to determine the outcome. However, the result of the game ensured that Panadura SC gained promotion to Tier ‘A’ of First Class cricket while Kalutara PCC remained in First Class cricket without being relegated to Sara Trophy.


Had the SLC Chief put his foot down and acted, the reputation of the sport would not be facing the current predicament. Was the SLC Chief trying to safeguard his confidants from Panadura and Kalutara? We also would like to place our bottom dollar predicting both Panadura and Kalutara to vote for Sumathipala at Thursday’s AGM.


Furthermore, SLC’s inaction is in a way encouragement to those who are conspiring to be involved in corrupt practice as a precedent has been set not to take action against the culprits.


The evidence in front of us is quite damning. An affidavit that we published on Friday by former Test cricketer Chamara Silva points fingers at persons who were not only involved in corrupt practice but were giving assurances to use their positions to put investigations under the carpet and bail out the wrongdoers. SLC has to put the house in order before tackling allegations directed at them.


The incumbent SLC Chief is set for a record win at the upcoming AGM. We wonder whether those who oppose him will even get ten votes! Sumathipala has boasted that under his leadership SLC has made record profits. His campaign was based on this theme. Not that he wanted a campaign to win the cricket election. To his credit it must be mentioned that the marketing strategy he put in place brought in big bucks out of Nidahas Trophy. But let him also be reminded that there was a significant raise in ICC grants given to members during his tenure.


We are being constantly told by the SLC chief that the democratic process should follow in cricket governance. Well and true. We wonder whether the same democratic process should apply when electing our Parliamentarians? If we do, political rejects will not be able to parachute themselves to Parliament through the National List.


Sumathipala’s decision to dilute the standard of First Class cricket was one major reason why Sri Lankan cricket hit new lows last year. To put on record, under Sumathipala the teams that play First Class cricket was increased from 14 to 24. A host of current players and coaches have spoken about lack of competitiveness in First Class cricket. As a result, SLC had to reintroduce the Inter Provincial tournament, but much more needs to be done.


There are serious flaws in the system that elects officials to SLC. Assurance by former Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara to reduce the number of electors at SLC AGM has turned out to be a false promise.


The alternative that the electors have at the AGM for Sumathipala is Nishantha Ranatunga. We are reminded of a pithy Sinhala saying – trading ginger for chillies. Thanks to Nishantha Ranatunga’s ill advised policies the national cricket team is losing to teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh at present. The ill advised policies of Sumathipala will see us losing to Afghanistan and Nepal soon.


Sumathipala at least allowed his CEO to attend ICC meetings and treated players and board employees with dignity. None of that is negotiable with Nishantha Ranatunga. Ask Kumar Sangakkara. Had Yahapalana government kept to its promises, Nishantha Ranatunga should be at Welikada and not Maitland Place. Leave alone contesting the SLC elections, Nishantha Ranatunga should not be even allowed to drive down the road where Sri Lanka Cricket is.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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